Apr 25, 2005

The Endless Waltz

I think that's the name of a Gundam cartoon too, but it sums up perfectly what it feels like to ride a motorcycle in exactly the same way that "The Spandau Ballet" doesn't, and I don't mean the 80's band either.

We've been having a spate of unseasonably cool weather, a front came in from somewhere Nawth and really cooled things off marvelously, and all weekend the sky was painfully blue, not a cloud dared show it's fluffy face, and I spent all Saturday working in the yard, so naturally I took the bike out Sunday for an extended ride, all through the back streets that follow the myriad twists and turns of Bayou Rapides. What an utterly marvelous thing to do.

When I was first divorced, I lost a brand new Honda Civic sedan in the deal, which in retrospect was a good thing, as it was the Universe's way of telling me "Hey, you need a motorcycle." I went with a friend who had been trying to convince me for a year to get one down to the local bike shop, and I fell in love with Yamaha's 1993 air-cooled XJ600, in Dark Metallic Blue III, which is a lot of words for a dark green beginner's bike. (Damn, would you check out that freak from 1993? *lol* All that hair, and sickly skinny...) Anyway, I brought her home strapped in the bed of my dad's truck, unloaded her in my driveway, dropped the truck off, and proceeded to teach myself how to ride a motorcycle, after first reading the owner's manual section entitled "How To Teach Yourself To Ride A Motorcycle."

I haven't looked back since.

The first three years I rode everywhere and in everything; cold, rain, hail, cold rainy hail, scalding heat, around Harley farts, you name it, I was in it. I was gloriously happy because I had no alternative, but I had found freedom in it. I rode that bike for almost 20K miles before the ex (who had returned for a brief second effort at the marriage) totaled it. My second bike was a Honda Magna 750, because I wanted more power but a cruiser style. I rode her for a good six years and another 36K miles before deciding I wanted more of a sport bike, and I had been dreaming since Day One of owning a Honda VFR Interceptor, which I bought finally.

Through the last 12 years I have ridden every chance I get. Granted, as I rode more I rode in the rain less, both because of the discomfort and the danger posed by motorists who don't see motorcycles on a GOOD day, much less in a pouring down storm. And I've spent my time in car washes and under highway overpasses waiting for really bad storms to pass, and while I'm glad I added those experiences to my Life List I don't really want to repeat them a whole lot. And here of late my mileage has been lessened, partly by having a job that is just a few miles from my house mixed with the need to be home for a child and the necessity of carrying groceries home and doing other tasks that require a truck, but I have never stopped riding, and have never become that most loathsome of creatures, a "Weekend Rider."

Through it all, I've felt the Endless Waltz.

Every time I swing my leg over the saddle I feel like I've never left it. When I get out on the road and the engine is growling and the tires are humming quietly on the road and the wind is starting to move around me it's like music in my body. When I'm driving in traffic I feel like a gazelle in a herd of dinosaurs, moving in and out of their loathsome, lumbering bodies with such effortless ease that it shames their very existence. And when I'm out and alone on winding roads, I feel more powerfully than ever The Endless Waltz--the graceful, intentional motions of a dance that never stops, the delicate traceries that extend beyond patterns and combinations of throttle and steering input into a rapturous single movement, drawn out infinitely.

While in The Waltz, every movement, no matter how small, is transferred back and forth between rider and machine, who have reached a sublime unity. The imperfections of the road are passed through wheel and fork into hands and shoulders, and the smallest shift of weight or pressure on grips becomes magnified into steps in The Waltz. And when you finally are forced to throw leg back off saddle and turn the key off, The Endless Waltz is still moving in your head, echoing in your muscles, making each hand gesture and each step graceful, effortless, and superb.

So I am drawn irrevocably back, to rejoin The Endless Waltz again, and again.

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