Friday, December 10, 2010

Motorcycles: Facing Fear and Feeling Free

The sky was gray and it drizzled, still, we braved it.  I put on my Bombshell boots, matching gloves, and my Scorpion helmet.  Never having found a motorcycle jacket I liked (in matching white of course) I suffer in my H&M black leather bomber from years ago.  At first I was nervous.  It had been a long time since I had been on the back of a bike.  Yes, I was just on the back, not driving, but still.  I used to be young and fancy free.  I used to swing as high as I could and then jump off at the height of the arc.  Not any more.  Now I have gene survival on the brain and I find it makes me a little more paranoid than I used to be.  Riding outside the box doesn't exactly lead one to believe you'll be on the planet for any length of time.  Riders call it "the fear."

Everyone has to master it at some point, deal with their own particular brand of road demons.  As we drove along Redwood, curving through the misty day, winding our way along the lake, through moss covered trees, and gurgling streams, it came to me.  Why was I afraid? What was I afraid of? I had ridden side saddle on the back of an old purple Kawi in India and had thought nothing of it, and there, God forbid, I wasn't always wearing a helmet.  Of course, speeds were different.  The whole thing was different.  It was more like a tame version of bumper cars, whereas this, this could be life and death.  I knew people who had been hurt, a friend who was killed. 

Yet, for that winding hour, I wasn't worried about the right-hand turns which used to jangle my nerves. Instead I felt free.  I was free to be in the world.  It was okay to know that I could die at any moment, that I would die eventually, and it would be at the time meant for me to go.  We cannot know what happens in the world, and where we are in the balance.  We just have to trust that we live our lives to the fullest every day, in whatever way we can, however we can.  So what was there to be afraid of?

After burgers and wandering through Berkeley, Emeryville, and then finally Oakland, we wandered our way through previously unexplored realms of East Bay.  I will freely admit there is something that happens when you are on a motorcycle that cannot when you are trapped in a car.  You smell and hear everything.  You look down into the other cars on the road.  You feel the heat coming off the school bus engine idling behind you at a stop light.  The changes in temperature and humidity from one location to another are tangible to you in moments.  The world bares itself to a biker in a way it can never for someone driving a car.  I even caught a whiff of a man's cheap cologne as he crossed the street.  It's not always pleasant, but at least its honest.  There is a relief in the truth.

Even after hours of riding, the fear only caught me once, when the freeway home turned into ten plus lanes, with hardly any cars present.  It's times like then I feel exposed.  Even though I was holding on to Christian, I felt like I would fly off at any second.  Nothing was there to break my fall.  When there was a car that happened to pass on either side, I wondered what would happen if I became unbalanced and fell, what would happen to my shell of a body? Would it be over in an instant? All around me was the possibility of death.  I don't know why it happens on those wide open freeways, but every time, like clockwork, the rising tide of fear grabs me.  This time it was short, and we were in Hayward in minutes, so hyperventilating or sobbing on the back wasn't an option like the last time I was on a major highway in Phoenix.

Even though I did have a moment of panic on the freeway, overall, I felt good being back on the bike.  It had been months.  I have the saddle sores to prove it.  Plus, I missed my boots and gloves.  There is something about awesome gear that makes you feel about ten feet taller and puts a swagger in your step.  I might still have some way to go in my relationship with motorcycles, but at least I freed myself enough to ride on one and take in everything the world has to offer on an overcast Friday afternoon.


  1. way to go sister, back in the saddle! now time to learn to ride baby! that baby honda awaits!

  2. Yeah, thinking I'm going to start off with a scooter. It's more my speed, so to speak. :-D

  3. oh ok, you know that honda does not go over 50-55. it is so easy to shift and a way easy ride. but i think i am bringing it to AZ. the boys are learning now.