Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Poison Dart: Riding Motorcycles Takes Focus

For the past five years, I've driven a yellow Ford Focus with blue racing stripes.  I love this car.  Not only has she started for me in the coldest of weather, but she often results in an excited wave from young boys I'll pass on the road.  Once, I even heard a boy scream: "WOW! Cool car!"  It certainly has made me feel special. 

I nicknamed my Focus the Poison Dart for several reasons.  The first is that her front end seems to come to a point (when one looks at it from the side); the second is that the color of the racing stripes reminds me of the Blue Poison Dart Frog (and I love frogs); and the third is that a dart is "focused" and has one purpose: the heart of the target.   Reading Sonny Barger's Let's Ride, I've come to discover that this last reason represents how I will need to ride a motorcycle.  While I drive a bike, the heart of my target will be to let go of worries that could cloud my judgment.  As Barger noted, "There's no room for it out on the road.  I've got enough to worry about just trying to avoid all the other drivers yapping on their cell phones" (15-16).

My car also represents how I'm using my time these days.  I mentioned in my last post that I needed to start attending a gym.  Well, three times a week (with few exceptions), one will find me in the weight room of County Physical Therapy.  They had a great membership special: $80 for three months.  That's like a little over $2 a day!  That's better than the price of gas per gallon! :-) 

Works Cited

Barger, Sonny.  Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling.  New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Calendar, Balloons and Fire

So although I, disappointingly, haven't met my personal goal of posting a blog a week, I'm nevertheless happy to announce that my motorcycle books have arrived.  And though Jim Bennett's book graced my mailbox first, the narrow pages and matte-finish cover of Sonny Barger's book invite the touch of my hands.  Barger's book is 260 pages and divided into seven sections.  My plan is to finish reading it by the end of March.  That means I have to read, starting tomorrow, approximately 8 pages a day or about 1.5 sections a week.  I've selected a purple, Papermate pen as my reading companion.

Though frequency of my blog entries could best be described (thus far) as minimal, my experience of motorcycles in the past couple of weeks has spanned several venues.  At the beginning of the year, my mother gave me a motorcycle calendar.  Each month features either general historical information or specific information on a particular line of bikes.  One interesting fact I learned is that the Indian 101 Scout model was highly popular with stunt riders in the early 1930s and was often used on the "wall of death," a "silodrome" that motorcyclists would climb horizontally to the floor after they'd gained enough speed.  Indeed, an interesting feat, but not one I have any intention of attempting.

I re-watched the film Danny Deckchair, which is about an average guy - too average by his girlfriend's standards - who travels from one town to another after tying a deck chair to several gigantic helium-filled balloons.  In the town where he crash lands, the citizens welcome his strange, fun and uplifting ideas and see him as better than average.  A turning point in the film is when one of the citizens, a female parking officer, and Danny escape daily routine and take off on her dad's old motorcycle.  The soundtrack's lyrics for this scene happily promote the idea of "getting lost," and Danny and the officer are brought closer together as they ride their way into the sunny day.  This picture of motorcycling is much more appealing to me than that of the silodrome.  

The most interesting encounter with motorcycles of late happened while reading Stieg Larrson's Girl Who Played with Fire.  In it, one of the main characters, Lisbeth Salander, a small but feisty woman, fights off two antagonists and then rides away on one of their Harley-Davidsons.  The novel describes how difficult it was for Lisbeth to get a handle of the large bike and later how sad it was for her to leave it behind.  Now with the exception of height, Lisbeth and I are not too different in size, and  as I was reading about her initial struggle with the motorcycle, I had visions of a similar experience when I start riding later this year.  This resulted in some serious consideration of joining a gym.  As Barger says in his introduction, "I take good care of myself. [...] I exercise every day [...] I do this not because I'm afraid of dying.  I do it because the longer I say healthy, the longer I can ride motorcycles" (1).

Work Cited

Barger, Sonny.  Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling.  New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gearing Up

So this past weekend I purchased a pair of mittens at WalMart.  Although I have several nice pairs of gloves, I find that mittens keep my hands warmer.  Instead of separating my fingers into the small compartments of a glove and unduly stressing them to keep warm on their own, they can come together in a mitten and thrive off the heat emanating from each other. 

I wore these mittens when I walked to my Bible study on Monday night, and as I delighted in their ability to protect me from the cold, I couldn't help but think about the protective nature of proper motorcycle gear.  A helmet with visor keeps the bugs from flying into mouth, nose and eyes.  A leather jacket and chaps can protect one from the elements.  A good pair of boots can support the ankle if one ends up off road 1All in all, gear is worth its price, which is in some cases equivalent to a down payment for house.

But before I purchase make a huge dent in my back account, there is another type of gear I've been looking into: books about motorcycles.  I've found two that I'm definitely interested in: Jim Bennett's The Complete Motorcycle Book and Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling

After I receive them in the mail, I'll keep you updated on what I learn from them.  Until then, make sure to gear up appropriately!
Work Referenced

1, "How do motorcycle-specific boots really protect you?" Adventure Rider. 1 February 2012. <>.
Pictures Borrowed From 1 February 2012. <>.

The Beachside Resident. 1 February 2012. <>.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Dream I Can't Suppress

Above is a picture of a gift from my mother.  I've received many presents like these over the years; one of my favorites is a motorcycle pocket watch my father bought me.  The fact that he approved and encouraged my interest in motorcycles is a comfort to me whenever I receive a reaction of horror...   

"Now why would you want to jeopardize yourself that way?"

"They are DANGEROUS."

"Death machines."

I don't deny it.  Actually, I often feel hard-pressed to argue the point.  The statistics seem stacked against me - "Between 2001 and 2008, more than 34,000 motorcyclists were killed and an estimated 1,222,000 persons were treated in a U.S. emergency department" ("Motorcycle Crash-Related Data").  The cards are generally in the opposition's favor.  But though I may appear to concede the point, I nevertheless continue to dream about leather, balance and a windowless ride.  And that is why, despite the persuasive cases presented to me by caring friends and family (and thank you all for your concern), I plan on attaining my motorcycle license this year.

I will not go about it stupidly.  The few books I've read advocate a training course.  Knowledge of motorcycles mechanics is also recommended.  And a Yoda of sorts - a master to whom I can be an apprentice - is preferred.  Not following these safety precautions could cost me my life, and really I'd rather spend it roaming the roads.  So for the months ahead, I will be researching.  I will learn the differences between four-stroke and two-stroke engines, I will gather information related to defensive driving techniques, and I will find my Mr. Miyagi who can help me to "learn how to stand before I learn how to fly."

Works Cited

"Motorcycle Crash-Related Data." CDC. 26 January 2012.