Scoot Commute

Riding in the dark in Burrillville, or how to not get run down by a drunk driver

Posted in Pleasure Ride, Suzuki DR-Z400SM (Elsa) by sbahn on 2010/08/18

Yesterday after work I rode the DRZ over to a friend’s house to check out some furniture and see the fantastic resurrection of her basement after the epic rains Rhode Island received in March. The route I took was on a nice twisty road through the trees with absolutely no other traffic. It was very relaxing at the end of the day.

Another friend showed up and the three of us headed to Gator’s Pub in North Smithfield, RI. We’d been talking about this get-together for at least a year, and we were finally making it happen. It was a few miles ride, me following behind a mini-van and SUV. We passed a handful of bikes in total, including one guy who was pulled over in front of what might have been a repair shop or a diner or an ice cream place…whatever it was, it looked down on its heels. There was a hack! I looked for the telltale horizontal jugs, but nada. “What is it, I thought?” As I rode up the street, I glanced over and saw that beautiful gold script: Royal Enfield. Ugh, what a purdy bike and a purdy set-up with the sidecar. I might actually be convinced to crawl into one if it was that one.

Gator’s was packed! There’s a huge beach volleyball area outside and there were several teams playing. It was a bit odd; here we are in the middle of nowhere in the woods and a bunch of drunk people are playing beach volleyball…the backwoods meets Newport Beach. The pub itself has a big open bar area and a separate sit-down eating area. We chose to sit at the bar. My friends both had Blue Moon and I had a Peak Organic Nut Brown Ale. Mmmm, it was good.

I also settled in with a juicy buffalo burger without the buffalo sauce and onion rings. The bartender looked at me and asked why no buffalo sauce, to which I replied, I really just like the bleu cheese as it melts into the burger. The plate arrived and the onion rings were super-duper thin and covered with a light and crispy batter. They were really, really good. The burger was smothered in bleu cheese (the barman had asked for extra) and the bun was really good. I was very pleased with the food.

Of course when it came to pay, I realized the 20 dollar bill I had stashed in my wallet had been fed into the card reader machine at school so I can buy lunch on the days when there’s nothing lying around the house, so the ladies were kind enough to pick up the tab for me. The New York habit of not carrying cash or very, very little cash gets me into trouble more times than I can count.

We chatted for quite a while, and apparently we didn’t leave until about 9:20pm. Lemme tell ya, it’s dark in that part of Rhode Island…very, very dark. I had already decided I would take Route 102 to Route 14 (Plainfield Pike) to get back into Providence and home. I followed one friend until she veered off toward her home in Burrillville. Now I’m on my own, shivering a bit as I was wearing a mesh jacket (at least I had the foresight to grab the fleece jacket I keep in my office), heading into the black soup of the night in rural Rhode Island.

There was not a lot of traffic, but I must have passed at least 10 to 12 bikes. Some in pairs, a handful alone. Who are you people out on your big ol’ cruisers at 10pm at night in the middle of nowhere with nothing to let me know you’re there except your headlight. I know you’re cold, riding in 65F temps in your t-shirt and bandanna.

The cars, the few that there were behind me, were very considerate. I kept my speed near to or just above the posted limit, which I’m sure made a couple of the drivers nutso as it’s only posted at 35mph, but in the pitch black in deer country with roadworks in several sections of Route 102, you’re not going to get much more out of me.

I’m constantly scanning, scanning, scanning for deer. I’m freaked about deer. We had deer run out in front of us in Nova Scotia, and there was a guy killed in Rhode Island on his scoot when a deer jumped out the woods into him in the middle of the day last summer. So I’m very unnaturally freaked about deer. Then I start thinking. “What’s worse than deer? Drunk drivers.” I knew it was late, but I didn’t know what time it was. But out in this part of Rhode Island, with very few lights and folks having to drive long distances (for Rhode Island) to hang out in a public establishment with friends, well, people are going to drink a bit too much, get into their cars, and drive home. Every time I saw lights coming my way, I pulled way over to my white line and kept aware of a way out if I saw lights coming at me. Call me paranoid!

It’s so very odd to look into your mirrors and see…nothing. This happened quite a few times in Canada. How we were riding in the dark in Nova Scotia in June when the sun doesn’t set until the next morning is beyond me. It’s a weird, eerie feeling and I kept checking my mileage to make sure I would have enough fuel to get to civilization.

The only hairy part of the whole ride began when I crossed the border from Cranston into Providence. I’m on Huntington Avenue and there’s a Jeep going backwards, a woman crossing the street in the dark, and another Jeep bulleting from a side street into a driveway. This was all in the same place at the same time. I sorta slowed down, but then thought, why should I slow down because they’re acting like morons? So I gunned Elsa through the mess and made the quick left, right, left up onto Elmwood Avenue.

Erik was sitting on the porch, observing the booty call rituals between two different sets of neighbors (who said Peyton Place wasn’t alive and well?!), and he came over to meet me at the garage. Home safe and sound at 10:20. I still can’t believe it took me an hour. I thought I was cruising right along. Oh well…have I mentioned lately how much I love the DRZ-400SM? The thing is wicked fun. And I brought my camera but completely forgot to take pics. Idiot.

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