Five to five and the last patients have left the office. The doctors are finishing their dictation; the office staff have locked the doors, turned off the lights and gone home. I clean the surgical instruments and shut off the machines, flipping the breaker on the x-ray generator and draining the processor.
I begin the ritual of the riding gear, as I have done nearly every day for many years. I pull on my Gortex socks, tucking my trouser cuffs inside them. I put on my riding pants. Designed for safety, they have reflective patches and are armored at the knees and hips, constructed from Cordura and Kevlar pack cloth, with a layer of Gortex over an insulated liner. I strap on my riding boots: water proofed leather, heavy with padding and armor. Pulling the pants back down over them, I tug the leg zippers closed. I pull on my old grey sweater and shrug on my red winter jacket, built like the pants with protective armor at the shoulders, elbows and spine and trimmed with reflective material. I zip it up; snapping shut the storm flap and wrapping the insulated collar around my neck and chin. I roll foam earplugs into tiny cylinders and insert them in my ears. I pull on my helmet and gloves and exit the building.
The parking lot is pitch black and it is raining hard. I remove the rain cover from my bike and put it and my bag in the sidecar trunk. I mount the bike and reflexively go through the start sequence: fuel(on) ignition(insert key and twist)neutral?( snick the lever up a notch with my toe) – the green light comes on and the bike rolls back a little- I ease the front brake back on, arresting the motion – engine on (cutoff switch moved to center). I flip the choke on and thumb the starter button. The big single comes to life, burbling and thumping at a fast idle.
The engine settles into a smoother rhythm and I ease the choke lever off, rolling on a little throttle until it warms. I tap the shifter down into first and ease out the clutch, flipping my left blinker on as I move out into traffic.
Traffic is a little hectic with everyone leaving work converging on the arterials that will take them out of town and home. I pass the second traffic light(there are only four in the entire town) and leave the city heading south on Tucker Road. There is a line of oncoming traffic. Rain and red rock put down by the county road crews during the recent snows obscure the centerline, water drops prism on my visor. I brush the rain away with my glove, endeavoring to see the road.
At Nobi’s gas station I go left onto Orchard Road. I have it to myself and it is easier to see without the glare of other headlights. Woodsmoke from the farm houses hugs the ground; it mingles with the rain and the fog rising from the melting snow. The atmosphere takes on a texture, thick and grey as lint.
I pull back onto Tucker Road with oncoming headlights once again making it difficult to see. There is water on both sides of my visor now. I lift it so I can see and the cold rain stings my face, biting into the skin as it strikes. The moisture begins to find its way through the layers of cordura and goretex, leather and wool. Cold rivulets tickle my flesh. Two fingers and the tip of my left thumb are wet. I tense as I try to make out the lanes approaching Tucker Bridge and on to the sharp hairpin, uphill into Odell. Rain coats my glasses and drips from the end of my nose.
The engine thumps and the tires splash, pushing through the water pooling and streaming on the road. The night is black and wet and slick.
At home I roll the bike, dripping into the garage. I take the raincover out of the trunk and hang it to dry. I get the mail, check the chickens and rabbits and bring the dog in. The cat lets herself in, neglecting to close the door behind her.
Reversing the riding gear ritual, I peel off the layers, hanging the sodden jacket, pants and gloves on a drying rack over the heat register and placing the boots and goretex socks in my office.
I pour myself a hot whiskey toddy and listen to the rain drumming on the roof.