Well, the groundhog saw his shadow. Six more weeks of winter. Since that only brings us to mid-March, there’s probably another six weeks before I can dig out my spring riding kit (Gerbing heated jacket, Pinlock visor). Shadow or no shadow, for motorcyclists living in geographical regions hostile to four-season—or even three-season—riding, Groundhog Day is not so much a promise of spring as it is a reminder of just how much longer we have to wait to turn a wheel. Punxsutawney Phil can shove it.
I don’t need a taunting marmot to remind me. The other morning, I started the car to warm it up for my wife and looked at the dash thermometer to confirm what my aching digits already knew: 8 degrees below zero.
The cold is far from the worst of it. It’s the dreariness of the sky and the dead gray and brown of the world that lends an apocalyptic air to everything and instills a deep lethargy in the wintery denizens. Every car is entombed in a dull beige crust of salt and road grime. If this motorcycle writing gig doesn’t pan out, I could have a lucrative career naming Sherwin-Williams paint colors in the white/gray/beige spectrum, having seen every shade plastered to my already gray station wagon. “Nordic Salt Cellar,” “Tarnished Pewter,” and “Rusting Wheel Well” could be real winners.
To make it worse, the heels of my winter Bean boots are worn to nubbins as smooth as racing slicks. For the record, I’ve been wearing Leon Leonwood’s eponymous footwear long before all the Eastern college girls with their Canada Goose parkas, trust funds, and youthful rosy cheeks donned their new shiny pairs. Not that I have anything against well-heeled coeds.
I’m not alone in my pessimism. Ruminating on early spring, Wordsworth writes, “The budding twigs spread out their fan, To catch the breezy air; And I must think, do all I can, That there was pleasure there.” Even Wordsworth struggled for optimism in early spring—not that he seemed a cheerful guy at the best of times. Motorcycles didn’t exist in 1798 (otherwise, he’d have been a Vincent man, surely), but Wordsworth captures the motorcyclist’s weather-induced despondency. He probably would have mistrusted clairvoyant rodents too.
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it’s no wonder motorcyclists in these parts are often rabid enthusiasts and rely on a close-knit group of riding buddies to stay sane. We tend to read a lot of Peter Egan and meet regularly for breakfast or happy hour to tell tall tales and kvetch about shoveling-related back injuries. Fortunately, with the first round of WorldSBK right around the corner, it’s a good excuse to have the gang over, open some beers, and live vicariously through Jonny Rea and company. That’s the kind of “holiday” I can get behind.
When the roads eventually do clear and the world underfoot begins to teem with life, we’ll have a handy excuse for disappearing on all-day rides and shirking our lawn mowing duties: “Well, the groundhog saw his shadow this year, so we’ve got to make up for lost time. Let the neighbors gripe about the lawn; it’ll be brown in six months anyway.”
And summer rides, more splendid than mowed lawns and budding twigs, can make the winter’s darkest hour and the groundhog’s pessimistic prognostications seem like distant memories.