Fall Riding

by Bill Hufnagle

October is one of my favorite months of the year for motorcycle riding. While I consider summer my season of choice and winter a dreaded enemy, it is during this transitional month that I find the most joy on two wheels.

The warmth of summer and the long hours of daylight are waning heavily come October, and there is that something in the air harkening of winter’s arrival. The fall foliage is painting a riot of colors upon the landscape, and the leaves surrendering to gravity impart a special scent to the cooler breezes. They descend to the pavement and lay in wait with their co-conspirator, rain, for the unsuspecting motorcyclist who is watching the trees, not the road. Amidst the beauty lies increased danger, which perhaps adds to the thrill.

Being a leather aficionado in the fall is like being a cigar smoker on vacation in Cuba. What better time to enjoy the earthy pleasures of a warm leather jacket, chaps, boots, and gloves? Clad in their protection, one feels some equalizing effect against the slippery leaves lurking in the long shadows of a sun that each day arcs closer to the southern horizon. Leathers creak more when they are chilled from a ride, and they trade their signature rich fragrance when warm for a cool music orchestrated by your motion.

Getting geared up for a ride takes on more of a ritual aspect sometime during this month. While September brought some relief from the swelter of August along with the hoped-for Indian summer, October marks a true climatic change. One knows that it can start to get sharply colder during any ride. Hence, the ritual of making sure there are cold-weather extras in the saddle bags&emdash;gloves of various weights, thermal vests, and for the ardent winter riders, the ultimate in comfort&emdash;electric riding gear.

The rituals also involve increasing care in donning one’s riding gear. Gone are the days when quickly slipping on your jacket and helmet were sufficient. Now the fall air can be cold enough to cut like a knife though a careless gap between jacket and pants. That same airflow was a comforting relief from the heat a few short weeks ago. As October marches towards All Hallows Eve, the ritual of sealing out the breeze becomes more intense. Yet we are armoring ourselves precisely so we can continue to keep our minds and our knees in the breeze.

Our machines also feel the need for more ritual, too; each passing day they ask for a little more time to warm their vital juices and elemental metals before they will allow us to ride them. If left outside overnight, they respond to the moon and the increasingly clear night sky by wrapping themselves in a blanket of cool condensation, reminding us how sometimes they prefer to slumber in the warmth of the garage. That first time of the season when you come out of your motel room on a dry, sunny, road trip morning to find your beloved bike drenched in dew is a sign of things to come. Ride longer into this season and towards higher elevation, and Jack Frost will greet you before breakfast one morning. Your bike now requires the ritual of warming up and wiping down before rides.

The passing of the pages on the calendar marked October also marks the passing of a season in our lives. This month sees the end of another year’s riding season. October is celebrated with the last of the major riding events and rallies. Even the smaller local events will soon transfer from outdoors to indoors. The holidays are around the corner, as is the coming of the winter indoor bike-show season. Yes, the 2004 riding season has ridden into the sunset and we will all soon be turning our minds and interests towards the ’05 bikes, products, road trips, and events. While New Year’s Eve marks the change of year for the rest of the world, for us bikers that change might just happen on Halloween. Time marches on, as the days now grow ever shorter.

I think that it is somehow, somewhere in that process of change from the freedom and abundance of summer riding to the restrictions of winter that the month of October has its special effect on my riding pleasure. There is something bittersweet in these waning days of the riding season. I see the limits on my access to the wonders of motorcycling approaching. The rituals remind that ahead are the days in the cabin when the closest I will come is to putter on and around the bikes in the shrine that is my winter garage. I therefore savor each chance to ride more this month; every mile is more enjoyable, each vista from the saddle more intensely burned into my memory.

I ride with more of a mission during this month. In the summer, rides are abundant and part of the daily fabric of life and their preciousness is harder to perceive. But come October, it is my season to harvest. I gather up rides and riding experiences to store them for the winter. Like a bear eating all he can find, I will try to gorge myself on the still-plentiful fruits of my motorcycle so I may store enough spiritual fuel to carry me through the long winter hibernation. As Halloween drags its spooky chains of the impending dark season towards me, I stoke up the fire of my internal combustion talisman and answer that ghoulish rattle with the roar of my pipes. I ride and ride on my mission to fill myself with the magic that only we bikers can feel. While witches brew their cauldrons and practice their celebration of Halloween, while eager children dream of costumes and candy, while merchants plan for the selling season, we bikers store our energies like grizzly bears to dream the dream that we will awake from our sleepy season next spring to a new year and all the adventure it will bring.

To Die Pumpkin Pie

Talk about desserts to die for, this high-performance biker-style pie will lay you out with a smile. The aromas created by this pie baking will fill your kitchen with hungry bikers. Just warn all those hungry sweet tooths that this pie packs a surprise. Its warming, not scorching, fire is thanks to the cayenne pepper. Besides packing firepower, the cayenne also brings the other flavors to life. This pie is truly worthy of playing the last act of a memorable holiday feast. Some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream is a wonderful accompaniment and will soothe the tender tongues at your dinner table.

4 large eggs
3 cups light cream
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups fresh pumpkin, prebaked (see note)
1 packaged piecrust mix, prepared for a double-crust 9-inch pie

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs using an electric blender on low speed. Add the cream and mix until well blended. Add both sugars, the ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne, and cinnamon and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes. (You can blend this by hand but it takes a lot more effort.)

2. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out and place the crusts in two 9-inch pie pans and pinch flute the edges into a nice looking ridge. Divide the filling between the two pie crusts. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake until a fork inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean, about another 45 minutes. Serve warm or chilled, as you prefer.

Makes two 9-inch pies; 8 to 12 servings total

Note: To prepare the pumpkin, cut a 2 to 3 pound pumpkin in half, scrape out and discard the seeds and membranes. Place the pumpkin halves on a lightly greased baking sheet with the cut side down. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Scrape out the 3 cups of pumpkin flesh for the recipe. Depending on the size of the pumpkin, you can prepare several pies; they make excellent holiday gifts for your fiery friends. Or, if that sounds like too much work, just use a 29-ounce can of cooked pumpkin, which should yield 3 cups.

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.

M.M.M.

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