St. Louis, MO
Posted - 03/01/2011 : 8:45 AM
I give thanks for good roads that run straight through desert or field. For rolling roads that disappear over the horizon. For those that curve through canyon bottoms where golden aspens bend over fast-flowing streams. For roads that leap up mountains in sweepers and hairpins to carry me high above and far away from daily life.
I give thanks for the smooth roads and the cracked, the perfectly banked and the off-camber. For roads well-known and those new met and soon loved.
I am thankful for the simple 90-degree turn at a stop sign out in the middle of nowhere. The ones that say, "pause a moment, smell the moist green of growing things and the rich soil beneath them, and think about how good it is to be alive."
I give thanks for the way the concrete sings beneath my tires, the crunch of gravel, the smell of rain on hot asphalt.
I give thanks for the way my leg feels as I swing it over the saddle, the supple strength of gloves sliding onto my hands, for my electric vest in the cold and jacket vents in the heat. The way the zipper slides up my jacket. The way it feels when I take off my helmet.
I give thanks for the dawn rides when the sun finds me on the road while the cars sit still and cold in driveways and their owners turn over in bed and hit the snooze alarm. The empty roads where the mist still clings to the low spots and I can smell the sun starting to warm the air.
I give thanks for the long rides that stretch from morning to late afternoon and into the evening. For the miles and curves that vanish beneath my tires, those hours when time loses all meaning. For those days when I ride so long my throttle hand is sore and I walk a bit bow-legged when I finally park the bike.
I give thanks for the evening rides when the sunlight lays like marmalade across the landscape. For those rides when the sun sinks past the horizon and the world fills up with shadows until all the shadows meet and melt together and bring the night.
I give thanks for night-time riding when the streets once again are empty and silent and I feel as if they are mine all mine, and that only another rider could know the joy I do.
I give thanks for the wind and its odd, irregular beat tapping on my visor. The feel of the wind against my body as I ride. The way it blows the stress, the pain, the uncertainties right out of me and blows hope and the belief that anything is possible into my heart in return. I give thanks for the freedom of the wind.
I give thanks for the lean, for that delicious, exhilarating sensation where I realize I am one with the great laws of physics. I give thanks that I feel the acceleration in every part of my body.
I give thanks for the machine beneath me, for the ability to be a modern-day centaur, for the power and throb of the engine between my legs, the way my hands feel on the grips, for the pull of the clutch and front brake levers. For the thunk of the shift pedal. For the delicious tension of the friction zone. For the way the geometry of the bike makes the algebra of the turns so sweet.
I am thankful for hazards recognized, for dangers avoided, for skills and broken-in brake pads and good tread on the tires. I give thanks for what my more experienced brothers and sisters of the road have taught me.
I give thanks that I ride and live and live to ride again.
I give thanks for wrenching: For that moment when the oil filter loosens, the feeling when I dip my fingertip in fresh oil and slide it around the new gasket. For watching the black, filthy oil drain to the last drip. drip. drip. For the pleasure of pouring in the clean, clear oil. I give thanks for the soul-satisfying act of adjusting the clutch just right and of tightening the last bolt on the frame. For that proper give in the belt and that tiny hiss of the tire pressure gauge. I give thanks that I can change my pipes or the suspension or whatever else I want to do to make my bike my own.
I give thanks for road grime and the joy of washing it away. For the sensual way the soapy water washes over the tank and down the heads and slides off the fenders. For the way clean mirrors and windshield sparkle. For Simple Green and Mothers and Blue Magic, for scrub brushes and soft buffing cloths. I give thanks for that moment right after I'm done and I step back and look at my work. Damn, the bike still looks pretty good, doesn't it?
I give thanks that I ride it enough to get it dirty again.
I give thanks for the gathering of riders, for being able to recognize friends' bikes approaching by their sound, for seeing good companions slow and turn into the lot. For the uneven rows of proud machines leaned over on their kickstands, metallic soldiers at ease. For the glad hugs and laughter, the banter, the growing impatience to be out on the road again.
I give thanks for that good company as I see them ahead of me drift to the outside then dip into the curve, one-two-three-four, like seagulls banking and then straighten up, one-two-three-four, and fly on down the road. I give thanks that I have had the opportunity to ride side-by-side in the pack. For long lunches and short breakfasts. For cold bottles of water and more laughter at a stop along the road.
I give thanks for the camaraderie of riders-those parking lot friends who become such simply because I have a bike and so do they. The fellowship of the road, the sideways wave, the circling back and stopping to see if there is anything they can do. The riders who gather at any old bar or restaurant or eatery that welcomes us. I give thanks for those I come to know and care about over the months and years of riding the same roads to the same places. I am thankful for those who I love and who love me simply because we love the same thing-to ride on two wheels in the freedom of the wind.
I am thankful for the sound of a motorcycle-any motorcycle at all-as I sit so properly dressed, so professionally employed, so occupied with other things. It's like hearing my favorite song drifting from a stranger's window as I walk along the street. I stop what I'm doing and listen. Joy. Then the growl of the bike is gone, but the happiness remains.
I give thanks for the sense of being riding has given me, the freedom to be who I am no matter what others think. The sense of empowerment and control over myself and my life. I am thankful for the willingness to take on risk and fear and triumph in challenge and personal responsibility. To ride my own ride whether in that good company of bikers or by myself. I am thankful that I have found my voice in the wind.
I give thanks for good friends. For those who believed in me and kept believing in me and never stopped believing in me and stood by me when things were difficult. They are the ones who are truly good-good at heart and good in word and good in deed-and indeed.