I, I live among the creatures of the night
I havenít got the will to try and fight
Against a new tomorrow
So I guess Iíll just believe it and tomorrow never comes
So. Do you ever night run? I donít mean a late return from an evening out, or a run across town. I mean a night run. Hundreds of miles into the hot summer night sky, riding as fast as you can see under the brilliant stars overhead and with the song of the universe coursing though your soul. That kind of night run.
There are dangers of course. You canít reach Shambala without climbing a few dangerous peaks . . . or riding a Dragon over them. I know the dangers. Iím not at all new at this. There are worse things in this world than death. Not living is one of them.
Risk management. When planning this ride Iíd expected to take the back roads down and to ďslab itĒ back. The super-slabs (interstates) would be safer in the night from the second-worst danger for the touring motorcyclist to be found in the dark . . . namely the wildlife.
I was actually amazed the plan had held up so far . . . I am normally very loose in my planning as touring by motorcycle is not an exact science . . . and schedules and plans usually do more to muck of the works than help. Heck, this one had worked pretty well. We took the back-roads down. We actually ended up in the correct city. We saw the concert we wanted to see, and we were slabbing it back. Amazing. All weíd have to do to make it a perfect run would be to find Dallas at the end of our road for the night.
Sooo . . . letís see . . . there was one turn in over 300 miles . . . head for Shreveport, hang a left, and straight on till morning. I expected even I could manage that.
The rain, thankfully, had moved on and we had departed without raingear onto mostly dry freeways. Within 50 miles of Alexandria I spotted four sets of deer, one of which was a big doe just off the road that had obviously been hit already. She was trying and failing to get up.
Each time I spotted a hazard I felt a twinge. Iím not foolhardy, and yes I know and accept the risks . . . but that does not mean that MY level of acceptable risk remains constant. It is a continual debate, with hundreds, if not thousands of factors weighing in. How much gear? When? What hours? What routes? What speeds? What of the wife? Itís a complicated thing, and even after decades of riding and hundreds of thousands of miles itís still not resolved.
Are you a fool to ride without a helmet? (I wear mine . . . it keeps my headphones in!)
Are you a fool to ride with less than full armor everywhere?
Are you a fool to ride without a jacket?
Are you a fool to ride at night?
Are you a fool to ride in the city?
Are you a fool to ride fast?
Are you a fool to ride slow?
Are you a fool to ride at all?
Where is YOUR line? Is it constant . . . in one place? Or does it move around? Check in again after half-a-million miles. The answers are different. Hell, the questions are different! Iím not trying to start a debate, just trying to illuminate some of the thought that slides through my mind. Itís not the same for all, and for me, itís not even the same for each ride.
Iíll let you know if I ever work it out . . . but it'll take me a while. I expect you may have to read it off my tombstone . . . or suffer an incorporeal haunting (in that case, have Whataburgers and iced-tea ready, and weíll have a hell of a time).
Oh, and the alert reader will note I said the wildlife was the second-worst thing a nightrider would face. Whatís the first? Yourself. Your soul. The darkside of the man. The night, alone and running a dark highway, forces time for introspection. Forces you to face the darkside. Youíll learn things . . . and you may not come away unchanged. Iíve changed . . . in the night . . . Iíve fought, Iíve cried, Iíve laughed, Iíve triumphed, and Iíve failed. The night is my friend, and my foe. But those are other stories.
This night, however, my twinges were more for my tailgunner than anything else. I was leading. Iíd invited him. It was my plan. It was my ride. What if something happened? Yeah, I know. Heís an adult. Hell, heís older than me, and Iím old enough to know better . . . to make these decisions for myself. Thereís no such thing as too old to know better, or if there is . . . I don't expect . . . or wish to reach it.
He knows the risk. He has the skills. He has the choice.
I still worry though, even though there's nothing I can do.
Yep. No matter who we share the road with, in the end, we all ride alone.
* * *
I listen to tunes when I ride. Sometimes I sing along to them. I used to sing a lot more, and a lot louder, but once somebody pulls a gun on you for the . . . ur . . . quality of your singing, you start to think twice about where and when you do it.
Anyway, Iím becoming convinced my mp3 player has an agenda. Many times the songs it selects are amazingly appropriate for whatever situation I find myself in at the time.
Hmmm . . . has your bike ever sung to you?
come on now try and understand
the way I feel under your command
take my hand as the sun does set
they can't hurt you now
can't hurt you now
can't hurt you now
because the night belongs to lovers
because the night belongs to us
Yah, okay. Iím a nutcase. Deal with it.
Hmmm . . . could be all that night-riding. I wonder how that should figure into my risk management?
A nutcase? Maybe. But the night belongs to me.
* * *
Pssst. Hey. A quick secret. The omelets at IHOP in western Shreveport get a LOT bigger at night. Must be something in the night air. Yeah. Yum.
Ur . . . I ate it before I thought to take a picture of it. Heh. Urp. Sorry. But you know what an omelet looks like anyway. Oh, and coffee and orange juice and pancakes. Yum.
Full of food and fuel and westbound it seemed only minutes before we could see the lights of the city. In reality, it was hours, but that's the night for you. As for the city? This massive scar of heat, concrete, and steel? As much as I like to get away from it, itís always a good thing to come home.
The cry of the city, like a siren's song
Wailing over the rooftops, the whole night long
Saw a shooting star, like a diamond in the sky
Must be someone's soul passing by
Yeah. I like to night ride.
Soon we reached the place where Dean pealed off to head for his house. A friendly wave and the ride we shared was over. I still had some miles to go, and pondered the route. The shorter way was a quick exit and shoot up a side street, and coming this way during the day I often use it to avoid the traffic.
The wee hours of Sunday morning doesnít yield much in the way of traffic, so I took a slightly longer run. Yeah, the ďHigh FiveĒ. This massive bridge construction is nearly completed, and as I often work nights and weekends in the wee hours of the morning I tend to regard it as my personal motorcycle jungle gym. Five levels of bridges, banked and angled, some of them 150í off the ground . . . oh yeah. They rock . . . at least during the night.
TXDOT photo . . . 'cause I fail at taking pics of large interchanges at night from a motorcycle saddle on no sleep:
One day, I was headed over the highest ramp . . . eastbound I635 to northbound US75. Itís a gentle climb, but a steep decent to the new road. Kind of roller-coastery. Itís two lanes wide and banked. I happened to pass a car as we were starting the steep curving decent, and looked over at the occupants. The lady driving had both hands over her eyes. The child in the passenger seat had leaned over and had the wheel. I didnít waste time on surprise, I just tweaked the throttle and was gone.
Hmmm . . . one would think if youíre that afraid of heights/bridges, you might choose to remain on the surface streets.
Anyway, at night, this amazing billion-dollar project is just for me. I ran it twice, adding nearly 10 miles to my trip. To the builders . . . thanks guys! It's a hell of a thing!
At the very peak of the highest bridge, my thoughts suddenly turned to my wife.
I canít stand the distance
I canít dream alone
I canít wait to see you
Yes, Iím on my way home.
Sheíd be in bed. Sheíd wake when I arrived. Sheíd be all soft curves and pleasant shapes. Smooth, warm, and willing. The mp3 player had just finished one song that made me ache for her.
Then it started another.
What I see is whatís to be
cartwheels to eternity
round and round my head she goes
in the good dreams though she wears no clothes
Okay, my mp3 player is just plain evil. Now itís just friggen messing with me.
I grinned savagely, punched up the speed to what would probably be considered an unsafe level by our local revenuers, and throwing sparks from the pegs as The Dragon and I curved hard and fast off the steep ramp, headed for the house. Intense feelings were crowding my head and flooding my soul . . . or something. Passion. Elation. Lust. Okay, I admit it. Riding makes me horny. It doesn't you? Maybe you're not doing it right!
I am what I am. I do what I do. (grins) Fortunately, she is what she is too! We do what we do.
Another night, another day goes by
I never stop myself to wonder why
You help me to forget to play my role
You take my self, you take my self control
A quick check of the mileage. Hmmm . . . 662 miles.
A nice run. All for a concert. Or maybe all just for a ride. Hell and high water, good friends, good food, and wonderful music. Souls found and sanity (such as it ever is) preserved for yet another moment in time.
Yeah. It was hell of a Saturday night.
Itís always darkest before the dawn . . . oh, wait . . .
Well, it was a hell of a Sunday morning too.
Iíll see you on the road.
songs on this installment (in order of appearance)
Self Control--Laura Branigan
Because the Night--10,000 Maniacs
Shine Your Light--Robbie Robertson
I Will Always Return--Bryan Adams
End Up Alone--Nine Days
Self Control--Laura Branigan
Alexandria, Louisiana on a Saturday Night Navigation:
--Index-- --Part 1-- --Part 2-- --Part 3-- --Part 4-- --Part 5-- --Part 6--