Monday, November 10, 2008

4 Wheels Move the Body. 2 Wheels Move the Soul.

As winter and cold weather approach, my thoughts turn to preparing my motorcycle for winter and the sadness that that causes. I've only been riding for a little over 4 years, but in that time, this adventurous hobby has taken up a special place of residence in my heart. As an homage to motorcycling and all that it means to me, I present the top 10 reasons that motorcycling is nourishment for my soul.

10. Frugality - Perhaps it is my practical German heritage, but riding a motorcycle speaks to my wallet as well as my soul. What other way can you travel the country for 2 weeks and spend so little? We usually camp, which keeps things cheap. Even when gas is $4.00/gallon and the tank is empty, a fill-up runs me no more than $10 - $12! Finally, it cuts down on the tourism paraphernalia for sure. When you have just two small saddlebags and a suitcase strapped to the bike, you're not dragging home a bunch of stuff. For me, postcards and photos fit the bill perfectly.

9. Freedom of the road - While I think convertibles are great fun, there's nothing better than feeling the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. (Ok, admittedly I wear a helmet, but you can still feel it all.) There's a saying that motorcyclists are the only ones who understand why a dog hangs its head out the window. For better or worse, smells are not muted, the details of the road stretched out before you are clear and with a twist of the throttle you can go anywhere you want.

8. Community - I have met some of the nicest people on a motorcycle. Often it breaks the ice for me to speak to someone I might otherwise not approach. Often it compels others to talk to me. Ok, I could maybe do without the gas stops where a man wearing a wife-beater asks me if I can really ride my bike or if I really rode it all the way there by myself. The sarcastic response I usually want to make is along the lines of, "no, I pushed it here." However, all in all, the motorcycle people I have met are among the nicest in the world, I believe. If I ever need anything, I'm certain they will be the first people I turn to.

7. Time alone with my thoughts - The pleasure I derive from getting to be alone with only the thoughts in my head and my "music to menstruate by" floating into my ears cannot be measured. There's no compromising with someone else about what to listen to on the radio. There's no desire or compulsion (or ability) to answer my cell phone. I can sing along as loud as I want because, after all, no one can hear me over the roar of my engine. In the safety, security and comfort of my helmet, my mind wanders to all of the things I want to see, The world is my oyster and I'm not gonna share the pearl.

6. Adventure - Some of my best memories and vacations have occurred astride my trusty motorcycle. I've visited old friends and found new ones at motorcycle rallies from Burlington, Vermont to Asheville, North Carolina to Duluth, Minnesota. I've learned that travel is more about the journey than the destination and the stories I could tell would fill a book (or at least a scrapbook.) An encounter with some deer on a dark rural road in eastern Ohio, 200 miles of a torrential downpour while traveling 80 MPH in eastern New York State, stumbling upon the glorious "Grand Canyon of the East" just outside of Port Kent, New York. I could go on and on.

5. Bolsters confidence and self-esteem - The mere thought of riding from Indiana to the east coast scared the living daylights out of me. Anxiety churned in my stomach and I lost the desire to eat days before we departed. I had only been riding about 1 1/2 years and I was about 6 months post broken arm from a motorcycle accident that was completely my fault. I was certain that I was out of my league and would be overwhelmed by all of the possible obstacles that lay out ahead of me. It was certainly difficult at times, but by the time I returned 12 days later, I felt like a different rider. I was more in control and confident in my skills. I had encountered rain, crazy traffic and a sizeable gravel hill and come out unscathed. Now whenever I safely navigate through some maze of highways at rush hour or successfully take a curve a little faster than the last time I rode it, I feel good!

4. Simplicity - When you travel by motorcycle, you master the art of simplicity. When you're going to be gone for 2 weeks and have limited storage space, you figure out how to make one possession fulfill two or three uses. You figure out how to look your best without a hairdryer and curling iron. Suddenly a pair of Crocs become a wardrobe staple because they take you from the shower to the campground to a long walk and don't take up that much room. Although I was uncomfortable traveling this light to begin, sometimes now I think all I need is a credit card, driver's license, cell phone and a AAA card. After all, this is the USA and you're hardly ever that far from a major chain store.

3. The Clothes! - Now, I am certainly no clothes horse, but among my motorcycle peeps, I am the height of fashion. At rallies, (at least those where BMW riders and others who wear appropriate safety gear attend) the buzz is about the latest and greatest wicking materials or zip-off pants and exciting new technologies that allow you to stay warm/cool. I pity the women who were riding 20 years ago. It's certainly a male dominated sport and so all of the clothes were geared for their demographic. Unfortunately, women are NOT just small men. We have different proprotions and tastes in what we want to ride in. Thanks to forward thinking manufacturers who are trying to tap into the female motorcycle riding market, I am now able to buy clothing and safety apparel that actually fits. In fact, it's gotten so great that, if I so desire (which I do), I can deck myself out in pink from head to toe. Essentially my goal is to the Pink Power Ranger and I am well on my way!

2. I can be extraordinary and unexpected - When I share my love of the road and bikes with most people, I sometimes am greeted with surprise and disbelief. I guess, for most of the non-riding public, I am not what they imagine a "biker chick" to look like. There's something in that that really appeals to me. I don't want people to be able to simply look at me and know all there is to know about me. I venture to guess I am the only motorcycle-riding female actuary anywhere. Yeah! I like not dressing like all other riders. I like the looks I get from other bikers and cars. They do a double take and I think that's really great! No more will they think all bikers wear leather, have mustaches and sport at least one tatoo and not all women who ride are "dykes on bikes." Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)

1. The opportunity to pass the hobby on to other women and girls - The best part of being a female, country-crossing, pink-clad motorcycle rider is the amazing opportunity I have to share the sport with other women. Troy once paid me a very high compliment by telling me I am a wonderful ambassador for riding. I can't tell you how many times I've had women in their 30's or 40's or 50's come up and tell me that they've thought about riding, but that they have fallen into the belief they can't do it. They think they aren't tall enough or strong enough or that riding alone would be scary. I admit to them that for the first year I rode, every time I left the garage, I thought to myself, "I'm going to die", that I crashed and broke my arm and that I was the first one in my riding class to dump their bike. So, I certainly don't sugar-coat it. But I also tell them what an amazing time I have while riding - how all of the 9 prior things on this list keep me going back for more. There's simply no feeling like it and, as long as you taken the danger part of it seriously and dress for the slide, not for the ride, anyone can do it.

I'm also encouraged by being a role model for young girls. Often I see young girls riding in cars get the attention of their parents to point to me. My hope is that they are saying, "Wow! It's a girl, Mommy. Some day I want to ride like her." Who knows, maybe if I had had female riding role models, I might have started riding before I was 30. Imagine all the adventures I could have had!

1 comment:

IndyLovelace said...

Amen, sister! I do long for the days of riding and you capture the essence of riding well! The wind, the smells, the adventure. You just can't get that riding in a car or even a convertible.

Though I've chosen to marry and have children..which I gave up riding to reduce my risk profile...the desire to ride burns within.


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