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It's Not Fun: a collection of motorcycle philosophies

Stories:

It’s Not Fun, and I Don’t Like It

Dirty Girl

Lovers Do So

Nasty Itch

Pornography and Throttle Grip

Jealous, I Am Not

It’s Not Fun And I Don’t Like It

Riders know with little more than an extended clutch hand what bikes chase away and hunger after. Words just fuck it up. Hold left hand low over the highway. Give a nod at a gas stop when your ass is aching from four hundred miles of eighty-mile-an-hour punishment. Talk about the road or wind or lack of either; no need to ask or explain why you’re on two wheels.

Conversely, whether beer, whiskey or wine be present, explaining “why a bike” to someone who doesn’t ride is Quixotic at best. Too many things escape the blah-words: “Ya’ll must get dern good mileage outa that.” or “Nice bike, dude” or “Crikey, you sure blew the wheels off us back there, mate.” Questions clip and shuffle into the dull air from which they came. Maybe you have a half-smoked cigarette draped between dogged lips. Maybe you have a helmet dangling from a weary wrist. Or maybe you have miles to go before the sun sets or the rain begins. In every case it’s easier to give a little nod and mumble, “Yeah.”

I ride eight days along the spine of Idaho south from Wallace to Warm Lake. My goal is to never hit pavement and mostly I succeed. I emerge for a well-deserved glimpse of grocery stores and tourists and taverns at Riggins for fuel, a handful of #12 Yellow Humpies that work magic on the small streams I cross every couple of hours, and one large bottle of Rich and Rare. I also treat myself to a huge onion topped burger. While I rub thick bovine grease off my pinkies and give my filthy bike a measured walk around, a pleasantly chubby woman strolls from a shiny RV with the word “Caveman” stenciled with robotic perfection over a curtained window. She nods from dust covered bike to unhygienic rider and asks with a bent lipped sunshine squint, “Is it fun?”

I think about fun for a moment and realize, no, it isn’t really fun, at least not in the modern American sense. No shellfish flown in from the coast. No orthopedic mattress. Not enough whiskey and damn sure too few naked women. In fact, eight days of corduroy gravel, twisty, loose turns dodging log trucks, bathing in ice cold rivers and slapping mosquitoes as nighttime entertainment kind of sucks. It leads to exhaustion and a list of aches that originate in the ass and spread outward. But rather than explain, I mumble, “yeah,” and disappear into bug-splattered helmet.

I slip into my way-too-hot-for-August jacket. I watch lady emerge from burger joint with three milkshakes. One for her, one for her husband, and one for a little, fat dog of shrewd crossbreeding she calls, “Mr. Peepers.”

“Mr. Peepers! Ohh, Mr. Peepers! Do you know what mommy has for you? Have you been good today? Of course you have, Mr. Peepers. You’re mommy’s little baby…yes you are.” She uses baby talk. Mr. Peepers twists in tiny excited circles. This is not Mr. Peepers first go-‘round with chilled dessert.

I bring my BMW to life just as Mr. Peepers begins his campaign against a quart of frozen milk of a slight purple shade. Probably huckleberry. The mutt growls and makes grotesque, greedy lapping sounds as he ratchets shattering brain freeze perfect agony and, doubtless, an early death. No doubt the little mongrel delights in misery all afternoon. I lap up a dirt road the same way. Biking hard miles is a hungry, delightful misery.

On another ride a year or so later I run the tank dry at Crows Nest Pass at British Columbia / Alberta line. My reserve light on; I just keep saying to myself, “Ah, you’ve got another ten miles in ya.” Well, I ten mile myself right into running alongside my bike at the shoulder of the highway the last few hundred yards to one of those “we got everything” stations made of whitewashed cement block and smooshed bottle caps that populate little towns. I’m able to coast across the lot to a pair of gas pumps, but I’m so tired I toe the kickstand down and just sit a moment with gloved hands folded over the cowling and helmet togged head drooped to my chest.

A twitchy attendant with a three day beard and blackened nails skips to the bike and shouts, “Jus-gas?”

I have no jokes.

He walks to the front wheel and taps a grass stained sneaker toe against the rim. He mumbles, “Huh,” in a sort of “well, I’ll be dipped in shit” kind of tone. He’s checking to see if we are real. I don’t know if it is our silent arrival or catatonic stance, but the poor fellow stands stumped. He traces the bike, bug splattered and dusty, with bloodshot eyes until he pauses at a pile of gear bungee corded to the back and then pokes me with one of his blackened fingertips.

With that I pry the helmet off my noggin and wriggle and slide my way off the bike. “I’ll do it.”

While I gas up, the guy leans too close and watches too intensely. The BMW’s tank is under the seat and the cap is near the rear of the bike. He glances back and forth with a crinkled brow from where he feels the tank should be to where I hold the nozzle. He gives another, “Huh,” as I fill my girl up.

I snap the cap down and make a few steps toward the station building. I glance back to see the lackey still studying the bike. “Like the quiet machines, eh?” he asks.

If nothing else, “like” is the wrong word because it doesn’t have enough letters. “Like” does nothing to describe the surgical attachment I have to my bike. I don’t think it has anything to do with the bike’s sound, but I might be wrong. (I get a little giggle that’s hard to hold in every time I sneak up on a Harley.) Nope, I don’t “like” it. But I’m tired at the moment and desperate for a stick of jerky and maybe a Red Bull. So I just sputter, “Yeah.”

I burn most of second gear before I speed onto the highway with a smelly gas jockey in my mirror staring at us with no less confusion than he expressed when we coasted in on him. I think for a moment… I should go back. I should explain. But, the fellow isn’t a rider, and so won’t understand, and true enough, I don’t have the words to explain anyway.

I stream along the yellow line still kicking around what words might work a few miles down the road when I turn onto highway 22 and settle into a nice 80 mile per hour hum north to Longview and Black Diamond. I twiddle words through my mind and even pronounce a few inside the helmet. Then some freaky bad ass gunshots past me on a low slung spoke-wheeled machine that sounds more like a fighter plane than a road bike. I don’t notice his plates. The rider is a flash of narrow black leather shoulders and an oily grey ponytail whipping 110 miles an hour. He gives a cool clutch-hand wave then blasts on until his image merges into the road. Gloved fingers flying as he passed told me, “Good riding.” Together we feel, “ain’t this fun and don’t you like it more than anything else in the star speckled universe?”

Words would just clutter perfect flight, synergy, and understanding.

I answered his wave with a low left hand swipe. “Yeah,” I mumble inside my helmet. The ache in my ass sends a dull tremor out to my cramped throttle hand and presses a broad smile across my face. Amen.

Dirty Girl

Each time I change the oil in my bike, I spend an hour or so cleaning the engine. I do this as a means of checking all the little wires and operators and gaskets and hoses. I use a little soapy water and an old toothbrush to reach in behind and up and under all the little hideouts. I neither like the idea of, nor have the need for, chemicals (except a shot of WD-40 to help chip off the errant road tar glob). I wipe the chain down and spray a little graphite on it. To finish, I rub a shirt sleeve over the head lamp, and that’s all the cleanin’ my dirty girl gets.

Keeping the engine clean is a good idea. Fighting your way through sludge crusted screw heads sucks. It’s also handy to be able to trace a leak to its source. If the engine is a mess, that oil drip or spot of coolant on the garage floor could be coming from anywhere. If the works are clear, locating trouble and solving potential problems is much less frustrating.

Not washing the rest of the bike adds flavor. I’m quite proud of the insect collection we’ve assembled upon painted parts. I’m sure any sixth grader (assuming he or she could reconstruct the little dried demons) could win a science fair using my BMW as an entomological study. Even better, there are no push pins and no need to watch the devils suffer in a bottle of ether or fingernail polish. Indeed a part of the presentation would include the sudden, painless, eighty mile per hour demise of the crew. I imagine the little buckaroo at the science fair explaining to the judges, “…and I whalloped this little caelifera while speeding across the Palouse…” It’s blue ribbon work I assure you.

Besides the bugs, there’s a hand full of rock dings and a subtle film of transparent dirt. I don’t notice tiny plastic divots. They’re packed with dirt. I remember the shock of one large chink being formed as some idiot on a 4-wheeler tried to race away being Mr. Speedy, but only succeeding in spitting loose gravel all over three bikes parked behind him. Don’t you hate Mr. Speedy? The worst is some wanna-be on a shiny café bike eyeballing my sodden dual sport like my girl’s a putz. Well, Mr. Speedy, true enough you can kick my butt from here to the next light, but let’s say we do, oh, couple hundred miles up over Thompson Pass and down through Lolo and then we’ll separate tight-fisted punk from deft-handed pugilist.

I don’t take a lot of pictures of her. Cameras never seem to be handy at telling moments. I wind up with images of my bike on a kickstand and (maybe) me standing nearby, helmet in hand. Pretty boring stuff. When I flip through a stack of prints a year later I end up saying, “I think that’s Hell’s Canyon? No, maybe it’s the Columbia Gorge….no…?” On the other hand, I can point to a greenish smudge on a footpeg and tell the tall tale of a Montana rainstorm, a downed tree, and two hours of drenching, knee-cutting tire repair. A word of advice, carry a big screwdriver.

If I ever get clumsy and splash gasoline on her, I reckon I’ll clean the noxious stuff off. Fuel does terrible things to paint and plastic over time. Such a thing would be careless to ignore. A gasoline blemish is no merit badge, it’s a stain. I’ve seen stained bikes and it’s not noble, it’s lazy. Maybe I’m being eccentric, but dirt is different.

This bike is still young, so the soils aren’t nearly as eclectic as the splatters. I remember a character in Saving Private Ryan who collected dirt into tiny film cans from each of the battles he entered. Minus the large guns and violent explosions, that’s sort of what I’m doing. A little red clay from Moab. A clod of black Indiana farm dirt. Milky splatters dabbed artistically over the fenders by an Oregon coast road. Of course, if I ever get to Florida I may have to break down and clean the seat. (No worse combination than sand and ass cheeks, amen.)

It’s a little sad that frost doesn’t last. Not many guys have the unwise experience of the Yukon in April. Stopped by a Colorado flurry is one thing. Slushing sloppy under soggy mud, topped with six inches of slow spring snow is another. The bike leaves two tracks, one for a front wheel captained by a blind man and one for a wizzing rear with nothing to grab. Muscle wrenching miles, white-knuckled and ugly, drip away with summer speed. I wish a few snowflakes dusted flanks forever.

My helmet is no better than my bike. I clean the visor and that’s it. It was chilly this morning and when I tried to slip the vents closed they didn’t budge. It’s been a buggy summer. Too many twilight rides in my judgment. Anyway, I left the vents open knowing it would be warm and toasty by 10:00 am. I’ll de-goop the vents in September. I imagine it will require alcohol swabs and helmet surgery. I have some idea a spongy grasshopper jams the works, but who knows, I may pull rabbit fur or dove feathers out of that hat.

Don’t think me a mere slob. I have an old ’78 Goldwing I polish to a mirrored gleam prior to every outing. The Goldwing sat in a damp barn for several years before I inherited it. Grain dust, chicken shit, hay flakes and stubborn mildew pasted themselves into every nook and cranny. I stripped the bike to the frame and cleaned each little piece, replacing seals and fluids as I went. I buffed aluminum and messaged chrome to eye-popping luster. I reckon I invested six weeks getting her back to her disco era sparkle. That bike turns more heads than a pretty girl on a beach blanket. Dress bikes are meant to be pretty.

I’m a meticulous fellow in all pursuits including the things I choose not to do for my dirty girl. It’s just… Well…

The things I don’t wash away are like the delicious smell of an old flame’s perfume or the deep rich of newly mown alfalfa. Rain streaks remind me of slow miles tense and unforgiving. Scuffs and mud trigger thoughts of special mountain roads, standing on the pegs, thinking, “Take it easy,” then ignoring my own advice.

If I cleaned her all up, how much would I forget about where we’ve been? Soap and water are dangerous things. If you rub a dripping sponge over a bike, a whole lot of memories run away and disappear down a concrete drive way never to be found. With that, keeping it clean takes on a whole new meaning. I like a dirty girl.

Lovers Do So

My bike can’t be quantified or deliberated or worked into an economist’s theory. It is neither lowly pair of threes or bank breaking full house. A psychiatrist wouldn’t call it addiction. A physician wouldn’t call it affliction. At different times the women in my life have referred to her affectionately as my “little sweetie,” and at other times as “that goddamn whore.” There’s something deeply disturbing about a perfectly good looking, educated and articulate woman pointing a rigid finger to a bug splattered mound of metal and rubber then stomping the word “whore” into the neighborhood.

True enough, I paid for the bike and I do have to spend a little more on her from time to time, but aren’t all loves like that? I can’t remember a woman that didn’t clean out my wallet one way or another: a delicious dinner, a sunny vacation on the Black Sea, or maybe just a dozen rum and cokes in a local hooch-house. I’m an avid fly fisherman. I wade mountain streams in search of beauty and grace, but this too pulls its share dollar bills. Does that make the rivers prostitutes? I never had a girlfriend or wife shout “vile strumpet!” to the fishes. I can’t put my finger on it, but that bike’s got a funky mojo over me that those close to me can’t help but question and get a little pissed at.

Last March I motored home from a friend’s birthday party. It was early in the North Idaho season, but early spring has its share of sunny days and I bundled in fleece and a Gore-Tex rain suit. With just a few blocks to go some poor old Cowboy ran me over. Worse, the poor bastard was drunk. I broke both bones in my lower left leg on his pick-up fender, banged a shoulder into his windshield, and then did a perfect face first lawn-dart-landing into asphalt. I remember hearing the disgusting pop and crinkle of my bike being slapped to the ground like an abused child.

My first reaction was, “well, shit, I guess I gotta kick this guy’s ass.” I huffed and puffed up onto my good leg and hopped to his pick-up. He met me and pleaded, “Sorry, partner” a dozen or so times. His eyes were wet under his hat. I reckon he felt pretty sorry for all three of us. So I dropped the ass kicking idea and jumped on one leg to my bike.

There is nothing so sad and heartbreaking as staring at a crashed bike under a mercurial street light. It makes a guy sick in his gut and puts a tremor in a man’s hands. The headlamp gleamed, but the signal lights spread out like crushed glitter on asphalt. I took my street scarred helmet off, sat on the ground and leaned against my girl. I put wanting fingers upon her cowling and thought, “It’ll be alright. We’ll get you fixed up. This ain’t nothin’.” Deep inside I believed she was totaled. Little bits of her were scattered like confetti from a forgotten wedding over two seconds of pavement.

Police hauled the drunken cowboy off to the clinker. I asked a fireman to set the bike up. When he got her onto the kickstand I thought, “Might as well see how bad it is.” I leaned over the seat, fumbled neutral out of a bent shifter with my left hand and hit the starter with my right. Purr. Sublime twin spark muscle and pride humming a sweet lullaby. I felt like Charlie Brown staring at his ugly, twisted Christmas tree. I smiled with sincere affection and chuckled to myself. A few gawkers filed past fire trucks and police lights. Someone in the crowd said to her friend, “What the hell’s he laughing at? Must be brain trauma.”

Little things like death dodging bring a fellow and his machine closer to one another. We made it. We took bullets…and we lived. Like a fool I wanted to swing my broken leg over the saddle and work this massacre out at home, but it was probably best that we went off to seek the help of our respective surgeons amidst a full siren and light show. Morphine, spinal blocks, and emergency surgery kept me in a rather murky place for a few days. (If you can, avoid the spinal block. You can’t feel anything in your lower half and none of your treasured equipment works reliably. This is a very no-shit deal.) When I made the switch to Hydrocodone I consulted our respective professionals.

A surgeon with sterile green rubber mitts pointing up to his face told me I should stop riding. “This makes two big hits, buddy. Third time’s a charm. Better quit while you’re ahead,” he barked from beneath an ugly synthetic mask that shielded emotion. I brushed his words aside. My first crash happened twenty years ago. Some stoner runs a red light and I’m down. The Honda CB 650 fell into a heap of plastic shards and pretzled alloys beneath me. I chalked that boo-boo up to inexperience. The doctor paused to stuff X-Ray images into a light board. “Don’t run your luck out. Now, as you can see we had to use eight screws in the tibia…” A ballpoint pen circled the breaks in my leg and the rotator cuff damage to my shoulder. I wondered if my bike’s surgeon was saying something similar. “BMW, this rider of yours has a curse. You should consider a new owner. Maybe a city boy that just wants to cruise the block.” A pause as grasy hands turn to the chart. “So, your front spokes are crooked as a congressman, but your lights and foot pegs have been replaced and are 100%.” He twirls an 8mm wrench end over end through optimistic fingers. “We’ll need new forks.” He pauses. “But, hell your engine and frame are plumb, level and straight.”

My bike took the brunt of a killing truck and we nursed each other back to health. We share stories and scars. I worry about her. Lovers do so. I reckon that’s why sleepless women call her names in the quiet night. It is why no scientist or soothsayer can explain what some guys think and feel about their ride.

Nasty Itch

I suffer a never ending search for fresh experience. I pour over Craigslist and Cycle Trader like some strung out addict looking for a fix. I want something to make my own. You name the website or newspaper, I’ve inspected it looking for winter projects, a summer of fun, or a little dream come true. I wish I had Jay Leno’s money… I’d have a fleet of machines. I love everything on two wheels. Harley knuckles are wonderful. Old Suzukis from the Nixon years whisper a beautiful sound. Valkyries never caught on and it’s a damn shame. Six cylinders atop two fat wheels is the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. A Bultaco is a precious piece of engineering. I love mini-bikes and big throaty Electraglides. I pray for the day when I rob a winter wheat barn of a Norton. Ducatis sing rubber-ripping opera better than Pavarotti. My buddy A-Train rides an Italian Moto Guzzi wonder that burbles torque like a tractor ready to plow fields low. The Flying Brick remains one of BMWs ugliest, big block road eaters and it’s a fast hammer few appreciate.

A sin wedges into many of the ads I read. Kind fellows claim their machine is “one of a kind.” And it’s a lie. They’ve ratcheted hundreds of dollars of aftermarket bits and pieces onto the fenders and believe there is no other like it. Mathew Crawford described these efforts in his book Shopclass as Soulcraft as Betty Crocker bikes. All the guy did was add an egg and then say, “Hey, look at this custom bike I built.” There is nothing on the machine some fella with a fat wallet can’t buy on Amazon or at the local dealer. The motorcycle, featuring bullet hole stickers and a pair of strobe lamps, is not unique. The guy didn’t spend hours and hours in his shop, greasy to the elbows, shouting horribly offensive language at a throttle linkage that just won’t line up. Adding options isn’t modifying or customizing…it’s shopping.

A few summers ago I stumbled on a Honda Express scooter from the early 70’s. Not my usual fare, but it was dang near trashed and dang near free, so I motored my old Chevy pick-up down to Moscow, Idaho and relieved a hard drinkin’ frat boy of his dirty burden. I left it lonely in the corner of my shop though August and September. Somewhere along Halloween, I heaved it onto a bench and stripped it to the bone. It took most of the days to Christmas to get the little filly tip-top. I took my time with bright yellow paint, and detailed the 50cc motor (the cutest little thing you ever saw) back to hep-cat sexy. My three year old little boy asked if the tiny bike was for him. “Uh, well, uh, no.”

Embarrassing to love 50cc’s. But it’s my little boy…and like all daddy’s, little boy’s “why not?” hurt me. I shelled out handful of 20’s for rolled steel and fabricated a side car. One of kind. I matched the bike’s paint and curve. I hand-painted a big number 2 on the hood and swept “Crew Chief” above the wheel in black. The little guy loved it. He held hands high as we screamed through the million dollar neighborhoods of Coeur d’Alene at fifteen miles an hour spewing blue two stroke smoke. A pleasure few know.

It was, indeed, a one of a kind set-up. And we really enjoyed it until some bastard stole the scooter. The idiot was in such a hurry, he busted the sidecar off and left it behind. It was sad, but I didn't cry too much since the project was 90% complete and I was ready to move on.

Sometimes project bikes appear without warning. All the years before my voice cracked and ladies and beer became important things, my Old Man rode a ’78 Gold Wing. The Wings of the late 70’s were in many ways ahead of their time. They were incredibly powerful at 1000 cc’s. Big windshields, cozy platforms instead of pegs, and the same trunk space as a Buick were not completely new ideas, but it was certainly innovative in the design and practicality. They were the first bikes designed for America’s ever expanding Interstate highway system. Shaft drive gave a smooth, maintenance free ride. No greasy chain stretching out of whack every few thousand miles. The whole point was comfort and dependability. This was proven by Emelio Scotto who rode a Wing around the world. In his book, The Longest Ride, he catalogues 500,000 miles looping through continents on a solo voyage. No support vehicles. No boxes of spare parts waiting at the next port. Just a crazy Argentinian on a very trustworthy machine.

In youth, the Old Man boiled gasoline through synchronized carbs to toss me into the queen seat and rock me hard against a top trunk. His Wing was sleek black with delicate gold curls and more chrome than a ’57 Eldorado. He tapped the ports, and bored her one-over ‘till torque wedged my eight year old butt into vinyl like a jackhammer. She was Bandit’s Pontiac Firebird on two wheels. I remember my gut sinking ass deep behind 1000 CCs wrenched to better beauty in the Old Man’s barn and Daddy’s head crouched low over handlebars as we ate miles together. He taught me the witches brew of oxygen and fuel. He pointed thick forearms to stubborn bolts. He tapped screwdrivers on a workbench to the rhythm of four. The Old Man was my hero and we were Supermen flying red capes above raised white letter tires passed fields and streams. He called his machine the Black Itch. “Sometimes you just get the itch, little boy. And if ya’ don’t scratch it, it’ll eat ya’ll up.” The Old Man knew a thing or two bikes wanting road and life.

I inherited the Old Man’s Wing a handful of years ago. He gave it to me out of the blue with a father’s caveat: “Give her a new life, little boy.” He hadn’t ridden for years and the machine showed it. Grassy grey mildew wrapped a blanket of ugly over the cowling. Bird shit covered seat and grips. Rubber pegs dripped memories. Break fluid thick as glue. Aluminum, corroded dark, showed no life. The Old Man, always confident, hit the starter, and I’ll be damned, the old bitch started up, caughing and sputtering like a mare full of distemper. A beautiful four piston belch of old smoke I will never forget. She wheezed old smoke until the cylinders clattered and hummed to a rusty muffler lullaby. We pushed her onto a trailer and I lugged her old 800 pound ass home. Love a big girl.

For him, I waited until I could do it right. When money came, I went to work with the deft hands of a surgeon. I took her down to DNA. I hugged the motor heavy off the frame. I don’t have a bike lift, so this was gut-busting business. I polished each tiny piece to a mirror. I stripped all the badges and gave the cowlings race car paint. For two days I worked voodoo with long plieers on a shaft drive. I spent money on tires and tailpipes. Watching YouTube became a breakfast tradition. “So that’s how that damn clutch cable runs!” I spent a summer’s wages on fork seals, fuses, Go-Jo Orange, two-stage paint, brake pads, Japanese screws, Japanese rings, Japanese cables. American muscle and want messaged the old girl to beauty. Daddy wanted something new, so I stripped her naked and dressed the old girl fit as a fiddle. I cut the seat low and stitched leather skin tight. I left old bags on the shop floor. I sold Vetter’s wind jammer (cassette stereo included) on E-Bay to buy a tank from Bent Bikes in Seattle. I gave the tank gold paint. Bye bye high rise bars, hello tight road-hugging cafe racer. I burnished hours of care away like I had too many to spare. I worked my ass off to make him proud.

Spring came and it was time to fire the wires. There is nothing so hypnotic as the sound of a machine you’ve made young. The burl of four cylinders in perfect harmony is sublime. A darkened shop hid her true colors. Under Idaho’s perfect sunshine she gleamed. Every cubic inch a siren to Odysseus, calling the Athenian near to trap him in beauty. Each moment of sound a cry to Janice Joplin’s epic pipes. I felt the Black Itch.

This ’78 is unique. Because of the Old Man’s hunger for torque, it gets a whopping 25 miles per gallon and melts rear tires like summer ice cream. Stripped to her undies, few bikers even recognize make or model. When people realize what the beastie is, the reaction is always, “well, I’ll be damned.” She polarizes purists and cafe racers. I wrenched the best out of the original drive train, but swept old looks away like yesterday’s girlfriend. What was an opus to wide interstate is now down and dirty dirge light to light.

Don’t be fooled by “one of a kind” ads and don’t become a Betty Crocker baker. Learn to work voodoo with long pliers. You don’t need a full set of high end Snap-On tools or a fancy shop. Get off your ass and get dirty. Show a little gumption. You’ll feel better for it. Sure it helps if you’ve got someone to build for, a father, a son, or maybe a beautiful woman, but creating something for yourself is just as rewarding. The more originality you bless your project with, the more you’ll give yourself a nasty Itch you’ll love to scratch. One of a kind is what you bring alive from nothing. The Itch is a sleepless urge to be with the naughty beastie. Do yourself a favor… Play until you get the Itch. Then give her a good scratch.

Pornography and Throttle Grip

It’s an early summer day around noon when I ease into Golden, BC for a sandwich, a beer and thirty minutes off the bike. The sun shines and warms the world. A light breeze wafts the delightful sensual savor of someone’s backyard barbeque into me. Little buckaroos dressed in the bright colors of the season crowd a park to swing, skip and play as I roll by. I coast to a stop at an intersection and glance around for fuel. And that’s when I see the sexiest vision ever placed on this beautiful earth.

She glides to a stop in the turn lane to my left and from this moment I know I will never die of hypothermia. All I’ll ever need to do to stave off a chill is picture these perfect curves and my blood will boil like a teapot on a gas stove. In fact, I’m whistling now and can’t help it. It’s not a loud “howdy-do” sound; no, it’s more of an awe struck “holy-lord-almighty-why-haven’t-you-bought-a-Hero-camera” sound. All the wind is out of me and I just don’t care.

There is nothing so enticing or beautiful as a woman commanding a motorcycle. The act adds mystery, confirms grace and confidence, and lets all potential suitors know unequivocally he better bring his A-game because this delicate flower can kick his ass. Solo riding presumes she is available, daring, a risk taker. There is a devilish side to her personality. And certainly she has a sense of humor. Nobody takes a bug to the nose at 70 miles an hour without a sense of humor.

This tender Canadienne creature straddles a Suzuki Hayabusa. 1300 cc’s built to crush pavement. She’s polished her aluminum to a chrome-like gleam. It is Achilles’ armor, unblemished and magical. The lipstick red machine utters a low idle hum that vibrates my molars from ten feet away. I think, “quit staring, creep,” but my eyes have decided to cattle brand this pornography into my brain.

I’ve always been weak for lady riders, and thankfully it’s becoming more and more common as more and more women adopt bikes. Summers past, while enjoying a good cold Pabst at the Home Bar in Troy, Montana I watched a handful of young lovelies riding mud caked dirt bikes storm the bar. Wild fillies kicking clods of dark earth, circling, giggling, swearing, flashing silky manes, and dead-sexy hips over Suzuki seats. Tattered toes curled kickstands into the hearts of every poor gaping oaf lucky enough to be witness. They slipped gloves, helmets and armor off in slow motion geisha poetry. It was the best strip show I’ve ever seen and nary a naughty bit revealed. When they wiggled to the bar, I noticed I’d crushed my Blue Ribbon. Beer foam slopped over my knuckles drizzled to the floor like spent brass from a naughty Kalashnikov.

The diva in the turn lane wears pink leather gloves, but I know there’s a dab of grease under those nails. The Hayabusa is immaculate beyond what any clumsy, sausage fingered man is capable of. She’s taken responsibility for this machine. Her chin is high. Her shoulders square with pride. Oh, yeah… She can change oil and break a chain to just the right length. Her throttle grip is firm with authority. A single thick braid the color of want curls half way down her back. It’s clear this isn’t her once a month hobby.

Her bike is perfectly tuned. It is an awesome synergy of engineering and art. Every part and piece serve one purpose – unmerciful speed. I won’t lie, raging machines like the Hayabusa scare the hell out me. I hot lapped a Ninja around campus in college one time. One time. Then I went to the clinic for PTSD therapy and a handful of valium. It’s not that I dislike speed, I’ll burn up a Montana highway as zippy as the next guy. It’s the tendon ripping acceleration that makes me mumble excuses like, “I’d love to give yer crotch rocket a try but, this old football injury’s been actin up on me.”

True, beauty comes in many forms and is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Many, many wonderful beauties hug their lover from the queen seat. It is fair to assume a woman in the two up position is taken. She’s already met the man of her dreams even if he is a beer swilling ape on a Betty Crocker bike. A gentleman may admire her looks and charms, and offer a polite compliment, but the fun stops there. And if it doesn’t, you deserve the fat lip that ruins your karaoke career.

This little gal is not queen seat material. Indeed the angel in the turn lane next to me may have a wedding band under the glove on her clutch hand, but the fact that she’s out here alone indicates possibility, a ferocious enemy to humanity. Possibility is what brings fly fishermen to icy, finger-numbing waters at dawn. Possibility is what keeps gamblers pushing hands over felt tables far too long. It leads skiers out of bounds, loses hunters in the woods, and entices perfectly reasonable ranchers to buy llamas. Possibility wrapped in an Aerostitch jacket and a monstrously powerful engine pulsing between her knees buzzes away when the light blinks green. I let the clutch out too fast and stall my Beemer. I toe tap gears and thumb the starter. I clear my throat. It takes about ten seconds to get my shit together. Our Canadian brothers are a polite bunch, so no one embarrasses me with toots or tough language. I find first and roll along a few blocks to a pleasant little tavern. I leave my jacket and helmet on the bike and amble to the bar. The whole burger and a beer thing is ruined. When the barman asks what I’ll have, I grip the bar like an anemic vampire and answer with horse words, “Tequila. No fruit. No salt.”

That takes the edge off.

Americans are victims of a Puritan ancestry. When a man assumes the helm, nobody notices. We expect beer guts and beards on Harleys. We expect tattoos and tricepts on crotch rockets. We don’t expect breasts and braids. We don’t expect lashes and legs. But when fair belles show up, we notice. We notice and we fall in love like schoolboys. Amen.

Jealous I am Not

 

At seventeen my dad helped me buy a 1980 CB 650. The Burgundy colored bike sported a tall Windjammer and an ear blasting cassette / stereo. It looked a lot like the bike Prince rode in Purple Rain. For a seventeen year old guy in the mid-eighties that was just about as cool as it gets. I attended a small high school in rural Indiana and the CB 650 was the only bike in the lot except for the principal’s vintage Harley Panhead. I remember he always took the long way home along silo columned back roads. While I didn’t have his throaty pipes, I did have the socially acceptable privilege of a cheerleader adorning my two-up position. The CB 650 dolloped a big, sweet glob of cool onto my world, and I loved it.

Though I’ve owned a few other bikes and aged a few ticks of the clock, there is no person on earth cooler than a young guy on his steel horse, regardless of its pedigree or his. All the girls wanted a ride after school. All the dudes turned wishing eyes as I raced ninety cent gas into Japanese carbs. If you were ever a young guy with a bike, you know deep in a quiet place you don’t talk about that you’ll never have that cool again. No bike or jacket or good looking woman behind you can equal those first fears of speed or virgin fingers touching beautiful curves.

The sad fact is, you may have been Mr. Cool at sixteen, but you will never be Mr. Cool again. So forget it. And if you missed out, don’t fool yourself. There’s no way to start out at thirty or forty years old and be the coolest guy on the strip. It just ain’t gonna happen. Resign yourself to slow rides along grain-stripped winter fields. Heavy cool is reserved for the young, men and women alike. Old guys need not apply.

I straddle eight hundred summer miles to Sturgis. When I finally slip into town late in the afternoon I’m pretty proud of myself. Unwashed and road haggard, I reckon myself James Dean cool. I make the long trip through town west on Junction Street then over to the Full Throttle Saloon. I sit tall in the saddle. No need to rev an engine; I rode mine. Bugs and tar on my sunburned biceps tell everyone how tough I am. But am I cool? Hell no. I stop at one million stops of commercialized blasphemy behind some kid on a Ducati. (Sturgis, by the way, is about stopping, not riding. It’ll take you thirty minutes to get from downtown to the high school.) The kid has more meat on his back tire than I’ve laid on twenty years of pavement. Phat tire, sick bike, and DeCaprio hair along side make me look like a tepid bowl of oatmeal. No sugar. Little brother has cool locked up. I’m not even a tempting hors d’oeuvre. It takes the air out of me, man. I feel like an old bull with clipped horns.

Jealous I am not. I had my time. And bless me I made the most of it. As that red-rocket riding little shit speeds to the next stop thirty yards up, I smile with him. “Make the girls beg for it, partner,” is what I think. And I mean it. Sure a tiny piece of me hopes he stalls a tight engine or misses second gear and wags a stupid mug to a guffawing crowd, but a bigger part of me knows Cool when I see it and I’m inspired. This cocky lad whispers memory of 1985 and a CB 650 into me. Spike haired women humming RUSH lyrics with a trace of black lipstick mumbled against my ear. The Duccati kid gives me the precious rear view glimpse of speedy days and long, lusty evenings long forgotten.

I follow him with patience to the next light. I’ve had enough life for today and really only want beer and a comfortable chair. I ease in beside him, measure his ride and say with all sincerity, “Nice bike.” And it is. Engine, engine, engine, a splash of red for flavor, and road-ripping tires. Ducati doesn’t turn out lemons. The kid, maybe 22 or 25, glosses over my gravel ravaged GS without a snicker. He makes a quick nod then lifts sunglasses to the top of his head to give biker and ride another look. We’re ugly, I make no apology. “Rugged, dude. Fuckin’ rugged.”

A few hours and a number of beers later I watch that same lad stumble past our camp like a drunken comet entering the earth’s atmosphere. He splashes into his tent like spent nickel burned to talcum ash. I pop a fresh one, poke out my lower lip to its most plumpy limit and comment in my best Thurston Howell accent, “Mark Spitz, I presume.” I toast the toasted fellow. I return to the party, hold my share of both whiskey and women, enjoy a restful night and rise early enough to relish a hot shower.

The next morning a few of us chase breakfast eggs with red beers. We tour Deadwood, the Needles road, and witness dead presidents etched in rock. We return just at cocktail hour to find Mr. Cool slurping a luke-warm cup o’noodles. He hasn’t moved more than ten feet from the previous night’s splashdown.

Our party decides to move into to town and check out Knuckles Saloon and other famed Sturgis haunts. In each I find more invented for the day contrivances. Mind you, they’re pleasant, fleshy distraction. But it isn’t long before I want more. I switch to water and let myself mellow until about midnight when I make my way back to camp and my bike. I nurse a brier of my favorite tobacco another little while then slip onto my bike and away with patient hum into darkness, west, away from town and any need for Cool. I do not remember the names of the moon drenched county roads I travel. I never feel lost, or cold in the night air. Rolling under the stars with only the subtle tach and speedo lamps moving with me, life is perfect. I hum beside a moon cooled broken yellow line until twilight ushers me back to camp. Beautiful.

I sleep a little when I hit the sack, but mostly I think about stop and go through town and the night’s sublime ride and long gone bikes and long gone days. I think about a high school parking lot with a big Panhead in the front row and a pimp Honda in the back.

Cool is a time and a place and a young guy ready to make it complete. Handsome or homely, it doesn’t matter. Cool has nothing to do with wisdom or how deft a mechanic you are. The make or flavor of your metal horse makes no difference. Cool is the moment, temporal and finite. Relish it when you have it. Eat that moment like rare steak, bloody and delicious, because it won’t last and you can’t get that time back. And, if you’re a fellow blessed in this moment, bump the break so whispering lips leave a taste of lipstick on your ear just before you hit third gear.

 

 

26

 


It's Not Fun: a collection of motorcycle philosophies

  • Author: Mathew Burgan
  • Published: 2015-10-26 20:50:08
  • Words: 7508
It's Not Fun: a collection of motorcycle philosophies It's Not Fun: a collection of motorcycle philosophies