What's so fun about riding a motorcycle? Really driving one? Maybe it's the thousand cubic centimeters of an engine between my legs, or the pride of going out for a midnight stroll and knowing you've put the wrong gloves on before getting all the way down the street. Continuing to ride around the city on now vacant roads late at night with a real opportunity to scream past street signs, meanwhile your hands or feet are getting cold from poor choices. From the excitement to ride, even though you’ve told yourself a thousand times mid ride how dumb you are.
Driving over the rivers and heading up to a bridge, you have to speed. Really racing up that hill, to see what's on the other side, is such an instinctual part of how I ride a motorcycle.
First gear is no fun, I can shift to second at 10mph. Second is no fun anywhere near 25mph. After that it's almost a blur, all instinct. Third is good cruising in daylight hours. But hell, fourth gear is it's own love affair. What's so fun about it? In fourth you really feel the engine, with the gear ratio you just don't shift past it in five seconds. It's more a ten second love affair, feeling the engine open up to put you where you're aiming to go. It's where you love to be.
From there to sixth is just another two quick twists of the throttle and gear shifts.
This thing redlines at 9500 RPM, and I've never taken it past 6000. Jeez, why do they build these machines that can haul ass if speed limits are so low? Hell, making an effort to not go 20 miles over the speed limit so the police can't haul you to jail, given being pulled over, is an honest concern when you're really booking it.
What's so fun? Regretting the pair of pants you wore that fit perfect when standing but ride a little high straddling the beast, when you never thought of putting the boots on and come home with cold toes because of that. Of riding on the road with the power to pass any wayward vehicle traveling from the right hand lane because they sat for too long in the left lane.
Riding into a patch of dark clouds with a shit eating grin knowing it was your decision to ride out. Pulling over before the weather drops to equip the rain slicks riding in your trunk. In a heavy rain, your boots will catch what gravity pushes south, or not zipping up the jacket enough will lead to a wet shirt, and then the pair of gloves you love to ride with are never water proof.
Ten miles of bad weather is never fun, but coming through it with clear air and a wet ass is exhilarating. To have lived, made it out alive despite the shaky conditions, and riding home almost dry is exhilarating.
Riding a motorcycle makes me feel alive. Exposed to the elements, in full control of this 600 pound machine.
The motorcycle bug hit me pretty
During a yearlong assignment in Korea, we'd heard word that my dad had bought himself a bike. Harley Davidson 883 Sportster , and oh was she gorgeous.
We were living in New Iberia Louisiana with my granny at the time.
After my father's year long assignment to Korea, he had been stationed to Hickam air force base in Hawaii. Pops left his white, manual transmission, extended cab Silverado way out in Waldo, Kansas at his father's house. And my mother had her slate gray Chevy Astro van; we were bringing the Astro with us to Oahu (military 2 vehicle rule), and dad was bringing his black, 1998 to Hawaii as his daily commuter. When living on the base in paradise, why would you need anything else?
I don't remember if any other families in our culdesac had a two wheeled baby outside their house, but for sure my dad did. He'd leave for work every day at the same time, and that engine warming up outside each week day morning was like an alarm clock of sorts.
Play space and room to rough house was limited in this culdesac, with commuter and family cars parked outside houses to near military perfection. We moved there when I was five years young, and having some extra designated space next to Mom's mountain of a van to play was noted. Playing in the Green space at the center of the sac, in need of a cool drink, we would be line through that open space right up to the watering hose to parch thirsts.
Yeah, so movie seen, popcorn consumed, and then another bat-out-of-hell ride back onto the base on the back of that black 883 Sportster. Whew. Maybe riding on the back of that stirred up my stomach, but after getting home I'd promptly fell asleep for an upset stomach. And after that nap, I puked up popcorn, movie butter, and the resident bile that hangs out in your stomach. It was gross, and can't help but laughing thinking back on that day riding the rails.
Dad's told me stories of having motorcycles in his youth, either back home on Kansas dirt roads or freshly into the service and before having a family came into play. Later on, I think it contributes to why he gave my Honda Spree away.
From Hawaii we'd moved to barksdale air Force Base in North Louisiana. I remember my dad having his truck again when we touched down in New Iberia again. He'd had time to tie up loose ends before his next assignment started I think. I really don't remember his motorcycles for a little while.
However, I do remember a trip up to Kansas. The long drawn out drive in a new van mom had acquired, it might have been the four of us and it might have just been mom, sister, and me? Maybe they were tag teaming driving on our way up in different vehicles, but I do remember the drive down those long, empty, Kansas highway roads toward Waldo.
We had been grilling or something over in Russell at my uncle's house, and both dad and my grandfather had their motorcycles there? Or maybe just grandpa, but I do remember wanting to ride back home to Waldo on the back of a motorcycle with my dad. He might not have had a helmet on, giving it to me...
Screaming down those same long, empty roads on two wheels v. four was an entirely different story. Being exposed to the elements, holding on for dear life trying to wrap your arms around somebody when your arms aren't long enough to reach hand to hand. On that ride, I was secure with my hands on his belt, fidgeting with the belt loops in nervous excitement.
I don't know when my grandfather got the motorcycle bug, but boy did he have it. After he passed away we inherited his two bikes.
I was young when it happened, but there's this memory of riding and flying down those no longer empty barren roads on the back of my dad's bike with my grandpa one day. It was a gorgeous, flat weather but sunny day out on the plains of Kansas. We had driven out to a place the two of them recognized as rattlesnake canyon. I was cautioned to beware of snakes if a rattle was heard, but maybe the time of day had them off aside sleeping amongst the crags and rocks in said canyon.
Walking out to peer into this canyon with these two men, my dad and Papa Tom, was this astound feeling with their steel horses back up on the side of the road. We had ridden out to view, to look, and probably show me this astounding crack in the ground where water or some earthquake eons ago had moved land. I was young then and the memory is a little fuzzy, but on the drive out I'd ridden behind one man and on the drive back I was behind the other. If memory serves, we road back to Waldo Kansas with me behind my grandfather.
Dad didn't keep that 883 Sportster, he didn't need the sleek smooth manuverable motorcycle once coming back stateside. He'd upgraded to something twice as big, a Honda 1800 VTX and god damn was that a big bike sitting under the car port.
That VTX was probably a bike ridden on the above rattle snake canyon memory.
After my mother passed away and before dad sold the white Chevy he drove, that son of a bitch had gotten me a gift. Something incredible.
Talking about it, on eBay one day he had spied somebody selling a Red Honda Spree somewhere not too far away. I bet he'd paid for it weeks in advance and then went and picked it up some day he knew my sister would cover me. I was about twelve when it happened. He'd picked up this bright little red motorscooter made by Honda. It had a 50cc engine, and went faster going downhill than up you understand. I'd ride it anywhere within reach, scant of breaking too many laws.
Down and over a street, where I spent an afternoon helping a friend peel wall paper from a bathroom in her mother's house. Mrs Melody now lives in that house, and her excitement of me in the driveway on that scooter brought her back a few years to when she had something similar.
During summer weekends, I'd go down and over a street in the other direction where my friend Ricky lived and there would be a gaggle of us hanging outside late in the night and really living. Maybe it was the night we'd tried wheelchair jousting, but one night a police officer came and visited us kids having too much fun after curfew. A 13 year old riding and unlicensed scooter with an engine smaller than what's in a lawn mower caused him some concern, but I'd left Suzie parked on the sidewalk and had never ridden it on the street was what he was told. We went inside and calmed it down, but riding home that night I remember bumping over the now fixed sidewalk heading home via the quickest route.
I told my dad these stories some time later, and he knew I was out riding it against the law on the open roads of our neighborhood. Gratefully now, I know he sent it up to Kansas to keep me out of trouble on it. I'm tall now, and was too tall to ride it when it went away but damn was I upset for a few days over that.
Papa Tom passed away from cancer in June of 2011, years after that scooter had came to his garage. On one of his better days there at the end we'd gotten him outside on the porch for a haircut. Smiling and happy, he knew I'd been riding that scooter out on back country roads, and asked if I'd wanted to take his Suzuki Burgman (Suzuki Burgman 650) out. He said it with a smile on his face, something I'll remember forever.
His time was drawing near, and I'd taken that little scooter out on excursions down farm gravel roads. Did it at least three times. On the last trip, I'd witnessed a calf outside the fence from the rest of the stock and really thought I could get it back with it's mother. Parking the bike, I'd failed to find an avenue to put it back in and left defeated and angry. Careless about my grandfather sitting in bed dying, 18 years young and a bike that once carried me faster, I'd set toward home recklessly. Coming upon a banking curve too fast, I'd spun it out and laid it over almost into a ditch. A little road rash, and a probably six inch gash on the back of my ankle left me embarrassed and limping. Poor foot protection, huh?!
Picking her up, dusting off the dirt, I'd returned home still limping. Still embarrassed, but too proud to mention the spill
At some point my dad traded in his VTX for this brown gold Honda Goldwing. God was it beautiful, the Cadillac of motorcycles, I think. Before heading out and taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course a d learning how to ride, he'd given me a run through of the mechanics of shifting on that motorcycle. I took it halfway down the street and back, maybe shifted into second gear which is nothing, but was obsessed. Passionate, excited. I'd ridden then 800 pound bike down the street, and came home! No drops or spills or anything.
This has been a mess to write. Ideas running everywhere, it’s a story from my head to pixels ready for your eyes to gander at. Maybe someday I’ll come back and make it better, but these words have been biting me in the ass for 4 days and it’s best to let them breath.
You really can not quantify the joy of riding a motorcycle. Friends have taken the courses I help teach, they have gained Motorcycle Safety Foundation placards and the endorsements to drive. They’ve got an idea of the bug that eats me up, and it’s beautiful. I’ve made a poor effort here, but let’s talk about it some time?