The Challenges of Winter Motorcycling: Part Two – Autumn Rides

I tried to capture the beauty of an Autumn ride and made these notes a few months ago.

A rustic, weatherworn, gray shack

With a bright red door.

A sun-glistening brown horse

Plays with the buttercups

Pink and charcoal clouds float

In a haint blue sky,

Looking like their arms are crossed.

 

Later, riding home

The sky, honey-apricot.

Black clouds scud like ravens,  

Over the orange-scarlet colors of the sumac leaves.

The Challenges of Winter Motorcycling: Part One – Beginnings

This past June I decided to see how long I could go relying only on my motorcycle for transportation. My goal was that of trying to go a whole year using just the bike. I remember having ridden, out of necessity, through the winter of 1978 in Atlanta. I had an old Toyota Corona, but it was broken so I relied on my 1972 BMW R60/5. Starting in 1970, BMW had begun installing electric starters on their bikes, while retaining the traditional kick starter. In 1973 they extended the wheel base on the model so as to, among other things, allow for a larger battery to be installed. But mine was a 1972. The poor, smaller battery was usually not up to the job, especially on cold days and so I was left with trying to kick start the bike or finding a hill. Fortunately, there was a big hill a block away from where I lived. If I couldn’t kick start her, I’d push the bike over to the spot, open the gas petcocks, tickle the Bing carburetors, hop on and go flying down the hill.  At the right moment I’d pop her into second gear and she would kick over and the engine would start humming. Worst case scenario I’d have to, Sisyphus – like, push her back up the hill and try again. Ah, the good old days! A few years ago, when I decided to buy an old BMW like my first one, I decided to get the year later model, the 1973 version, that would accommodate a bigger battery. But I really wasn’t worried because by this time I also owned Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King.  She could weather anything. Well, except for one cold morning in early November when she wouldn’t start. I had to get to work! So, I went over to the old BMW which I hadn’t started in a few months, opened the petcocks to let the gas flow, pushed the choke levers down, pressed the starter and she cranked right up! So, I grabbed my bag and rode the fifty miles up to work, without a problem.  Well, without a problem on the ride. My BMW still has its limitations as you would expect any 45-year-old motorcycle to have. The neutral light has gone out, so you have to just try and feel neutral when you’re changing gears or coming to a stop. The speed limit when I had a BMW in the 1970’s and 80’s was 55mph, which she easily handled. But now, on the interstate, it was 70mph which was a slight challenge. Only slight because the BMW’s speedometer was broken, so I couldn’t tell how fast I was going anyway. RPM gauge didn’t work either. She accelerated slowly, and she still had a 45-year-old headlight. Whoa, I just realized I could say almost the same things about myself, although next month I’ll be turning 65 years old. I definitely have a hard time finding neutral and I accelerate much more slowly. Fortunately, neither one of us have any leaks, yet.

I put the charger on the Harley battery over night and she cranked right up the next morning. And after a little rest that night, I did too.

Philosophy, Time Tunnel, and Motorcycle Riding: Heidegger

In the late 1960’s there was a TV show called The Time Tunnel about two scientists, Doug and Tony, who got caught up in a time machine. While their scientific compatriots were trying to bring them home Doug and Tony bounced around from one historic time period to another. This week they might show up on the Titanic; next week in the Badlands of South Dakota on the day when Custer made his last stand.  Their appearance in another time zone was inevitably accompanied by them being thrown, tumbling out of the swirling black and white striped cave and onto the ground in their new temporary home.

The philosopher Heidegger coined a term “Geworfen” which essentially translates to “being thrown”. He suggests that individuals are essential “thrown” into the world. We’re thrown into this world with an attendant list of people, circumstances, sufferings, and conditions that we had no control over but must make the best of.

This is how I felt when I returned to the USA after having lived in Ireland for 17 years – as if someone had thrown me out of the time tunnel and I had landed here. I still feel it now and again when I’ve entered into some new situation, something unknown. As the poet Rilke put it:  when “Our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity”. These feelings are accentuated when I travel long distance, especially on the Harley. I end up being thrown into towns where I don’t know anyone, and folks are eyeing me suspiciously. (People eye me suspiciously even in the town I live in!) The choice is to accept the way others see us, to live up to their expectations – to avoid the anxiety inherent in the possibility of freedom – or to embrace it. In addition to being thrown into our existence, Heidegger also says that humans are Sein-zum-Tode – “Beings toward Death”. (Those Germans have a word for everything! Mark Twain once exclaimed that eternity was invented by God so that people would have a long enough time to learn German!) Living with this truth, that we are all on the road to death, is not meant to be depressing, instead, it allows us to step out of our “Everydayness” (“Alltäglichkeit” in German), and to become more passionately aware of our freedom and choices. It reminds us to be aware that our time is limited, that we need to dare to be ourselves despite external pressures, so that we can move from an inauthentic way of living to a more authentic one.

Along with Doug and Tony, we’re constantly being thrown out of the time tunnel. It’s up to us to decide and act upon, who we’re going to be.

Philosophy, Time Tunnel, and Motorcycle Riding: Heidegger

In the late 1960’s there was a TV show called The Time Tunnel about two scientists, Doug and Tony, who got caught up in a time machine. While their scientific compatriots were trying to bring them home Doug and Tony bounced around from one historic time period to another. This week they might show up on the Titanic; next week in the Badlands of South Dakota on the day when Custer made his last stand.  Their appearance in another time zone was inevitably accompanied by them being thrown, tumbling out of the swirling black and white striped cave and onto the ground in their new temporary home.

The philosopher Heidegger coined a term “Geworfen” which essentially translates to “being thrown”. He suggests that individuals are essential “thrown” into the world. We’re thrown into this world with an attendant list of people, circumstances, sufferings, and conditions that we had no control over but must make the best of.

This is how I felt when I returned to the USA after having lived in Ireland for 17 years – as if someone had thrown me out of the time tunnel and I had landed here. I still feel it now and again when I’ve entered into some new situation, something unknown. As the poet Rilke put it:  when “Our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity”. These feelings are accentuated when I travel long distance, especially on the Harley. I end up being thrown into towns where I don’t know anyone, and folks are eyeing me suspiciously. (People eye me suspiciously even in the town I live in!) The choice is to accept the way others see us, to live up to their expectations – to avoid the anxiety inherent in the possibility of freedom – or to embrace it. In addition to being thrown into our existence, Heidegger also says that humans are Sein-zum-Tode – “Beings toward Death”. (Those Germans have a word for everything! Mark Twain once exclaimed that eternity was invented by God so that people would have a long enough time to learn German!) Living with this truth, that we are all on the road to death, is not meant to be depressing, instead, it allows us to step out of our “Everydayness” (“Alltäglichkeit” in German), and to become more passionately aware of our freedom and choices. It reminds us to be aware that our time is limited, that we need to dare to be ourselves despite external pressures, so that we can move from an inauthentic way of living to a more authentic one.

Along with Doug and Tony, we’re constantly being thrown out of the time tunnel. It’s up to us to decide and act upon, who we’re going to be.