It's been a long time coming and it's been preceded by the same actions of other club members. I'm talking about leaving club riding and doing my own thing.
When I first started riding, as a newbie, I was also new to this area and had no knowledge of the roads and other attractions. Then, astride my Kawasaki ZX-6, I would go out for an hour, at most, before returning home. I had no idea of where to go or what to do. I was lost half of that time, anyway.
Then, I heard about The Club. Local guys with a wide variety of bikes, got together on the weekend just to ride. Thanks to them, I learned a lot about riding, friendship and our part of New England. I made some very good friends through the club and am grateful for that. Within a year or two, a rift became evident and a small group splintered off, with harsh words and leaving bad feelings behind them. They wanted to be bad-asses, but mostly just made asses of themselves, with the manner of their departure.
I enjoyed club riding for the next five or more years, as we made plans for long distance trips that I never would have undertaken on my own. Each winter, we would meet and cast out ideas for reasonable destinations. These would range from the reachable and achievable, to the ridiculous. In the end, it came down to schedule and finances, but almost every year there was a multi-day trip for all to enjoy.
When we weren't planning long trips, the weekend rides would alternate between Saturdays and Sundays until we realized that almost everyone was available for a Sunday ride. So, we defaulted to that day, for the group rides, but others would still get together when available, as a small group. Somewhere along the line, I started returning from rides with a sense of dissatisfaction, but didn't realize why. The LAST thing I should have done was to return from a ride, and report to my wife that I didn't have a good time. Before she got her own bike, I was off with the guys, while she stayed home and tended to household chores and yard work. I think they call that Double Jeopardy.
Still, I stayed on but growing more dissatisfied as the years went on. Each year, towards the end of the riding season, I'd question my commitment to the group, after a series of unsatisfactory outings. I realized that, what was happening was that the Sunday rides were becoming lowest common denominator rides. That is, Steve needs to be back by 2, because the game is on, Larry can only ride for an hour, because his wife is pissed at him for not raking leaves, etc., etc. Soon, our rides became the answer to the question, "How little can we ride to accommodate everyone?" No longer were destinations chosen or planned in advance. We started riding the same local roads again and again. Boring.
After 10 years of club membership and participation (as unofficial social director) I said to hell with it. I unplugged myself from the email group and rode occasionally with some of my closer friends. I have no shortage of riding partners, now that the missus has her own bike. After my experience on the Sturgis ride, I no longer have any qualms about riding alone. Perhaps I am riding less but the quality of the rides are way up. I don't need to put miles on my bike riding in circles, just to brag about my annual mileage. I'm happier to have a couple of great rides each year, with close friends, where we put a pin in the map and head off for a couple of days. Motorcycle camping is a relatively new acquired taste for me (over the past 3-4 years) as it allows us to leave our local area and see new places.
One of my favorite rides (despite Jerry's recollection) was a quick trip to Quebec City. Yes, I did have some discomfort on that ride. I blame that on some musculoskeletal problems and a lack of Motrin. It wasn't the sport bike! Okay, the seat could have been partially to blame. In any event, a long weekend got shortened due to horrific weather, but we had a great ride and a great dinner in Canada, before returning home.
Last weekend, I tried the group ride once again. Why? Because I allowed myself to succumb to peer pressure. The ride got off to a bad start. We were split up at the get go and three of us got separated from the rest and tried hard to catch up. We finally did, halfway to our destination. You can read about that ride here, on Pat's Blog: http://patnwilton.blogspot.com/2010/10/looking-behind-planning-ahead.html
A bad ride got worse and my mood soured. I realize that I hate to compromise these days and rather than suffer through a long lunch and a dull ride home, I punched out, in favor of some quality time with my wife. She was happily surprised to see me return early and I was just as happy to be home.
The key to any good ride is planning. Pat's blog touches on this and it's clear that a lack of planning is one of the reasons that some guys show up for rides but don't join in. I used to take that personally but now I see it for what it is. We all only get some many good riding days, no sense wasting them on a bad ride.
I hope anyone reading this takes this with the intention that it's written. All I want is better riding. I think one main component of that is the size of the group. Smaller is better. Three is good, two is better. Sometimes, one is the loneliest number, but I'm okay with that.
A low, slow wave,