Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast

Where the Sun Rises

I wake up each morning to get my kids ready for school. They're three and a half so its preschool and I have to drive them.

When we leave our subdivision on the west edge of this little town we need to drive east. About half way we cross the Mississippi. As far north as we are, The River is not the size most people know it to be.

Each morning the visor comes down to block the morning sun from my eyes. I think about where that star is rising from, over the horizon. I think of all the days of midnight rides that ended watching it break the surface of a Great Lake. Far to the east of the place I now call home.

In my youth I had a different kind of freedom than I have now. A wanderlust and a motorcycle. Hot summer nights dappled with fog in the valleys. Warm springs and autumns. It made for long riding seasons.

I would ride with friends or alone, it didn't matter. It was about the ride.

I remember one ride where Dan and I took an exit off the I94 expressway and found ourselves not too far from Holy Hill (trust me, there will be at least on blog devoted to that place alone) and one of us signaled to take a side road. We were far from anything resembling a city. The sky was particularly clear. We parked our bikes right there in the middle of the road without a second thought and waited for the meteor showers to start. The air was so still you could hear a vehicle coming up on the main road from what seemed to far to be possible. We lay on our backs, right there in the road and watched the streaks left by asteroids, pointing them out to each other. Incredible.

I think about all the rides I took around southern Wisconsin over all those years. How postcard perfect scenery waited for you around every corner. I must've known something even then because I relished those rides so much. I wanted to be in the wind, inhaling pine forests around Madison and blooms in lush German gardens, thick with scents and colors nearer Milwaukee. White picket fences and groomed yards. You could ride by astonishingly sturdy built Polish and German immigrants' homes, marveling at the symmetry of their abodes and never notice the weatherbeaten roads your bike was stumbling its way through. It didn't matter. The roads always got better anyway. The further from a town the less salt and abuse they suffered.

I miss riding where the sun rises. McKinley Marina at dawn. Those country highways were always incredible.

But times change and memories like these only get sweeter over time. I'll ride there again. Its already been too long. But I'll ride as the man I am today, not as I once was. Where the sun rises.

the Roadbum

Monday, December 18, 2006

Midwest Scooter Enthusiast

A gift

There are few experiences in life which inspire me to write. The lure of the open road is one of them. I can talk about bikes and scooters as long as a listener is willing to put up with me. I can tell you about the ride I took last week with a gleam in my eye. I can relate how I wound the throttle up all the way while negotiating a banked turn just so I could spit the Vespa up the small rise at the end of the sweeping bend and crest the hill with butterflies in my stomach. The little machine doing its level best to scream around that turn. Looking for enough momentum to shoot up the small hill and open up the suspension to its fullest before flying down the other side.

The feeling of throttling back as I descend down the back slope of the hill just to pull hard at the base as the Vespa transitions from decline to level surface. There's a rush there too. The engine sings delight in a high pitched yowl. A wild mechanical sound. Its that kind of ride which makes ordinary men pick human names for inanimate objects like scooters. You make the connection.

Its those moments when the sweat is trickling down my back, when I'm wondering what possessed me to ride so hard, so close to the edge of my comfort zone. Hey, let's be honest here; I left my comfort zone about a mile and a half back!

I know it now. It isn't me and the bike anymore. Its just me. The bike has become an extension of me. I swear I can feel the stickyness of the contact patch of each tire.

Palms are sweaty inside my gauntlets. I notice how warm my body is as I set the scooter's lane position for the next twist in the road ahead. The vents on my Shoei are gulping air and the coolness of the draft tingles my scalp.

I start wide and drift tight toward the inside of the lane as I open up the draft of air on the carburator. The Vespa gains momentum and pushes itself down on its wheels. More grip. Look ahead, lean and let the Vespa become a natural extension of you is all I'm thinking. Look ahead. Lane placement. The shoulder of the road, the ditch and the cat watching me go by are all ancillary documentation. In an instant so finite I cannot register it as an actual thought, my mind has relegated the safety value of the the cat's position as I zoom past it.

Hill and dale, I know where these roads are. Just as the locals know that midnight blue Vespa will someday return. I many not be blindingly fast but as anyone whose ridden long enough knows, its better to take a slower bike to its limit than to ride a fast bike beyond your own limits.

So how does the title of this blog fit in? When I've had a long day with the kids, or my dear wife takes them to visit some of her girlfriends, she will say to me...

"Hon, you've had a busy day. Why don't you go for a ride? It'll do you good..."

That my friends is a gift.

the Roadbum