Photo; Ryan Hetherington Keys
This past October (eight months ago now) I bought a motorcycle. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. If you held a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you how I made that decision. I’d have to say – well, I saw it advertised on Facebook market place. Calling and asking details was a whim more than anything else. The next day it was on my driveway. The seller showed up along with his wife at eleven thirty in the morning. She pulled up in their truck just behind him. I watched him dismount and tilt the bike onto its side stand. I had no plan. All I had was someone showing up at my door with a motorcycle I had agreed might be worth this amount of money.
I’d read about this model, tried to educate myself in preparation for the moment, and I suppose I was preparing to ride it. I didn’t want to. It’s been over forty years since I rode Terry Boyko’s Honda – I think it was a 250 or maybe a little bigger, and I was sure I was about to make a fool of myself.
He handed me his helmet and insisted I test drive it. I politely refused twice but he was adamant and I was fighting against the natural order of things. What person about to spend that kind of money would refuse to try out the item they were about to purchase? I looked like an idiot.
I took the helmet, put it on, did up the strap, and mounted the machine. It was heavier than I expected and I was more afraid of it than I had anticipated.
I managed to get it moving forward and managed to shift up and back down a couple of gears. I managed to turn into an alley and travel a few blocks back and forth. I also managed to figure out how to turn when you don’t remember the idiosyncrasy of two wheel, four hundred pound vehicle manipulation, and were it not for my knowledge of the fundamentals of a motorcycle rear brake would have ended up at the bottom of a long slope and inside someone’s garage.
They departed about an hour later and somewhere in the ballpark of two grand richer.
What do you do with an inexplicable acquisition, one that can’t be used all winter long? Think on it first and then take some of it apart and replace the inside pieces until it’s as new as possible and then wait for spring.
The smells; gasoline, oil, aluminum polish, gasket cement, grease. All of these scents are waiting and welcoming in the garage. Garage; there is a story in itself. It’s actually a story about a landlord. Maybe that’s best saved for another time or discussion. Baffling. People are absolutely baffling to me.
It’s beautiful. Gorgeous lines. Machinery. A combination of artistic feminine curves and solid iron punch. I’ve been learning to properly handle it since the snow disappeared this past April.
And now we get to the point. I have described all the facets of this gem; its beauty, its function, its effect and potential. Inconsequential – all of them – none of them touch on the stupid truth. That is – distraction. It exists in everything and the default view of all life is to distract oneself from the terror of this moment or from the idea of fates invisible plan – whichever preoccupation happens to be forefront.
Distraction. It is noble but it is also useless. Just look at life. The sky is indeed falling, as ever it eventually must.
No matter your intent, no matter your idea of what this exercise is designed to accomplish, the fact remains that whatever failures, whatever habits, whatever reality exists where you are – the act of running from these and attempting to establish some insulated far-away hiding place where something different can occur in imagination or in practice is fated for failure – all the things you leave behind will be waiting for you in that new place. The place you’re trying to get to doesn’t exist. It’s just this current situation moved along in space or time.
But even though these attempts come up lacking you keep at it. You keep running – either away from these things or toward some other thing. What other thing you ask? What is it you have planned for tomorrow? That other thing.
So – is this that ‘well, look at that man go – he never quits!?’ place – the one everyone praises… Or is it – ‘…how pitiful, look at the fool he’s become.’
It doesn’t matter. It never has. Pick one. Better yet, make some plans. I told everyone who would listen at the start of this pandemic that the concept of value was about to change. The idea of value must show itself individually to people left face to face and surrounded by their own definition of essential.
Right now? The feel of the machine is the most important part. It’s shiny. It feels shiny. It’s very heavy to me – four hundred fifty pounds topped off with fuel, yet it’s pleasingly nimble at the throttle, which means it goes like hell. I was talking with Bryan the other day, we were both marveling at the amount of power contained in a very small measure of gasoline. That’s the secret here. These pistons are about the size of short soda cans. Each is about 2.7” in diameter and maybe 2” tall. A total of 450 cc engaged in producing drive – not a lot of area, but an astonishing level of raw power that is felt in acceleration from a stand still and from mid rpm to maximum rpm. Astonishing.
I remember horse-back. And that was my favorite part; the unfathomable power contained in the musculature, tendon, bone and heated gallon thrust of those beautiful creatures. Instant, launched-from-rockets raw power of the most amazing volume.
This bike is nimble. Turning is simple, stops are confident, cruising is strong and it never seems to run out of power – you can always go faster. I suppose others would disagree, but I see no need to exceed seventy or eighty miles an hour – this gets there easily.
The getaway. Where to? Well – I tried to setup a camp north of here, about two hours away in the middle of the province but I’m not sure about it now. Do I really want to be that far away from everybody? Also – insects. The camp is in the middle of nowhere – there are swampy areas, cattle not far away and horses on the land. Water is plentiful, there’s power and I absolutely know that in a month the air will be thick with horse flies, black flies, mosquitoes and likely things I’ve never seen before (although my time in the North has me fairly well equipped in the speculative bug-terror arena).
After having hauled a tent, sleeping gear, cooking gear, shovel, axe and sundries to this location I’ve pretty much decided to reject it in favor of finding something more hospitable. I’ll go back and get my shit in a week or two.
Why am I doing this? Let’s get back to the you can’t outrun yourself portion of the piece. The motorcycle happened purely by accident. Then, as a result of working on it, making it run perfectly, riding it and wondering how to enjoy it the prospect of short trips entered my mind. Those trips took over my imagination and evolved into representations of success featuring areas in which it’s been lacking since birth. Writing. Doing something. Anything. Working. Being productive. Making a difference in the world. Solving the problem of world peace. Daydreaming about anything but this room and this static air. Not drinking. Not smoking.
Distraction really. Trying not to look at the next five years which are likely to be my last on the planet (sorry kids), or maybe a little further out, but by that time not likely on a motorcycle. Bonus; resale value will be high. It’s a bit of an icon.
Go somewhere where there are a few people, maybe a lake, some shade and sunshine, gasoline for the return trip, food and a reasonably comfortable bed. Remember to take a hat. Stay a few nights, come back and regroup in order to go out again in the same direction or maybe a different direction and do the same thing again. Maybe find a favorite and return until it gets boring. All the while working on the premise that a laptop, books, and initiative all work better in unfamiliar locations.