Back in olden times when I used to travel (January 2020), I found myself in the scrubby desert of eastern California making my way to the Arizona border.
The winter sun was warm and the sunbleached landscape began to give way to deeper hues as I rode closer to the Colorado River. My plan was to cross the Parker Dam and then head towards Lake Havasu, Arizona for the night.
When traveling, my senses are on high alert. This is especially true after a few days of settling into the rhythm of being in motion and shedding the skin of “real life.” Everything that is new to my eyes becomes exciting – the trees, the rocks, signs, rivers, abandoned structures, just everything. It is all a feast for the eyes which I gluttonously devour.
After seeing the first few signs noting that wild burros might be on the roadway, I was super-excited by the idea of seeing them. You can’t imagine how delighted I was to finally spot a pair strolling on the side of the road.
As soon as they came into view I pulled over. Not much of a burro harasser, I gave them plenty of space and watched as they lazily sauntered along swishing their tails. They didn’t pay much attention to me as I sat wat…
They didn’t pay any attention to me whatsoever and just went about doing wild burro things.
I chuckled to myself as I rode away. Wild burros, indeed.
Everything blends in with the background when you’re zipping along, head down, focused only on the task at hand – survival. There is no bigger picture, only now. Chaos can swirl around you, burning everything to the ground but your eyes remain ignorant, fixed only on immediate gratification.
I’ve crossed this bridge for twenty years, never once stopping until this very day. After pulling over and finally stopping, I climbed up on the wall to look out. I stood there surveying what spilled out before me.
After a long time of repeating the same actions, this was the first time that I ever saw something. I witnessed the curve of the shoreline embracing the body of it’s partner, and the ripples that danced away. I saw the clouds and the sky.
Anyone in my life is probably aware that I am not a very good friend. That isn’t to say that I don’t love people, or their friendship doesn’t have a deep meaning or lasting value for me. It’s more like, I don’t know how to participate in their lives.
I think about them, find them fascinating, appreciate their courage, wit, wisdom, and tenacity. But there is some barrier that I’ve created that won’t seem to allow me to give myself over to the process of partaking in a two-way relationship. Nearly everything is done from a distance.
Maybe I’ve talked about it before, but I feel most safe, confident and able to move freely through the world when I am on my motorcycle, dressed in my gear, wearing my helmet. Those are the moments when I am breathing in the life around me and am open enough to connect. It’s when I feel the safety of not being laid bare and I will let you come closer. It’s when I feel that we are friends in both directions.
Yes, I realize that probably makes no sense – saying that I am open and engaged when I am encased in protective clothing. You see me, but not all of me; you happily consume the pre-programmed narrative. And because the costume is so specific, rarely does the dialog veer away from the bubble of this perfect activity and it’s trappings. And while the conversation is often metaphorically something beyond motorcycling itself, that ruse makes the conversation possible.
When did I become so closed off, so fearful of being seen? I can’t quite put my finger on it. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. These examples of the things that make me withdraw in person sound crazy but what the hell, I’ve already burned that bridge:
I’m at the point where it is a struggle for me to expose my arms above the elbow. The thought of someone seeing both of my naked shoulders or upper arms makes me squirm. Oh, and it is cringeworthy for you to see my face from less than 2 feet away, especially in daylight. Add to that the fact that I’m fixated on the idea that I smell horrible at all times. And I obsessively pick at my face, sometimes for like for 45 minutes at a clip until whatever imperfection I was picking at is now really something to look at. Shitty admission: I’ve been late to work because of that in particular. In short, I feel like if I freely deliver up just how gross I am, you will reject me and I don’t want that kind of anguish.
What the fuck is all that? It’s nuts! But, it’s my truth. And no external well wishes, sympathy, compliments or anything changes these things.
These… quirks… must’ve been bubbling, generating steam for a long time. Then last year, the pressure became too much to bear and I fucking cracked. I wish it weren’t true but I’m still dealing with the fallout. These unwanted guests at my tea party won’t take the hint and hit the road. Day in, day out I try to find a way to throw their asses out to seemingly no avail.
There is nothing for me to gain by telling whoever you are these things. In fact, I’m sure it makes people think I’m a psycho. And while they may, in fact, be right, tattling on myself just feels like the right thing to do.
I’m broken but trying.
Motorcycles are my refuge. Each ride, each time I open myself up to a wider circle, each time I tiptoe outside of my comfort zone, I am shown by example that my fears never culminate to my worst case scenario. It happens over and over again. And yet for now… well, you know.
It’s about time that I introduce you to my little friend. I had absolutely zero intention of buying another motorcycle, but kismet happens. Am I right?
Anyway, this is my new to me wee one:
A 2016 Yamaha FZ-07.
During group rides, I definitely felt the limitations of the Bonneville as the taillights in front of me would dance away. And dragging its pegs would freak me out every. single. time. While I love the bike, there are just some jobs that aren’t in its wheelhouse. Hooning is one of them.
My motorcycle background started with sportbikes. Acting like an asshole speeding around and being a general menace was fun for me. But, I was in my young 20’s and didn’t have a lick o’ sense. It is but for the grace of whoever’s at the controls up there that I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else.
Over time as my priorities shifted I found pleasure in different aspects of the motorcycle life. Turning towards travel and exploring enriched me in ways I never could have imagined at 22. But even so, the desire for a deep lean and feeling the heat of the asphalt coming close would call to me. I missed that feeling of being able to run and let slip the dogs of war.
But as quickly as they’d come, those 20-something driveby fancies would shimmer away like an oasis on a hot road. That wasn’t me anymore. I’m something different now. Aren’t I? Now, I am the sum of more experience, more life, more understanding of… I don’t know. Things, I guess.
At the tail end of a group ride this spring, my friend Brian and I swapped bikes. He took my Bonnie and I took his FZ. A mere 15 minutes in the saddle had awoken the sleeping giant.
Everything about Brian’s FZ spoke to me – it’s petite size, the great sound thumping out of that peppy parallel twin, responsive and light handling, predictable power – it was like a toy. We swapped back to our respective bikes and a fire was lit inside of me. There I was! It was me! The me that had been buckled down and smothered to sleep.
When we rolled back into Port Jefferson at the end of our ride, someone just happened to mention that a mutual friend of ours had a FZ-07 sitting in his garage. And without hesitation, I shot off a text inquiring about it. Two days later, I was riding my FZ home.
With only 2000 miles on the clock, the bike looked brand new. It came set up with Ohlins all around, an Akrapovic exhaust, sliders, fender eliminator, R6 throttle tube, rear seat cowl and the heartfelt well-wishes of a friend. It’s like the bike was just set up and waiting for me.
At first, I wasn’t so sure about the grey palette of the bike, that it wasn’t “me.” But I think those snappy yellow rims do a good job of offsetting the darkness. I’ve grown to love it.
I’ve had the bike for about two months now and every time I ride it, it makes me feel like a kid. That’s priceless.