Thursday, December 15, 2011

My New Obsession

My thoughts about how to be present to enjoy life in the moment have alighted on something that should have been obvious to me a long time ago:   motorcycles make any trip an adventure, and I should have one!

It's not like I'm unfamiliar with the fun of motorcycles.  I grew up around them, because my dad always had a motorcycle.  Dad would travel across the country in a few days on his.  Really.  From California to Florida on a whim.  That's freedom!  Motorcycles satisified his need for a change of scene and made him feel more alive to just take off on his motorcycle. He identified himself by the style of bike he rode - which was always a Japanese-made performance bike of some kind.  Something with speed and power and good handling.  He loathed everything about a Harley, as he knew them back then:  always breaking down, loud for loud's sake, and not nimble on curvy roads.  Dad always wanted to go fast.

My Grandad always had a motorcycle, too.  In fact, I would ride his when I was a teenager.  It was a lot of fun, and I loved the thrill of it.  I can't remember what it was, exactly, but I think it was a Scrambler, and it looked a lot like this:

It could be ridden on and off road, and I used to ride it near our house in Durango, Colorado with out our neighbor, Eddie, who taught me to ride motorcross, too.  I raced once.  Just once.  And on a bigger bike than this, which was designed for motorcross.  That was scary!

I rode a few more times in my late teens and early 20's.  I remember riding a friend's motorcycle in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, when I was on a day off from my lodge job there.  I was 18.  I didn't have a motorcycle endorsement on my license, and I don't even know if one was required back then in Wyoming.  I didn't even think about that.  I just went for a ride with the Tetons as the backdrop - gorgeous memories. 

A year or so later I rode dirt bikes when I was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in the Air Force.  My friend, Bud, had a couple and he would take me out on the Eglin AFB reservation where we tore it up and had a blast.  The dirt was very sandy and there were lots of trees, which ended up being the disaster it sounds like it could be.  I slid out and lost control of the bike and went over the handlebars into a tree, and hurt my neck.  I didn't realize how badly till later that evening at a squadron dinner when I was in severe pain, and had to go to the hospital to be looked at.  I'm pretty sure that was the last time I rode a motorcycle on my own.  It's not that I was afraid.  Not at all.  I just never had my own, and didn't find myself in a position to ride one, other than on the back of someone else's.

This past Summer, my friend, Shellie invited me to meet her out at "Taco Wednesdays" at the Corner Saloon, where bikers gather every Wednesday to eat $1 tacos and drink beer and look at each other's bikes.  Shellie rides a Harley, so I initially wondered why I should go, since all I had to show up in was my Subaru Forester.  Shellie sold me on the idea that it was a fun bunch of people, and some other people I  knew would be there, who also didn't have bikes.  It wasn't a hard sell.  Shellie is always fun.  She's my adventure buddy!  So I headed over there, and had a great time.  One of Shellie's friends, a nice guy named Michael, asked me if I wanted to go for a ride.  Of course I was game, and hopped on back.  The weather was perfect for a ride, and it was just gorgeous out where we rode.  Rolling hills, blue skies, rural countryside.  I really enjoyed myself, and was sad when we had to head back.

My second invite of the evening came from the owner of a Triumph Bonneville I had been admiring, not realizing the owner was a few yards away watching me.  His name, as it turns out, was Brad.  Brad had just ridden back into Portland from Montana, where he has another home.  He was tired from that trip, so I was pretty surprised when he asked me if I wanted to take a ride.  I am so glad he did.  Riding as the sky is changing colors and the moon is rising is just spectacular on a late Summer's eve.  I became officially hooked, and started plotting how to have my own motorcyle. 

That was the end of August.  By October, I had taken the Motorcycle Safety Course offered through Team Oregon, and has purchased my first motorcycle.  I spent the weeks between that fateful evening ride and finally purchasing a bike, pouring through Craigslist looking for bikes that looked like the one I loved that my Grandfather owned.  I like that look of a Standard Japanese Sport bike of the late '60's and early '70's.  I also like the old Triumphs.  I just didn't really want an old bike, since I'm no mechanic, and I wanted something easy and reliable.  How disappointed I felt seeing all the newer models.  There are some nice looking bikes out there from the "crotch rockets" to the big old Harley Cruisers. They just weren't what I had my heart set on.  I considered a new Triumph, but they were spendy, and BIG for me.  Just too tall for this new rider.  I considered a Harley Sportster, but they are also big bikes, though I can put my feet down on the ground.  883ccs seemed like overkill for me, as a new rider, and I just wasn't completely in love with the style.  Call it sentimentalilty, but I wanted a bike that looked like James Dean or Marlon Brando should be sitting on it.  One late night, just when I thought I was going to have to settle until I was ready for one of the bigger Triumphs, when I came across a web article titled, Perfect Motorcycles for New Riders.  I opened it up and saw many of the bikes I had already considered.  Ho Hum.  Then, I saw this:

It was love at first sight!

Even better were all the great reviews about this little known bike, the Suzuki TU250X!  I found it got great gas mileage (70+ MPG), and is fuel injected!  No carburetors to mess with, just turn it on and hit the starter - vroom!  I'm just so happy to have found it and to own it.  It's only 326 lbs soaking wet, so I have no problem handling it, even at slower speeds and tight corners.  I love it's extra large, vintage headlight.  It is very responsive, because of the standard positioning of the front wheel (a physics thing)  There are just many, many reasons it's a great bike for me a new road rider.  I absolutely LOVE leaning into curves on this bike.  So dang fun! 

Riding in Autumn has been chilly, but very special.  New-mown hay fields smell wonderful, as do the apple orchards full of trees which are dropping over-ripe fruit to the ground.  The orchards are delightful, actually - fruity with a hint of wood and spices.  Can't explain it.  I never realized how many scents hang in the air like that, and how you just don't notice them in a car.  I enjoy smelling people's dinners cooking and laundry drying too.  Cow country is a little stinky though!   So far, those unpleasant whiffs of cow excrement have been brief.  Maybe it's the chill air. All I know is I love riding, and when I'm not riding I'm thinking about it.  And, I still love riding at sunset.  It's simply beautiful. 

I can hardly wait till Summer to take my motorcycle out on a trip out to Eastern Oregon to camp and shoot pictures.  The adventure will start the minute I leave the house!

I'm a little sad that the weather is more wintry now.  I rode in to work today, but even the light rain that was falling as I got closer to the office was unpleasant stinging my face.  Still, the minute it stopped, it was all worth it.  I  rode up toward Mount Hood on the weekend of my birthday, December 3rd.  I had considered going around the mountain, since the sun was shining, it was around 48 degrees in the valley, and it had been dry for a couple of days.  But by the time I stopped at Wraptitude in Welches to get something to eat, I knew I was turning around and heading back down.  Just too cold at that altitude!  I did take a picture of my motorcycle there.  It's the only one I've taken.  I've just not had my camera with me, or the battery in my cell phone has died when I think about it.  I don't know...I only want to ride and shooting pics isn't what I think about when I take off.  It's sort of a zen experience.  I'll surely write more about that.  For the time being, I'm just enjoying each moment I can be out there. 

Here's that one picture:

Just looking at that, I'm anxious to wrap up this post and go get on the bike to head home.  :)