“Why do you ride?”
The question was uttered somewhat shyly by the cute gal at “Cavander’s Boot City” as she was helping me select a new pair of work/riding boots. I must admit, it took me aback somewhat, for a couple of reasons:
The first reason is that she had spotted me as a rider immediately, and I had tentatively pegged her as one also, even though we had not yet said anything more than “hello”. So . . . she is a rider . . . why is she asking the question? Riders “know”, or they do not ride . . . at least not for long.
Then my brain really grabbed hold of the question. It chewed on it a moment, analyzed it, informed me that it definitely knew the answer, calculated, referenced, imaged, booked additional “left brain” processing time, shuttled, condensed, expanded, distilled, put the whole thing to music, pondered it some more, then it firmly refused to answer.
When I insisted, I pretty much got static, followed by a total reset. I was then forced into a completely involuntary look at the gal again and an enthusiastic “Hey, she’s really cute!” from my brain. I think it was just trying to distract me. Given the . . . ur . . . “priorities” of the male brain this usually works . . . but this time the “priority” was balanced against deep thinking about riding. Great . . . now I was confused AND horny. She really was cute. What a piece of work the male brain is . . .
The main reason the question stumped me was because although I know the answer, and indeed know it to the depths of my soul, I have never attempted to articulate it. It is not something easily put into words.
As I struggled with the concept for a moment, apparently with my mouth hanging open and a far-away look in my eyes, she chuckled and told me she had no easy answer either . . . but she was hoping somebody would be able to express it someday. According to her, anybody that has ever been able to give her a convenient answer was really not a rider at all. Maybe they own a bike, but simply owning a bike does not make a person a rider.
I concluded my boot purchase, mounted up on the big cruiser, and roared down the highway. Man I love that Valkyrie! As I worked the big machine through the various hazards associated with weekend traffic on the freeways around here, I could not get the question out of my mind. Miles later I was still thinking about it. I was thinking about it so hard, that I abandoned my planned destination completely. I stopped when the batteries in my MP3 player expired and I had to change them. I am not sure where exactly I ended up, but it was pretty there. Ate an ice cream cone, gassed up “The Dragon” and headed for the highway. A sign read “Dallas-93 miles”. Hmmmm. I had come just a bit out of my way. Good day.
Riding. It is as necessary to me as breathing. It is a requirement of mind and soul. How to explain it to someone else?
I finally begin to understand that it cannot be explained in a sentence or two. It is far too deep, integral to my being, and plumbed into depths rarely explored. I think the easiest way to explain it is to get the non-rider riding . . . if after a time, they catch the bug, you can simply say, “See what I mean?” If they do not, then you probably will never cause them to understand.
But then curiosity looms. What about other riders?
Is “why I ride” the same thing as “why you ride”? Probably not exactly. But is it even close? There is no way to tell until we manage to express it somehow. So I am back to my original challenge. Answer a simple question. When I begin to ferret it out, I find myself amazed at how deep it really goes, and exactly what it is firmly attached to.
The beginnings of the answer lie deep within life itself.
There are times that I am really alive, not just surviving. There are times that it all operates in harmony . . . blood, bone, muscle, mind, soul, and the world all come together to . . . well . . . sing life and experience.
Those moments are intense and in today’s world, with its stresses and pressures, are not always easy to achieve.
Life is not about survival. Life is about living…igniting that spark…that flame.
For me, stoking the flames is easy. There are a few activities that take me out of “surviving” and place me . . . heart, soul, passion, and mind . . . squarely and solidly into “living”. For these times, there is never any question why I am here, or where life is taking me. During these activities, I KNOW.
I am alive. I am a unique combination of blood, bone, muscle, experience, sexuality, and passion. I am proud of what and who I am, even though I do not always know what that is. I revel in life and experience . . . I am alive . . . I live . . . I know.
I know this the most when I am:
making love. riding. skiing. flying (I am a Cessna pilot). listening to music. Sailing, fast and far.
There really is no order or preference there . . . and any combination intensifies the “living” (no suggestive comments needed here . . . trust me, I have already thought of them all).
But again, how to answer the question?
I can answer by listing the things that riding does for me. Where it takes me, what it does for my soul, but that is not the complete answer either. While true, it is unsatisfying . . . fragmented, not providing the complete picture . . . is there anything that can?
Finally I decide that in order for someone to understand precisely what riding means to me, they would have to know me, and know me well . . . maybe one person does, the rest would have to be told somehow.
Again, back to the simple question, “Why do I ride?”
Seems to me that multiple mediums are required to convey the sense of what it is all about.
So here is my do-it-yourself “multi-media presentation”. (Note the timely use of trendy “buzz-word”)
Combinations of music, experience, and writings are needed if you would understand why I ride.
I love to write, and am surprised, thrilled, and flattered when someone enjoys what I have done. If you would know me without actually “knowing” then my writing is a place to start.
You’re here reading so chances are you know that. Check out more stories. Check out the Alaska or Route 66 writings. Even check out a poem or two.. These are motorcycling stories I have written that illustrate a little piece at a time what we are talking about here . . . just a peak into my soul if you will . . .
Music is critical to me. It allows me to organize my mind, make sense of the world, express and experience passion, and helps to bring back the ability to see and experience the magic that still exists in the world. I have hundreds of CD’s, and my collection spans nearly every genre. I like some of everything, depending on life and my mood at the time. The following songs may or may not be favorites, depending on when you ask me . . . but they clearly illustrate what I am trying to communicate here . . . provided that they are used correctly. Instructions follow:
Cram the following songs into your MP3 player:
“One Wild Night”-Bon Jovi “Fields of Fire, a Tribute”-The Killdares (Live Album) “It’s My Life”-Bon Jovi “Don’t Walk Away”-Pat Benetar “A New Day Has Come”-Celine Dion “I’m Alive”-Celine Dion “Only the Strong Survive”-Reo Speedwagon “All Fired Up”-Pat Benetar “So Right”-Bell Book & Candle If you have not heard these, check ‘em out, they are worth the effort . . . then fill your player to capacity with all the stuff you like.
Pick a hot night and take off down a lonely road. Drive a couple hundred . . . or a couple thousand miles with no place in particular in mind.
When you get home, take some time to reflect . . . you want to go again, don’t you? Hot (or cold), dusty (or wet), wrung out, hungry, weary traveler . . . and yet you want to go again.
Now you see . . . now you know . . . that’s why I ride. See? Easy.
If you do not have time or interest for all that, if you think you can get an answer without “knowing” then things are much simpler . . .
Why do I ride?
Now . . . Why do you ride?