Music and Motorcycles. I’ve been scheduled to attend a conference at Lake DeGray State Park for some time, and I have looked forward to it for the anticipated quiet, outside of classes, and the ride here.
I type as I look out the window…
Few things are such endless sources of joy as music and motorcycles. And when you put the two together, well, words are simply insufficient.
I’m on my third motorcycle now. My first was a Suzuki Intruder 800. A small cruiser. I enjoyed it but on a trip from central Arkansas to Louisiana, I found it to be a little too small and light for anything other than riding around town. As soon as I had a little extra money and was more comfortable riding a bike at all, I sold the Intruder and found a Triumph Sprint in Dallas. This was a sport tour bike, so it was smoother, faster, and had hard cases attached. Much better for road trips. I traveled to Florida, Louisiana, and Missouri on it, and it was fabulous. A co-worker backed into it in the parking lot with his truck one day. I didn’t know until he walked into my office and tossed a foot peg onto my desk, saying “is this yours?” I assumed he was making a joke, but I wasn’t sure and didn’t respond with anything but silence. He then explained that it was indeed mine, and that he had not seen my low bike behind his tall truck (in spite of his back-up camera) and bumped the bike, causing it to roll and fall. Because of the age of the bike and the fact that a new left fairing, peg, mirror, and case would have to be shipped from England, the insurance company declared it totaled and gave me enough money that I could add a nominal amount and buy the BMW 1200GS that I ride now.
The GS stands for Gelände/Straße (German: off-road/road). After deciding that I’m not mean or hairy enough for a Harley or any other cruiser, and I’m not enough of a speed demon for a sport bike, I decided this fit me pretty well, and I still agree with myself on that point. It will go anywhere I can take it, as fast or slow as I want to go on it. I put the same “libero” (freedom) tag on it that was on the other bikes, but I’ve come to affectionately call this one Lib.
I rose from bed this morning, cooked silver-dollar pancakes and sausage for MCL, relaxed for a few minutes and then loaded up and geared up for the ride. I almost always wear an armored hi-visibility jacket and I wear a full-face helmet without fail.
I swung a leg over and pressed the ignition button and Lib responded as reliably as always. As I rolled in first gear to the stop sign at the corner, I felt a slight chill in the air and wondered if I should have worn long sleeves. “It’ll warm up … I’ll be fine.” Second gear on the longer stretch to the next stop sign, and then I pulled onto the main road. 1st, shift, 2d, shift, 3rd, shift. 4th. Accelerating through the first four, I felt the joy of the ride easing into my soul. The actor Johnny Depp once said that the good thing about a motorcycle is there’s not much room to think about other issues. The shifting and braking and leaning and throttling and alertness consumes you while you’re on it, and removes you from all else. Coming into and through Conway traffic was an exercise in patience: down shift and brake for red light, engage and upshift through intersections, curse car that fails to see me, brake for truck, determine it’s too slow so downshift, find clear lane, upshift to pass, et cetera et cetera. Just about the time I reached congestion-free roadway, Zeppelin came through my earbuds and the happiness gauge red-lined. Misty Mountain Hop and Libero.
Feathering the clutch and leaning through the curves of the Ouachita Mountains I could feel the alternating warmth of the sun and cool of the shade as I cruised over the black-top. Just as I was feeling the groove of Lenny Kravitz and basking in the escape from the normal work-day, a doe sprung out on to the zebra striped shadowy road. I was just casually cruising so a little rear brake without a down shift was all that was required to save all three of us. Back to a comfortable cruise in fifth gear. I tend to save sixth for interstates and passing. As I settled back in and U2 began One Tree Hill (back when they were good), a majestic buck stepped out of the woods. I down-shifted without braking yet, as he wasn’t yet on the road but was obviously considering a crossing. When I reached about 20 yards, he jumped out across my lane. I was ready though, tapping the brakes to give him the right-of-way. Shifting back up to move on, I watched for any of his friends.
Just north of Paron, Arkansas, I came to my decision point for the day: pavement or dirt.
I chose dirt. I’m always a little hesitant to take the dirt path, because I’m never sure what I’m getting into – mud and gravel can be horrific, but packed dirt or rock is ok. On the other hand, rocks the size of baby heads are no good, and sandy roads will bog you down. My bike is more capable than I am. But I chose dirt. Now that I’m sitting in a comfortable hotel room, I’m happy I did.
Actually I was happy I did then too, except that road signs were scarce. The roads were great in the Flatside Wilderness, and I experienced a lot more of them than I intended to, as I traveled several miles on several roads before realizing I had missed an unmarked turn. Before I found my way back to pavement at Highway 7, I met 9 hunters wondering why a motorcycle was on their 4wd road, 3 does cocking their head about why I didn’t shoot at them, and a sasquatch disguised as a pine tree.
By the time I made through Hot Springs and to the State Park, I was so cold that my left nipple was in pain. I’m better now. I’ve had a good dinner and as M would say after that last complaint, I should probably stop there.