TUONO – The Ride of a Lifetime

The morning was cool for being mid-summer. I met the usual suspects, Craig and Brian, at the usual meeting place, a gas station in the south of Ashland, for a Sunday morning ride. We meet at this location often as it resides on highway 66, a twisting, mountainous road that gracefully leads us to a favorite breakfast eatery.  We discuss other destination options for the morning but immediately shun other avenues as our hunger pangs are too great to ignore. The call of rich coffee and the “Pan-San”, a perfect medley of sourdough pancakes, eggs and bacon, beckons us up the grand mountainous road. There is something about those sourdough pancakes the Green Springs Inn serves that keeps us coming back time and again. And their coffee is just right, no Folgers instant crap at this wooded mountain retreat.

Now that the destination was diplomatically decided upon it was time to mount our valiant steeds. Mine, a skillfully crafted two-wheeled wonder whose Italian designers do not rest till they have trounced on the competition. A machine morphed from a country who builds thoroughbred road going machines the only way they know how, stunning and fast.  If you guessed I ride a Ducati guess again, it is the big boot’s other brand Aprilia. It’s humbly named Tuono, Italian for thunder, which has more to do with the staccato sound booming from its big 1000cc twin than the resultant noise of two rain clouds crashing together. This motorcycle is basically a precision instrument designed to dissect twisting curving roads that lay beneath its wheels in surgical fashion, the asphalt never knows what hit it. I fire up the big twin, the engine rumbles, my senses tighten, and the butterflies in my stomach dance.

We roll out of the gas station and I whack the throttle open. I do this for two reasons, one to settle the dancing butterflies and two, to prove that big twin motorcycles really do wheelie quite easily. If someone happens to witness this stunt it is always a bonus. As we settle into staggered formation along highway 66 obeying the posted speed limit I take in the sights. The first of which is Emigrant Lake. Acting as the gateway to the Cascade mountain region this lake always seems to offer me a sense of calm. Although manmade, I am impressed by the lakes size and beauty. My family has enjoyed its refreshing waters on hot summer days and we have witnessed Ospreys and Bald Eagles surveying its waters for late afternoon morsels. Highway 66 meanders and rolls around the lake with long lazy curves I like to call sweepers. Sweepers invite high speed romps but I keep my speed in check because where the lake ends the real fun begins.

As I say goodbye to Emigrant Lake the butterflies return. Highway 66 seems to coil upon itself like an angry snake. My focus intensifies and it’s time to see what the Tuono will do. Of course the Tuono is way more capable than what I ask of it but I like to think that I am in charge anyway. I once again open the throttle with gusto and the Aprilia’s addictive torque rockets the bike forward like an angry beast. The scenery in my peripherals begins to blur and the highway’s broken center line begins to melt into a seamless yellow ribbon guiding my path to a fast approaching 30 mph turn. I hold the throttle open for as long as I dare then firmly grab the front brake lever which slows the bike down as impressively as it accelerates forward.  I look where I want to go, release the brakes, push a little on the Tuono’s wide bars, shift my weight slightly, the bike responds to my commands with aplomb and effortlessly carves through the turn.  The process of accelerate, brake, look, release, push, shift, carve is diligently repeated over and over again as I navigate the tight twisty road towards our breakfast destination. Magically all of life’s worries and responsibilities melt away from my mind as man and machine play in Ashland’s wondrous backyard.

To be continued…..