Finished the loop – sort of

Today I spontaneously decided to finish the loop in New Hampshire that I aborted a few weeks ago when the bike acted up again. Yes, my bike is in winter storage, and temperatures were in the 30s today. No matter – I took the BRZ for a cruise, since I really hadn’t taken it for a back road romp since I got it back from the body shop. And, by now, you know how much I hate not finishing a route that I start. It was a slow drawl through slow traffic most of the way to New Hampshire on the back roads. I did get a clear run through Willard Brook State Forest, though, and I noticed the black and white SUV with blue disco lights coming the other direction in time to bring down my speed quickly and avoid trouble. From 119 I took 31 up into New Hampshire and followed it all the way to Bennington, retracing my route from the attempted bike ride.

BRZ_overlookIt was interesting to compare the same twisties in the car that I recently rode on the bike. The car was definitely more capable, and I am certainly a more capable driver than rider. But I was also far more insulated from the experience than I am on the bike, and just how much of a difference that is surprised me. And this is in a modern sports car, with far more feedback through the controls than, say, the Hyundai Elantra I rented for a day earlier this year that had less feedback and sensation through the steering than my Logitech game controller. Seriously, while playing iRacing I’ve had carefully crafted force feedback through the Logitech wheel cause reactions in my virtual driving that I learned in real cars on real tracks, and I didn’t get that through the Elantra, which is an actual car. Not to mention that I was inside a comfortable cabin, with my GPS programmed, my music playing through 10 speakers from my phone’s Bluetooth connection, and my ham radio scanning a few favorite frequencies. It’s not so much comparing apples and oranges, as apples and crankshaft pulleys. You just can’t.

I passed the point where I turned around on the bike, and soon found myself on 137 – the purpose of this whole adventure. When I lived on the MA/NH line over 10 years ago, 137 was my “test track.” After tweaking up a car or bike, I’d take it on 137 to see how it performed. It was just repaved soon after I moved to the area, and was lots of fun. In this case, though, I think I was better off in the car.  The road has deteriorated a lot since then. There are many large ruts and cracks, perfect for catching a motorcycle tire and steering the bike for you if you’re not paying attention. Not a problem in the car, of course. There was even some ice on parts of the road, but I got my winter tires put on last week, and I eased off the pace a bit in these sections and was fine. It was still a fun drive, and I realized that I couldn’t approach the car’s limits safely on these roads, even on less grippy snow tires and with stability control on its more permissive sport mode. I took 202 to 140, then superslabbed it home on 2 with the cruise control on – something else I can’t do on the bike.

It’s not the same, but at least I finished what I’d set out to do. Given the condition of 137, I didn’t really miss anything by not getting the bike out there. It would’ve been a game of avoiding the ruts and cracks instead of carving good lines through the corners. It also let me get more acquainted with the car in its current configuration. I used to call my old Miatas four wheeled motorcycles. That description doesn’t apply to the BRZ – it’s definitely a car, though still a fun one.

I admit, the thought has entered my mind in recent weeks of possibly doing my eventual cross country trip on four wheels instead of two. Today’s road trip drilled into my head the differences between the bike and the car. It would certainly be easier to tackle such a trip in the car. Packing would be easy, weather wouldn’t be an issue, and it’s easier to put down more miles if I need to. But those challenges are what makes doing it on a bike unique, and more worth doing. I’d need to get a different bike for a cross country ride – either buy one, or rent one, neither of which is a cheap proposition. But I already have a car that can do it just fine right now – with a warranty, even. That’s not a cheap proposition, either, but at least I’m already making those payments. Gas would be a little more expensive with poorer mileage than the bike, but not too bad. And doing it in a sports car would still be a lot more fun than in a regular everyday econobubble. So we’ll see.

I still have the entire trip to plan, anyway. I’ve already started some of it, but I’m finding large sections of nothing in the middle of the US that I’m struggling to fill with something interesting. I’ll work on it.

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