Monday, May 20, 2013

Freedom and Liberty

                There is a constant crusty build-up of salt in the corners of my eyes, the skin on my face is wind burned and tanned, my long hair, which is in a ponytail, is constantly tangled beyond belief and I continually check my goatee for bugs alive or dead.
                When it is seventy-five degrees out I am wearing long sleeves and usually a leather coat. I wrap my hands in tight leather gloves that are stained creased to keep my fingers from being chapped. My legs are pale to the point of being almost opaque from wearing thick denim pants. My feet are shod in thick leather boots and my walk is stiff and heavy.
                I’m like this because I ride a motorcycle. Something all my life I’ve dreamed of and you would think after putting 1100 miles on my bike since I bought her, but it isn’t enough. Even after riding for 150 miles in one day and coming home with a sore ass and tired arms I can’t get enough. The reason for this longing is simple. It’s the closest I have ever felt to being completely free. Just me, my machine, and a never ending need for speed and asphalt eating.
                My morning commute is too short, a mile to work which I used to cover in five minutes in my car and three minutes on my bicycle, now takes me almost twenty minutes because I circumnavigate my journey. The same goes for my ride home in the afternoon or late evening. I can’t help it, it is something that makes all of life’s worries, cares and stresses disappear with the throaty, low rumble as soon as I hit the start button on her. (For those that do not know, modern motorcycles do not have a kick starter, everything is electronic and fuel injected on Harley’s now. Hell, even the blinkers have an automatic shut off.)
                I find myself at varying times during my work day dreaming about being on the road, or making plans to head up to the Shenandoah Valley or even better heading down to North Carolina and riding the Tail of the Dragon. It seems to be an all-consuming desire in me to just ride and forget everything in my life for the duration. I’ve been more relaxed and I even smile and make small talk to people I’ve avoided even looking at in the past. My disposition seems to have changed all because the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
                But what I find most interesting is the people in my life have all been supportive of this change in my transformation from a driver to a rider. Well, all but two people who seem to think my new mode of transportation will maim or worse, kill me. And, while they do have some valid points as to accidents involving motorcycles, most of which involve the “Speed” bikes, which mine is not, I pay little heed to their sneers and comments as they look down their nose at me. I know the dangers of riding and the fact that most drivers pay little or no heed to us. Mainly because we take up less room on the road and drivers for the most part are looking for other drivers, not someone on two wheels traveling down the same road as them. Because of this, almost every rider I know, with the exception of some of those knuckleheads I see on TruTV who are trying to do stunts at sixty miles an hour down a busy interstate, are very cautious of the way they ride and whether or not they are in some ones blind spot.
                If a rider knows he is in a blind spot, he quickly moves to make themselves more visible. A simple thing to do but sometimes you just can’t do it so you slow yourself down and then act. Which brings me to the one question I am asked above all else, “Why are bikes so loud?” the answer is simple, the noise from a bikers pipes makes drivers more aware of them. And to be totally truthful, since I don’t have a radio and I don’t listen to my Zune while riding, the glorious and steady beat of my bike is my music. A symphony to my ears and other riders out there, besides, I’d rather listen to my engine than the music being blasted at me from the insides of some of the cars I am sharing the road with.
                Freedom isn’t free on this mud-ball we share and we are all striving to find our place within the grand social networking world, I’ve found my freedom. A freedom from the small plastic, glass and super-chip “smart” phone in my pocket and the never ending barrage of information that comes at each one of us faster than the speed of thought, and that comes in the form of a V-twin engine, two wheels and the joy of disconnecting from life for even a few minutes each day. Come to think of it, I have more liberty with my mode of transportation now than ever before in my life.
                Every day I hear people grumble about traffic jams, the cost of fuel and other drivers going through “Road Rage”. I don’t have those problems now. I look forward to getting out on the road and riding. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like driving in a car or truck and try to avoid it, even on rainy days or cold days. I just open myself up to the weather and the rest of my environment and thank God for giving me even a few minutes of freedom.
                I do this because I am a biker and I can’t believe I waited so long to become one.
Have a great week.

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