Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Fog is Strong Medicine


Fog is strong medicine -- it's stimulative power capable of pulling a comatose body from fantastic dreamworlds into a real world shrouded is gaseous water and mystery.  Forsaking plans and conceptions, no destination in mind, far from home in the dawn mist, I could feel the energy whispering through me, urging me on.



Into the darkness.  Fine water droplets transform the view through the visor into a translucent white luster framing the road as it winds through the forest, subduing detail not already lost to the fog.  A finger drags across the outside of the visor, then inside, a vain ritual to navigate into the morning nebula. Make no mistake – fog increases risk in the riding world and demands careful consideration before choosing to explore.

Empty dirt and gravel roads in Rothrock State Forest changes scanning for vehicles to a search for sudden changes in the road surface, meandering black bears, fallen limbs, and the ever present white-tailed deer.



Bear Meadows.  This place retains the same lure today as it did when I first visited in an orange VW beetle 40 years ago.  I see my dog Essa loping along the path, or remember falling through the ice on a New Year’s Day hike.  Sight and vision are sharpened by memory.



Kim and I used to come here before sunrise, hours before having to be at work to sit and write and experience the world.  And always when there was fog…



Free to explore.  That’s the secret power of a Vespa – far from discussions of fuel economy, hipster lifestyle or scooter culture.  It has power to move me into an altered state.  I’ve ridden a lot of fine motorcycles and scooters – this Vespa remains the perfect companion in my riding world.



The Vespa doesn't say no.  It just goes without complaint or demand as if just as driven to experience as its rider.  Through rain and snow, mud, ice, wind and darkness, the Vespa is up to the challenge. In videos of the Dakar and pictures of them rigged for water crossings, it is a hearty machine.

In a culture of bigger, faster, stronger a scooter isn’t a comfortable fit.  After tens of thousands of miles on a Vespa I’ve come to see the difference between my choice and the choice others would make for me should I give them the chance.  



Reflection.  Miles from home, standing in a stand of hemlocks listening to a small brook babble along on its way to the Chesapeake Bay, a mind is free to wander and wonder and reflect on whatever is important at that moment.  This doesn’t happen standing at the water fountain down the hall from my office…



The spell is broken.  I’ve read there are no wild places in the lower 48 states.  Certainly none in central Pennsylvania.  Still, in the fog a mind can wander and pretend.  Nothing breaks that wilderness bubble faster than the intrusion of runners into a fantasy.  Serious ones no doubt – the loop they were taking has 15 miles of mountain running ahead before returning to civilization.



Down the mountain.  A steep grade on mud and loose gravel challenge the scooter’s descent and highlights the need for careful braking and the technical limitation of the Vespa’s automatic transmission.  The Heidenau winter tires provide enough grip and bite to make for a reasonable ride.



Return to civilization.  Rides can’t last forever, especially ones made without boundaries measured in hours.  The departure from one world to another is softened on a foggy day, each mile unfolding with it’s own secret personality.



Sharpened vision. The Vespa bears witness to the landscape shaped and twisted by fog driven light as its small wheels turn through mud then gravel and back onto the security of pavement.  There’s a pull back to the forest and another on into the day.  I’m glad I can feel it.



Fully medicated. Mentally. Emotionally, Physically. How better to start a day than a ride in the fog. A few hours investment for a valuable return – it’s strong medicine and requires no prescription. A simple choice to ride.

16 comments:

Richard Machida said...

Some of those places seem pretty unpopulated. But to get to the truly "wild" you will probably need to leave the Vespa behind no matter where you look.

Beautiful photos.

Tiny Puppetmaster said...

I could not agree more. I've loved fog since I was a tiny child. I still can't stop taking photos whenever fog comes around. Thank you for the lovely post.

Poppawheelie said...

OK, I take it back. You don't need a 650GS or a URAL.

Charlie6 said...

Lovely pics Steve, especially the second from last shot with the branches outlined....

Still, an Orange Ural would have "popped" nicely in the fog.....

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

VCS said...

Great post Steve, as always. Fog adds mistery to your powerful photographs. Beautiful landscapes too. You are lucky to ride on that roads...
I almost can hear me when i´m reading about your feelings on the incredible Vespa GTS. It represents very much the same for me.

Vasco
http://respiroscooter.blogspot.pt/

Steve Williams said...

RichardM: You're right about truly "wild" places being hard to find and would almost certainly mean leaving the Vespa behind. For now I'm content in the sub-wild of the mind!

Steve Williams said...

TinyPuppetmaster: Same here -- even as a kid I liked fog. Also had me running in the mist behind mosquito trucks spraying malathion. Ugh.

Steve Williams said...

Poppawheelie: Someday things might change and something different might make sense but for today the Vespa is champ.

Charlie6: The orange URAL provides an unfair photographic advantage. It's like having a photogenic dog along...

Steve Williams said...

Vasco: Thank you for the kind words about the pictures and post. It's nice to know someone connects. I think there are more than a few riders who have similar feelings about riding in fog. Maybe they will chime in.

Circle Blue said...

I, too, love the fog. It is indeed strong medicine. It makes for the finding of those thin places where the realms of what is, what was, and what might be are not so well defined. Fog brings mystery and mystery brings the possibility of adventure.

Yes, I, too, love the fog.
~Keith,
Circle Blue

Steve Williams said...

Circle Blue: I wonder if there is a Fog Riders Association. Maybe we should start one...

Ride safe in the mist.

Charlie6 said...

Steve, about a Tangerine Tango-colored Ural being unfair advantage....I need any edge I can get when my photos get compared to your stuff.

dom

Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Let's saddle up and Scooter For Fun. said...

Great shots Steve. Have you ever mentioned what equipment you use to get these great shots? I'd love to know what you use.
And, yes fog is something special. Here in Maine it can come in "Pow!" just like that, entangling us in it's wispy coolness. Then - gone! and the sun once again holds sway.
Come on up out way, Tom Keene and I would love to experience our form of quiet wilderness.
Ciao.
Mike.
http://scooterthefun.blogspot.com/

bobskoot said...

Steve:

sometimes I wished that we had closer access to forest service roads, but then again a Vespa is easier to handle on dirt than a V-strom.

As we get older the more we think about past memories and things and places we used to frequent.

I used to have a VW Bug. I think that makes us related . . .

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: Not only do you have the advantage of a bright orange subject, but you have the added bonus of the majestic Colorado landscape. You can't take a bad picture there.

I want to see more antelope, bear, elk and wolves in your pictures though. And throw in a few cowboys for good measure...

American Scooterist Blog said...

The fog has some weird effect on me. I love to ride through it but lately have been apprehensive to ride foggy days and nights alone.

Great post!

Harv