Gravity Is a Bitch

Just because you can think something, doesn’t mean that you should say it.

In fact, there are entire hierarchies of thoughts whose vocalizations — the giving of objective reality through the medium of breath — are highly inadvisable.

I am not a superstitious man.

But the universe craves balance, and pride seems to lead directly to and be causally linked to every fall.

Consider the following thoughts, if you will.

“I can’t remember the last time my wife and I had a fight about something.”

“This motorcycle has never run better”.

“What could possibly go wrong?”

“I can’t even remember the last time I fell off a bike.”

Each and every one of these ill-advised utterances assumes an abundance of good fortune which, frankly, based on my experience, you simply do not have.

 

***

 

Now fear not, because no motorcycles were harmed in the making of this story.

Which is good, because they were about the only thing that weren’t.

 

***

 

Sweet Doris From Baltimore and I have been more than passing busy lately, for a multitude of reasons. The most significant reason, though, has been her design and construction of an ultralight teardrop camper that is intended to be pulled behind her recumbent pedal trike. The trikedrop is engineered – through use of 1 x 2 framing and coroplast — a corrugated polyethylene product — to end up at a total mass of under 60 pounds, and to provide a sybaritic bicycle camping experience with comfortable, off the ground sleeping accommodations and some cargo and cooking capability for a cyclist seeking to cover long stretches of the C&O Canal bike path, which stretches from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown in the District of Columbia.

What is significant about the Trikedrop project is the spacial stress it has exerted upon Shamieh’s Shop facilities, which are now having to support three motorcycles, two campers, one bicycle and one recumbent trike, which are making things more than a tad cramped, and necessitating frequent rearrangements of things with wheels in order to get the work space and access required to move projects forward.

Two Teardrops, One S and a Nanticoke Nectar

It was on one of these projects that I found myself having to move Sweet Doris’ prized recumbent. I don’t get too much saddle time with it, so I tend to wax enthusiastic when the opportunity does arise. While moving it from the Shamieh Shop Storage Annex — ok, my shed — to the back of the pickup, I took the recumbent for a brief sprint down our suburban street.

Thee Evil TerraTrike Sportster, Which Apparently Hates Me

It bears mention that it had been my deep conviction that the TerraTrike Sportster was the most stable and good handling recumbent trike of the many I had test ridden. My mission profile for any trike was one that wasn’t going to tend to spit off Sweet Doris From Baltimore, because well, she’s my Sweet Doris. On the dead level test course available at the bike dealer, I had deliberately thrashed every single machine to see how many Gs it could pull in a corner, how easy/hard it was to pull a front wheel off the ground, and whether the bike had any tendency to stoppie or endo under hard braking. In every measure I had available, the Sportster had been dead stable and theoretically uncrashable.

Had been.

After a few strong strokes and an upshift or two the trike and I were carrying a little speed down toward the end of the block and the cul-de-sac. As I got set up for the turn, I noticed my neighbor’s dog who was beginning to evince an interest in the low red speedy thing that was running at the edge of his lawn. Dogs, for motorcyclists and traditional bicyclists, are a hazard, but that hazard changes dramatically when one is piloting a recumbent, which places the pilot’s face at the exact same level as the dog’s. If a dog decides he wants to rip a recumbent rider’s face off, that dog has a straight, unimpeded shot at it.

To her credit, my neighbor Kim was pretty perceptive in detecting that condition and getting the dog moving smartly back into the house. With maybe three and a half seconds of total distraction wrapped up, as the sound of the slamming screen door reached me, I set up for the U-turn in the gently sloped cul-de-sac.

Motorcycles that start to go bad – handling wise – or at least my motorcycles, do so in a way which telegraphs that the limits are being reached, and then do so in a way which is tractable and allows the rider to correct before certified bad things happen.

Maybe my distraction was a contributor, but it sure didn’t seem like that was what happened here.

I started my turn, began to lean in toward the inside wheel, sensed the inside wheel coming up, and then everything snaprolled putting me near instantly on my ass, sliding down the road as the Sportster cartwheeled, clanging noisily against the pavement.

Being as how trikes were clearly uncrashable, I was wearing none of the gear – no gloves, no helmet, nothing. It was a lucky accident I had some Keen work boots and canvas pants on.

I took the brunt of the impact on the heel of my outstretched right hand, although the next day it was clear that I’d hit my right hip and shoulder as well. My right workboot now has some gnarly road rash patina to it as well.

As all of the formerly kinetic elements came to rest, with me on my back on the pavement, surrounded by the former contents of the trike’s rack bag, contemplating the blueness of the spring sky, all I could think was “How the feck did this happen — these things are supposed to be uncrashable……”

I sat up slowly and did the inventory all of us unfortunately know all too well — checking for broken bits, blood and parts of myself hanging off — not wanting to jump up overconfidently only to discover that I’d have been way better off sitting down.

I passed the inspection and slowly rose to my feet — becoming slowly aware of just how pulverized my right hand was.

I had a business trip the next day that had me planning to ride my K-Bike to Charlotte, NC., over four hundred miles distant. A hand in this kind of shape was going to make that somewhat more challenging. Thank Bosch for cruise control and the Two Johnsons for Ibuprofen.

I became aware of neighbor Kim headed back down her lawn in my direction.

“Are you all riiight? Are you hurt?”

“Thanks Kim — I think most of the damage is to my pride.”

“Thass ’cause you’re a speed demon…Glad you’re Okay….”

I spent a few minutes shaking and flexing my hand, then flipped the trike back onto its wheels and gathered up the contents of the top bag and buttoned things back up.

More than somewhat chagrined, I headed back up to the street towards my garage. Because Sweet Doris was deeply engaged in Kreg jigging, gluing and screwing camper bits, he hadn’t really noticed that I was a little overdue on my return.

“Oh, hey hun…where ya been?”

“Oh, I’ve just been crashing my brains out on your bike….”

“Oh NO!…. Did you hurt……MY BIKE?”

There are a lot of reasons why Sweet Doris and I have been together thirty years. Somewhere further down the list of her virtues is that she shares my biker perspective on the universe.

How many time have you seen someone dump a motorcycle, or been that guy that dumps a motorcycle, and the following little drama plays out.

“Holy cow, man, are you all right?

“Yeah, I’m fine (dragging obviously broken leg) but …LOOK AT My BIIIIKE…”

Heck, early in my riding days, I had a left turning motorist remove my motorcycle from underneath me, forcing me to jump his car. After walking back up the road from where I completed my Superman impression, I was that guy.

“Did you hurt……MY BIKE?””

That’s my girl.

The Greatest Show On Earth

its probably
good for you
to have a brush with death
every once in a while
these white hot flashes
of mortality
serve to clarify the mind

its not
why i ride motorcycles
but riders
accept
that these things happen
sliding tires
you gather up
no one the wiser
how near a thing that was

after surviving
your vision sharpened
everything shining
a new focus
on what counts
learning to ignore
anything that doesn’t propel one forward

the thing about death
is that it just doesn’t manage very well
showing up from random places
at random times
and usually not
while doing the things
conventional thinking
would accept should kill you

so you can ride the wall of death
everynight my friend
you can smoke camels
drink jack
wrangle the big cats like Gunter
or be shot out of a cannon
like The Human Cannonball

none of the things
that should kill you will kill you
there’s way more than a million ways
to be struck or missed by the lightning

i know that you want
gunpowder
explosions
lurid twisting orange fireballs
of exploding hightest gasoline
what you get though
is blue light
a dark spot on your arm
and a silent doctor
with a concerned look
on his face

 

***

 

I’ve got to tell you, I get the worst PMS.

I can tell from that look on your face that you have no freaking idea what I mean.

PMS, or Parked Motorcycle Syndrome, is a debilitating condition. PMS leaves sufferers irritable, depressed, and prone to seemingly impossible extremes of emotional volatility.

And so it is with me, too.

After two days or so, I’m nervous. Jumpy.

I make these inexplicable spasmodic rolling motions with my right hand and wrist.

After about five days, I can be observed sitting rocking in the center of the rug in my den, quietly making little motor noises with my lips and tongue.

After about 7 days, I am reduced to staring out the window, insterspersed with brief spasmodic weeping.

After about ten days, I’m queing up to be fitted for that nicely tailored snug natural canvas sportsjacket with the arms that tie together in the back.

It had been thirteen days since I had ridden a motorcycle.

 

***

 

The fact that my lay up was a result of Doctor’s orders wasn’t making it any easier.

In fact, it was making it particularly harder.

A trip to my Dermatologist to have a bad looking spot on the back of my upper right arm examined had resulted in a nearly immediate return for some outpatient surgery.

As a full-blooded American — which is to say a 50% Irish Catholic, 25% Christian Arab and 25% Polish Jew (although there could be more stuff in there for all I know) — my fair skin is prone to hocking up all sorts of bumps and oddballs. Squamous cells, Basal Cells — a Carcinoma or two.

Considering none of my outside has ever seen the sun-containing world outside an Aerostich suit, this is puzzling, but nonetheless true.

I ought to qualify for some sort of high volume scrape ’em and 4 suture club discount.

All of these things are a tad annoying, but 98.8% harmless.

This wasn’t one of those.

This was why we needed some fast lab work, and a post haste return visit.

After spending 90 minutes making surgery can-we-please-talk-about-something-else-smalltalk with my Doctor which was supposed to be 30, a much bandaged and still more sutured me was toweled off, propped up, and sent home with the instructions “not to lift anything heavy for 4 or 5 days”.

In my slightly stress-goofy state, I remember thinking “Well, I guess that rules my K1200LT right out.”

 

***

 

My first notion that something was amiss came after the local anethetic had worn mostly off, and a nice beer seemed like something that might have therapeutic uses.

I decanted a Nanticoke Nectar, leaned down to enjoy the fresh hop bouquet, and then took the glass into my right hand. Everything was preceeding swimmingly until the glass — moving delightfully in widescreen slow motion — got about 6 inches from my achingly thirsty lips. As the glass got closer and closer, it moved with increasing resistance, running into the new limits of my arm’s flexibility, which apparently contained a great deal less arm than it had this morning.

Friends I’d spoken with about the the diagnosis and precedure had warned me about this. The protocol involves being very conservative, and that translates to removing a fair amount of additional tissue.

I muttered a favorite oath — one I suspected would get a good throttle stretching run over the next three weeks or so — set the glass back on the counter, and resolved to learn to drink left handed.

 

***

 

So there I was, stuck on the couch, comtemplating my own mortality while snared in immobility.

It was pretty dark.

And I was going absolutely nuts.

For the first week or so I was too beat up to even consider escape. If we went out Sweet Doris from Baltimore was behind the wheel.

On or around day 5, I regained enough flexibility that I could split time between drinking left handed and drinking right handed.

Having discovered this, I immediately walked out to the garage, swung a leg over the Slash 5, and assumed the position.

Given that motorcycle’s almost custom fit to my body, it was heartening that I could sit astride the bike comfortably — there was no pain to rest a portion of my weight on my arms.

Then I tried the throttle.

This was going to take a while.

 

***

It wasn’t the last such trip I made to the the garage and to my Toaster Tank.

Progress was slow, but it was progress.

Day 13 after the surgery dawned sunny, cold and windy.

My arm, though, seemed like it could stand to be wound WFO without too much discomfort.

At lunchtime, I went back to the garage, and sat back on the Slash 5. I took a few tentative rolls of the throttle. No klaxons.

I walked over to the garage door, and gently raised it.

I rolled the bike forward off the stand, and then rolled it backwards into the open door, and gingerly placed it back onto the Reynolds Ride-Off stand.

It was go time.

I wandered back inside and gathered up a set of boots, my Duluth Trading Blacktop jacket — notable because of its built in fleece lining and lack of any armor — and a fresh surgical adhesive dressing and some of the prescription antibiotic ointment my doctor had provided.

I went into the studio where Sweet Doris from Baltimore was working a new painting.

“I’m going for a ride, Baby. Could you please put a dressing back on my arm?”

“I don’t think that’s….”

Folks that know me well know that I never get like that.

This one time, I got like that. Sue me.

 

***

 

Out in the driveway, I snapped the collar of my jacket shut and pulled on my gloves. I swung a leg over, opened the left fuel petcock, and pushed in the ignition pin. Having sat for a while, the boxer swung through two or three more compression strokes than was customary before the engine fired. I swing the choke off before it was smart to do so, and had to repeat the drill. Afer 15 seconds or so, the engine was taking throttle, and assumed its steady near-human heartbeat of an idle.

I pushed off down the driveway, toed the gearbox down into first, and banked left up the street.

Motion!

I took the long way around the neighborhood — gently rolling the bike left and right — a baby-step version of the racer’s tire warming manouvre — checking to make sure I could position the bike without running into the lowered limits of my flexibility and strength. Thanks to boxer balance, what little I had was enough.

At The Jefferson Pike, I made the right down towards The Brookside Inn, and deliberately thockked the old girl up through the gears until I shifted into fourth.

With temperature in the low 40s, the sun was shining bright in a clear sky, the wind blowing hard, this old school ride — no windshield, no heated grips, and just a set of elkskin gloves — was letting me experience the day with an unparalleled vividness.

It was bright. It was cold. It was great.

Never has such an old slow motorcycle made me feel so alive.

 

***

 

As much as I didn’t want to overdo it, I didn’t want to stop, either.

After a brief run up The Pike, I made the right up St. Marks Road. St. Marks leads down into The Bottoms — I just wanted to just be alone next to the creek, feeling the wheels working underneath me and being kissed by the broken sunlight coming through the trees. Where the road comes down to Catoctin Creek, it follows the streambed closely, making a series of gentle lefts and rights, with the ancient road surface providing endless contours for the suspension to follow.

After a long time as a wallflower, it felt oh so good to be dancing again.

St. Marks has a medium long straight, and feeling good, I gassed it.

I wasn’t the only one that was feeling good, apparently.

Old boxers love cold dense air, and 50 horsepower never felt so powerful. The Toaster’s sleeper motor — with its big bore kit and small valves — was right in the sweet spot, and it hit with everything it had.

I didn’t need an action cam to know about the smile in my helmet.

At the creek sits an old iron framed one lane bridge. I got up on the pegs and gassed it again — getting just a little air as I left the bridge deck.

Away from the creek St. Marks climbs steeply. The sightlines are restrictive and the road twists, snakelike, as it rises up the hill. I gassed it again and was pleasantly surprised as the front wheel lightened up and lightly skimmed the pavement over 60 or 70 feet.

Slash 5 power wheelies don’t happen very often, but today was clearly a special day.

I might hurt later, but right now that front wheel wasn’t the only thing that got lifted.

 

***

 

Back in the driveway, I remarked that my gear removal speeds had recorded better split times.

Then again, today wasn’t about speed, it was more about simple existance.

My Toaster is clearly a motorcycle that gets used. Its got dirt. And gear oil. And mud. It hasn’t got any ‘pretty’.

Today, though, it was a thing of beauty.

I grabbed my phone out of the phone holster that is built in to my favorite brand of cargo pants to check for messages. I had a voice mail.

“Hmmmmnnnnnnnnnn.”

“Mr. Shamieh? This is Jennie down at Dr. Han’s office. Just wanted you to know that the biopsies and labs came back, and they’re all clean. You have nothing to worry about. Call if you have any questions. ”

Seemed like a pretty good time to reacquaint myself with drinking beer right handed.

For No Good Reason

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If you’re like me, you’ve gotta have a reason.

It doesn’t have to be a good reason — it can even be a lame, no-good, pitifully transparent reason.

It can start with the simple — “We’re outta milk — I gotta go up to the market to get some…” — but the list of things you can run out of is effectively endless.

Money. Stamps. Ice cream and chips. Beer. Maybe beer again. Auto parts. A quart of oil.

You don’t feel like cooking and you need a taco, or a sandwich.

The ones that appear compelling are running short.

Double A batteries. Number 10 1 inch long stainless steel wood screws. Flux capacitor shims.

Dilithium Crystals.

You gots to get a pack of Camel filters. From a tobacconists in Butte, Montana.

And you don’t even smoke.

Yeah, if you live with somebody, and you want to ride your motorcycle, it seems some form of a point of honor to have some form of logical and practical explanation for why you will ride your motorcycle.

It would seem far more emotionally and intellectually honest to just come out and admit that the only real reason is just because you want to and expect to enjoy riding your motorcycle, but humans are funny critters, sometimes.

So we dance around the truth, spend a lot of awkward and inappropriate time staring down at our shoes, and do everything possible to avoid talking about the important things that make us tick.

Yeah, humans are funny critters. Mosttimes.

 

***

 

So the notion of a motorcycle ride that requires no external justification — a thing that exists for no reason other than joy in the thing itself — seems like kind of a golden gift.

In in the newfound quiet of my house, that gift was exactly what I found.

Finn was newly split, in his place down near College Park.

Sweet Doris from Baltimore was consorting with hippies, protesting new and destructive proposed methods of petrochemical energy extraction, operating out of her little camper in Maryland’s Western Mountains of Garrett County.

The temperature had finally fallen — with our string of 100 plus degree feeling 90 plus degree days finally yielding to a far more moderate dry and breezy day in the low 80s. Humidity down, sun out, how could one want to do anything but ride?

 

***

 

So ride I did.

Some people set aside time in their day to go to the gym.

I do this.

I can think of nothing more restorative, more inner peace-producing.

So I grabbed my ventilated leathers — I’m noticing the cuffs of the jacket need moisturization lately from overexposure to salt — and my Shoei and gloves.

I rolled the S backwards out of the garage, swung a leg over, opened a fuel petcock, the choke, and gave this old boxer the finger.

After its recent tune-up-let the bike catches on the second compression stroke, and commences a solid idle, even as I roll off the enrichener.

I give a shove with my left leg, roll down the driveway, and toe the bike silently while rolling into gear. (Try shifting into first with a cold airhead when stationary and let me know how silent that method is.)

I bank the bike left into Brockton Drive, roll open the throttle, and head for the open road.

 

***

 

A lot of times, riding around the valley, a single car where it shouldn’t be — i.e. in front of you, daddio — can put paid to the flow and rhythm of an entire ride.

Today just didn’t feel like one of those days. My luck — with regard to the time of day I selected for this mini-vacation — seemed nearly perfect: too late for lunch and too early for commuters headed home from work. The roads seemed spookily empty on this late August afternoon — it seemed like I had the whole joint to myself.

I head straightaway for Lander Road. If you have an analog motorcycle, and are looking to see just how its feeling, on Lander the Doctor Is In. Lander is narrow, bumpy — sightlines are marginal to non-existent. There are a few positively hairball transitions. The throttle is always either opening or closing — the suspension is always moving at both ends of the bike — engine response and suspension compliance are being concurrently exercised and demonstrated.

This is probably a perfect road for a KTM 390 Duke. On a 1000cc sporting twin, it’s a matter of some delicacy and restraint.

If either the bike or the rider are even a tick off in such tight confines, it’s as easy to see as the ‘Goodyear’ on the side of that blimp, bro.

Today, though, no blimp, no message.

Everything was big boxer smooth sailing.

 

***

 

Coming back up to the highway, I made a full stop and scanned both left and right.

Desolation. Such a rare thing, a thing to be savored these days.

I ran the S deliberately up through the gears, spinning the big motor out through 6 grand of the bike’s 7K redline, me in the zone and focused hard on technique — being precise with the throttle and clutch and being rewarded with hammer on steel spike ringing thonking shifts. I reached top gear for the first time and promptly ran out of room — having to downshift back to fourth to engine brake through the signals and cross the Point of Rocks Bridge across the Potomac and into Virginia. Two more downshifts set us up for the sharp right bank onto Lovettsville Road, and the run up the river.

The high sunshine is filtered through the trees on this road, and the first 3 miles or so are well shaded, as one works sweeping lefts and rights as you climb away from the river. The rhythm of steep uphill lefts and rights encourage liberal use of throttle, and allow one to set the bike on the edges of its Michelins.

The intermediate section of Lovettsville Road cuts back and forth along old property lines — threading the edges of the old farms and estates. There are a few hilltop apexes that would be hard to read if it was your first time down this road.

As the road comes into Lovettsville there is a very, very long straight. It is the only legal passing zone and it is there I encounter the first and last 4-wheeled motorist of the day. My position, speed of approach and visibility are perfect — I line my soon to be ex-friend up, put on my turn signals, flash to pass and roll the throttle with no downshift and simply boost smoothly and safely past.

I bleed the speed off from the pass and then downshift to set up for the tight technical bang bang right left that carries the road onto the Main Street of town. My entry is perfect, I’m on the gas early and working the edge of the tires.

It never ceases to amaze me that such an old motorcycle can feel — both motor and cycle parts — so rigid and of a piece. It doesn’t make any sense that a featherbed knock-off made of steel pipes and this huge lump of alloy should feel and work so solidly, but it’s solid just the same.

I filter through the village, and make the right onto Berlin Pike. I’ve no contention or traffic at any of the Stops, and then we’re rolling back down the hill toward the river.

Professional bicycle races have been known design their courses around the next stretch of The Pike. One motorcycle run down this road and its easy to understand just why they did that. Some bicycle descents are narrow, technical. Loss of traction represents the ultimate hazard. The Pike, though, is different. The hill is steep, the highway is modern — with properly graded, wide, sweeping corners.

As a bicycle racer, this is a rare opportunity to descend as fast as one can in as safe an environment as one ever gets when one is flinging one’s ass down a macadam road at 70 miles an hour wearing little but stretchy underpants.

As a motorcycle rider, The Pike is like a moto-amusement park somebody built just for you. The only thing missing is a place to put your quarters in at the top of the ride so you could do it again and again and again.

So I take the ride.

Most days on The Pike I avail myself of the legal passing zone on the straight descent out of town but by now you know in your soul there is no one to pass.

So I find myself a comfy place with the revs up in 4th gear and give and take speed with the throttle — entrances off the brakes and engine braking and exits rolling back on the gas. The tires communicate clearly through the bars and through the seat.

Leaned well over and exiting a corner — hard on the gas — with my head sitting in the clean air above the bubble it’s as if time elastically rubberbands to an absolute stop.

This is the enlightening moment of the rider’s perfection.

 

***

 

After achieving moto-transcendance, going back to work is awful hard.

Stripping my armor off in the garage, I absorb the lines, sounds and smells of the Old Alloy Mistress — making the metallic sounds of giving back heat, seeping various lubricants tastefully and discreetly.

I remember, as a very young man, standing in the showroom of Baltimore’s Motor Sport Center, looking at what was then maybe a not quite 10 year old used R90S. My response to that spaceship of a motorcycle was a lot like it was to the Farrah Fawcett swimsuit poster that was everywhere back then — it might be fun to look at but there was just no way I was ever going to have either one.

Lately I spend more than my fair share of time thinking about how time seems to have gotten away from me in a way the front tire of my motorcycle never has. You wouldn’t think that time had a big-hairy-completetly-lose-the-front-end lurid slide that is going to decide for you what hard object you are going to hit in it, but time seems to be full of little physics tricks.

I have more than my fair share of blessings in my life, and a lot of other things to be so far thankful for that have nothing to do with motorcycles. But that aside, this timeline has me able to enjoy a motorcycle I never dreamed I’d have any time I want to whether I have reason to or not.

And what that motorcycle make me feel like — the bomber engine drone of flat twin exhaust, coming out of a corner pressed in place by the force of acceleration — is a joy that is its own reason.

Road Narrows

Sometimes you just gotta go slow.

I don’t know about you, but I do anyway.

My oldest offspring, Devin, is a ‘different drummer’ dude.

That’s cool.

Anyway, Devin showed up one day with a green rubber turtle on the dashboard of his Corolla.

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“What’s up with the turtle?” I asked.

“People got all kinds of bad attitudes out on the highway, man.

I want to BE the turtle. I’m not in a hurry, man.”

My boy may live a long life or a short one, but I know he won’t go by hitting somebody else with his car.

So now every time I reach for the throttle or punch a pedal in what might be anger, I try to BE the turtle.

The turtle has changed my life.

 

***

 

Its been unspeakably hot and unbearably humid the last little while, in that wonderful way for which the Baltimore-DC area is justifiably famous.

Walk to the mailbox come back soaking wet, what the hell is this New Orleans or somethin’ stinking hot.

Its been spooky quiet too, ’cause every other citizen of Maryland ‘cept me is is in Ocean City on vacation spooky.

Saturday, I mowed half my lawn, cause it was too damn hot to mow it all.

After getting myself thoroughly heated up, there’s one way to cool down that works better than anything else.

Air moving all over my body dries me out much better than heading inside an air conditioned room.

So I powered up my boxer motor powered ventilation pal, and headed for the coolest, shadiest place I know.

 

***

 

My old Toaster Tank /5 is my only naked, unfaired motorcycle. For hot weather duty its really the only choice.

It also has the original 750 cc small valve heads, grafted on to the top of a 900 cc bottom end, so it has remarkable — winning rally slow races riding two up tractoring along with my hand off the throttle — low speed manners.

Perfect.

So I rolled down Harley Road, then headed for Bennies Hill.

In BEING the turtle, I somehow felt inspired to be IN my environment, instead of trying to sonic boom shatter my way through it.

My field of vision widened. I was seeing things I usually would not see.

I suspect that lots of folks that cover distance offroad get into this meditative space — seeing all of the path ahead stretched to a full 360 view.

The universe presented me with a sign.

 

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I found this funny. In my wider view the road was indeed narrowing.

Then the universe had another sign.

 

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The turtle found the 5 mph warning even funnier. Maybe the turtle was a little loopy from dehydration.

How many of you have 5 mph warnings on the roads you ride?

I telescoped my view back out to the wide angle, drinking in the warning in the middle of that beautiful ridgeline.

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I dropped across the bridge and down onto the unpaved section that runs along the creek.

I came upon three road bicyclists — which was kinda unusual because drop bar and slick tire pedaling types would usually avoid this kind of surface — who all passed by on the single laner close enough to exchange pleasantries.

I announced myself, sticking to the same courtesy I try to promote when I’m on the C&O Canal towpath on my bicycle.

“Passing Left!”

“Oh, hi!”

“Thanks for announcing yourself — didn’t hear your bike…”

“Nice ride!”

I pulled off from the wheelpersons, and got zoned out in the sticky greenness of it all. I turtled back to Siegler Road, where I tractored down into the stream and out the other side, enjoying the breezy slowness of it all.

As I rolled back on to good pavement I stayed down a gear and down a lot of throttle from my normal approach to these secondary highways. I was just really cooling off from my exertion and so resolved to take the long way home — turning down towards the Potomac instead of back the draw towards Jefferson.

I couldn’t get over the post-apocalyptic emptiness of the roads. In rush hour these rural roads are sometimes congested, but today I was by myself, which was another reason to slow down and be here now.

The hills leading down to the Potomac are thankfully still forested.

The view of the dark shaded ribbon of double yellow-striped tar macadam dropping down the deep green forested hillside was mesmerizing.

My turtlevision went full widescreen. Time slowed to a stop.

And that’s probably why I saw the bear.

Black bears hereabouts are not unknown.

But this was the first time I seen one in Maryland while I was on the road.

He was a rangy teen-ager — all legs flailing and skinny — and he appeared running through the woods well off to my left.

Seeing no cars ahead of me and no cars behind me, I just rolled off the throttle and enjoyed the unexpected show.

Bear boy had a destination in mind. His uneven lope carried him down the hill through the woods — if he’d been an engine, he’d have been a triple — across the road in front of me — paying me no heed whatsoever — and back up the hill on the other side, through the trees and right out of sight.

I gave a LooneyTunes cartoon shake of amazement — with appropriate mental sound effects — of my helmeted head.

“A bear.”

I turned the toaster for home. For a hot slow afternoon, I’d have a story to tell.

Awright. Now Listen Up.

Rolling Physics Problem is a strange combination.

While the superfical intent is to be about the Rolling Phyics Problem that is artful motorcycling, as often as not it is also about the literary art. The writer looks to create and share works that have meaning — meaning which can result from putting together experiences that appear not to be related, but by putting them together, they somehow become that way.

Synchronicity.

It sounds like a word from physics but its actually a word from the scientists of the mind.

A state of meaningful coincidences that do not appear to be related. The psychologists that beleive that this is a thing also believe that there is the slightest possibility that these meaningful coincidences occur because we humans have caused them to be associated by thinking about them together.

That we think about things and cause them to happen.

Heavy.

 

***

 

And that things could be happening beacuse we are thinking about them is why I have to make this Public Service Announcement.

Because last week a very strange and unique thing happened to me out of the blue.

Then that selfsame strange — by defintion rare — thing happened a second time in fairly rapid succession.

And it made me wonder whether this thing was a cause, or more wierdly an effect.

And it freaked me out.

 

***

 

It’s an easy enough tale to tell.

A reader reached out to me, to tell me how much he enjoyed my writing, and how since he was going to be laid up for a while, it was great that he now had the time to read it all.

Because he had crashed his bike, and was mending broken bones.

“Shit,” I said, “I sure hope people don’t make a habit of that.”

You can probably tell where this is going.

Whereupon they promptly did.

Not 18 hours had elapsed, before another reader reached out to me, to tell me how much he enjoyed my writing, and how since he was going to be laid up for a while, it was great that he now had the time to read it all.

Because he had crashed his bike, and was mending broken bones.

“Sure,” you say, “having the exact same interaction with crashing bikers isn’t so unusual in this crowd.”

But think about it for a while, and tell me if it happened to you twice in less than 24 hours it wouldn’t get the least bit spooky on you.

 

***

 

So listen up.

I am absolutely not singling out my two readers for any kind of negativity whatsoever. They’ve had some awful luck and I wish them fast healing and shiny new motorcycles.

But the rest of you lot need to knock this crashing stuff the eff off post-haste, full stop.

Rolling Physics Problem is not now, and never has been, an inducment to bend or break the laws of physics.

In fact quite the opposite.

I don’t want to even contemplate that by thinking about the possbility that these stories are some form of causative crashing vortex, that they actually could be.

The links between the actions of the mind and the world around us are much contemplated, with little known.

I’ll think good thoughts.

You ride a good ride.

Old School Touring

Getting from here to there on a motorcycle sure didn’t start with your brand new WunderWasserBoxer, FJR, Concours14 or Gold Wing. Push button adjusting, electronic dynamic active suspensions, 5 mode power control, hill start control, speed shifters and leaning anti-lock braking might be impressive, but they sure are not core to the motorcycle travel experience.

So what is core to the motorcycle travel experience?

Its pretty basic, really.

A motor. Preferably one that starts every time you give it the boot or the finger. It should have been doing this consistently and reliably over a long timeline.

It should have a cylinder. Or maybe even two.

That motor should have a sweet spot somewhere in its RPM range where it seems at ease.

It doesn’t really matter whether this happens at a road speed of 50 miles per hour or 150 miles per hour, so long as it has one.

It needs two wheels, a place to sit your ass, and a handle to hang on to.

That’s it.

(Ok, you Ural Guys get get an extra wheel, if that’s how you roll.)

If Robert Fulton could carry enough go around the world and cross the Sahara in 1932 on a 350cc Douglas, and today Ed March can through travel places like Tibet and Iran on a Honda C90 (Ed probably has more power – scary thought), you are going to have a tough time convincing me you need more.

Want maybe. But not need.

But what about the aluminum expedition cases, you will ask? The crash bars, the giraffe rammers and jerry cans. The Cibie desert lamps?

Shameless vanity, needless mass and unnecessary complexity. Things that will weigh you down, make you less able to ride through poor conditions and things that will break.

If the entire ‘touring continuum’ has Ed’s C90 at 0 and a brand new R1200GSA at 1, the loci of what you need to motorcycle tour is a lot closer to 0 than it is to 1.

 

***

 

I’ve been having this kind of conversation lately with Finn.

“You can’t tour on a 500 cc single, Pop.”

“Sure ya can. You just have to tour slower. You just have to ride where its happy.”

I tell him about Pirsig’s CB77 — all 350 ccs of it.

I tell him about all the people I ran into out on the road in the early 80s that were still crossing The American West on Honda and Kawaski 450s.

I’m grasping at ideas for a first Father and Son tour for the boy to get his touring feet wet, hopefully figuratively speaking.

An initial idea of the run to MidOhio for Vintage Days didn’t make the cut after uncomfortably high temperatures, Saturday rain and violent storms entered the weather picture.

I’m all for experience but ya gots to start slowly, eh? Keep something left in the bag for next time, you know?

So it was funny when the opportunity to drink my own Kool Aid was presented, I kinda jumped at the chance.

 

***

 

Sweet Doris from Baltimore and one of her teardrop camping trailer club buddies had departed midweek for an unimproved campground located in a Maryland State Park about 60 miles from Jefferson.

Me, I had to work, and so work I did.

But by the time the end of the post-July 4th holiday short week began to wrap up, I was seeing some signs that lots of other people I needed to drive work forward were going to be not working that day.

Catching up with the campers and camping some, too, seemed like a pretty good idea.

Now the weather had been sticky and hot to a dangerously uncomfortable degree.

Doris had called me to say that the circulating fan on our homebuilt camper had been being flaky and she couldn’t diagnose the trouble. She suggested if I came that I bring a 3 man Kelty tent we own as a contingency plan if it was just too stinking hot to sleep in the trailer.

“No prob,” quoth I, “all of that stuff will fit.”

Now it should be stated for the record that I own a touring motorcycle — a big beast of a Flying Brick motored full dress full mass touring motorcycle.

But the idea of making a one hour ride on a stinking hot day behind that full fairing felt like hammering in nails with 500 pound bombs.

Sure, you can do it, but was it really the right tool for the job?

I wanted to feel the wind on me, feel the motor throb, feel the rush of acceleration, and also wanted something that wouldn’t feel like wrestling the entire Chicago Bears when I hit the several miles of dirt roads that lead to the remote campground.

I’d been planning to take the R90S to Ohio. I’ve scores to settle, as I ridden the bike to Ohio twice and arrived home riding it exactly nonce.

Big Pool wasn’t exactly Ohio, but it was a chance to test the theory.

 

***

 

So I put myself back in the mind of my earliest motorcycle travels.

I went looking for my trusty WalMart duffle bag. I found the nail in the garage where the elastic bungies were hung. I got my old folding rally chair — very small and lightweight — and went to the bottom drawer of my chest where I’ve got a bunch of old Jeans belts that are too wide to use.

Those belts, now that I consider it, are likely perfectly comtemporary for my bike.

I put my air matress and the tent into the duffle bag. I threw in a fresh T-shirt, a pair of socks and a pair of clear underweat for good measure. I used the belts to fasten my chair to the top of the duffle.

Five short minutes and three long bungies later the whole roll was firmly secured to my passenger saddle.

Into one case I placed a soft sided cooler, which contained a lot of ice I was sure I was going to need, and a few cans of suemmery beers — Union Craft Old Pro, anyone? — at least one of which I was also sure I was going to need. Beers 2-6 were strictly optional, but I do like to be prepared.

The other bag took 3 more quarts of ice water in an insulated jug — it was 96 at ride time — and my normal 24 oz water bottle. I threw in my air bed inflator, a set of technical sandals — which, being an adoptive Baltimore guy, I must wear with socks — and a Flying Dog ball cap, because, well, I’m increasingly cranially reflective and aerodynamic, and sunburned scalp sucks.

I found an old fanny pack I bought for my first ride to the Pocono Cycle Jam, and since my ventilated summer gear is a tad pocket challenged when compared to a ‘Stich, loaded my wallet, phone and home keys in there with some Ginger hard candies I like when I ride.

I rolled the bike to the driveway, pulled down the door and geared up.

I was happly to discover I could still swing my leg over the duffle. The alternative could have been less than graceful.

The R90S engine boomed to life and in the heat, immediately took throttle without needing any choke. I rolled down the driveway, toed the bike into first, gassed it and banked left for the highway.

 

***

 

It took about 5 seconds to figure out that the R90’s default rear spring preload setting — selected more for ride height and front end rake than for compliance — had been a tad oversprung.

But with some serious additional mass on board — water, ice and oat soda are plenty heavy — the bike was sitting far more level on the road, and felt a great deal more planted. As I headed up Maryland 180 towards Holter Road, I rolled the bike rapidly left and right, like racers on their warm up lap, just to make sure the heavy load hadn’t in any way compromised stability or maneuverability.

It hadn’t.

Holter Road leads up through the Valley to Middletown, and features as many S-friendly corners as you can stuff into 6 miles. I had quickly been able to find and slide into complete focus, and as I left Jefferson and headed north in The Valley, I was surrounded by the roar of the S’s intakes, the thunder of the exhaust’s echos coming back from the ridgeline to the right of the road, and the steady Thock-Thock-Thocks of my preloaded and perfect shifts banghome up through the gearbox. When you get to Middletown and pick up Maryland 17, the game repeats, with a ribbon of winding back to back 90s, hills and grades.

It was just a lovely green dance at the end of a ferociously hot day — rolling off the throttle on entries and on again for the exits with nary a touch of brake. For a very old motorcycle the S felt willing — eager to turn, rock solid and planted.

From 17 I swept right onto Harmony Road, which chases through a farm bottom and follows Little Catoctin Creek west to US 40, The National Pike. If they’d built another corner and a way back to where it started they could have had a nice racetrack here. Careful, those inviting looking corners are actually decreasing radius ones — its trickier than it first looks. Even loaded up the S felt comfortable leaned way over — there was good heat in the tires and no tar snakes today.

I headed west on 40 — cut into huge grades where the road crosses the Appalachian Trail. With my speed slightly up my ventilated gear was flowing good air — it felt relaxing, comfortable — where the forcast said it shouldn’t be. After a few brief blasts of throttle over these giant grades I came back down to Hagerstown and the new National Pike, Interstate 70.

 

***

 

Now if you’ve been really paying attention, you’re gonna say, “Wait a minute. That ain’t no 350 Douglas your ass be sittin’ on. No 305 SuperHawk, no C90 Adventure. That be purebred big bore aero engine power.”

And you’d be right.

But that ain’t the point and here’s how you know.

I’d already covered about 25 miles from the house and hadn’t seen top gear yet.

The ramp onto the Interstate is a place to check the rotation available from one’s right wrist.

On the old airhead the movement required is pretty large, and on the S’s Del’ortos works against pretty good springs.

But if you are practiced, focused and deliberate, the run up through the gears is thrill after thrill, the chassis rising as each gear thocks home and the throttle is wound on. After entering the highway, and working through three lanes of traffic to the leftmost lane, came that last shift up to 5th speed. I loaded the shifter and banged it into top.

Most time, that shift is workmanlike. Today it was textbook perfect.

I sat up straight, closed my Shoei’s visor, and got my head above the blast from the S fairing and into clean air.

The tach showed 4750 rpm — its needle just a degree to the right of pointing straight ahead. The speedometer read about 77 mph — its needle just a degree to the right of pointing straight ahead, dead parallel to the needle on the tach.

This strange confluence don’t seem like a coincidence to me.

It looked like if you’d put just the mildest countersteer into the throttleside bar, that you’d have taken off in that direction and just kept on that way till you ran out gas.

Welcome to that aformentioned sweet spot.

I recognized this place.

This was the bike I commuted from Jefferson to Boston on for a few months one summer. Out on Sunday afternoon — back on Friday.

Me and thunderstorms gots to be friends.

The bike didn’t seem to mind, though.

Don’t be thinking that the sweet spot be smooth.

There are two big pistons down there, and you feel them when they fire.

The sweet spot is just where everything in your motorcycle feels its at its natural place, where it is now and could go on forever, even if the steel of the frame is ringing like a bell.

This confluence of big impulses and their harmonics is why I first became really fond of big closed cell neoprene foam grips — Johar makes the ones I like — because they alow you to feel all of this and still be able to use your smallest two fingers at the end of a long riding day.

Covering ground like this is soulful, old school.

The bike and me, we ran out of highway way too soon.

 

***

 

Maryland Route 56 leads from the highway down to Big Pool and Fort Frederick State Park.

The road and the farms along it have been in the same place since the end of the 18th century and the French and Indian Wars. All the buildings are German lap siding painted white, and the fields around them all brightest green.

That stretch of road like the most precious things in my long life — sweetest moments over far too soon.

I rolled easy though the entry road into the park, past the amazing star fortifications of Fort Frederick, and then down onto the dirt road that lead to the campground.

I rose up and stood — knees well bent like a horseman — as the S ate up running on the dirt road.

As I rolled into the campground, I could see my teardrop and the other tiny campers off to the right, with Doris and her teardropping buddies — Robin and Kenny –waving from the picnic table.

I rolled up behind my pickup, killswitched and dismounted, and swung the S up onto her main stand.

It was hot. Time for about another quart of cold water and then maybe one of those cold Old Pros.

WP_20160707_20_11_11_Pro

***

 

After engaging bodge mode, and mucking about with the teardrop’s vent fan for a few minutes, I was able to produce motion in the system.

How did you do that?” demanded Sweet Doris from Baltimore.

“Don’t know really. Its prolly just scared of me.”

So my well packed contingency plan was for naught.

No matter. Eilenberger’s Law says I was only able to render it servicable because I had a full coterie of replacement components. Had I left the tent home, we’d have been screwed.

No matter though. I’d managed to moto-tardis my way back to the 70s, analog motorcycle, jeans belts, duffles, bungies and all.

I had seen old school,and it was freaking groovy, man.

Ohio and back this time, too, didn’t seem so far, after all.

 

The Battlefield Boys

Burnside Bridge Road — which runs alongside the Antietam National Battlefield — is one of my favorite motorcycling roads anywhere.

Burnside Bridge is technical, tricky. Much of the time you are in the dark shade of dense forest — shade which camoflages the next apex and the one beyond that. The road is tight — too tight for a modern supersport — and unforgiving, with crumbling rock faces on one side of the road and a quick drop into Antietam Creek on the other side.

Getting it right is all about rhythm and all about restraint. Too much throttle on one corner entry will screw your next five.

Its a road that I have almost always ridden alone.

Those alone roads, though, are starting to see me running in formation, rather than as a lone wolf. My youngest son Finn — as he builds riding skills and experience — accompanies me more and more often, and so begins to learn the many secrets of the the rider’s roads.

Last Sunday was the first time in many weekends where we had run out of renovation projects in my daughter’s newly bought home. Sweet Doris from Baltimore had been called away to Remote Western Maryland for a memorial service for an aged great aunt. This left me with some time to go after some terroristic vegitation that had been threatening to eat my house entire.

A good hour or two with some Lithium Ion powered clippers left me feeling like I could check off the ‘accomplishment’ box for the day, and I showered up and then stuck my head down the stairway to the basement where Finn and his monster computer spend a lot of quality time.

“Hey Snorky! Whacha doin?”

“Studying for tomorrows physics test.”

“Feel like taking a break? Wanna go for a ride?”

“Yeah, man.”

“We won’t be long. Besides, you can consider this a lesson in applied physics”.

“Cool.”

So we geared up, gassed up, and turned Finn’s Buell and my R90S towards some tasty roads.

 

***

 

Finn has been riding that Blast pretty much every chance he gets. The weather hereabouts has been inexplicably mild and inexplicably dry, which, if you’re a motorcyclist, seems strangely like some sort of personal favor that the diety of your choice has phoned in just for you.

With Finn enrolled in summer college classes, about half of my days start with a 500 cc single alarm clock, as he rolls his bike into the driveway and heads for his early morning class.

As academic motivation goes, this is something I can wrap my head around, anyway.

He’s also started ‘getting an ice cream’ in the evenings, too. Some of these ice creams, I suspect, may be obtained in, say, Denver.

Like Father, like Son.

 

***

 

So with his growing confidence also goes my declining sense of anxiety about his road skills.

Now, the rates of change may not be fully synced — I suspect his confidence is growing faster than I’m able to relax about it — but never mind that.

At most stop signs and at the end of most rides I’ll ask for a debrief and specifically ask if there was any element of the last ride that has caused any discomfort or concern.

I know in my first six months in the saddle — most of them on my departed CB750/4 — I spiked my adrenaline more than a few times.

If Finn has scared himeself on the road, he has yet to answer my question in the affirmative.

So this ride, I resolved to push a little more backroad challenge in his direction than I had perhaps done previously, so that his growth as a rider can continue.

 

***

 

So we swept together down Broad Run Road — out towards our old home in the Valley, out towards Burkittsville, and the roads around the Antietam Battlefield.

Broad Run is a barn-burner of a road — with longer sightlines, huge grades, and higer speed open corners.

I’ll cop to winding a few gears out to get some heat into the R90, and then having to chill out so that Finn could tighten back up.

The road changes to Gapland Road, and we continued smooth carvng and dropped into Burkittsville.

At the stop sign in town, I talked through the next couple of moves.

“We’ll run up Gapland Road to Gathland State Park. There are always spacy tourists up there so we’ll back it waaaay down. Just over the top of the ridge I’ll make a tricky right into Townsend Road. Towsend is crazy tight, bumpy and stuck between hedgerows. Leave lots of following distance, stay right on the entries and ride your own game.”

Finn gave me the Thumbs Up.

The run up Gapland is a lovely road — two switchbacks allow us to climb up the ridgeline that separates the Middletown Valley from the valley where Antietam sits. Challenging climbs with good visibility uphill corners — motorcycle heaven.

We cleared the park and cut right on Townsend and headed down into the green.

I did my job as road captain and pointed toes at areas of washed out gravel that had come down from the hillside during the last heavy rains.

I spent just enough time watching Finn in my mirrors to not compromise my own spatial awareness. He looked comfortable and confident out there — managing his entries and exits with the throttle and using virtually no brake at all.

At the blindest spot in the road the requisite Escalade appeared right on cue — both Finn and I had enough room to the right to keep it from becoming in any way dramatic.

After a brief dogleg up MD 67 we turned up Trego Road together and headed for the battlefield.

 

***

 

The advice provided … leave space, ride your own game … Finn followed both and kept following.

My lines on Burnside Bridge are pretty aggressive… I like to enter late and turn harder. It uses more of my tires and makes me feel like I’m riding, even if I’m not carrying speed.

Finn is a tad more practical — earlier entries and ending up further away from the centerline. I havn’t seen him end up wider in a corner than he intended to, although, truthfully, Finn’s Blast is so agile a handler I’ve never been able to do anything — even when trying — that made it feel like I was using even 10% of the bike’s cornering potential. The combination of low mass, 16 inch rims, a set of Pirelli Diablos, and a fairly wide handlebar means the Buell changes direction instantly and authoritatively.

But in the tighest most technical stuff Finn was rolling off for entries and powering back out.

The boy just looked…. comfortable out there.

 

***

 

It is at this peaceful juncture that I feel I should share with you my newfound, irrational and all encompassing, all consuming total fear of kayaks.

Kayaks? What the eff is Greg on about, here?

Saturday the entire extended family had been in chaotic, frenzied motion. The day had started with most of the family in transit to my buddy Jimmy’s, to make an appearence at his daughter’s high school graduation shindig before heading over later to see an outdoor Violent Femmes concert at Flying Dog Brewery.

It was shaping up to be a very good day.

And because the Universe abhors lack of balance, it decided to throw in something perfectly awful right out of the gate so on a whole the day would kinda balance out.

Heading up US 340 toward Frederick, Saturday afternoon traffic in both lanes came to a screeching halt.

It took very little imagination to see what had happened.

In the middle of the left lane of the divided highway was a bright yellow kayak.

Just beyond that was a guy dressed in black who was hobbling around in circles. Past him was a gory series of skidmarks and scrapes in the pavement that ended at a puddle of oil and moderately newly customized early 2000s purple and white Triumph Bonneville.

I positioned my station wagon to protect him and got out to make sure he had whatever help he needed.

He’d been riding in a proper moto jacket, jeans and sneakers. The jacket had expired saving its occupant. Everything below that hadn’t done quite as well.

“Effing thing came out of a truck. Had no time. They took off, the fuckers. Didn’t even stop.”

He was understandably torqued, and maybe a little concussed, too.

I saw his helmet sitting in the grass. It had a nice long crack visible in the top and back of the shell.

Maybe more than a little concussed.

We got the bike out of the roadbed and then checked in with a lady who, upon reflection, was wearing a set of hospital duty scrubs. A Pro, who had been frantically making phonecalls.

“Look Man, do you want my wife to run you up to the Hospital? We have a truck if you need it to get the bike taken care of….”

“Nope,” said the Pro, “EMTs and the Ambulance are en route. Sherriff is inbound. His friends are on the way with their truck. Thank you, but we’re good.”

The Pro got Triumph Boy a seat in the tailgate of her Blazer, and we found a hole in traffic and headed off towards Jimmy’s.

We did have a fair amount of fun later, but the image of that Bonneville taking air on the other side of that kayak and coming down and tumbling kept coming back.

It was an image that was hard to shake.

 

***

 

Burnside Bridge Road runs for much of its length alongside Antietam Creek.

In the summertime Antietam Creek is a water recreation wonderland. The creek draws waders, tubers, canoists, and tons of kayakers.

Kayaks.

As we got to the landing beside the creek entry and the Bridge, we came up on a pickup with four plastic kayaks in the bed.

If Peter Parker has Spider Sense, and Luke Skywalker has the force, I have MotoSight.

I can’t really explain it, but on a back road with cross traffic, for example, if a vehicle is coming to one of the cross roads, I somehow know it before I see it.

I don’t question it. It has kept me and those that ride with me safe.

Now in the case of one truck four kayaks my MotoSight was just messing with me.

“These kayaks are not going to kill you. But you know they could.”

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Fortunately, Four Kayaks took the pullout to get down to the creek, leaving Finn and I to roll into Sharpsburg.

“How’d it feel out there, Finn?”

“Great road. Except for the kayaks.”

 

***

 

We rolled Maryland 34 back to Boonesboro — more Kayaks! — and then picked up US 40 Alt to head back toward Middletown, and home.

I described the run over the mountain to Finn as we sat at the light.

40 Alt is an old, old road, with crazy decreasing radius banked switchbacks on the descent on the other side.

Its great fun once one figures it out, but finding a good line through takes either observation or a little luck.

In truth, bikes have much easier time negotiating such corners than a car ever would, but it just looks a little intimidating.

We gassed it up over the mountain, working the throttles and the edges of the tires, and sliced through the switchbacks and then through the hills and sweepers down in to Middletown, through the tight stuff on Picnic Woods road and before we knew it we were home.

As Finn killswitched it and popped off his helmet, he was beaming.

“Great ride, Pop.”

 

***

 

Right or wrong, it is true that men don’t have a lot to say.

Even when, if the situation demands it, that a lot maybe needs to be said.

Now I’d like maybe to talk with my son, and share with him whatever what passes for wisdom I’ve managed to find.

To talk about how short and precious life is, and the meaning of love, of music, of art and of poetry.

But, if being men, we can’t manage it, at least with a sunny day and some motorcycles, we can speak to each other without saying a word.