Today was a good day. Cool, sunny, windy...485 miles in a little over 8 hours in the saddle. About 425 of that was on the expressway.
Let's talk about the expressway...
Normally, riders like me (non-commuter, leisure rider) tend to avoid the expressway. They're for cars, semis, and crotch rockets. I think most people who ride for fun tend to only take the expressway if they have a need to get from point A to point B in the fastest, or shortest, way possible. Hence, today, I'm on the expressway. Lots of miles to cover and only so many hours in the day.
Why avoid the expressway? For starters, I want to live. The expressway is typically full of lots of other vehicles, many of which have drivers who treat motorcyclists as if we were also in steel cages, protected by sidewalls, airbags, and the lot. They tailgate, they cut in when there's not much room, etc. Riding on the expressway usually requires the expenditure of copious amounts of energy, both mental and physical, just to avoid death.
However, today I realized there is actually a particular kind of expressway I LOVE riding on...the rural expressway, especially after 5:00PM. I can give you three immediate examples of the type of highway I'm talking about: US-127 north of Mt. Pleasant (even after it merges with I-75), I-95 in Maine (especially from Bangor to Canada), and I-86 in New York (from Pennsylvania to Corning.) What is it that sets these roads apart from a regular expressway?
There are two main things that make this type of ride fun:
1. The expressway in these areas is very scenic. The visual experience is rolling hills, pastures, trees, etc...in short, there's lots of pretty stuff for the eyes to drink in.
2. The expressway is, for all practical purposes, deserted. You pretty much have it to yourself. You'll have the occasional car or truck pass you and you'll occasionally pass another car or truck; most of the time there's not another vehicle within a half mile of you, or more.
The benefit here is that you can actually enjoy the ride, covering a lot of distance while minimizing the physical and mental efforts...thus giving you time to look around, enjoy the sights, and, most importantly, time to think about something other than avoiding being killed.
As I got off I-90, I knew I was in for a treat. No one else was getting off at I-86 with me. I already knew, from looking at the route on a map, that I-86 was going to be a highway with very few straight sections (lots of curves) but I wasn't expecting the hills (mountains?) and scenic views. Over 150 miles of them. One of my first thoughts was that this is a highway I'd love to come back and ride in the fall, when the leaves are in full color. I imagine that the hills must look like they're on fire if you're driving along the highway, heading east, as the sun sets. I can already feel plans for a return trip, sometime in late September or early October, taking root in my brain. I'm also looking forward to the miles I have left to ride on this stretch of road when I get going in the morning.
As my eyes drank deep the beauty of God's creation this afternoon and evening, I was humbled. Humbled to think that in this vast expanse, among the billions of people on the planet, I am truly insignificant...and yet, He cares for me, as if I was the one and only one here. Thank you, rural expressway, for being there when I needed you the most.
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