Okay, call me gun-shy. A few days ago I had a close encounter with a doe standing on the road in the exact same spot where a previous close encounter happened almost a year ago to the day. Two close encounters in the same spot with a deer a year apart. Who would have thunk it? The first was http://jmadog.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/motorcycle-crossing/ and the second was http://jmadog.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/a-second-either-way/ if you’re curious.
Well, on this particularly foggy morning commute on my motorcycle, I was understandably cautious. Typically, when riding in fog your windshield and face shield will fog up as well. This morning was no different as my windshield was completely fogged over and the face shield on my Torc helmet was lifted to better see. It’s one thing as a rider to be on the lookout for anything that might stop my forward progress, but it’s also important to see and be seen. So I set out on my journey in hopes of getting to work unscathed. The fog wasn’t too bad at first but I knew going into Skiddy, which falls into a valley, it would become worse. As I started my decent I saw a skunk scooting across the road and a second later realized his defense mechanism was in perfect working order. He must have seen me coming.
Feeling good about being cautious, I’m only about an 1/8 of a mile from the curve that is a known deer hangout. As I enter the curve I see a deer standing in the ditch by the trees. Not again! It’s silhouette poised to leap in my direction, I maintained my nerves of steel and continued into the face of danger. As I rounded the curve, fully prepared for what may come, I realized the deer was nothing more than a combination of tree branches and bushes in the shape of a deer and that either the deer or the fog were playing tricks on me. Relieved, I turned the throttle and rode on. But now my eyes are seeing things in the fog that may or may not be there. As I left Skiddy I’m sure I saw Popeye standing on the side of the road. I can’t be sure, but it sure looked like him. Further down the road I saw a herd of buffalo standing by the fence, but they were pretending to be cattle. I’m not crazy, I saw buffalo.
It’s kind of like looking at the clouds and seeing shapes of animals and characters. The only difference here? If I see Snoopy in the clouds he isn’t going to jump out of the ditch in front of me.
Well, it was bound to happen again I guess. I’m speaking of another close call with a deer on my chilly ride to work this morning. Almost a year to the day I wrote about how a deer stepped out of the ditch and stopped suddenly before crossing http://jmadog.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/motorcycle-crossing/ as I was rounding the first curve in Skiddy on my way to work. Close enough to touch (or so it seemed) I remained calm and continued on. What this deer did after I passed is unknown, but I’m sure she was thinking those damn motorcycles are dangerous to her health.
I don’t know if we motorcyclists are just oblivious to the dangers of riding or if it’s the acceptance of those dangers that keeps us riding. Surely a close call, and I mean close call, with any deer or car would stop me from riding a bike. But close calls are a part of riding and quite frankly, the deer reminded me of this. I’m not saying it didn’t startle me. But at that exact moment when I came around the corner and saw her standing there on the road, several things went through my head in a very short amount of time. But not once did I think I was going down. Chop the throttle? Apply the brakes? Swerve? Scream? I did none of that. In fact if you could have seen the look on my face I probably showed no emotion. Nerves of steel? Of course not, but it happened so fast there was little time for panic. I can’t speak for the deer.
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how risky motorcycling can be. If I thought about it like that it would take the fun right out of riding. When something like this happens, (fewer times with deer, more often with cars) it shows me I’m living in the moment – and this moment only took about a half a second. Once it’s over, it’s down the road until the next close call happens. Not if, but when.
I’m not sure if this was the same deer or not, but they were both wearing similar fur coats. It did happen in the exact same place as before and if she is anything like me we’re both creatures of habit. As long as her and her friends make a habit of staying out of my way, I’ll do my best not to hit her and ruining both of our mornings. So after I passed her and proceeded to work I realized how close this close call was. A second either way could have yielded different results and I thought to myself how many times in our lives do we have these encounters and don’t even realize it. Whether we ride motorcycles or not, life is full of “a second either way.” So why worry?
I ride for that feeling of complete vulnerability to my surroundings. If this deer and I had met any other way (read collision) I might think otherwise. But part of the experience of riding is being on the edge of out-of-control with a few obstacles thrown in for good measure. So here’s to our anniversary and I hope we don’t meet again.
As I sit here looking out the window at the rain falling, I have to ask myself why I didn’t ride to work today. I won’t melt, right? Although the high temperature today will be around 50 degrees, the rain just makes you feel colder. But as I’ve said before, I ride motorcycles so why not today? After all, I have all the gear I need for days just like this.
I believe riding bikes differs from driving a car in one particular way; There is a certain amount of mental preparedness that goes into riding a motorcycle. Some days we can’t wait to ride, other days we just do it without thinking as it comes natural, and then there are days when we have to “feel” it. Today, I didn’t feel it. Mentally I wasn’t prepared to get suited up and ride in.
One obvious downside to riding on a day like today is your bike gets filthy. Not just dirty, but the kind of grime that takes hours to clean. I’m okay with that and it usually doesn’t bother me knowing I’ll have some time invested in getting the bike back to its shiny self.
It comes back to just not feeling like I should be out there amongst the traffic, fighting for my little piece of asphalt in a world full of pavement-hogs. Did I make the right decision? Yes. Do I wish after getting to work I would have ridden? Yes. Tomorrow is a new day and I’m promised by the local weatherman it will be sunny. I’m holding him to it.
Some of my best and most memorable rides have been in the rain. Warm rains and even some that weren’t so warm have followed me to my destination. I don’t know what it is about riding down the highway in the rain, looking at the motorists looking at me like I’m crazy, dry (mostly) and comfortable with little concern about the weather at all. We spend a lot of time avoiding the rain whether we’re just walking outside or planning for a ride that maybe we should just relax and enjoy it. After all it’s only water and we won’t melt – or so I’m told.
Riding in the rain isn’t for everyone and especially in the fall when the temperature can change things up. For a guy who didn’t ride in today, just listen to me. I should have taken my own advice and put my rain gear on and sucked it up. I ride motorcycles, remember?
How many times can you ride your motorcycle around in circles? Is “countless” a number? The summer of 1974 found me tucked in behind the handle bars of my Harley-Davidson X90, turning laps in the field by my house. No kidding, a stars and stripes helmet with a blue bubble face-shield protecting my dashing good looks and my bell bottom blue jeans and tennis shoes completing the ensemble. Mert Lawwill, you have nothing on me! All I wanted to do was race the Springfield Mile and at 12 years old it surely seemed possible.
When you’re a kid anything seems possible. Somewhere along the line as we got older we found it’s not as easy as it looks, and reality called and said we needed to get a job and stop riding in circles. I eventually raced a little, but not dirt track and definitely not at the professional level, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to. I think it’s more about timing and location rather than about desire. The desire has always been burning inside me, and even today I think I could go out and do whatever it is I want to do, dirt track included. Sure, I may hurt myself in the process, but that’s called danger, and when we were young, that was our middle name. For some reason my mother told me mine was Lamont.
Those days of practicing and honing my riding skills came with a cost. Many blisters, a few broken bones and a host of scrapes was just another day of living the dream in becoming the top of the field (or at least the field by my house) in motorcycle racing. Many times, after planting myself into the ground from riding over my head, I would lie there in the dirt listening to the engine screaming as the throttle was stuck open. Dusty, dazed and confused and fully convinced bones were broken and afraid to move, I wondered how long an engine would run like that. A second later, after diagnosing myself, I would hop back to my feet and run over to shut it down. Checking the mechanical condition of my bike, away I would ride only to repeat the process. Nobody said it would be easy and I was having so much fun, why would I stop? How else would I get any better? Nowadays, I would probably lay there and let the motor blow.
Looking back over the years I have come to realize that anything is possible. It’s never too late and it’s all about doing what you love. Maybe those times while laying face down in the dirt after coming up short on a jump, throttle stuck wide open on my bike with the engine singing at the top of its lungs, it was trying to tell me something; Live your life wide open. Love with all your heart and chase after your dream because one day you just might catch it. Oh, and don’t get up, your leg is broken.
I ride motorcycles. That doesn’t make my sunrise or sunsets any more spectacular than yours, it just makes them mine. It doesn’t make traveling with a car full of friends a bad thing, it just means I have limited seating. You may wear gloves driving your sports car, I just wear them to protect my hands from the elements. You may sit in your car or climb up into your truck, but I straddle my ride. It’s not always how you get there…or is it? The solitude of riding is real. Looking down at the pavement as it passes below your feet can give you the sensation you’re going faster than you really are, but for me it’s more of a comfort thing. I can look down and see my front wheel spinning and the reflection of my surroundings distorted by the curves in the chrome and I know this is how I want to get there. And this time of year those reflections just happen to be the leaves changing colors.
As the days pass and fall approaches I start to realize that the fast, fun days of warm weather are coming to a close. Motorcycling is at it’s best when you aren’t battling the extreme elements, and history shows winter comes around about the same time every year. This means it’s time to dig out the cold weather riding gear to see if it still fits. Everything should as my clothes still fit the same from a year ago. Any time the seasons change and the temperature transitions one way or the other, it’s hard to figure out what gear to wear. Over time you figure out it’s best to over do it rather than take your chances. You can always take stuff off after you get under way, but it’s difficult to add if you didn’t bring it with you. How many times have I purchased a sweatshirt on the road when caught without enough layers? Not as many times as you would think. Be prepared, that’s what I always say.
This is the time of year when fewer bikes are on the road. The weather keeps those fair-weather riders from deciding on whether they should ride or drive. I’ll ride every chance I get but I do struggle with it as the morning temperature falls into the 40’s. I’ll get used to it soon enough but as I do, the temperature will still be falling as December and January come along. Why do I do this? Why do I take the bike when I could easily drive? I don’t have the answer to that just yet. Even I question my sanity sometimes. And not just about riding a motorcycles.
Appreciate the beauty of the day. Take it in from wherever you are and don’t worry about me; My view is just fine.
When we were young we were told not to cross the road. Curiosity is a dangerous thing and sometimes temptation can get the best of us. Sometimes we listen and other times well, we don’t.
Soon enough we get permission to get on it and it becomes the beginning of a wild ride. Fast, late nights, friends and new places. A world opens up and we will never be the same. Ever. We push the boundaries of those limits imposed upon us and we find just how far we can go. And we go. Chasing girls and jobs and the future we think we want and it’s all there in front of us. We can see it just beyond the hood ornament on the car pulling us into our future further than what we’re ready for. Too young to know the difference we continue; we can always ask questions later.
The highway becomes such a big part of our lives. It’s takes us to places to celebrate the birth of new life and the end of someone else’s. It gives us a path to our daily grind but doubles as our escape route from it as well. It is our scenic byway and our road from hell and it can be all in the direction you’re traveling. Young and full of ourselves or old and tired of it all, we roll down the road not knowing where it will end. This is the road we’ve chosen and it’s ours. Paved or unpaved, uphill both ways or rocky, put it in drive and floor it. Why not and what are you waiting for?
We spend a good portion of our lives looking down the roads we travel. Whether we’re running late or on sabbatical determines how our eyes perceive the road ahead. We all need some down time. You know the kind – the freedom to let our mind and body wander. The absence of a focal point, a desk free of clutter and a mind wide open to whatever. This is why I ride a motorcycle. It’s rare to see someone on a motorcycle distracted by anything other than 3000 pound, four wheel moving objects and an occasional furry friend. Take those out of the equation with a cell phone conveniently turned off and what more could you ask for? Warm, dry weather and a full tank of gas doesn’t hurt either.
Well-worn highways and beat down back roads. If you were to take one or the other, which would it be? It doesn’t really matter as long as the direction you’re going will get you to where you want to go. We all have a reason to be on the road. We share it with people just like us, looking to get to work or chasing a dream. And if it’s a hood ornament or a headlight you look over as you stare down the highway just remember that day long ago when you hit the road for the first time, and the freedom you felt. The windows down or wind in your face isn’t something you forget, in fact it’s something we desire. Just put it in gear and go.
It’s all been said before. We’ve thought it and we’ve uttered these words when we’ve had our doubts. Sometime we just whisper them to ourselves. I Believe. I believe in life after death. I believe in love. True love. I believe in the good in people and the size of their hearts, even when they don’t show it. I believe our actions speak louder than our words. I believe in destiny. I believe we have the ability to overcome whatever it is we’re faced with, even when the odds are stacked against us. I believe in a healing touch. I believe in prayer. I believe in God.
I believe in what’s right. I admit sometimes I don’t believe, and then I find the strength to believe. I believe we don’t know our own strength – mental and physical. I also believe in the power of emotion and experience. I believe that time heals all wounds. I know the scars may remain, but time gives us the ability to understand. I believe that things come full circle. I believe my dog Scout knows me too well. I believe all pets love beyond the wag of a tail. I believe we could be more like them.
I believe words can hurt and trust can be broken, but I also believe in forgiveness. I believe forgiveness and acceptance can make us grow into better people. I believe in hard work and long days and sweat. I believe we can. I believe we did. I believe we will. I believe in giving more than what you take. I believe in respect. I believe in honor. I believe in holding the door and ladies first. I believe it’s possible, even when nobody thinks so.
I believe in myself. But I also know I can be better. I believe in positive thinking. I believe in second chances. I believe tomorrow is a new day and today will end soon enough. I believe our past doesn’t define who we are and our future is an open book. I believe we were all young once and don’t ever forget it. I believe you’re only as old as you think you are. I believe in the kid inside all of us. I believe nice guys finish first – always. And children. I believe in those who are looking at the world and all it has to offer for the very first time.
I believe a smile can say so much. I believe people are good at hiding pain. I believe we need to be patient and have understanding. I believe a mile in someone else’s shoes would make us appreciate our own shoes. I believe we should go without shoes more often. I believe we worry too much. I believe that each day is a gift and we should treat it as such.
I believe in us; We the People and what we are capable of. Together. I Believe.