A year of living dangerously

Waiting in the parking lot of Carly's driving class

Waiting with Connie in the parking lot of 911 Driving School in Lynnwood, Wash.

I’ve owned my motorcycle for exactly one year, and I feel the need to say something about it.

Memories are interesting in their selectivity. The passage of time filters out details. Emotions also blend into memories to create a memory experience that often doesn’t reflect actual experience.

Before this last year, it had been a long time since I owned and rode a bike. I began riding in 1976, and I sold my last motorcycle in 1994. Selective perceptions and feelings have molded my memories since then. Memories of my early riding days fly by like cars on a freeway, and the ones I see and feel the most are of my father teaching me to ride, the response of the throttle, the feeling of a teenage girl’s arms wrapped around my chest as we rode around her neighborhood, and the thrill of going 100 mph for the first time. All of that and more have blended together over the years to become this smooth, shiny memory thing, “MOTORCYCLE”. That thing is what compelled me exactly a year ago to buy my motorcycle.

It’s great to be back on two wheels, but the reality of owning a motorcycle doesn’t match that memory thing. In fact, reality is less romantic, more expensive, colder and a lot less dry than I was prepared for. On top of all that I have to buy insurance. Buying insurance reminds you that you can crash, and that is a thrill kill any way you slice it.

Having said all that, I’m still thrilled to be back on a motorcycle. I wish there was less traffic. I wish weekends weren’t so scheduled so that I could do more free riding. I wish my wife shared my motorcycle memories and could feel the same thrill that I experience when we go for a ride. I think she mostly puts up with it for my sake. Bless her for that.

The biggest difference I feel now compared to my “Motorcycle” memory is a strong sense of mortality. I don’t remember ever considering that I could crash during my early riding days. It wasn’t even a possibility. That had more to do with youthful exuberance than it had to do with riding skill. These days I know roads have slick spots, nails fall off contractor’s pickups, gravel collects in corners, animals and kids run into the street, drivers don’t see motorcycles. But the biggest thing I wrestle with is carelessness. It’s just too easy to jump on and go. In a way I’m fighting my “MOTORCYCLE memory”.

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