Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Road Reflections 8: Dialectic of Self

On the heels of the mechanical menagerie that was Bike Week, the homies gathered on sunday morning for the ride of rides. It was to be a tour of the countryside at the quickest pace we could manage, the fulfillment of the Daytona Zeitgeist. Riders gathered in a parking lot. The Ebony clan got there before I did. I rolled up with the GSXR lineage. We dismounted and waited for the special guest, who came from afar for just for this ride: The Green Ninja. As he took his bike down from his truck, a rider noticed the mangled edges of the Ninja’s front tire, the tattered refuse of race compound rubber that had recently seen the track. Oh yeah, this was about to be serious.

Soon we rocked exit and began the uneventful journey to the first road in question, a long and curvy road with several tight first gear turns. The appetizer. As team leader, I was the first into its corners. Th Green Ninja followed. It was lovely and the pace of the turns marked a milestone whose significance would slowly reveal itself over the course of the day.

When we reached the end of the road, I signaled to the team to rock u-turn and blitz the road one more time. And off we went. The Green Ninja and I were the first to its end. We pulled to the side of the road and dismounted. From the third, this probably seemed like the basic-ness of two cats parking. But really it was the completion of a cycle that had been spinning for several years.

Back in the day, when I could only dream of two wheels, I went to s dealership and set my sights on a machine. It was a good bike. A street bike. But the Ninja, like his brother did for him, told me that perhaps I should shun the street bike style and consider a race replica. I considered and agreed. And so began the squid-ish steps on my journey to skills. Safety classes. Group rides in which I pulled up the rear. Close calls. A wreck. All while wearing the leather off his back. I got a little better as time went on. After a moderate upgrade I hit the race track for the first time. Things began to come together. I began to get something that I had not before. And then I went to a race. From the grandstand I saw a man with a helmet made of red fire barrel into a turn faster than the speed of thought. It was as if he himself had been engineered for the task. And I wanted a part of that. So I made an upgrade. And hit the streets harder. And read more books. And watched more videos. And hit the streets some more.

So that, at the end of the road, getting off the bike at the same time as the green ninja was a landmark. The first time that we ran the same pace. The streaks of Green and Blue finally blended together and carved the same lines. I now knew what I had suspected. There had been a completion.

We looked down the road for our homies. But they did not come. We decided to go back and check, but when by the time we started our machines, they came around the corner. They parked and two of them got off and immediately inspected their machines. The road had claimed them and they both suffered low speed lowsides. We were all reminded of the danger of our sport. But it wasn’t so dangerous as to stop. We mounted once again and looked to the distance as the last addition to our party rolled up. The unmistakable growl of the Golden Triumph pulled up to us and nodded. We were now complete and headed deeper into the country for the truth of our styles.

We followed the Triumph into tight turns, over hills, and down long straights. We saw no police. We doubled and even tripled speed limits. The riding wore even deeper into the edges of my tires. It was brilliant. After a brief rest at the gas up spot, we set out once again. We were headed for the most gangster road in all the land.

When we got onto it, we were obstructed by a slow truck carrying cargo. At the first chance, we broke free and flexed down the oncoming lane to pass it. I checked my rearview for a moment and saw an indistinct blur of Green and Gold. Then I was off to the first turn.

Speed is a place. There is a point at which the air travels around you so quickly and the road comes up to you so fast that things seem to be categorically different than they were before. The scenery is exhilarating and dangerous. A previously undetectable dip in the road sends a violent jolt through the suspension and your body. Particles of sand and dirt hit you in the neck hard enough to leave a mark. Bugs shatter against your helmet, their demise marked with a powerful clap. There is a blue sky and a beautiful sun and green grass off the road but you don’t care, because there is nothing more important than your path down this road. Everything else is bracketed and set aside with an efficiency that Husserl himself could not imagine.

But as the world slows down, it also comes back into view. This is the respite of a stop sign. And here, once again, the Ninja and I looked to the rear in wait for our homies. And once again, they did not come.

When we made our way back down the road, we rolled up on a gathering around the Triumph, its Golden fairing sprinkled in pieces along the ground off the side of the road. He had gone just a bit wide before executing his quick turn. Hit a patch of grass. He had to stand it up and ride off road and a speed that is much nicer for tarmac than it is for a lawn. A mound of dirt ended his trajectory for a fence but also broke him to pieces. It is a suck way to end a ride.

Eventually, we got his bike going again. He was able to ride it home. And we followed at the pace of a tired and shaken brigade. But I did not return as I had left. I had touched a hallmark. I had seen myself in a Green mirror and had been born in a way.

Now, the bike sits in the shed. It has been cleaned; only the wear on its tires show the toil of the Sunday Ride. I have turned my gaze to a different dialectic. Or perhaps to the same dialectic in a different form. I wonder when I will see myself in this new mirror.

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