As fall leaves swirl, the prospect of closing out the riding season becomes all too real. Shorter days and colder temperatures effectively squelch the freedom to just ride away on a whim. But occasionally, autumn will tease out one last enticing forecast that offers just enough room to roam.
Bidding farewell to the riding season is one of the hardest things a rider can do. Sure, heated gear and determination can prolong the inevitable, yet eventually, all but the most hardcore adventurers have to throw in the towel. And though the Carolinas' mild winters don't exactly have Battery Tenders flying off the shelf, they do get chilly enough to curtail most serious attempts at multi-day tours. But when there's a Honda Silver Wing in the garage and a stretch of late October days in the upper 50s ahead, what else is a fellow to do but wander?
With the last-minute tour trigger officially pulled, the fluids and tires are checked and adjusted, and travel necessities stowed. And just like that, the coffee mug's in the dish drainer and I'm motoring "down east" toward the trip's start/finish line in Lumberton, North Carolina, the town where people really know how much wood a woodchuck chucks.
Though I'm sporting my Gerbing's jacket and gloves as a precaution, the warming afternoon rays keep the controller in the OFF position as I roll east out of Lumberton. The flat, straight road stretches across muddy, barren fields. Acres meant for cotton, peanuts, or maybe soybeans, are only clumps of turned soil waiting for the spring reseeding. Where hardwoods stand, yellow leaves drift across the road.
With a northward swing on Route 242 in Elizabethtown, I begin to feel the hypnotic effect of the afternoon sunlight flickering through the bare branches. The luminous strobes playing on the windshield induce a sense of calm and relaxation that starts to become almost too comfortable.
After a quick Coca-Cola stop in Roseboro, I head south on Route 411, giving my right side a taste of the retreating sun. The light is fading fast, and the breeze sneaking around the Wing's windscreen is nippy; but with the Gerbing's little light lit, total comfort is soon restored. Still, experience teaches that won't last long under a waning sun on unfamiliar roads. In Harrells, I bear south on Route 421 and make a beeline for Burgaw and the town's namesake motel.