Monthly Archives: June 2010

A Thrilling Ride of a Lifetime

Most motorcycle rides usually start with a pre-ride check.  Depending on how anal the rider is, this can be anything from a thorough inspection to merely a squeeze of the tires to make sure they have air in them.  But this past Sunday, ride preparations involved slicing fruit and making a quiche from scratch!  Now I make a mean quiche, but how did these strange bedfellows come together?   Well, as is often the case when things get a little weird, this all started from a desire to try to please the fairer sex.

Listen up men, because I am about to give you one of the most important life lessons you are likely to hear…Men and Women are NOT the same! I know some men think that women are like men but with different ‘bits’…they are not.  Women are different in ways that we men will never comprehend, and the best we can do is try to keep up with their likes, dislikes and strange social mores.  Pretending to listen is an excellent way to keep your woman happy, but this takes years of study to truly master.  In fact, I am pretty sure that full mastery ends with shaving your head and ritually branding dragon shapes onto your forearms using a cauldron of hot coals. Those able to master these dark arts are rewarded with copious amounts of action…or so legend has it.

Now that we have that important life lesson out-of-the-way, I’ll get back to the story.  Some time ago one of Joanne’s friends said that she had always wanted to go for a ride on the back of a motorcycle.  I suspect she hoped Joanne would drive but, since Joanne is not a confident enough rider to do that, I volunteered my services.

Here’s another important fact about women – they talk to each other (sic) and will actively seek out opportunities to do so.  In fact I am told that if women don’t use up their daily quota of words then they will, quite literally, explode!  Men, on the other hand, need either beer or technology to lubricate the conversation. For example, it is OK to text a question to your friend, or to mumble your question drunkenly into a beer bottle, but you can’t just ask a man something outright…even if they are sitting next to you.

Joanne mentioned her friend’s request to some other ladies and, before you knew it, we had eleven women, ranging in age from thirties to eighties, lined up for rides! This made coordinating things very difficult, because even a short ride would mean several hours between the first and last person.  In order to keep things civilized, I came up with the idea of having a nice Sunday brunch so that, while waiting their turns, the women could talk and eat – tasks they are well designed (through millenia of evolution) to handle.

Now when I said “brunch”, I had in mind a box of Joe and some bagels/donuts.  But this was to be a women’s brunch, and so preparations needed to start several days in advance.  By the time the guests arrived, “brunch” consisted of two kinds of coffee, a variety of bagels, freshly baked quiche, fresh fruit salad, pasta, salmon, cream cheese, grapes, fruit juices, wine coolers, mimosas, muffins, croissants, cheese, crackers, flowers on the table…well, I’m sure you get the picture.

Fran gets a tattoo

I had provided two route options – a quick ride around the block, or a longer ride that took in a few twistier roads and a short blast on the highway.  Joanne and Sarah dressed each guest in a leather motorcycle jacket, a do-rag (to keep their hair looking nice), gloves, and a full faced helmet.  All riders also then received the obligatory tattoo from Sarah before they were allowed to climb aboard.

It was interesting to see how different these eight women (three dropped out at the last-minute) behaved on the back.  Most of them started out very nervous and holding on tight but, after a short while, started to relax and enjoy the ride.  I won’t name any names here but there were several notable passengers:  Ms. Fidget didn’t stop moving around and, despite being rather petite, had the bike jerking from side to side, even when traveling in a straight line on the highway.  Ms. Nervous held on so tightly that I was jammed up against the tank and ended up with a cramp in my leg, and Ms. Natural  felt so at home that I could have sworn she already had thousands of miles under her belt.  I had told most of them that it was OK to hold onto me, but that experienced passengers held on to the bar at the back.  One person held onto me and then switched to the bar  about 20ft from the driveway…hmmm.  You know who you are…

It isn’t easy to talk when you are moving, but anytime we stopped I would make a point of asking how they were doing.  I was not surprised when Ms. Natural replied enthusiastically, “I WANT ONE OF THESE!”

S sports her new tattoo

Back at base camp, the conversation was going hot and heavy.  Had this been men, they would have been texting each other on things like how far over they leaned, speeds attained, commenting on the acceleration etc.  But the women would greet each returnee with a loud cheer and then get down the business of discussing schools, teachers, food, weight, exercise classes, etc.  Huh?  These women have just had their first experience on the back of a machine with the power to weight ratio of a Ferrari, and with nothing but  a layer of leather between them and the elements and…nothing!

Since I was riding most of the time I had to get my information third hand from Joanne, and it was like pulling teeth!  However, after some verbal waterboarding, I finally managed

to eek out that most women felt as though they were going to fall over going around the turns, and that those who went on the highway found that the most exhilarating part.  Personally, I find highways dull, and use them as little as possible, but I guess it was the only place where we saw any real speed.  I did hear that Ms. Natural was frustrated by the traffic, and wanted me to overtake – clearly someone born to ride, since motorcycles are the perfect overtaking vehicle.  (Maybe I’ll lend her my copy of The Perfect Vehicle?)

A couple of emails arrived after the event, thanking us and including a couple of classic quotes including:

“Wearing all of the gear really added to the reality of the ride!”, and

“I will never look at Rt. 208 the same way again!”…the interesting part here is that I have no idea if that is a good or a bad thing…hmmm…

I also received a very nice thank you note from our octogenarian saying that it was a “thrilling ride of a lifetime” which arrived on some pink, monogrammed, paper…most unmanly…but welcome nonetheless.  I hope I’m still up for new experiences when I reach my golden years.

In all, it turned out to be a very fun event.  I think most of the women enjoyed themselves and managed to check another item off of the bucket list.  As for me, I’m going to send some text messages to see who is interested in joining me for a twenty year apprenticeship at a mountain retreat to learn why women cry so easily.

And if there are any other people out there that want to check this activity off of your own bucket list…text me!

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Motorcycle Meditation

Have you ever noticed what a wonderful time of day the early morning is?  For the teenagers that haven’t seen this for a while, this is the time of day when the birds start singing, the light is wonderfully sharp, and the day feels so full of promise. 

Early morning car shadow

Early morning shadow of my car.

I tend to be an early riser these days, often being dressed and out of the door around 6am, and I find this time of the morning almost magical.  Early morning sounds are crisp and clear without the background noises of cars, lawnmowers and the general hustle and bustle of life, and it seems the earlier I rise the better this gets. 

On those rare occasions when I leave the house around 5am, there are so few people about that when I do see someone else, I feel as though I should smile or wave to them – almost as if we are in some sort of secret club. I wonder if I am the only one that feels that way?  Maybe I should try a wave one day and see if anyone waves back… 

Early morning is also when I am at my most creative.  I don’t know if it is because my subconscious has been busy working things out while I slept, or just that my brain works better before the clamor of children drives everything else from my mind, but I often find myself in the shower with fresh ideas and solutions to problems spontaneously popping into my head.  This is usually followed by me cursing and wondering, once again, why I have still not put one of those waterproof SCUBA writing boards in the shower.  I then have to keep repeating these ideas over and over until I can get to a pen and paper, which can have J peering out from under the cozy warmth of the sheets wondering why her crazy husband is tiptoeing around the bedroom muttering to himself again. 

Awww...

Once ready to leave, I peek into each of the children’s bedrooms on my way downstairs.  G always looks so peaceful and relaxed; D can be identified as a knot of bedclothes with a tuft of blonde hair sticking out of the top; and S has the ability to distribute bedclothes to just about every corner of the room except the bed. Fortunately this allows me the indulgence of tucking her in and giving her a kiss before heading out. 

There is something irresistable about sleeping children.  My Father used to say “When they’re sleeping you feel like you could eat them, and when they wake up you wish you had.”  Clearly a man of unusual insight… 

If the reason for my pre-dawn stirring is because I am heading out for a motorcycle ride, then the day is definitely off to a good start.  Early morning motorcycle rides always remind me of when I used to race motorcycle Enduro in the U.K.,  as that required being on site, set up and ready to race by 7:30am.  I wasn’t much of a racer and used to rank myself by counting how many places away from last I finished, but it was still great fun.  The only thing missing from early rides today is the intoxicating smell of 2-stroke oil mixed with high-octane fuel. Mmmm… 

I recently took my two youngest, G (10) and S (7), for their first ever rides and they clearly loved it, despite some early nerves.  It was a

S ready to ride

 wonderful way to share one of my passions with them and get some one-on-one time, having them hold on tight and completely trusting me to keep them safe.  Initially G was too nervous to try it, but after S’s ride she would not stop talking about how much fun it was and eventually wore him down.  But, once underway, G did not want to stop even after 3 trips around “the circuit” and a couple of quick blasts on the highway. 

Similar to how dogs want to stick their heads out of the car window, children always use their arms as wings and delight in tilting their hands and feeling the wind move their arms up and down.  I have had several kids on the back over the years and they all do this, and I wonder if the air conditioning in modern cars is robbing our kids of this simple joy. 

While I am very happy that the kids enjoyed the rides, I am also aware that their experience of riding is very different from my own.  When I ride I change mode and hyper-focus on the task at hand.  I don’t listen to music, and I rarely pay much attention to the scenery, except to keep an eye out for deer and other mobile targets.  Instead I seek out the twistiest roads I can find and focus on threading the motorcycle down them as quickly as I can (ahem…obviously staying under the speed limit…officer.)  To do this properly requires intense concentration, and I certainly don’t alway get it exactly right, but the act of striving for perfection seems to reduce the mundane noise of life to a mere whisper. 

That's my kinda road...

I know when I am in the zone because everything becomes effortless, the bike seems to change direction as if by telepathy and…I sing.  Yup – it could be show tunes, classical, rock – I never know what is going to come out until it happens, but happen it does.  This can sometimes be a shock, since singing into a full face motorcycle helmet is surprisingly loud when you are not expecting it.  When I get into this zone, my mind goes into a similar mode as that of the early morning shower and the idea flow starts up again.  Now why this only seems to occur when I have no ability to write things down I’m not quite sure, but  by the time I get home, I have new ideas, feel totally relaxed and, for some reason, feel very close to my family…very theraputic indeed. 

I have read that meditation is not, as many believe, a relaxed state of mind but is instead a state of intense concentration and studies of highly trained Tibetan monks show very high brain activity when they are meditating.  I believe the idea behind this is that by focussing your mind so intently, you can clear it of other cares, and riding provides me with the same benefits.  This is great news since I really don’t want to shave my head, and those orange robes just wouldn’t suit my pasty-white, Northern European complexion. 

I’m sure that other people get similar result from concentrating during their favorite pastimes such as golf, classic car restoration, sky diving, writing, shooting or even playing Sudoku.  All of these activities require us to take ourselves out of the day-to-day and demand 100% of our attention. 

In a world jammed with electronic intrusions and the need to continually multi-task, I believe that these moments of single-mindedness are needed to keep ourselves sane. I know that it works for me and I will continue to fit in as many early morning rides as I can.  And if you are out and about at 5am and see a guy riding a large yellow motorcycle, singing Bohemian Rhapsody and waving to you – feel free to wave back, because you just became an honorary member of The Early Club! 

Too long?  Too short? More pictures?
I’m new to blogging so comments and feedback are much appreciated.

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Children, Life - or something like it