While I wait for the new throttle cable for Old Faithful I thought I might turn my thoughts to the why of riding. Without getting too philosophical, a simple experience last night reminded me of why I like to ride.
On Thursday nights I usually hop on one or the other of my bikes and head out in quest of dinner, followed by a stop at our local biker watering hole, Fuzzy's.
Last night, as I have done many nights before, I got on the bike, fired it up, and headed for home, a couple miles away.
It was dark now, about 9:30, and I was enjoying the relative cool of the evening air passing through my mesh jacket. The engine was pleasantly thrumming under me with that typical sound only a big single can make, running as well as it ever has, and I sped through the large double sweeper curves north of Mountain Lake with a smile on my face. I made my turn at the last light, and rolling slowly down the hill, I turned the final corner, negotiated the short and gentle double curve just before the house, and then something clicked in me.
I looked to my left, and rising there was an inviting full moon, a third of its way to the zenith, above the hills surrounding Lake Wailes Lake. I idled past the house and onto Lakeshore Boulevard picking back up to regular speed with the moon leading me westward along the north shore of the lake.
I ran west from the lake and then south, out of Lake Wales and into the country surrounding it to the south. I sped on through the night, the motor thrumming and the breeze cooling me. I turned left onto Scenic Highway, through Babson Park, and back through another couple large sweepers to the top of the ridge just beyond. Now descending, I rolled past a large lake on my left, the moon illuminating the chop of its waters while lightning could be seen off to the south and west, along with the sound of distant delayed cracks of muffled thunder breaking the night air.
I continued to Frostproof, where I turned west, catching US 27 for the ride back north to Lake Wales.
I guess the question is: Would I have ever have driven 30 some miles out of my way if I had been in a car? The answer: Nope.
There is something completely different about being on a bike, and those rare and special moments like last evening drive home the differences in a lucid way. Unlike driving, there is no frame through which you are looking. There is nothing containing you in a micro-environment, isolating you from the world you see zipping by. You may be tired, hot, and dirty, riding through some isolated part of east Georgia, but you will smell the wonderful scent of pine in the air. You may be riding in the Rockies, sore and weary, but you will feel the pleasant temperature change as your road runs along a mountain stream.
Instead, on a motorcycle you are in the environment and a part of it. Instead of moving past the world, you are moving in it. You are an integral part of the world, and when the outdoors is like it was last night, it offers an invitation which is hard to ignore.
Every time you ride, it may not be as special as last night was, but it is always different than a ride in a "cage." You are always a participant, not a spectator. There are, of course, many other things that draw people to motorcycling, it may be the thrill of racing, the challenge of riding dirt, the coolness of rolling on that low black cruiser, or the comradery of being part of a biker family. But for me, this participation in life that is riding appeals to me the most.
"Ride Your Own Ride."