Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

13 March 2011

Back In The Saddle - Part Two

Frankly, I’ve been itching to get back on the motorcycle. After a long, cold winter, the weather here in Florida is finally becoming nice enough to ride. On Saturday morning I changed out the last few bits that got bent or damaged in the accident I had back in October. By noon, she was ready to run and ride. So that’s what Jacob and I did.

We rode up to the airport, of course. It’s my home-away-from-home. Plus, it’s an easy one-hour ride through some nice, back-country roads. Jacob has been riding his bike pretty much non-stop through the winter since it is his only form of transportation. Cosmetically, it was in dire need of attention. My garage is sufficient, but at the airport we have all kinds of neat stuff. Like a special motorcycle lift, which makes cleaning and servicing the drive chain soooooo much easier.

To be honest, before the ride I was a little…let’s not say “nervous,” let’s say anxious. Would I be hopelessly paranoid, to the point where the fun was taken out of riding? I hoped not. Then again, it has been five months. Right after the accident I was a really nervous car driver…always watching cars at intersections and wondering if they were going to pull out on me like that lady did…flinching at the slightest unanticipated move by another car. But as time has passed, most of my paranoia has diminished. …In my car. …In my car with seatbelts and airbags and structure around me. But what would riding be like?

I sat on the Harley, enjoying its familiar and peculiar lumpy, uneven idle. I strapped on my full-face helmet, zipped up my leather jacket, and then pulled on my gloves (full gloves too, not the fingerless kind I usually wear). And I wondered how it was going to be. I got the answer as soon as I let out the clutch and began working my way out of the subdivision: Not a problem. I needn’t have worried. See, I am a motorcyclist. I love to ride. That has not changed.

We got gas at the BP station, then turned north on Scenic Highway, accelerating up through the gears to stay ahead of traffic. It felt normal and natural to be back on the bike. It felt good being “in the wind” again. It had been too long.

It was a gorgeous day – a little cool – but I don’t mind that. It was “NACITS,” as I like to call it: Not A Cloud In The Sky. It’s not an official designation from the National Weather Service but it ought to be.

We merged onto Highway 90 east over to the town of Pace, across the swampy area where the Escambia River enters the bay, then turned north again on Woodbine Road. Soon we were on our own, out in farmland with the strong, gusty wind at our backs. There is no direct route from Pensacola to Brewton. You have to zigzag your way along various back roads. And here is where the Sportster really shines. At 60 to 65 mph, the bike is in its element. It just loves these gently curving two-lanes. It’s not a pseudo-racebike that lives to go around corners fast, and it’s not an Interstate-hauler like a big Electra Glide or Honda Gold Wing. For me it’s the perfect bike.

Up at the airport Freddy and Darlene McCall (the couple who runs the place) had their matching Harleys out. They’re both avid riders. She has a gorgeous black-and-chrome Sportster (newer than mine) and he has a beautiful black-and-chrome Super Glide. They’re both really nicely decked out and flawless. They make mine look like the beat-up road warrior it is. We set Jacob up, far enough away so as not to get any overspray from the hose on our bikes, and then while he worked, Freddy, Darlene and I commenced to do some serious airplane/motorcycle talking.

Finally it was getting late, so Jacob and I mounted up for home. The sky was still absolutely cloudless (all day long!). The air had grown chilly but not uncomfortably so. On our westerly zigs the setting sun was quite blinding.

The ol’ Sporty ran flawlessly, almost happily, as if it was telling me, “Yeah, I’m glad to be back out here running the roads, too.” There is something quite odd about the connection between man and machine that we motorcyclists experience. We know the bikes are inanimate objects, but still…many of us feel a fond “oneness” with the machine, very much like the oneness we pilots feel with our aircraft. I know, it’s silly.

We pulled into my driveway right about the time it became too dark to ride with our sunglasses. I was cold (my legs) and sore (my butt) and stiff (every joint in my body) when we got home. Getting old, I guess. I parked the bike in the garage, switched off the ignition and, as always, gave it one last look before going into the house. There are few things in life that I enjoy more than riding that damn Sportster. Despite the sore butt, it felt really good to get back in that saddle again.

There would be more pictures - and better pictures - but the stupid Nikon camera, that I bought on the strength of its brand name and those Ashton Kutcher commercials, died after only one year of service. So much for "quality" products...


Anonymous said...

Way to GO!! Glad you're back, just don't tell "you know who"....I too rode two wheels today. What a machine. Rip roaring 50 cc (no that is not a typo!) of pure 10 inch tires 3 speed Chinese fun. It did make for a rather funny spectacle..... but you know what? I still enjoyed being on two wheels! Robin and the kids weren't sure wheather to laugh, worry, or both. I think they were laughing but I was too busy to notice as the damn thing is so small and short that it will still hurt you no matter the size.
Take care and "feel" the wind.

Bob Barbanes said...

Hey Cass, two wheels is two wheels, no matter what the motive power may be. I'm thinking of getting a little dual-purpose dirtbike myself - something I can take off-road but legally ride to and from the trails. I have to do that because nobody around here will mount semi-knobby tires on my Sportster (plus it's way too heavy).

Ride safely! And yeah, don't tell "you know who." ;)

Greybeard said...

I like that better than the "CAFB" I've used most of my life. I'm borrowing it.

I had a T-Bone accident in a car at age 16 right after I got my license that made my gunshy for several months.
Had a serious accident in a Huey, (low-level 'low-side governor failure'), that turned the bird into a 7 foot tall pile of expensive scrap... that one REALLY spooked me for months. So I know what you were worried about and I'm glad you're over it.

Enjoy your Sporty. Ride like you're invisible, and watch for little Blue-haired ladies!

Bob Barbanes said...

GB, I've been going over and over my accident in my head, wondering what I could have done differently...gone faster? Slower? Had I gone slower and dumped the bike in the same spot, I might have been hit by one of the long line of cars behind me - the ones that as it was, *almost* hit me.

Yes, we ride like we're invisible. We watch cross streets for cars running red lights and stop signs. But this was not like that. She stopped!

We have a level of implicit trust in other drivers. It has to be so. When we see someone come to a stop at a red light, we trust that they will STAY STOPPED there. This woman, pulled up to the light, stopped, LOOKED RIGHT AT ME (or so I thought), and then pulled out as if it were a stop sign or a flashing red (it was not). How do you predict and plan for something like that?? I realize now - through recreating the scene - that the sun was in her eyes, causing glare, and she probably dif *not* see me at all. Lesson learned: Be aware of when the sun is behind you, and ride EXTRA cautiously. Any WWII fighter pilot could've told me that.

In the past, I really, really believed that all accidents were preventable - if the rider had only been more aware or on his toes or whatever. Now, I'm not so sure. Having that lady do what she did has made me a little...twitchy. I see things now that make me flinch. I know what can happen now - know that there are situations that can get out of control so quickly that you just have nowhere to go. And I don't know that it'll ever go away.

That is the risk we riders take, I guess. I've ridden all my life without such a thing happening. And the only solution would be to ride so slowly and cautiously that I would be a hazard to other traffic. And that would take the fun out of it.

So Jacob and I rode around some more this past weekend. And I did so with the full realization that my October accident might very well happen again. I hope it does not - at least until I am finally free of this job. My boss was SO pissed at me last time, and I wouldn't want to have to endure that tirade again.