Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Comfortable in Your Armor

Have you ever worn armor? I don't really mean something like a medieval suit of metal. If you've ever played on a football or hockey team, you've worn armor. If you are a cautious motorcycle rider, you've probably worn armor, too.

A few weekends ago, Mr. H and I rode his bike to Birmingham. That was the first time I've worn my new riding jack for an extended period. It was a bit chilly when we left the house, so I had the thermal liners in both the pants and the jacket. I also had on the winter gloves instead of my favorite new summer gloves. I had on the new boots, too. My helmet was the only piece of equipment that I was comfortable with.

It seemed like I was fighting all that gear all day. With both the thermal and wind-proof liners in the pants, I felt like the Michelin Man when I walked. And I had to fight my way out of the jacket every time we stopped. We walked around the Barber Motorsport Museum for several hours, and my legs were sore from the tall boots. The winter gloves are too thick to be able to feel anything while wearing them. When we finally arrived at the hotel, every bit of that gear came off, and quickly. I couldn't stand wearing it any longer. But I knew better to leave any of it off while we were riding. Every piece of it serves a specific purpose.

My helmet, I've had for several years. I have a liner cap that I put on first. I know just how to put the helmet on so that my ears don't fold over and the cap doesn't slide over my eyes. I'm familiar with the way it feels and how it buckles. I don't think about it when I have it on.

But I know I need ALL of this protection ... this armor. The helmet is probably the most obvious. It's the only one that's ever required by law. I have a full face helmet and here's the reasoning behind that choice: I only have one face and I'd like to keep it in the condition that it was given to me.

I wear gloves to ride even though I would prefer to be able to feel the controls with my bare hands. When it's chilly out, my hands are usually cold. If those hands are moving at 60 miles per hour, they are REALLY cold: insulated gloves for cold weather. If I didn't wear them, my hands wouldn't be able to feel the controls for long anyway. Even in warm weather, I wear full fingered riding gloves. If for some reason I should come off the bike unintentionally, what would be my first instinct? To break my fall with my hands. Asphalt does nasty things to skin!

I have a high visibility yellow riding jacket. It does several things to protect me. The color grabs your eye. One of the reasons bikes are involved in accidents is because the person driving the car didn't notice the bike was there. The jacket also has armored shoulders, elbows and back. The fabric is also abrasion resistant. If you should happen to slide, you won't be sliding on your skin.

The pants are also armored at the knees and hips. I guess all your "corners" have pads. The jacket and the pants have cold weather liners that zip in. Yes, it makes me look like Ralphie's little brother in "A Christmas Story", but ask anyone who really knows me and they will tell you how I feel about being cold. 'Absolute misery' pretty much describes it!

I didn't realize how important the boots were until I started riding myself. When I rode with Mr. H, I just wore my hiking boots. They were the sturdiest, tallest (up to my ankle) footwear I owned. I never realized they were so soft on top until I tried shifting gears with my left foot. I was getting a blister on the top of my foot. I now have some service boots that come higher up my leg and have a stiff upper. They aren't really comfortable to walk in yet, because I'm not used to the way they feel.

And that's really the point I'm try to make here. God's armor is like that. We are all used to the way WE do things, the strengths WE have, OUR comfort zones. God asks us to put those aside and put on HIS armor, to depend on HIS strength, to rely on HIS provision. It may be uncomfortable at first, but the more you wear it, the more familiar you are with the way it feels. You come to understand the purpose and protection provided by each piece. At some point, it just feels wrong NOT to have it on.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Take the Scenic Route

What a great day today is!! By tonight, all my children will be home. The eldest made it about 2:00 this afternoon. The traveling missionaries will be later, probably around 9 or 10. When the eldest arrived at the house, however, Mr. H and I weren't there. We were at marker E on the map below. (if you'd rather be able to see lots of detail about the roads, click this link)

That's where Penn's Catfish in Petal is located.

Today I took my first road trip on my own bike. Mr. H and I headed out on a scenic trip to Hattiesburg. We actually didn't have any reason for that particular destination other than the distance it was from our house. Usually when headed to Hattiesburg from George County, you just get on Hwy 98 and go 'til you get there. I wasn't too sure about traveling that road today. Surely it would be busy with Easter travelers. So Mr. H mapped out a road less traveled for us.

From Hwy 63, we went west on Sally Parker Road and several others. We eventually ended up on Hwy 29. What a beautiful road! It leads to New Augusta, which is on Hwy 98. All I had to do was cross over 98 without actually having to travel along it.

Just across 98, we didn't stay on 29 for very long. Old River Road runs west just north of New Augusta. It's a great road, too. It leads to Petal. From there we went on Hwy 11 to Hattiesburg. Hattiesburg Cycle is just south of the junction of Hwy 11 and US Hwy 49 (on the frontage road, so I didn't have to drive on 49, either)

We really didn't need anything from Hattiesburg Cycle. It does have a lot of bikes and helmets, so we mainly just looked around. It was more of a leg stretching stop than any thing else. We were hungry by that time, so we headed out to get some lunch.

If there really was a "destination" for this trip, it was our next stop: Penn's. They have some of the best catfish there. Since it was after 2 when we arrived, it wasn't crowded at all.

After a great lunch, we got back on the bikes and headed east on Hwy 42. We followed 42 to Richton and from there to Hwy 63. I travel parts of 63 every week, but hadn't been on that part. It runs down through Sand Hill and Leakesville, where I have been before.

The weather today was just gorgeous. It is such a nice change from the endlessly cold weather we've had this winter. I think everything has bloomed in the last week. Wisteria is everywhere in south Mississippi.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Today I did something that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would do: put MY license plate on MY motorcycle.

It's mine. My name will be on the title when it comes.

What an odd thought: I will one day be a biker. I know better than to think I am now. Not enough miles or hours spent in the saddle. There are stickers and T-shirts that say "$15,000 and a weekend don't make you a biker." There is a lot of truth to that statement.

You've got to get to the point where some things are automatic and require no thought. I'm not there, yet. I'm thinking about EVERYTHING: how far from that stop sign should I start breaking and downshifting? ... what gear should be in to go around this corner? ... I need to remember to cancel my turn signal a bit sooner after the turn.

It surprises me that things I don't think about in my car (which is a 6 speed) require so much thought on the bike. You even think about the road itself: is that a pot hole or just a dark patch? ... is that sand on the outside of that turn? ... watch out for that dead armadillo on this side of the yellow line. The thought process is incredible.

But I really, really like it.

And don't they look nice together?

Humorous note: when we called to add my Honda to Mr. H's Geico policy, they asked if I would be riding his Honda. He laughed and said there was no way, since I couldn't stand that bike up nor touch the ground while sitting on it. True! That's why I have my own.