Monday, September 1, 2008

Road Buzzies

Deb and I spent the holiday weekend playing hide-n-seek with Sheriffs, State Police and various other traffic enforcement officials by leaving little Nomad to her own devices while we took the bikes to visit friends in the mountains of Arkansas. It was a shorter Labor Day ride this year as we chose to leave Saturday rather than making the late night run Friday after work. Though at times we set a pretty good pace both on the ride down and then home again today, yesterday was our only day to snort around the fantastic roads of the Ozark foothills with some fleet footed friends. The pace was a little less frenetic than years past since most of our group was riding two up and all of us had many, many miles in our rear view mirrors. (Meaning we were far older than the average sport bike crowd.) Still, we made change for a dollar more than once and Mr. Law-n-Order would not have been pleased had we tripped any of his radar traps. One Mr. Poe-Poe did pass us while we were bottled up waiting on a chance to pass a decrepit “good-ol-boy” pick up truck, shaking his finger at Deb as he went by. Even in a group of sport bikes all going the same speed Deb, all leaned over on her big red ZX-14 super bike, looks like she is the one speeding. (I would love to see the look on his face if he found out his gesture was aimed at a soon to be three time grandmother who could still outgun him, all his little Poe-Poe buddies, HIS mother AND his grandmother!)

Sunday night after the ride was time for some good cheer, tasty (and potent) libations, and friendly talk all around. Deb and I buying Nomad came up since moving onto a boat will inevitably mean the end of our serious motorcycle riding; something that has been a big, big part of our lives. Most of our closest friends have been made among motorcyclists, many of our fondest memories involve riding as well as some of our best adventures. Walking away from the bikes to climb onto a boat full time may be (assuming it happens) the biggest adjustment. Exploring that adjustment was the topic of much discussion.

I don’t think we actually settled the issue to anyone’s complete satisfaction. For myself I see the boat more as a “next-step” rather than a “replacement.” The argument can be made that the peak (if you will) of my riding is putting in multiple hundred-mile days on a super bike while being able to ride it to a good part of its potential. In a very real sense it just doesn’t get any better than that. But where to you go from there? Faster? Not a good idea. As fast as I can go is faster than most (not all, but most) people can go, and way, way faster than anyone should go. Further? To prove what? We get where we want to go, make Pittsburgh in a day, grind out miles that would cripple even some of the kids riding sport bikes. When we ride we enjoy what we know.

When we sail we explore what we don’t know.

Part of what I like about getting older is actually knowing a thing or two now, (unlike my 20 year old self who only thought he knew some stuff). And a big part of what I don’t like about getting older is mostly knowing what to expect. There is very little “new.” Most days are just minor variations on themes long since memorized. This is not all bad, or at all bad. Knowing what is coming makes up for my slowing reaction times, and I mean that in many more ways than just dodging the wayward SUV or building thunderstorm. There is a comfort in that, a certain dignity, expertise that cannot be faked or earned in any other way.

But… There is another side to living that gets harder and harder to hang onto, the side that is surprised, delighted, and exuberant. The bike still lets me touch that, on a long stretch of empty road when I pin the throttle, bang through the gears and howl with an engine that is pulling past 10 grand and putting $1.40 on the speedometer. Or those perfect corners when you trail brake all the way to the apex, feeling the tires come up on the edges, obliterating the “chicken-strip” and maybe slipping just a twitch as you dig it out of the corner. Right there, on that edge, is the real reason our hearts still beat and our blood still surges, but that gets harder to find as the years go by.

Maybe I hope that living on a sailboat will let me keep in touch with that part of living long past the time when I can throw a bike around like a kid. (And without the need to be that far outside the law. I’m not sure, but I think at a buck-40 you go straight to jail without passing “go.”) To find surprise in a new place, exuberance in a tack well done, delight at living in a different way.

Or perhaps, sitting here this evening after a good weekend of riding, I’m just enjoying a case of road buzzies?

No comments: