Next to riding, probably the sport nearest to my heart is skiing. I started skiing before I could ride – growing up in Utah you kinda start to ski right when you start walking. I get from skiing the same sense of freedom and the same adrenalin rush that I get from the back of my bike. I started thinking about skiing while cooped up inside on a day it was 122 in the desert and too hot to even get in the pool. Like riding, I go where I want, when I want – the skis are attached to me and become a part of me just like the motorcycle does.
One of my heroes in life is a guy named Warren Miller. He made his home in Washington, up in the San Juan’s, and passed away last year. He made a living being, for lack of a better term, a “professional ski bum.” He shot wonderful movies about skiing and about the freedom one feels while sliding down the mountain with two boards strapped to your feet. I don’t think he’s worked a day in his life as his two passions are outdoor sports and filming people doing them. He’s made a fortune doing just that and was my hero for that reason. I pulled up one of his movies on YouTube that 122 degree day and pretended it was winter.
Warren always talked about the freedom one feels when skiing, and if you’ve never skied you need to just go out and do it – because, as Warren said “If you don’t do it now, you’ll just be another year older when you do.” The same applies in our beloved sport of motorcycling.
You know, we all see it all the time out on the road; the envious look, and the glances at the biker riding through, the long stares from the neighboring car at a stoplight. There’s something about a rider and his machine that makes people jealous – not in a bad sense mind you, but in a “Gee I wish that was me” kind of sense.
You get it in the gas pumps from the guy in the minivan at the next pump as you fill up, or outside a bar or restaurant as you park or get ready to ride off – “Nice bike”, or “Where ‘ya going?” or even “Gorgeous machine” (even when in my mind it’s filthy dirty.) I often look at my bike and I see the dings, and the scratches and the dead bug splatter and rain streaks, but to a non-rider or wannabe rider, all they see is the big engine, the chrome, and the freedom that comes with being on the road. A freedom we sometimes, I think, take for granted.
You see it in the smiles of the little kids walking with their parents and getting excited as you start the machine up and they hear it roar. I was finishing dinner the other night with a friend and outside a bar when a young tike with his Mom stopped to admire the bike. Mom said “he just loves motorcycles”, so I let him sit with me and had him push the starter button. He got down just dancing with excitement he couldn’t hold still he was so thrilled and happy.
How many times have you been asked to let someone pose for a picture with your bike? I was riding Route 66 from LA to Chicago and in St. Louis a few years ago and I’d just pulled up on a hot day to Ted Drews Frozen Custard – roadies who love 66 will know this icon that’s been there since the 40s. I was in line with a zillion other folks getting a custard when I saw a guy kind of “stalking” my bike. He was walking around it, taking a picture with his camera. I was a tad worried – being in a not-so-nice part of St. Louis, with all my gear in a non-locked t-bag on my sissybar. I wandered over and he said in a thick accent “Nice bike”. I said thanks, and he asked where I was from. “Seattle”. “Long Way.” I asked him where he was from as I didn’t recognize the accent. “Bosnia”. His wife came over and they asked if she could have her picture taken with the bike, and I said “As long as I’m in the picture too”, and they smiled and now somewhere in some family album in Bosnia is a picture of me and my Harley and this guy’s wife in the parking lot of Ted Drews Frozen Custard.
And I see it on any day I’m at a Harley dealership. The guy walking around slowly, wondering, wishing, touching, and dreaming. Maybe he’s afraid, maybe he’s broke, or maybe his wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/mother would have a fit. He wants to, but he can’t bring himself to. Sometimes when I’m killing time there I’ll walk up to them and comment on what they are looking at saying “nice bike”. They often sigh and say yeah, and not being a salesman, will confide “sure wish I could get it.”
To all those people – the ones who stare out from their car at the stoplight, who glance with envy from their minivan at the gas station, or who live in Bosnia and can’t imagine riding coast to coast in America on a motorcycle, and those of you who don’t ride but who pick up this magazine at the dealership or bar every month and live a little fantasy in every issue, I have to ask “why not?” and “What’s stopping you?” Really now. There’s no excuse. I can argue away any of them. Is it the money – there’s financing, and a plethora of used less expensive bikes. Is it the spouse? Hell it’s YOUR LIFE, YOU LIVE IT! The only thing holding you back is you! Go for it!
Now is the perfect time. No excuses. If you want it that bad, you can make it work. Do it and you’ll instantly join a fraternity that will welcome you to the brotherhood and sisterhood of the two wheels and a motor. Go on now! You know you want to. Because as Warren says, “If you don’t do it now, you’ll just be another year older when you do.”