Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Okay, this is from out of the blue, and please, Mom, do not worry, I am quite alright.

I just read an interview with Robert Pirsig, Author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Some college prof of mine had us read it in his class. At the time? I rode motorcycles whenever I could beg, borrow or steal one from a pal of mine.

I read the book, and I understood the guy was looking for a truth, but I did not really "get" it.

A few years later I realized, everybody has one great passion in their life. It may be cooking, or sailing, knitting, playing pool, or collecting nuts and bolts.

Well, mine is motorcycles. I love riding, working on, thinking about, etc.

And it is not just the friends, the destination, the work, no, it is the entire experience.

In 2001 I bought the Harley. Totally against everything my moto-mentor was about. It was big and inefficient. Clunky, loud and harsh. But when I rode it? I felt good. Really good.

I joked that the vibration of it stirred up all the chemicals in my brain, and helped me settle down. It quieted all the voices in my head. (yes, I have voices in my head)

{Side note: my old roommate Bill used to say "I don't drink to get drunk, I drink to quiet the voices in my head"}

The problem with being an intelligent human is your brain is always functioning. You are always thinking about solving problems, or what to have for lunch, or a conversation that happened 17 years ago. When you ride, you must pay 100% attention to the riding. Or you will have an accident, and bad things will happen.

Riding the Harley helped me sum up what riding did for me. It stirs up my brain chemistry, and allows me to calm down enough to sort it all out for a while. It gives me a calm, relaxed state.

I knew something like this was going on. On many of the other bikes I have owned. Yamaha RD400's, GT185 Suzukis, Yamaha YSR50s, Honda 175s, BSA 250, Triumph 650, Turbocharged Suzuki GSXR 1300s, Suzuki bandit 600 from Austin to San Jose, 1385cc Harley Sportster, Honda 996, Ducati 900 Monster, Lately? Briggs & Stratton 3.5hp mini-bikes. Big or small, they all had the same effect. When I was riding it, I felt good.

(old list I posted?)

Over the past few months, I have been limiting my riding to Sunday mornings in the dirt. Well, the court issue is now settled (sorry, no details, let's just say I am not going to have a 3point misdemeanor on my record, Yay Attorney Dave!)

So I took the Enfield Bullet out for a spin. 9 horsepower. It will not go fast. It will not do much other than get you from here to there. But it felt wonderful to ride. Liberating.

And I realized what Pirsig was after. The calm release a motorcycle gives your brain, heart and soul. It silences the voices, it comforts the heart, and it gets you from here to there.

Most of my friends ride motorcycles. I wonder if they experience the same thing.

I can't wait for Sunday.

I totally understand what you mean. Most all of my riding is commuting, but that's 45 minutes a day I *can't* be thinking about anything else but the ride. I also can't answer a cellphone with a helmet on. Ok, technically you can, I even tried a Motorola HS820 bluetooth system. And removed it after an hour. I don't WANT to answer a phone with a helmet on.

Most of my friends ride motorcycles. I wonder if they experience the same thing.
Definitely. I always got my best thinking done on the get-there/get-home slabbing part of long rides, working through things that were going on in my life and mind. And my best concentration was during the twisty riding, when you're completely focused on the next curve.

Then I turned into a smell-the-roses sort of rider too. I learned to take in the surroundings and scenery -- or rather, let them take me in, be absorbed in them, weave them into my emotional fabric. That's when I noticed that there are no vista turnouts on Mt. Hamilton Road.

My life doesn't allow my favorite kind of riding now (long camping weekends, lots of miles, lots of travel, lots of exploration), but I'll never forget -- and will get back to -- the catharsis that is experiencing the world while travelling through it on a motorcycle.

-noemi (who blames multiple varieties of Thanksgiving wine for the corny tint of this message!)
Finally a way to explain to people. You are right, quieting the voices in my head is EXACTLY what riding does.
This was a beautiful and insightful commentary Charles.

Rember "Max Speed' (DISCRETELY) !
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