You get used to things on the road and when you get home it can be disorienting. For days after I returned from my 5700 mile trip I would come downstairs where I live expecting a hot breakfast, or at least a poor continental one. That didn’t go over very well. Some days I found myself trying to figure out the motel check out time. Or I’d awaken in the middle of the night and run to the window wanting to make sure my bike was safe.
It would have been easier if I’d had some life to jettison back into but I’m a teacher and I don’t work in the summer. (And I don’t get paid.) So, it has been a struggle and everyday since I’ve wanted to hop back onto the bike and go somewhere. And on most days, I have.
Since I returned from my 20 day trip, I decided to give, Big Red, the Harley a break for a while and instead I’m riding my old 1973 BMW. I call her Rocinante – named after Don Quixote’s horse. Being 46 years old she has, rightfully, a few complaints, but she tends to keep quiet about them. Her speedometer is broken, as is the rpm gauge but the odometer works just fine. So, most of the time I’m riding around not knowing how fast I’m going, unless I use my phone app, which is a hassle. Her stand’s a bit wonky and tends to sink into the hot asphalt. The neutral light doesn’t come on and so I have to guess when the bike’s in neutral, which I’ve mostly gotten used to. She doesn’t have a self-cancelling turn signal, so the blinking lights stay on until you notice them and turn them off. When I’m not looking, she’ll sometimes leak gas (petrol) out of one of her Mikuni carburetors. I have to turn off the petcocks before I set her on her wonky stand to avoid that. But she runs beautifully, is nimble and at stop lights you can barely hear her putt, putt, putt. I can say that the little thumper has great torque, four speeds and can get up to 100 mph but we won’t say how quickly. I can’t say, however, that I’m not waiting for something new to happen to the bike. The other day on a trip over to Alabama I hit some railroad tracks hard and the headlight popped out and was dangling by a few wires. That was easily fixed. I think. She also doesn’t have much storage ability – just a small tank bag. Still, I love riding her. She weighs around 450 pounds (around 210 kg) as opposed to the Harley’s 750 lbs. and because her engine sticks out, is horizontally opposed, it has a low center of gravity, which makes for better, easier handling. On the bright side she gets over 50 mpg, whereas the Harley struggles with 35-40. Here’s the two of them:
Two days ago, I got up early to head over to be a part of a charity ride for cancer patients. I was right on time, but no one was there. Then I figured it out that it was the following weekend. To not waste the time I awarded myself: Best Looking Bike and Most Handsome Rider awards. Anyway, I decided it was a great day for a ride and so I took the route the ride usually takes. (140 – 411 to Cartersville, Ga. )I stopped at the Harley dealer and looked at vests to replace the one I’d lost. Sitting outside in front of the shop a man’s shadow came close to me. I looked up and it was Carl, the mechanic I always ask to work on my bike. He was scanning the parking area and said: “I was confused because I don’t see Big Red.” I laughed and explained, but it may not be such a great thing that the repair staff there know me and Big Red so well.
On the way home I took highway 411 and then 293 which is twistier and prettier. I had hoped that the old man who sells boiled peanuts might be selling them in the parking lot of an auto parts store. He was!
I stop there a few times a year and buy a bag and listen to his stories. This time he was telling me that he was now 75 years old and the heat was getting to him. (It was 99 degrees). He could hardly breathe sometimes though he’d had surgery to try and fix that. We talked further and then I walked over to get on the bike. He came over to me and said, roughly:
“I hit one not long ago.”
“Really, that must have been awful.”
“Never had an accident I caused in my life and I just didn’t see him. Saw the white car in front.” His face reddened. “I have nightmares about it.”
“Is he all right?”
“Had to get a rod put in his leg – bone was sticking out – I was crying and apologizing to him and he was apologizing to me. Imagine that.” He glanced away. “He’ll be in rehab soon down here. I’m toying with going to see him. What do you think?”
“I think that would be good.”
He turned and started to walk back to his truck and then turned back to look at me. “Every once in a while, I just have to tell someone.”
“I’m glad you did. I’m so sorry.” I hesitated. “God bless you.”
He stared at me: “God bless you too. Be careful.”