Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I wake up this morning with fierce pain in my right hip. As if someone heated a knitting needle moments before jamming it through the flesh, upwards, into the ball & socket where the leg joins the hip. I roll over, Sara is sleeping so peacefully, I do not want to wake her. I lie in bed for over an hour till she wakes up.

This burning is a reminder of back in '88 when the rear wheel on my Yamaha R5 racebike came unlaced in turn one at Oak Hill Raceway. When a spoked rear wheel comes unlaced at 95+mph, it tends to disintegrate, causing the bike to sit upright for a moment, then the rear goes into an oscillation, moments before spitting the rider off and setting the whole mass end over tumbling end.

As I was rolling along the track, I vividly remember the heel of my right boot smacking off the face shield of my helmet, background flashing rapidly between earth & sky, earth & sky. and I was thinking "ya know, I should not be able to see my own heel. That's just NOT right"

As it all came to a stop I blacked out for a second or two, then came around laying on the ground with a dislocated hip, thinking "I have 2 more races and my other bike is in the pits ready to go. If someone will pull my leg so it pops back into place...."

The crash truck came, the ambulance came, they brought everything back into the pits. As the ambulance crew was debating transporting me to the Henderson hospital, some of my vintage racing buddies came by to see me. I convinced one of them to grab the right foot, and pull straight from me. SLURP-crackle-POP! the joint lined back up, I was able to stand, and told the ambulance guys I felt great.

Hobbled back to the pits, hopped on the second bike, and ran my last 2 races.

Bought a bag of ice and carried it in my lap for the trip home to Austin, really, there is not anything the doctors can do for a dislocated hip. I tried to stay off it as much as possible.Years later, when that hip fires up, I know the weather has changed.

If the collarbones do not ache (different crashes) then I know it is a mild change, and not a major one. In Texas, I was able to tell the weather by it. Not so mush in San Jose. Microclimates, Silicon Valley can be cold in the morning, warm in the afternoon, and freezing at night.

But today? for some reason, the hip was right. It was foggy and damp this morning, but has since burnt off, and is a clear, sunny, beautiful day.

Cold and damp in the morning does mean my Royal Enfield Bullet will run great. The cool air keeps the motor cool enough to make great horsepower. The dampness helps it burn fuel efficiently and cleanly. I woke up knowing exactly what I was going to ride to work.

Shower, dress, pulled the mighty Bullet 350 out of the garage.

Fuel on, Choke pulled. Key in the off position. thumbed the compression release, gave her 2 very solid kicks to fill the cylinder with fuel-air mixture.Kick gently to top-dead-center. Key on. Headlight off. Compression off. One strong kick down, with follow through, and she fired right up! I let her warm up for a few moments, then flipped on the headlight.

Idle out the driveway and up the street. Turn One is a 90 left with gravel, followed quickly by Turn Two, a 90 right with a van always on the corner. short chute to Almaden Expressway, where you merge from the right, but the early morning bastards coming up to a red light will NEVER EVER allow anyone to merge.

Screws to them. I amble gently along the merge lane, till they are all stopped at the red light. I weave through 2 rows of parked cars, then lane split up to the light. HA! Fools! Trapped in your cages, sipping your triple mocachino-latte starbuck crap. You are insulated from the world in your little cage, drinking your corporate coffee, about to slog through traffic to your corporate job.

As the light changes, I snick the lever up to first, and gently leave the light. quick punch down to second, and I am ahead of the pack. I reach down and flip the choke off. She is purring like a kitten. Snick! third gear, and we are moving now. The expressway has a gentle left bend to an uphill grade, approaching the stoplight and left turn to the metered Highway 87 entrance ramp.

I drop to fourth, tuck into the gas tank, and make speed up this hill. As you approach the stoplight, traffic is always backed up, in 2 left turn lanes. I get to the last of the stopped cars, sit up, shift down and drop to about 10mph. Split between all the waiting traffic to the light, turn, and split down the metered entry ramp.

As I see the stop light change, I go behind the cars. Merging onto 87 is just as bad as Almaden Expressway. California drivers suck. That simple. "I'm not letting you in! I OWN this road! Look at me! I'm a dumbass!"I wait till I see an opening. Traffic is moving at a blistering 25mph. I duck between a woman applying make-up in her Jetta, and a dumptruck driver who is sympathetic to the vintage bike.

Slide over to the center to split, snick snick snick through the gears. I am in top gear, I am coming up to speed. The fog is not a wall, but a mist, you can see rows of taillights and coffee swillers. flip on the high beam, tuck into the tank, and WHAMMY! I am cruising along.

Highway 87 dumps most of these folks off in downtown San Jose. Then it flattens out, opens up, and has a long, fast, freshly paved strip along the airport. I crawl under the paint. I am tucked in so far, I have to look UP to see the speedometer. It registers 80mph. The motor is running cool and efficiently. I know it is probably running about 65mph, but it feels like the Ton.

I move my left hand forward to grip the fork tube. My right elbow is tucked into my side. I am covering the brake levers in case someone does something stupid. But traffic is steady, i have a good clearance on all sides. I am tucked and moving. It feels great. My heart is slow and steady, my eyes dart forward, to the mirror, the sides. I am in the "ZONE" I feel the road, I see the birds, the bike and I are one. I am free.

Much too soon, we come up on the 87/101 interchange. This is a large skyway ramp affair, with the majority of traffic leading up the ramp to the left for 101. they are stopped up to 1/2 mile back. I am going right, 87 to first street. I glide past the stopped traffic. See a man reading the paper. More women and the makeup. Both on cell phones. Doing everything BUT driving.

The Bullet & I slow down, we are getting to intersections and surface streets. As we weave our way to work, every car with an Indian driver looks and points. It is not normal to see a Bullet 350 in California.

We coast into work, park in the lot, and must part ways. I am into the office, to sit and slog, to write and make decisions. The day will warm up, my hip no longer burns, the Bullet won't run as good on the way home. But for a brief moment this morning, I was free. I was flying. I cannot think of a better way to live.

Comments:
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Man, reading this post had me on the edge of my seat, remembering All-day-Sunday rides starting in the fog and having it clear out about the time we hit 473.

Good stuff, good memories.
 
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