Safe Riding

Country Riding

Written by  August 31, 2006

In a lot of ways fall is my favorite riding season. The summer heat is a memory and crisp morning rides on rural roads are now on the menu. Stephanie and I live in the far northern reaches of Platte County near Edgerton, Missouri. Edgerton is the home of Harmers Café, a favorite meeting spot for riders travelling our scenic two-lane blacktops. On any given weekend morning there are plenty of riders on our roads yet when autumn gets here, the numbers increase dramatically.

I grew up in a rural area and have logged tens of thousands of miles on two-lane blacktops. This experience coupled with the fact that I ride these roads on an almost daily basis allows me to point out a few of the hazards to be avoided for you city folk that aren’t familiar with riding “out to the country.”

The primary thing to watch for on country roads is Farmer Bob. Farmer Bob only has one thing on his mind right now, the harvest. He has worked all spring and summer to tend the crop that will hopefully make enough money to feed his family all winter. Farmer Bob doesn’t give a damn about you or your motorcycle. What he does care about is checking out Farmer Bill’s crops as he drives by them. As a matter of fact, he cares about EVERY other farmer’s crops. He finds them more interesting to look at than the road he is driving on, so don’t be surprised to find him spending the majority of his drive on or over the yellow centerline. Farmer Bob also taught his kids to drive so they drive EXACTLY the same way, as does his wife Mrs. Farmer Bob. Believe me, Farmer Bob pays taxes in this county and if he wants to take his half of the road out of the middle he will. This can be very interesting in corners or on many of the very narrow bridges on country roads. Farmer Bob usually drives some type of four-wheel drive pick-up, usually pulling a trailer. Farmer Bob has never learned to keep the trailer on his side of the road and it, like his pick up, will generally be well over the yellow line. For the riders out there with forward controls who like to crowd the centerline (you know who you are) , I am gonna put my money on Farmer Bob winning the crash you have if you don’t get your ass over. Keep in mind Farmer Bob also has tractors, a combine, and a couple of Kenworth semi’s too, you may meet him in any of these units.

Our next threat comes from some of your own neighbors in the city. Bicycling has become a huge sport and everybody knows it isn’t safe to ride a bicycle in the city. This has led to another threat on our country roads known as Bicycle Biff. Bicycle Biff and 30 or 40 of his close personal friends have put on their snuggy nutty shorts and taken to our roads. While mainly found on Hwy. 92 or the Interurban, Bicycle Biff and his buddies can be found on E, B, or Z Highways as well. Bicycle Biff and his group ride at a steady 5 miles per hour in the same direction you are traveling. Since Bicycle Biff feels he is bringing a little culture to the area, he feels free to ride two abreast and refuses to get over for any traffic overtaking his group. We have many hills out here on our country roads so it is not uncommon to crest a hill going 55 mph only to find a string of cars including Mrs. Farmer Bob going 5 miles an hour in front of you. These folks are only waiting for a clear, flat stretch of road to pass Bicycle Biff and aren’t really concerned if you crash into the rear of their cars. If you are riding the speed limit, in all likelihood you will get stopped in time. If you are one of those riders who like to “open her up” on the country roads (you know who you are) I suggest you make sure your life insurance, or at least your disability insurance, is current. If by chance you meet Bicycle Biff on a nice open, flat stretch of road keep this in mind. Bicycle Biff doesn’t know you are approaching to pass him. Oh yes, he has one of those cute little dentist mirrors hanging off his helmet, but, guess what? It is about as effective as those deer whistles some riders put on their scooters (you know who you are).

The final threat to your health and well-being is from the wildlife. In the city I am sure you might see the occasional cat, dog, squirrel or maybe even a deer if you live in the right area. Out here to the country is WILD KINGDOM. There is hardly an instance that I leave the house on my scooter that I don’t dodge something on four legs. We have it all. Not only do I like fall, but so do the deer. The fall is the time of year when three events really get the deer moving. First, the fall is when the deer start getting busy making next year’s deer. Second, it is the time of year when Farmer Bob is getting his corn and beans out of the field. This basically means the deer are getting thrown out of their favorite restaurant. Third, Farmer Bob and Bicycle Biff are now out in the woods trying to figure out where the deer are gonna be when hunting season opens. All these factors keep the deer on their toes and moving constantly. I can’t speak for all deer, but the three does and five fawns that hang out on my gravel road think a motorcycle is something you look at until it gets close, then you race it, and at the last moment you try to cut it off. Not good Batman.

Farmer Bob has been very busy and may or may not have had a chance to check his fences lately. Keep this in mind if you top a hill at 70 only to find a cow standing in the road. Contrary to popular belief, cows are not scholars; they will in fact stand right there and let you crash into them. The winner of this type of accident usually is the cow.

Along with deer and cows, we also offer skunks, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, cats, dogs, buzzards (you think I’m joking? What do you think eats the road-kill right where it got killed) and one particularly vicious ground hog that lives down the road from us. I have even dodged a rattlesnake down by my father-in-law’s house. None of these animals really stops to consider how pretty the leaves on the trees have become. They don’t have any type of psychic ability to determine if your attention is on the road you are riding or on the pretty horsey you see in the pasture ahead. They do, however, have a mean streak which can only be satisfied by seeing you sliding on your ass down the nicely tarred road you had just been riding on. To this end, they will lie in wait camouflaged by weeds and leaves until just the right moment to run out in front of you. If you have never seen a string of four or five raccoons run out in front of you at about 3 a.m. you haven’t truly lived. I really believe that animals get some type of achievement award for causing you to dump your scooter.

With all this in mind, my purpose is not to scare you off. Given the choice of I-29 or the back roads to get to the city, the back roads win every time in my book. Enjoy the rural roads of our state and our country for that matter. Just try to be careful out there.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

By Loney Wilcoxson