Monday, September 15, 2008

Apparent Wind

In sailing terms my apparent wind was directly on the bow at around 115 knots. Of course that would be a pretty ugly (and possibly fatal) ride on a sailboat. In this case the “bow” was the nose fairing on my GSXR 1000 and the apparent wind was the combination of our indicated speed of around 90 mph and the 20 to 30 mph wind we were bashing our way through. We were on our way home from the inaugural Moto GP race at the Indianapolis Speedway and a weekend visit with Kristin and Brian.

To most people the weekend would have to rank as a near total bust. As improbable as it sounds a hurricane had formed itself off the coast of Africa, traveled across the Atlantic, beat up Cuba and Hayti, filled the Gulf, hammered Texas, flowed northeast and arrived at the Brickyard at the exact same time that the first ever Moto GP race at the venerable facility was scheduled to start. What are the odds of that? (Well, 100% apparently.) Friday practice should have been done on wave runners instead of motorcycles. There was standing water all over the track and a literal stream flowing across turn one. This did not prevent the Moto GP guys from howling down the front straight at better then 150 mph and braking, somehow in all the water standing on the front straight, to plow though even more water at a lean and at some still insane speed. Saturday was nice in spite of the forecast. Brian and I got to watch the only laps to be turned all weekend on a dry track and by GP qualifying time those guys were absolutely flying.

Sunday saw Deb and I high in the stands waiting for a race that might never start. We had scrambled all weekend making travel plans to ensure that we got home Sunday night regardless of the weather (work called). If they had rescheduled the race for Monday we would simply have to try again another year. As it turned out they started the race, got in about 16 laps in steadily deteriorating weather, and finally cried “Uncle” and threw in the red flag. By then it looked like the only person still “racing” was a bloke named Valentino Rossi, (5 times world Champ and looking to gain the title again this year). Everyone else looked to be just hanging on for dear life. Understandable. Up in the stands we spectators were riding out driving rains and breathtaking winds. I don’t know how high the gusts were, but it was certainly the highest winds I have ever felt while standing outside and exposed. Debris was flying all over the place, cans and plastic and even a cooler or two. The famous square pole that sits near the start/finish line at Indy to list the race positions was visibly swaying, power off, lights out and dark. It was a bit of a ride for everyone, racers and watchers alike.

Anyway, after a long day at the track and “good-byes” at Kristin and Brian’s house, here we were running for home and still being spit on by the diminishing energy that was once known as “Ike.” Night fell as Deb kept an unrelenting pace, her big ZX-14 oblivious to the dying storm and thundering westward. The GSXR and I trailed along, me laughing at us two grandparents being out on a night like this. I don’t know where it comes from, this strange twist of the mind that finds life and joy in being nose to nose with dying hurricanes, bashing through a dark night on a pair of motorcycles, or thinking about heading to sea in a man made craft driven by wind in sails. What most would call a weekend ruined I recall as a low-key kind of adventure, good story stuff, and something I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Adventures seem to work that way. We should have taken the truck. We knew the weather was iffy, I knew work would probably call and it didn't take a pilot to suspect that Sunday could be a tough day for anyone outside. But we took the bikes instead. Once on the bikes we should have bailed out Saturday evening and run for home before the storm. Sure we would have missed the race, but how much sense does it make to risk that kind of possible ride for a couple of hundred dollars in tickets? At the last minute, with the rain still falling and the wind still blowing, we could have left the bikes in Indy for a couple of weeks and used the kids' car to get home. We mounted up instead, encased in multiple layers against the falling temps.

It was a fun ride home and a really good weekend. Next week we get back to Nomad and I may get a chance to show her to a couple from Kansas City who are looking to by a Com-Pac of their own. (No, Nomad is not for sale. They just want to see one before writing a check.)

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