Friday, August 17, 2007

The Beauty of It All

So back to why I started this blog in the first place, good ol' hoppin' on the iron horse and riding into the sunset. Well sort of.

As today was winding down, the skies were deep blue and clear, and the call to ride was irresistible. You see, I am either hopping on a plane to fly somewhere, or glued to my computer fighting fires (not literally, but close). My job is demanding but it satisfies an itch to stay busier than I really have time for. Some days it's slow, most days it's hotter than a tin roof, and in Florida, that's really hot.

Sitting in my office, working away, the hours pass by so quickly sometimes, I often miss the sunset. Or it takes a flash of lightning and the boom of thunder as a squall passes over, to remind me to take a break.

But today, even with the temperature hovering in the high 90's, I needed to ride. As the day passed, I couldn't help but look out the window often, seeing the sunshine and hearing the critters chattering away.

So around 6:00 I headed out to the garage and saddled up for a ride down to the local Hooters for bike night. Normally, I'd just head straight for Hooters, but this time I needed a longer ride, so I took an extra long route. After living here for nearly 6 months, I've found all the wonderful roads that get you from here to there without using the main and frequently traveled roads. Some are twisty with lots of leaning curves, and some are quiet residential drives with sleepy 1960's houses and overgrown trees that dapple the streets with shade.

I don't need speed or loud pipes to enjoy my ride. I just need to ride. That isn't to say my pipes aren't loud. They're not stock pipes, but they aren't obnoxious either. I can purr through quiet areas without being disturbing, and I can roar through the gears on a straight-away if I need to. People smile and wave, kids stop and stare, and I just smile a lot. Life is good.

Today, as I pulled up to a stop light, the lane next to me was vacant until a large delivery van pulled up. The sun beat down on me with intense heat, stopped as I was with no wind to cool me down. I looked over at the driver of the truck and smiled, and he smiled at me. Then he inched forward until I was shaded by his truck. In this day and age where we are constantly looking for cell phone impaired drivers and inconsiderate people who are in a hurry to get somewhere, this was a small but kind thing to do, and it made me smile and remember that not all people, and certainly not all drivers, are oblivious to motorcyclists.

Arriving at Hooters is always interesting. I never know if I'm going to find a place to park easily, or if I have to stop and wait for a group of sport bikes to shoot out of the parking lot like they are on their way to a fire. Nevertheless, I am patient. They are just having fun, albeit in a different way than I do.

Today I pulled right in and backed my bike into a slot right up front. I had to wonder why there weren't more people there, as it was such superb weather. I've seen this place so packed before that you had to inch your way through the bikes and people filling the parking area 3-4 bikes deep, around all perimeters.

I love the variety of bikes you find there, and the same variety of folks who ride them. Some are the grisly old bikers who grow their beards so long they tie them in bands to keep them from blowing up in their faces. Some are women like me, riding in on all manner of machines to rival anyone else's. Some look like they just came from work in their khakis and button down shirts. Everyone comes for various reasons; to eat, to mingle, or just to relax among others who enjoy the world and lifestyle of motorcycling.

On any given bike night at Hooters, you'll find bikes that sport thousands of dollars in chrome accessories and are a sight to behold (and you know that person has more money than they know what to do with, or they're stone cold broke). Some bikes are stock right off the show room floor, and others are old vintage models you just don't see that often anymore. From sport bikes, to Japanese makes, to Harleys, they all come.

And oh, the sounds! Nearly every bike has it's own unique rumble. Sometimes you can tell what they are by the way they sound. Before I knew anyone, I would sit at a table outside and just soak up the sights and sounds, content to just be there. Sometimes I still do just that.

What I always see, without fail, is a camaraderie and fellowship amongst them all. I have yet to see voices raised in anger, or drunken behavior. I hear a great amount of laughter, and talk among groups at tables. I see many of the same faces, and always new faces. Young, old, couples, singles, all races, both genders.

It still surprises me to see so many women ride in on their own machines. I remember when it was rare to see a woman riding solo on anything much bigger than a Sportster, or a small foreign make. And that's if you saw any women riders at all. I guess women caught on. Riding behind can be fun, but riding your own is unmatched. Now even small women come riding in on a 1450cc something or other. Women riders are here, and they're here to stay.

Tonight I sat and enjoyed the company of RC (Big Bend Bikers For Freedom). We had ridden on the same rides before, but never conversed. Knowing RC largely through email and blogging, I was not surprised to find the same warmth and wit I had come to know through my computer. I am here to say that I can see no lasting evidence of harm done by RC's penchant for sticking his tongue on 9-volt batteries as a hobby.

As always, it was an enjoyable break from the weekly routine. But leaving to head home can be nearly as good or better than the ride in. The night is cooler, and the ride is peaceful. Again, I took a longer route, riding nearly an hour to go the 20 miles to my home. The night air felt like walking into an air-conditioned room after being out in the sun all day. Fewer cars are out, and the twisty roads are exhilarating. It's a time when I can commune with God, and feel the restful peace that riding can bring.

I could have ridden another hour easily, but I knew my daughter would worry about me, so I headed for the garage, and then to bed. What a lovely end to a gorgeous day of sunshine and cool night air on my bike. If I didn't already know I'd made a great move coming here, I would surely know it now.

In spite of all the outcry over "inattentive" drivers and the risk to my well-being every time I ride, I am still reminded of why I ride, every time I fire it up and take off. Likewise, it is why I will do whatever it takes to keep the freedom to ride, how I want, when I want, and wherever I want, in relative safety.

Live to ride, ride to live. Never compromise either.

No comments: