Rainy Days = Dog Days
by Bill Hufnagle
Although summer is rapidly approaching, May is still spring, and spring weather is highly unpredictable and can play havoc with motorcycle riding. What starts as a warm day can turn cold and rainy in no time flat. When I am traveling long distance, especially during this season, I simply expect to spend some of my time riding in the rain. Rainy days are just par for the course.
While I don’t go for a leisurely day cruise or a sporting ride in the mountains when it is raining, I will embark on a long motorcycle journey even if it is raining at home. Long ago I decided that, if I would venture out in a storm to continue a trip or ride the last leg home, then I might as well start a trip under the same circumstances. It is a pain to have wet gear at the start of a trip, yet since rallies and vacation schedules don’t come with rain dates, I would still rather ride. I do, of course, check the weather forecasts along my intended route; I am not crazy enough to leave home simply to ride into major bad weather or a stalled storm front that will have me searching for a hotel while still close to home. In those cases, I wait and start my trip a day or so later.
It’s on the days planned for local riding that rain is actually the most bothersome. Once I get it into my head that I am going to spend one of my rare weekend days off on the bike, waking up to discover a rainy day is so frustrating. I am not bothered at all if it happens on a day I plan to be in the office working. Frankly, rainy weekdays like today are perfect for writing or just taking care of business. Heck, that’s the only reason I am even writing this now. I just came back from a lunch meeting&emdash;outside it was a typical early spring deluge, cold and blustery, with a rain that felt like thousands of tiny needles of ice&emdash;and it sure feels good to be in my warm, dry office. When I got back, my girlfriend Mary told me that they had sleet on the other side of the mountain this morning. Spring weather up in the mountains can bring rain, sleet, or snow, even when it feels summery in the valleys. And the higher up you go later in the season, the more frozen forms of rain you can expect. But I digress.
This column is entitled “Rainy Days = Dog Days” because it is about how both dogs and bikers have similar reactions of frustration to rainy days. We have two dogs in the house, Buddy, my two-and-a-half-year-old Siberian Husky, and Mary’s dog ShyAnne, a ten-year-old terrier mix. You would not know ShyAnne was ten by her energy level or alertness. Perhaps it is the terrier or the unknown part of the mix, but she is one live wire. Buddy is a Husky, which means he is a very active, highly social, and playful dog. Although technically no longer a puppy, he still has a lot of that puppy enthusiasm. We have a nice large, fenced-in yard where the dogs are free to play, run, nap, and react to all the critters and vehicles that pass down our country road. They are quite accustomed to spending the bulk of their day enjoying the freedom of the yard and entertaining themselves. But when it rains, they have to spend the day inside with me. Not because the rain bothers them, but because Carolina red clay is hard to clean off carpet.
Well, let me tell you, if you think a biker experiences cabin fever cooped up inside on a rainy Saturday or Sunday, you should meet my dogs. These two could drive anyone crazy&emdash;that is, if you are not a dog person. Being a dog person, I have empathy for them; besides, they do make being inside more entertaining. ShyAnne, being a more mature dog, is fairly content to sleep away the day, almost as if her biological clock says “Rainy days = restful days.” On the other hand, Buddy is still such a playful pup that he goes back and forth between trying to play with me and trying to get the little dog to join in.
Consequently, I never have a dull moment on a rainy day. I either have a Husky bringing me each one of his dozen or so toys, or I have a doggie riot in the living room. So I take frequent breaks to entertain and be entertained by my canine companions. After a while, they expend their energy and both collapse for a nap and I get some solid work in. Living with these two dogs has made me see that, even more than they are man’s best friends, dogs are a biker’s best friends.
I am sure you all have heard the saying that goes something like, “Only bikers know why dogs stick their heads out car windows.” Well, it is true&emdash;this cliché has some basis in reality, and my dogs love to feel the wind when they ride in the truck. If they see another dog along the road or in another vehicle, they have to speak to it, just like I wave at other riders on the road or even the ones standing by their bikes at a rest stop. The more I observe dogs, the more I see that they, too, like the wind, exploring new places, and freedom. Buddy loves to be off his leash when we hike in the mountains, just like I like to be free from the constraints of modern life when I am riding. So I suggest that if you don’t have a dog, adopt one, and then at least someone else in the house will understand how you feel on rainy days.
The only real pain with this pesto pasta dish is when you miss getting the last serving. I always love to make this after I return from a ride on my Buell especially when I show an Italian sport bike rider how fast is done American style. This dish is as fast to make as a ride to the market on a Buell White Lightning; just have the pasta ready at the same time the sauce is finished and you win the race to dinner.
3 tablespoons dried basil
3 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1 pound tri-color fusilli pasta, cooked to al dente according to package directions, drained, and kept warm
1. Combine the basil and boiling water in a small heatproof bowl, stir well, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until it begins to color, about 1 minute. Add the crushed red pepper, white pepper, salt, pistachios, and pine nuts and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, add the basil and its soaking liquid, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cheeses, stir well, and remove from the heat.
3. Pour over the hot pasta, toss well to cover with the sauce, and serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire”, and has authored three cookbooks. Just released in 2003 is his latest book, “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”. The book includes 200 recipes from HOG members and Harley riders across America and an ample supply of Biker Billy’s own fiery recipes.
The book is endowed with Biker Billy’s unique biker banter. It is sure to bring the adventure and flavor of the open road to your table and family.
The illustrated book is published by Harvard Common Press and is available in bookstores everywhere for $19/95, or on Biker Billy’s web site where you can have it autographed. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.
Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.