More Reflections: Un-amazing Luck with Women – Sweat, the Secret Weapon.

More Motorcycle Reflections: Un-amazing Luck with Women – Sweat, the Secret Weapon.

“Once you realize that the road is the goal,
and that you are always on the road,
not to reach a goal but to
enjoy its beauty and its wisdom,
life ceases to be a task and
becomes natural and simple.
In itself an ecstasy.”

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

I’d like to say that when Jeff and I were touring the lower states on our motorcycles I had amazing luck with the ladies. Like to say it, but it wouldn’t be true. First of all Jeff didn’t let his eyes wander. He was always devoted to his wife of 26 years. And the only women who seemed interested in me were the B52 bouffant-haired waitress on Mother’s Day at Susan’s in Springdale, Arkansas and an attractive, Eastern European woman in Henderson Nevada at the casino, who tilted her head from side to side and told me I looked a bit like Pushkin. To be honest, I think both just wanted money from me. At any rate I always behaved myself and acted like the clean, gentleman biker my momma raised me to be.

It’s ironic because of the new research which has come out recently on sweating, something Jeff and I did profusely and with abandon.

It seems that my routine shower taking after the long rides actually dampened my chances of enticing women. Apparently, research has shown that Androstadienone, a chemical compound found in male sweat, actually boosts hormone levels, increases blood pressure, and raises the rate of breathing in women. According to the studies male pit sweat has been shown to improve women’s moods and stimulate the secretion of “luteinizing hormone” — a chemical involved in triggering ovulation.

I don’t know about Jeff but I’ve stopped showering entirely.

The Patron Saint of Motorcycle Riders?

The Patron Saint of Motorcycle Riders?

 Who should be the patron saint of motorcyclists?There are a lot of saints in the race for this honor!

 We can start with Elijah the Prophet who was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Although a friend of mine says Elijah was taken up in Triumph! (Maybe a Triumph Trident!) Regardless, they didn’t have Harleys in those days so he had to settle for something else. But I can still picture the dude doing this! Can you? Now imagine him on a CVO Harley Road King screaming with locomotive type clout in top gear.

Another candidate is Saint Frances of Rome who was declared the patron saint of automobile drivers by Pius XI.  There was a legend that an angel used to light her way with a lantern when she traveled, keeping her safe from hazards like deer and pagans. I’m pretty sure the angel used the Hiawatha headlight from the Road King to accomplish this task. Harley Davidson themselves state: “the Harley Road King headlamp hearkens back to the Big Twins of the 60s. You get nothing less than the latest in materials and technology. Clear-lens reflector optics provide a longer distance high beam and wider low beam to light up your” …touring experience. “It’s a bright, striking daytime lamp that blasts a little further into the night.” You need a bright light on those pesky Roman roads at night.

 St Christopher was popular when I was a kid. I remember my Uncle Terence had a St Christopher medal. He was supposed to bring protection to travelers; that’s Christopher, not my uncle. I like Christopher. It’s interesting that his original name was Reprobus, which meant rejected or outcast. Sounds like a Harley rider. Apparently he was tall, strong, ugly and ambitious. The girls around the Canaan bars, a town the size of El Reno, Oklahoma, laughed at him and the guys were always trying to pick fights with the big guy. Reprobus went searching for the King of kings, and spent some time with the Devil (probably a Honda dealer). But he ended up finding Christ, who appeared as a child to him. He carried Christ across a dangerous river, without the help of any flotation device. After this Reprobus’ name was changed to Christopher, which means Christ bearer.

But in 1969 they had the reform of the Roman calendar and decided they just weren’t too sure about the veracity of the stories about Saint Christopher and demoted him somewhat.

Still he is a widely popular multi-talented saint who’s apparently also revered by athletes, mariners, ferrymen, all travelers-protecting them better than Allstate insurance against lightning and pestilence. He’s also popular with archers, bachelors (??) boatmen, soldiers, bookbinders, folks with epilepsy, fruit dealers, gardeners,  surfers, and, believe it or not, people suffering from toothache. That’s one multipurpose saint! Surely he should be in the running for the patron saint of motorcycles?

 Another nomination for the honor goes to Sebastian de Aparicio y del Pardo. A Mexican road builder in the 1500’s he was considered one of the first Mexican “cowboys” or “charros”. I know, he’s sounding really good. He went into the transportation business and helped build over 600 miles of roads in Mexico. Then he gave all his money away, became a friar and he traveled these highways as an itinerant beggar, monk and peripatetic teacher. He drove a two oxen powered cart (Maybe 50cc’s) and lived on the road for days, sleeping on the ground under his cart in bad weather. Though he never got much out of second gear people loved him for his simplicity and Christ-like ways. Apparently, he always said: Guárdeos Dios, hermanos! (May God keep you, brothers!). If that ain’t a Harley salute I don’t know what is.

Okay, the final contestant for the honor of Patron Saint of Motorcyclists is (cue the trumpets!)  St. Columbanus of Bobbio. Despite the Italian ‘Bobbio’, this guy was an Irish dude! What a surprise! (You knew I had to sneak Celtic Christianity in here somewhere!) During the dark ages when the Irish were saving civilization and Christianity he ventured away from Ireland wandering up and down Europe in the sixth and seventh centuries, starting monasteries and spreading the word about Christ.

But who was this man? How do we know he was Irish? Apparently what cinches it is that that we know he lived at home with his mother into his 30’s, he wasn’t married, and he didn’t have a job. Ha ha!

Unusually, he was tall and good looking and the girls chased him (I can relate to that except for the tall bit, and the good looking part and…). He was also a bit of a rogue, as they say. A holy woman put the fear of God in him and he decided to change his ways. When he decided to become a priest his mother tried to block the door physically with her body, but he just stepped over her, signed up and got his traveling orders. He traveled throughout Europe to Germany and Switzerland and ended up living in decadent France for 20 years, establishing three monasteries there before he moved to Italy. He carried his Celtic Christian ideas and practices with him and was always riling up “the Man” (the Popes and Bishops).

He lived in a cave for years, was very pious and is said to have wrestled a bear. But unlike Davy Crockett he didn’t kill it; instead he tamed it and yoked it to a plow.

He is quoted as having said, “Love is not orderly.” You gotta love this guy!

Miracles credited to Columbanus include:

Once after being surrounded by wolves, he simply walked through them

When he needed a cave for his solitary prayers and a bear lived there he asked politely for the bear to skedaddle and he did.  

When the Luxeuil Abbey granary ran empty, Columbanus prayed over it and it refilled.

He cured several sick monks and gave sight to a blind man at Orleans

But my favorite is that he multiplied bread and beer for his community. We’re talking about craft, micro-brewed beer here! Bikers love their happy, hoppy beer!

If Columbanus were alive today I imagine him riding a Harley Fat Boy. The Fat Boy is a living legend. Arnold Schwarzenegger rode one in ”Terminator 2”. It’s got a 1,584cc pushrod V-twin engine, six gears, massive torque and you’ve got to love those shotgun-style tailpipes. It’s nimble, has no saddlebags and is perfect for itinerant monks flying around on those twisty heathen roads in Europe. Combine all this with Christianity and you can’t be beat! Love and a Fat Boy can conquer all!  

 And the winner is?!

 Well it’s really up to you to choose your saint, from among these or others.

But I will tell you though that the Vatican has endorsed the Irish saint Columbanus as the official Patron Saint of Motorcyclists! And, another supreme authority, the Harley Davidson company has produced a medal recognizing St. Columbanus as the Patron Saint of Motorcyclists. What more authoritative endorsements could you ask for?  

Monk Jonas wrote about Columbanus in the seventh century

 A while after, Columbanus went to the monastery of Fontaines and found sixty brethren hoeing the ground and preparing the fields for the future crop. When he saw them breaking up the clods with great labor, he said, “May the Lord prepare for you a feast, my brethren.” Hearing this the attendant said, “Father, believe me, we have only two loaves and a very little beer.” Columbanus answered, “Go and bring those.” The attendant went quickly and brought the two loaves and a little beer. Columbanus, raising his eyes to heaven, said, “Christ Jesus, only hope of the world, do Thou, who from five loaves satisfied five thousand men in the wilderness, multiply these loaves and this drink.” Wonderful faith! All were satisfied and each one drank as much as he wished. The servant carried back twice as much in fragments and twice the amount of drink. And so he knew that faith is more deserving of the divine gifts than despair, which is wont to diminish even what one has.

His Feast day is the 23rd November

May he always help us keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.

Reverberations: 11 Days after the Trip Ended

Reverberations: 11 Days after the Trip Ended

“We have a wacky theory for why people like to ride motorcycles, and it goes like this: The act of riding is a form of meditation, because the concentration that’s required to safely ride a motorcycle tends to focus the mind in a way that eliminates other mental distractions that might interfere with the mission. This creates a single-mindedness that, in effect, displaces the continuous stream of thoughts that normally flow through our consciousness” (WebBikeWorld.com, para. 1).

 I definitely have been experiencing reentry problems after the cross country trip. Exacerbated I’m sure by the fact that my Jeep is still in the shop being repaired. So I’m still kicking up dust around town on the Harley. And I’m still frequenting fast food places; McDonalds for an afternoon iced tea and Krystal for their Over 55 breakfast ($2.99!). I love it when they ask for my ID!

Every morning when I wake up I feel as if I ought to suit up and head out some highway, lonesome or otherwise.

I rode Big Red up to Dalton for a job interview on Tuesday. These were the roads I’d practiced on before the trip. This time riding them I felt so much more confident and comfortable on the bike than I had before the trip. 5700 bike miles can do that to you. I passed the Harley dealership in Dalton and felt a magnetic draw, a pang of nostalgia given my frequent visits to Harley dealers for repairs while on the road.  I almost felt compelled to stop by and just give them a couple hundred dollars, just out of habit. Fortunately, I resisted the impulse.

But I’m happy to report that Big Red is doing well. And when I ride her I have a sense of freedom, a letting go of the past and an immersion in the beauty of the present.

A poem by Yeats

I am content to follow its source

Every event in action or in thought;

Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!

When such as I cast out remorse

So great a sweetness flows into the breast

We must laugh and we must sing.

We are blest by everything,

Everything we look on is blest.

Some Concluding Thoughts, for Now. What I learned from the Ride.

Some Concluding Thoughts, for Now. What I learned from the Ride.

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.”

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

 In Tao of the Ride, Garri Garripoli writes: The Ride is the metaphor I use in this book for how we move through our life…For me, the Ride is best played out on a motorcycle. It speaks to every aspect of how I see life in that poetic way – the need for balance, confronting your mortality, accelerating, breaking, refueling, tune-ups, repairs, accidents, accepting passengers and so forth. The bike becomes a mirror that reflects the whole of my life.

I like Garripoli’s quote (and his book). Here are some  of my conclusions about my ride.

Look where you want to go. When you’re are on a motorcycle you need to be focusing not immediately in front of you, but instead looking in the direction you want the bike to go. The bike will go where you’re looking. If you get fixated on some hazard in the road, or that your bike is heading off the road and you are worried about a wall or a ditch and you stare at them, that’s called object fixation. Staring at them you’re more likely to hit them. As in life, you have to not get too hung up on difficulties in your path, but instead, have a vision of where you want to go. Proverbs says: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Lots of times in life we get stuck focusing on the problem that is making us unhappy and forget about the things that do make us happy. Let’s head toward them.

Don’t worry about what you’ve already driven through, or become preoccupied with what’s coming up that you can’t yet see. This is part of staying in the present. Having an awareness and mindfulness of what’s happening around you, what your senses are telling you. If we focus too much on the past, which we can’t change, we’re daydreaming and not paying attention. Similarly, if we worry about the future too much we can miss important things that are happening in this moment. And this moment, this day, is the only one we have. We have to present to win. This links in with the Zen concept of mushin no shin which means “the mind without mind”. Jeff said a similar thing to me when he mentioned that when he was riding it was like he had no mind. Mushin happens when the mind is not preoccupied with thoughts or emotions and thus is open to the present, to what is happening now. It’s similar to the flow that artists experience in very creative moments. You don’t rely on your thinking but on your training and intuition.

Stay calm and breathe. It’s so important not to over-anticipate and overreact to things. I’m still working on this as I tend to tense up a lot, with a rough road or wild winds. If I see a bump ahead, or debris in the road I would often tense up in anticipation. Instead, I need to look and see what my options are. This illustrates the constant lane awareness you have to have. If I can shift in my lane or change lanes to miss the obstacle then I need to stay calm, look where I want to go and make the subtle movements to go there.  The last two days of my ride I felt this happening more with me. I wasn’t always trying to plan my lane position for curves, I would catch myself tensing up and I’d relax. Toward the end of the ride I was feeling more and more the flow and energy of the bike and the Ride.

The Taoists have a useful concept called wu wei. Essentially it translates as effortless action. It means to flow with the situation rather than trying to force things. Resistance is futile! Find the energy and go with it. This works effectively with difficult Harley Davidson service managers or challenging folks at work. And the principle can be seen in the actions of dancers, artists, musicians who have relaxed into their artistry, trust it and follow it. You can also see this with motorcyclists in how they manage a curve in the road. They might manhandle the bike, bank it with force, grip the handlebars extremely tightly (like I have so often done) or they relax into the curve, sense the bike and the road, look where they want to go, feel the flow and balance, and manage it all gracefully with wu wei, effortless effort.

This leads into the next bit of knowledge I gleaned: Lean into the Curve. I’ve written about this already. I even bought a Harley shirt in Victorville, California, where I was getting my Harley repaired, and the shirt says: “When Life Throws you a Curve, Lean into it.” Don’t fight it, or become fixated on it, or try to overpower it; just trust that you can go into it, through it and survive. You will make it through it and come out safely the other side.

Silence is healing and holy. We are bombarded with noise all the time. The radio, the television, music we listen to. When do we actively engage with silence? Elijah, Jesus and Mohammed journeyed into the desert so they could more clearly hear the voice of God. Buddhist, Christians and others meditate in silence.  Quakers worship in silence. Psalm 46 says: Be still and know that I am God. When are we ever “still”?

Even with the loud hum of the V-Twin Harley engine on my Road King, most of the time I felt as if I was in silence. The sound was a hymn that was being written as I rode.

Love the Ride. Be grateful. This was my ride but we’re all on the Ride, our life’s journey.

The eighteenth-century Christian writer Jean-Pierre De Caussade wrote “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams …The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms insofar as it overflows with faith, trust and love.”

I know my life works better when I express gratitude for what I have and show loving kindness and compassion towards others, beginning with myself. I tried to do this as much as possible on the the ride.

I hope you enjoyed riding along. Thanks for reading and following us.

I’ll conclude with a quote from one of my favorite writers.

Homecoming is the goal, but our home is not out there, a geographic place, the protective other, or a comforting theology or psychology. Homecoming means returning to a relationship with the Self, a relationship that was there in the beginning, but from which we necessarily strayed in our obligatory adaptations to the explicit and implicit demands of family, tribe and culture. Homecoming means healing, means integration of the split off parts of the soul, means redeeming the dignity and high purpose of our soul’s journey. When we are here to live our soul’s journey, we can spontaneously be generous to others, for we have much to give from our inner abundance; we can draw and maintain boundaries, for we have learned the difference between their journey and ours; and we can sort through different value clashes because we have found a personal authority that helps us discern what is authentic for us. In short, we have recovered a relationship to the soul (psyche) from which we lost contact, but that nonetheless continues to hum beneath the surface of our lives and never, ever loses contact with us.”

James Hollis, What Matters Most