Living And Riding Faster Than The Fear.
Sinister squalls chased us for two days through Idaho, Washington and Oregon, pounding us with their sound and fury, pushing our group’s morale south of desperation while we battled driving rain, chunks of snow, near freezing temperatures and near zero visibility.
So we fled, tails between our legs, scrambling east towards hope because in Prairie City, Oregon, we had a warm bed waiting. Dark disturbances filled my rearview as I pulled to the side, waiting for Road Dirt Editor-In-Chief Rob Brooks to round the bend after yet one more photo stop. I had promised him the Pacific Northwest ride of a lifetime, but not like this.
To Mild Hogs photographer Aaron Whiteman it was just another photo capturing a cold, wet, horrid day in June, but I saw more. As I pondered the moment in time frozen by his lens a deeper meaning uncoiled.
The picture was a metaphor, an allegory that burrowed deep into spaces in my mind I pretend don’t exist, things about the sport of motorcycling I bury beneath the temporal joy of the next corner.
The dark clouds looming over my shoulder represent all of my anxieties and fears about the moto-life that chose me, cancerous thoughts polluting my confidence during the rare moments I am not in motion. My anxieties whisper their ugliness when I am still, not wearing a helmet to block their voice.
“Am I good enough to do this? When will my luck run out? Will this claim my life someday? How many apexes can I blitz before I find one with my name on it? What will my last thoughts be the moment before I become a hood ornament for the log truck crowding my lane?”
I think back to all the accidents and near misses in my moto-life, artillery shots over the bow of my ego feeding the corrosive thoughts that haunt me like the dark cloud in the photo. How long before a near-miss becomes a direct hit?
Editor Rob’s ride for the week with us, a Honda ST 1300.
“You’re not good enough,” the clouds murmur. “You are just a man, fragile flesh and blood not meant to move this fast. You push your luck too much. Eventually you will make a mistake, maybe not today, this month or this season, but eventually you will blunder. I am the dark cloud of fate and I am patient, never leaving, always watching.”
In the photo I look back on the angry, puffy beasts from my blood red steed with it’s malfunctioning headlight, a symbolic victim of the weather. If my bulletproof VFR is failing, how long until I fall victim to this sport?
No escaping the rain for long, even in Fossil, OR.
Then a closer look. Beneath the bike is a shadow. A shadow requires sun.
Sunlight and blue skies are images of hope, promise and joy. If I could, I would reach into that photo, grab my helmet and spin it toward that glowing omen. A simple, small turn of my head up and to my left and I would have seen the sun and the warmth of it’s hope. How ironic that to see the promise I would have to reach into the photo and get my head right.
Get my head right indeed. Put clouds in my rear-view. Better yet, I don’t even look in the rearview, I bury the clouds behind me where they belong, I forget the doubt, fear and anxiety of tossing my body through space and time with no protection other than wearing used skin from a cow, goat or kangaroo. We should remember the lessons, not the clouds.
The beauty and joy of the ride are worth the fears and hardships.
We only pass this way but once and here is how we shall use our time. We will throw our legs over fast bikes and travel the country with the like minded, similarly insane comrades. Time and speed will be how we manipulate our world and bring it under our control, not the other way around. We will twist life’s throttle instead of letting life’s throttle twist us. Most of the time we will make it to another sunrise with all our “sad captains” with whom we chose to lose our minds.
But if not, if we shall not make the next sunrise, if the clouds shall catch up and claim us, then motorcycling has been the “perfect waste of time.”