Monday, September 08, 2008

Motorcycle about bicycle


This Friday I continued the weekly ride meeting at the Dairy Queen. The first chilly week of the end of summer here in central Minnesota. I really didn't expect anyone to show. You know how it is. The first truly cooler weather usually makes people stay indoors. Surprisingly, even the traffic on Division street, the main drag through St. Cloud was incredibly light.

I waited, sucking my Pepsi through a straw. I was more in the mood for a coffee from the Starbuck's across the street. The clouds had that billowy Autumn feel. Briskness in the air. Five after seven and I was the only one in the DQ lot. Time to head on my ride.

I filtered south on my way out of town. Instead of taking a direct route I decided to meander through the last of the few southernmost neighborhoods and hook onto the roads which eventually become farm roads. From the back sides of strip malls to apartment complexes. From the apartment complexes to proper neighborhoods until homes built in the seventies gave way to fields, patches of woods and farms near harvest. I always loved the old farmsteads. Thin looking two and three story white houses surrounded by outbuildings and barns. Ancient 40 horse field tractors in tall grass where modern John Deer lawn tractors were maneuvered around them. Pick ups having sat in the same places for so long they were sagging back into the earth. Their tires half sunk under the dry dirt. Sun bleached but stoic. I took in as much of it as I could. Then I promptly discovered I was lost.

I started out with a plan. I wanted to follow some of the route fellow rider Colin had shown me a few weeks back when we followed him on his Ruckus. Only now I was off course and not sure how to find my way back to it.

Sometimes you just go with the flow.

I decided to just enjoy the ride and not worry about where I was. After all, how lost can one really be outside of St. Cloud Minnesota? Certain directions would always take me to a north south artery if I really felt I absolutely needed to know exactly where I was. Besides, there were some great roads to explore. And explore them I did.

Invariably, straight roads lead to places someone thought it was important to get to. Off those purpose oriented byways are the offshoots to more interesting riding. Stretches winding past rivers and through thick woods. The shade and humidity actually made it cold in some places. With the sun far into the western sky shadows became longer and longer. They started to fade into the thinning evening light. Turning into shades of grey outside the headlight's beam. My eyes picking up just the smallest hints of color as night began to cloak the Vespa.

Then it hit me. I don't know if it was the deepening cold, the lack of concern in not knowing exactly where I was or that I was alone on this ride.

I passed through a set of switchbacks at a spirited pace and laughed out loud inside my helmet. I leaned back, kicked both legs straight out past the legshield and howled like the Werewolves of London.

There it was, that same feeling of happiness I remembered from my youth. The feeling of gliding over the road derived from the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle. Like coasting down hill, the breeze whipping past you. Exhilaration.

That's what it is to me. Nothing so complicated as who rides what. Or why certain "social" circles. I couldn't care less for that...crap. It only gets in the way of my enjoyment of the experience of riding.

Maybe that's why I gravitated to the Vespa. The Harley sits in the garage, away from the image mongers who own the same brand or style of bike. The Yamaha comes out at rare intervals. That one's been with me since 1987. Too close in appearance to the first group. Honda needs some work to be roadworthy.

Intersection greetings usually pan out like this:

"When ya gonna buy a Harley?" Like I want to be a sheeple.
("I'll bring mine back out when people like you stop riding them." is what I'm thinking but I'm too polite. I think of something else to say.)
"I have one. This is more interesting. Different." The puzzled looks on their faces turn sour when they realize what I actually just said to them.

Because sometimes you have to pull away from the crowd to please yourself. To find what you were looking for in the first place. The very personal exuberance you had as a kid when little else mattered is supposed to be recovered in an adult's hobbies. That's why we occupy ourselves in them. To return to our center.

Think back to that bicycle. How you enjoyed kicking out your legs and howling at wind.

Werewolves of London



Harv