So here in Piedmont North Carolina, we generally get our only real glimpse of spring weather for about a week in February, before the summer heat settles in in mid-May after months of chilly rain and occasional incongruities like Easter Monday ice storms. Last week, it happened again.
Mid-60’s for highs all week, with lows no worse than 45 or so. For me, that’s prime riding weather – the bikes run nice and snappy in it, and you can make yourself pretty comfortable without having to gear up like a leatherbound Sasquatch or anal-retentive Iditarod competitor.
I used to ride year-round – didn’t even own a car for about five years back in the Eighties, and it wasn’t really because I couldn’t afford one, either. I just didn’t feel I needed one; I had my trusty old ‘71 FLH (apehangers, suicide shift; no bagger, she), and that was plenty enough wheels for me. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself liking — even able to tolerate — the colder weather less and less.
Yeah, yeah, I know; this ain’t Michigan, it ain’t Chicago, it ain’t Buffalo. I’m a lifelong Southerner — well, more or less — and don’t even know what cold is. Coldest it ever gets in these parts is a few scattered low teens now and then, and it doesn’t usually last for more than a few days anyway.
But I know what it feels like riding in that kind of weather: it just fuckin’ hurts. And I long ago stopped giving a shit whether I was considered an iron butt by hardier Northern souls who don’t think twice about swaddling up and lighting out in a blizzard. Call me a punk if you like; I’ve probably got more miles under my butt than you do, but let’s not have any undue fuss. Y’all can have that frostbite stuff. I’ll wait for my annual February Sudden Southern Spring, myself.
Which, like I said, was last week. I was tangled up with work and a whole slew of other stuff all last week, so my only option was the weekend, and in the event, I didn’t get around to firing up Little Bitch until Sunday. She hadn’t been run since right after Thanksgiving, for reasons involving the still-pending settlement of my late wife’s estate, and predictably, she wasn’t too happy about it. But run she did, and ride I did, all Sunday.
It was nice, the sun was warm, and the only headache (seems like in even the best of times, there always is one) was a howling, gale-force wind that was gusting as high as 60 miles per hour. That kind of wind takes a lot of the fun out of things, bumper sticker slogans about kneeses and breezes notwithstanding. But sometimes you just gotta get on with taking whatever pleasure is there to be had.
There’s a barbecue joint not too far from where I live that’s become a major hangout on Sundays for just about all of local bikerdom; RUBs, patch-holders, Ducati-flogging kneepad-draggers — you name it, you’re liable to run into it at this place. Everybody gets along just fine for the most part, the smokey pig is good, and there are enough old-school saddle tramps to keep it from being annoying, and enough scantily-clad feminine pulchritude on any given Sunday to make sure we’ll all be back next week.
On this particular Sunday, though, there was an added element that was neither so usual nor so welcome: plenty of uniformed, on-duty gendarmerie were with us not only in spirit, but in the badge-bedecked flesh too. And they were there on a mission.
Turns out North Carolina’s helmet law has been altered as of January 1st of this year. Now, not only does the state reserve the right to force you to wear a silly hat, the decision as to what kind of silly hat you wear has been arrogated unto themselves, too. The cops were Elliott Ness-ing the local watering hole to issue citations for improper headwear.
And issue they did, brothers and sisters, right and left. As soon as the word got out, guys were holeshotting out of that joint like Big Daddy Don Garlits. You wouldn’t’ve seen any more haste in departure if management had announced a mano a mano soul-kissing competition or a Hillary Clinton speech. Naturally, there were also a few radio cars strategically placed streetside, to make sure any would-be refugees from big-J Justice would be paying Their Fair Share too.
The issuance of citations in itself wouldn’t be so bad, but…no, I take it back — it’s baloney, no matter how you choose to slice it. But at least it wouldn’t be unexpected, let’s say. What IS unexpected is that not only does this bullshit citation come with a fine (hey, it’s for your own good, and what better way to remind you of that than to get into your wallet, right?); it also garners you two points against your driver’s license. Which means that 1) get caught wearing an improper silly hat enough times and your driving privileges will be revoked, and 2) as usual, the insurance companies have managed to get their snouts into yet another trough. Upshot: get caught wearing an out-of-sanction silly hat, and not only will your po’ ass be duly assessed for your hideous crime against humanity, but you’ll enjoy the highly dubious privilege of learning your lesson repeatedly over the next several years too, every time you write out the check for your newly-hyper-inflated insurance.
It’s a Mommy-knows-best double whammy, a win-win for overprotective bureausaints everywhere, and I’ll guar-on-goddamned-tee you it ain’t over yet. Just wait till some government-funded research center egghead finds out that hot pink with an embedded floral pattern increases visibility by seven and a half percent. The toughest wolfpack of hardcore bikers imaginable will be legally required to sally forth in a fabulous blaze of metrosexual pigmentation resembling nothing more than a West Village Easter parade quicker than you can say, “I take it up the ass recreationally.”
Personally, if I’m legally obligated to buy a new silly hat (and I am), I plan to look for a DOT-approved multicolor beanie with one of those neat little propellers on top, big honkin’ earflaps, and some flashing lights, too. Or maybe an Elmer Fudd wabbit-hunting special. Might as well go all out right out of the gate; in for a penny and all that, y’know?
Welcome to life in nanny-state Utopia, y’all. Don’t let the door hit you on your way to South Carolina.