Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tampa to Jax


After a general hold off in fear of suck weather conditions I finally rocked exit from Tampa on the moto. I suppose it was a good start to my thirtieth year.

At the last sip of tea I twisted the throttle on the common road, glancing on occasion to the rear view mirror where the city grew smaller and smaller. Eventually I hit the familiar moto run, a network of roads that the homies and I attack on clear weekends. Strange to be on these roads alone. Like, who am I grazing this apex for? Where is the witness to my skills? Who will pull me from the gravel if I hit that dirt patch? Without my squad, I was confined to the content of my helmet and nowhere else. I noticed more of the scenery. Massive fields in which horses or cows lazily snacked on grass. The branches of wise oak trees weighed down by moss and wind. At the depths of small rolling hills, I felt subtle changes in temperature. I passed a lake for the first time and smelled the scent of a spurned friend. But there was no space to consider that guilt when I hit the interstate in pursuit of a BMW moto.

My head was thrashed by the wind since I could tuck no lower than my tank bag. I hadn't wanted to touch the interstate at all, but I was behind schedule, losing daylight and agreeable weather. I figured that maybe I could link up with a maroon Bimer, decked out with luggage and cruise control. He cleared the on-ramp before I even got a turn signal. Maybe if we rode together we could have a better time of highway traffic styles. I passed him and introduced myself. Then he took the lead. We rode for a while in a lonely formation. Long enough for me to guess his next lane change from his body language. Finally he told me that he would be getting off in a few exits. I wish I could have followed him his whole journey, but my own exit approached quickly. I waved goodbye and entered the land of the Gators.

I didn't stay long. I had no soreness from the journey so far and the last leg of the day was less than sixty miles. So I rocked the exit. I saluted a group of riders headed the other way and thought once again about how at home I felt beside the Bimer. Without a rider beside me I took comfort in the Broadcast.

Every few seconds, my phone checked with a satellite for my location. Then it sent the data to the internet and the info was displayed on an embedded map on this blog. Okay. Whosoever chose could see my location, speed and direction in something close to real time. It reminded me of radio.

A while back I would sit before a console of faders and buttons and broadcast a rather bootleg show to my college town. I spoke into the mic and played music. On occasion the phone would ring, but I rarely answered. I spoke out, like Cioran's insomniac, but no one could speak back. Much like my gps style. Much like this blog, come to think of it. It was a kind of one-way intimacy.

I think maybe more acts of communication are like a radio broadcast or a gps tracker than we would like to think. People speak out on their frequencies or raise a flare with a great yearning to be found. But no one tunes in. Or the lone cat who listens on the same wavelength is simply out of range. For some, it makes no difference to be in a squad of riders or the last vehicle on the road. The Bible had it wrong- a house on a hill can be hid. All we need is a crowd that doesn't care to inspect real estate.

I made it to Jax in darkness. I knocked on the door at my family's home. No one was there. Eh. The driveway was good enough for me to consider the first part of my trip done. My longest ride ever was a mere 214 miles. The Atlas leaned against his kickstand as though I hadn't traveled at all. Kind of like my birthday. Seemingly epic but basically unchanged.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dreams, Peril, Clark Kent

In Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the main character awakens in a great wasteland from a nice dream. A vision of his wife or some significant lady figure, decked out in strange trappings of erotic beauty. It is the only break from the horror of his life but still he doesn't dig it. The text reads:

"He mistrusted all of that. He said the right dreams for a man in peril were dreams of peril and all else was the call of languor and death."

On the threshold of my moto adventure, I wonder if one can ever have a dream or an expectation that isn't ultimately the shipwrecking song of a Siren.

There are many styles that I need to uncover here in town. Calls that should have been made a long time ago. Errands. Life. But I am already gone, discovering new roads, checking into motels, filling my tank. I am already in a place where things are good. It is a fantasy that commits two sins, really. First, it makes an enemy out of my present. It draws my time down into boredom, which is probably the only evil in this postmodern age. Second, the peaceful vision of my adventure covers the challenge and purpose of the ride.

If I was driving somewhere, there would be no seriousness to report. I would hop in a car, turn on the radio, and rock the exit. But there is no safety from cold wind and road debris on the moto. There is no cabin in which I can stretch out, no passenger seat on which to clumsily spill french fries. Rain fall can fog my visor and put my visibility down to fuck nothing. I can be tossed onto the road by sand or dripped fluid from a lemontastic car. And let's not think about the cops. The excitement that I have for the roll out should be shrouded in a halo of dread. Perhaps I am having the wrong dreams, but I just can't help it. I want the road in just the way that McCarthy's protagonist did not.

There is an old argument that says Clark Kent is what Superman thinks about humanity. We are awkward and dim. And If we took to the skies, we wouldn't even have to wear a mask to hide our identities. We are so insignificant among our peers that they can't even see us, much less see us as capable of saving the planet. Yeah, Kent is not a mask that the man of steel wears, he is a cruel judgment reminding us just how much better than us he is. Days away from the exit, I am thinking that all there is in me is the rider and average everyday life is a mask that I long to fully remove. Yet another manifestation of the dream, I guess. 'Cause the rider can't save the world, life is only a mask for death and I can get faded by much more than kryptonite.

But whatever, now is life. Then the Atlas. Then, perhaps the revelation of a new life.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The (Modest) edge of exit.


My first liter bike, as the story goes, was called Prime. It was the first bike I ever owned of such displacement and signified my increasing seriousness as a moto rider. It was also only divisible by itself, I guess. The next bike was called X. The the engine on this machine rocked a crankshaft with a "cross plane" configuration. I also stood at an unexpected crossroad in my lifestyle. "X" also stands in for the unknown, whether it be an exciting ride or a world-rocking crash. So it goes. And thus we are brought to the Atlas.

My current bike is the make and model of the machine that got me thinking about the literbike style in the first place. At Miller Motorsports Park one year, I saw the demon Haga fight for places in a World Superbike round. He finished out in the top five, but the madness of the style was that he had broken his collarbone the day before. He raced through the pain of hastily implanted screws and titanium rods. He was committed to a degree that frightened me. Perhaps I could approach his style in the smallest of incraments. Like getting an R1 maybe.

I have seen Haga in the flesh. Or at least in the leather. But there is another rider, a more distant hero of mine who rocks the same make and model of my newest ride. Sanders is his name, and a few times now he has ridden the R1 around the world. On one trip he clocked 19,930 miles in 31 days 20 hours. The fastest man around Earth on a moto. In yo face, Jules Verne.

Yeah.

So these guys are the poles at the edge of my axis. The mad racer and the mad traveler. And now I roll on the wheels that they rode into legend. I can't ride that far. But at least I can make it to Jacksonville Beach.

Sanders called his world record trip the Journey Beyond Reason. Sounds offensive to philosophical ears, so I am going to rock a journey within reason, a jaunt across florida to last a week or so. I will hit up homies, strangers, and roads I have never travelled. Maybe I think about thangs and record my reflections. I will hit up many cities but there will be no interstates. I hope there will be no rain. But we all know what Fanon says about hope.

When I hit the road, I will put out a pulse, a broadcast of my location through GPS that can be tracked online. I wonder if such a beacon will provide comfort when the road gets lonely. Doubt it.

Yes.

The Atlas is a collection of maps. It is also the god that holds heaven and earth on his shoulders. It is also the topmost bone of the vertebrae. The lesson is not difficult to decipher. Know where you're going, hold shit down and protect your neck.

See you chumps when I get back.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Road Reflections 9: The Open


I often hear motorcyclists talk about the joy of the open road or the feeling of freedom one has when cruising a desolate interstate. These aren’t cats that I can talk to for very long.

The road is not open. It is, in fact, a concrete catalogue of constraints. It has borders that restrict more than the median or the double yellow line ever could and it will bite those who lack attention, luck, or self-control. The road is not your friend. And though it may be a means of travel, one could be justified in cursing it for bringing us to some of the sorry places we have been.

I speak harshly because me and the Black Yamaha still can’t put weight on our wrists. Because my man has a titanium rod in his femur and his nerve endings are on fire. Because somewhere in the city there is a beginner on a little Ninja who needs to be wary.

But the road is also the site where things that we cannot imagine transpire.

The other night I pulled onto a stretch of road beneath an overpass. I stood there with the Atlas, snapping shots, not thinking or imagining. Before I could set the shutter speed, the Jacket rolled up, lights flashing. I expected the usual shuck and jive, but he came upon me with an urgent question. Have I seen a girl on this road, young, barely clothed, in distress. No, I said, and he leapt into his squad car and took off. I stood with my camera until the officer’s panic infected me. Then I jumped on my bike and went searching the avenue, brights aglow. I rolled through office building parking lots and sleepy neighborhoods. Many U-turns and double-takes. No lost children, save for the baby Jesus surrounded by wise men standing on a few grassy lawns.

My wheels couldn’t help the missing and my mind wasn’t right for a dark corner. So I traveled home, remembering at last why people prayed and hoped.

On the next day I set myself to return to the streets. But the sky opened up a torrent and made me reconsider. For a moment I was thankful that the danger was so obvious. Sometimes the layers of sand are too difficult to see. Or the careless driver to difficult to predict. Or the lost child too difficult to find. Yeah, I was thankful for a moment that I wasn’t subject to the tyranny of the road. I would ride or die another day.

Looking out at the storm from my window, I heard an inline four flexing through the distance. I thought about the feeling of freedom that it is said motorcycles provide.

It is a myth of course. The freedom that is a feeling is a freedom that is not real. Like the beautiful vista that Hurricane Carter saw from his prison cell. It is a feeling crowned from the oppression of life, maybe. A feeling of escape, which, after all, is another myth. This is not to say, of course, that it is a feeling that I do not have when I am at the apex of a corner, ready to twist the throttle into oblivion. I feel it all serious. It’s just that it evaporates as soon as the kickstand comes down. Which makes one want to put the kickstand back up. Yeah, it is a feeling to which one can get addicted. And that might make it the opposite of freedom.

Anyway.

The roads are a danger. We can look to them for a feeling, or a destination, or a lost connection. But we should never put wheel to road without great care and just a bit of terror.