Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Night Ride

The ghost of a river runs in every desert dry wash, a faint dampness that you feel or smell as the road dips into it and then vanishes as the road lifts back into the unrelieved heat. You don’t notice this if you’re in a car.

We took the Yellowjacket for a ride last night, an old fashioned stylin’ run in the dark desert heat. Riders in other parts of the country probably can’t imagine what this is like. If you’re not a low desert rider you’re used to a night that cools off some and that’s why you ride then…to escape the day’s heat in the cool of the evening and a sixty-mile-an-hour breeze.

Desert rats know something altogether different. A sixty mile wind is a blowtorch. When we rode out the temperature was just a scattering of degrees below blood heat. It was 92 when we got home some hours later. That’s not ‘comfortable,’ not ‘warm,’ that’s just plain too hot to ride in anything but a T-shirt. No jackets, no riding pants. We courted road rash in shorts and sandals.

We wore helmets and gloves of course, because there are limits to our willingness to gamble with the laws of natural selection but, still, ours was a riding style that would be a scandal to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

After a stop at Bookman’s we decided that we would make a nostalgic run down the length of Speedway. When we first came to Tucson a kind of styling parade down Speedway was a regular occurrence on a breathlessly hot Saturday night.

Kids would gather in parking lots, folks brought beach chairs and coolers and watched the parade of fancy cars and bikes. Proud owners would pull into parking lots, kick a tire or two, and be back on the street. It was great fun and, I thought, basically harmless….but the police, or the city fathers, or property owners, or folks afraid of the young decided these were dangerous people and the whole wonderful spontaneous event was closed down.

Last night we were the parade. There were a few bikes in front of one coffee house but no bikes at all in front of the Bashful Bandit. We would have waved at people in lawn chairs but there were no people in lawn chairs. We went for ice cream and sat out in front and chatted with a guy who arrived in a Mini.

Still, the night was fine and the hot wind of our riding blew sweat dry, leaving salt lines on our shirts before we felt wet.

It is sometimes said by folks back east that they couldn’t live in Tucson because we have no changes of season. Not so. Some hot night ride in September we’ll feel the slightest softening of the heat, a barely perceptible edge of cool…and we’ll know that fall has arrived.


Art Jacobson said...

Please admire the spendid new "Yeller Dawg." He is the mascot, as I have said, of all those who will vote for anyone, even a yeller dawg, so long as it's a Democrat.

x4mr said...

Incredible front tire on that bike.

You put gloves on the hands, but wore sandals?!! One difference between us. I'd put good leather on those feet and leave the hands bare.

Great post--reminds me of years ago. What I loved about desert riding, particularly at night, and not dead center summer but more like May or Sept, is the way the cool air drops into the washes and lower areas.

You'll cruise through 90+ degree air and then drop down into 60's, quickly becoming cold with that air rushing over you, and then climb back up into the warmth.

It's fabulous.