Sunday, March 16, 2008

Springtime ritual

This time last week, I was pushing 20-plus inches of heavy, wet snow off my driveway. The storm set an all-time record in this part of the country, closing schools, making travel a challenge and reminding us that Nature remains in charge.

Thanks to six days of moderate temps and a good bit of rain, my homemade snow drifts are all but gone. Stepping outside with my morning coffee, I close my eyes and feel the sun on my face, tempted to welcome spring.

And then I remember that the previous snowfall record was produced 21 years ago by an April storm.

Still, March 15th marks the first day of spring, my spring, the day when I liberate my motorcycles from winter storage. It's a familiar annual ritual.

Brew a pot of coffee. Gather wallet, keys, helmet, jacket, gloves and boots. Trundle out to the garage. Turn on the radio. Pull the covers off the bikes. Check tire pressures. Roll each machine to the door, switch the fuel petcock to ON, turn the key -- a silent prayer is optional at this point -- and press the starter button.

If I've done my November pre-storage ritual just right and charged the batteries periodically throughout the winter months, the next sound I'll hear will be the satisfying (if hesitant) sound of internal combustion.

Yesterday was a perfectly satisfying day.

Each bike got a brief ride, long enough to bring the machine's fluids up to operating temperature (and the rider to the brink of hypothermia). With the mercury just shy of 40 degrees yesterday, the former took longer than the latter.

Despite the chill, it was exhilarating. Like waking after a long nap.