Monday, October 26, 2009

Saga, part two

I can actually remember my first music selection that morning, Social Distortion's "Live at The Roxy."
Of course, even though it was way back in June this is no feat of incredible memory. Several of my longer trips, if I started with music, have begun with that album. It's a great one to get the blood flowing and head bobbling.

When I'm on shorter trips and/or on better highways (for the non-motorcycle initiated, that means 2-lane and as curvy as possible) I forgo the music, as riding a bike is one of the few activities that's just as much fun without it. But on long and boring stretches of superslab, especially those designed by laser pointer such as I-95, it really helps to keep you awake.
Falling asleep while driving a motorcycle is not recommended. It can lead to a seriously ruined road trip. Consider yourself warned.

I only mention this small, recollected detail because I don't know how many of those little ones will be here in this story. I've procrastinated writing it for longer than I'd like, so some little parts may be forgotten, omitted, made up, or even hallucinated. You know, just so you know.

Actually now that I think about it, some parts of this may be recollected from dreams.
I dream very vividly, and often of very normal activities. Like a ride, or going to my girlfriend's for dinner, watching TV (ok, that wouldn't be "normal," since I don't watch TV), a conversation, or playing my bass and singing in front of thousands of people who love me. You know, perfectly normal, everyday things.
Or, I also often wonder if all of this, this whole world and everyone in it, isn't some weird, fucked up dream I'm having. It certainly would explain a lot.

If that's the case, whoever you are out there, not reading my imaginary blog, in another bed in another universe, I hope your dream is as - shall we say - interesting as mine.

But I digress.

There is nothing special to report about the trip up that day. It's all I-95, no close calls that I remember, with 2 turns off the highway to my destination, the tattoo shop where my friend, Chris, works.

I did start to notice a few things this time. On previous long trips I'd been less aware of things like sore muscles and whatnot so much because I was still newer to motorcycling. My excitement, and very slight nervousness, pretty much drowned out other more mundane details. Like my personal comfort.
I'm sure you've noticed that a lot of the time those of us on bikes are driving a little bit faster than those of you in cages (motorcyclist slang for "car"). This would lead one to a reasonable assumption that trips take us less time. And that assumption, though perfectly reasonable, would be incorrect. We usually need to make more stops than you'd expect.

Like, though we do get much better gas mileage, we have way smaller tanks. I get about 50 mpg on my bike, I switch over to my reserve at about 150 miles, and the farthest I've gone between fill-ups is 170 miles.

Also, part of the whole "thing" of motorcycling is that we like to take the less-pounded path, the scenic routes. Even on a long trip with sort of a deadline, such as my trip(s) up I-95, we'll usually try and break it up with at least one jaunt onto some side highway or curvy road. (This is one of the many great things about modern technology... I can click and drag and plan routes on Google maps for hours.) On many of the more scenic roads around our beautiful country, this often also means breaks to soak it all in. Parks are great for this.

Have you ever noticed that you're never very far from a State or National Park? If you haven't, I'm glad I could help out.

Comfort is another factor. Even on a well set up bike, that fits you and has the most comfortable seat, fatigue and soreness - particularly in the glutes, or in skinny-butted cats like me the ischial tuberosity - will set in periodically. We can't exactly shift around in our seats as much as one can in a car. Many of us on cruiser type bikes have extra pegs so that we can shift the position of our legs, but at those times when one's ass really needs a different position for at least a few minutes, it means getting off the road for a break.

This is the area in which I began discovering more about my bike on that particular day.
The V Star 650 is a beautiful and awesome machine, but one of its known shortcomings is the seat that comes on it.

As per usual, I left my appartment at a reasonable time, but later than I'd planned to. I tucked the directions I'd written and wrapped in plastic under my tank bib and crossed my fingers that I'd make good enough time to take the detour I had planned. Long story short (as if), I kinda didn't.

I planned on the leg of my journey from Savannah, GA to Colonial Heights, VA to taking about eight hours (Google says 7, which is my average in a car), closer to nine if I took the detour.
Apparently my plan didn't plan for enough unplanned breaks. Without the detour it wound up taking a little over nine hours. If I remember right, I must have made at least three extra stops for no better reason than a quite literal pain in my ass. So with three planned gas stops and "a couple of" anticipated breaks, I stopped at least 7 or 8 times in a 450 mile trip. It adds up quick (as you learn to an extremely fine detail in my chosen field of work, especially in a theater... I know I can walk about 150' to a bathroom, use it, and be back to my sound booth in two minutes**).

I have to mention that up until then this had been the link motif in my motorcycle life. Each time I'd gone on a long-ish trip I'd planned out really good routes on back roads and country highways. Each time I'd actually done them they had wound up for one reason or another (usually weather worries) being quick trips up and down major highways. I've travelled up and down I-95 many times in my 20 years of driving, and after about... one time it loses most of its entertainment value.

I may as well also admit that one of my unplanned breaks was to remove the poncho covering my gear when the sun came out, for no other reason than to placate my ego. I decided I'd look a lot cooler riding with all my stuff strapped to the bike than with a great big camoflage balloon billowing behind me.

And there's nothing wrong with placating the ego a little, right?
We all like to feel cool in some way, or frankly in as many ways as we can.
Riding a bike, in so many ways, "feels cool." It's super fun, and obviously that's cool.

But there's another way of looking at it.
Since a lot of that ego cool stuff is wrapped up in what image we feel we project of ourselves into the outside world, we also seek - or at least need - ways of escaping occasionally from our responsibility to our egos. We need to give that energy a break.
There are lots of ways of doing that, some more healthy to us than others. Many of them involve some sort of risk (perhaps risk itself helps suppress the ego).
I feel that riding a motorcycle is one of those ways, especially when you can do it for hours at a time. It's fun, and it's stimulating. You have complete control of the experience*, and it requires absolute, constant, 100% of your attention. It becomes very easy to forget your "self," your ego, your image, and you're living as in-the-moment as a person can.

Oh, well that and...
Frankly when you're travelling and living minimally you've gotta be smart. The more you let your poncho flap and whip in the wind, the sooner you're going to have to replace your poncho.
(Is there a need to point out that can be used as a metaphor?)

* Yes, you also have complete control of the experience when driving a car, but it's different. Controlling a car requires a little less attention (and gets far less than it requires from most people) and it's much easier to get, or just be, completely distracted from the experience of it. A motorcycle is more responsive than a car, and requires that much more of your attention be absorbed into it. Also, the attitude that it's normally approached with from the start is one of wanting to "experience" it. The slightest flick of your wrist or subtle movement of your body are all that is needed to produce dramatic results in what your ride is doing (it's not entirely unlike dancing). So you're much more acutely aware of your control over your machine and the experience you're creating with it.

** ...and other things, like to reach down and take hold of my tasty beverage, bring it to my lips and drink from it, put it back down and get my hand back to my console takes only about 11-12 seconds; less if there's a straw involved.

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