Why I Ride

My helmet locks into place and the familiar click rings momentarily in my ear. The bike is loaded kickstand is up and I accelerate out of the parking lot. There is no destination in mind today, I will just ride.

I received an e-mail the other day entitled “Why I ride” and it has me thinking about why I ride and more particularly will I ever stop riding. I merge into traffic easily; traffic is light at this time of the day. So why do I ride? The excitement of a fast machine, the thrill of danger, being alone in my helmet, yes but there is more, more than the obvious. A car pulls out in front of me without warning; I need to focus on riding and not thinking about the “why” right now.

I am on the highway now, easier to focus on answering the question “why I ride?” when the traffic flows more smoothly. There are mountains off in the distance, covered in green; I hope the road passes closer to them. Everything is green, there seems to be no other colour as far as I can see. The jungle reaches right to the edge of the road. Palm leaves blow onto the roadway in front of me. I remember that only a few months ago it was the desert reaching the edge of the road. Sand and dust were blowing then.

The highway begins to veer away from the mountains. I take the next right. The road is gravel and is heading closer to the green mountains. A dust cloud appears in my mirror. I am alone out here; the solitude is good for my soul. Solitude brings a calmness and peace that I can’t get when surrounded by others. Clarity comes when the helmet is on. I pass through a small village. An old man walks alone with a heavy limp; he has had a stroke I think. I admire his independence but am also concerned for his safety, where is his family, I wonder if his wife is still alive.  One day I will be old and won’t be able to ride, I hope that day does not come too soon. What will I be like at his age and will I be alone? One day I will die, but first I will ride.

The road twists up the mountain. It is not a well maintained road and my attention shifts to the technical aspects of the ride; look ahead, shift my weight, gear down, gear up and always look where you want to go. The road begins to improve as I descend down the mountain. I hear the river before I can see it, clear water crashes against the rocks around the next corner. I stop for a photo and to pee.

I am back on the main highway now, searching for fuel.  The gas station attendant is only a little younger than me; he appears to have troubles on his mind. He admires my bike and asks how much it costs. Most likely he will never own a bike like mine.  I invite him to sit on my bike, maybe it will brighten his day. He declines but smiles. His smile reveals a few missing teeth, it is a genuine smile.

A short distance down the highway a vulture picks at a dead dog. When the world ends only cockroaches and vultures will survive. They will feed off each other when nothing else is left. I am hungry but the smell form rotting flesh from the dead dog pushed my appetite aside. I approach a town and for the first time all day stop at a traffic light. A young woman crosses the street; she is very beautiful and carries herself with a kind of humble pride.  A young man follows and makes some comments that upset her. If only I could have lost romances to live over again. I wonder how my life would be different had I tried a little harder or maybe not so hard. I have left so much unsaid or have said too much. My appetite is back and there is a place to eat up ahead.

A woman is breast feeding her baby on a park bench. I have never changed a diaper, not because I avoid responsibility but because I never had the opportunity. I have a “step-daughter”, a term I hate. Why do people make a big deal of the term “flesh and blood”? She is my daughter; I raised her since she was eight years old. She is big now and has her own life. I miss her every day. My heart aches if I think about it too much; I try to think about something else. I will call her tonight.

The sun begins to set and I need to find a place to sleep for the night. I sleep in a different place almost every night, the life of a solo rider. Up ahead in the distance is another town, they have a hotel with an available room. It’s nothing fancy but the price is right and I am tired. I try and call my daughter but she is not home. No surprise, I was rarely home at her age. My body and mind feel relaxed, like some perfect Zen like state, not that I really know what that means but I am relaxed anyway. My head touches the pillow and I am reminded of the question at the start of the day “why I ride?”  I ride because it is good for my soul; it gives me peace, makes me feel alive. I will ride again tomorrow.

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5 Responses to Why I Ride

  1. sean says:

    What the Hell is that? I think you should have chased that girl, Changing diapers, Zen, “flesh and blood”, who do you think you are Jack Kerouac? LOL

  2. Jennifer says:

    Very touching. A nice change of pace and it was good to see that you bikers think of other things besides bikes.

  3. Hickery/ Muskoka On says:

    Enjoy reading your blog…..today’s is thought provoking. It is interesting how easy it is to meet and speak with total strangers…….over a bike.
    I am 65 and plan on following your path late August……..

    All the Best
    Hic

  4. Pete Chester says:

    Very good post Greg. You touched on many of the positive things a person gets from travel, especially moto travel that presents so many more opportunities to really see a country & its people that normal tourist travel doesn’t. The tourists that fly into an airport & then go to a luxury resort & only go on the packaged tours usually never know the reality of the area they are in. It is too bad that more people aren’t doing it, especially the so called World Leaders, we possible would all be better off if they did. Be good, Pete Chester

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