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I had, for approximately three years, the misfortune of working for a Value Added Reseller of computer services who operated his business out of the home. Along with slave wages, brutal hours and near constant verbal abuse, I was cursed with the duty of traveling up and down the mid-Atlantic installing networks and training court reporters and lawyers on industry specific software.

Being as well compensated as I was, the only transportation I could afford at the time was a 14 year old Honda CM450. Despite some primary drive chain noise the bike was surprisingly solid and comfortable (important considerations on any bike trip but especially round trips between Annapolis and the greater Philadelphia metropolitan area).

On this particular jaunt, my objective was a software training at a court reporters home in Edison, NJ. The training itself was the usual mixture of frustration and mind-numbing boredom as ideas both foreign and repugnant to the customer were forcibly wedged into her brain. But it was the late afternoon break and a tornado warning overheard on the radio that would be the first harbingers of one of the worst riding days of my life.

Given the alternatives of spending the night somewhere in Edison, NJ or heading home in a (very probably) life threatening storm I chose the lesser of two evils. I donned my gear, hopped on the bike and rode out of the neighborhood frantically skirting the debris already being tossed around by the approaching storm.

For those of you who have never ridden in an exceptionally strong wind during a downpour through Philadelphia commuter traffic let me just tell you, it's motorcycle hell. There were so many separate occasions on which I thought I was going to end up as either guardrail garlen or a hood ornament that I quickly lost count. It's no surprise then, that by the time I pulled into a gas station in northern Delaware, I was a bit shaky and bleary-eyed. Perhaps it was my distracted state of mind, perhaps it was the rain slick asphalt or, more than likely, a combination of the two that caused me to mistake the two foot by three foot puddle of dirty motor oil for a section of pavement. But no sooner did the front wheel dip into it than I found myself, with bruised shoulder and bruised ego, laying on my left side. Heaving an enormous sigh, I slid out from under the bike, stood up and tried to reposition the machine rubber side down. Unfortunately, several things were conspiring against me in this effort: To begin with, the bike was positioned over a puddle of dirty motor oil. It probably goes without saying that this is a less than ideal substance for gaining purchase with the feet whilst hoisting aright a 400 lb hunk of metal. Secondly, the parking lot was canted in exactly the wrong direction to enlist the aid of gravity in touching the wheels to asphalt. Add to these things the bike's high center of gravity and the presence of an engine guard and you have an excellent recipe for getting absolutely nowhere at all.

I struggled against fatigue, gravity, a lack of traction and the apparent indifference of every patron of the gas station until my muscles were quivering and I felt like I was going to puke. Finally, with a mixture of disgust and resignation, I took off my leather jacket, dropped it as close to the handlebars as possible (and right in the puddle of motor oil) stepped inside it and (now that I finally had a momentarily oil free surface on which to stand) hoisted the bike upright.

I won't bore you with the details of the rest of the trip home. Let it suffice to say that it was cold, dark, and wet and that it culminated in pouring a large amount of standing water out of my boots before stumbling across the threshold of my apartment and collapsing across my bed.

I've ridden in all manner of weather the four seasons of the mid-Atlantic have to offer both before that night and since but I have yet to have a more unpleasant experience on a bike. A fact that makes me infinitely grateful.

Yes, I still have the jacket and yes, it still smells like dirty motor oil.
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