Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” Born to Run, Columbia, 1975
Riding through this part of the race, my body is starting to yell at me. It is starting to groans and moans at me when I hit a bump or get into a bad patch of road. Other times it’s the constant of sitting forward, my back and legs reminding me that I am no longer a spry young man of 20. Hands are going numb but still serving me, no soft mounts on these handlebars so, it’s like hanging on to a batter mixer or hand drill, forever. Some of the time I can just ride with one hand and also have the option of setting my crude cruise control, freeing my right hand. Texting on my phone however is out of the question, my fingers will no longer hit the screen as needed, will have to go old school and just make a call like it’s 1999. But there are tricks, let me restate that, I have a ton of tricks for fighting against my body. Slowly but surely, these tricks will be implemented, refined and even invented as needed for the rest of this race, damn I hope they work for me.
When I started riding again seriously after a brief hiatus about 10 years ago, I can remember holding onto the bars for dear life at faster speeds, as if my life depended on it, like I was hanging from a chain link fence. It took me a little time back in the saddle to remember I did not need to hang on THAT much. We don’t hang on or death grip that tight to the steering wheels of cars, why would we on our skoots? I believe the answer to this question lies within a deep understanding in our modern America society. A fact none of us can really escape rather we like it or not and that is; we have all grown up riding IN cars. From our first days of our parents driving us home from the hospital, we all know what a car is and what it feels like to be in one. How to open the door, slide in, fasten the seatbelts and we lean a little or brace ourselves as needed in all the 3D motions of left and right, forward and back, up and down for the car ride. Have you ever meet someone who did not ride in a car until they were much older? I have, he spoke of being raise on a bee farm somewhere in the midwest and did not ride in a car till he was in his early teens. The car was going at such a fast speed of 30 miles per hour he was sure he was going to die. Moral of it all is, unless you were raised with your parents taking you to Sturgis every year for the big biker rally or to the store and back via skoot, you do not know what it feels like to ride, it is simply not engraved into you as riding in cars is. Oh sure if you can ride a bicycle you can ride a motorcycle but few of us ever venture from the sidewalk or protected bike lanes on a bicycles and if we do, it’s not at the speed of a internally powered engine of this fine 2 wheeled machine. On a skoot, you are out there, exposed, part of the surroundings and that includes the tonnage of steel of the cars around you, just a few feet in either direction. With no cage for false protection around you or tinted windows to hide behind on a skoot, everywhere you go people can see all of you.
So the answer is if all of us got the opportunity to be introduced to riding from birth, we would all be experts at just sitting on skoots and letting the skoots work for us but, we in these fine United States of America do it differently. If anyone wants to ride around here, usually they have to learn to ride. I mean you learn to ride a bike as a little one usually so why not a bike with an engine built in? It never seems to be that easy for our american lifestyle. You take a class, take a riding test, apply for and receive a special M class license, find a skoot to buy that may or may not fit you, then and only then, can you truly see if your dreams of rebel folklore skootin down america’s highways will come true. You will spend hours and hours learning to control the bike as needed in traffic, in bad weather, and under all sorts of circumstances and situations that do not usually affect the modern automobile. The passion, want and drive to ride a skoot has to be great, up there with those of us who get the privilege of commuting to work via skoot or touring around these americas, even competing in illegal road races like me. Yeah it takes a lot to get to where I am on 2 wheels but, totally worth it in my humble opinion. Like anything else in life that is worth doing you just, begin. All the questions you have will farm more questions and eventually you get answers and more answers until you are answering your own questions. All you have to do is, begin.
The one I always hear is that a motorcycle are recreational vehicle, what the hell does that even mean?!? When you insure a motorcycle, you get to insure it as a recreation or second vehicle. If you sign up for a towing service you pay for a car towing package then, a motorhome and motorcycle package on top of that. If you break down and have to pay cash for a tow they will try to charge you extra as if you were a large motorhome or recreation vehicle. I just don’t understand how a small 2 wheeled vehicle could ever be referred to as recreation anything. You can and will get anywhere cheaper, faster and easier on said 2 wheeled vehicle. So what if, we took all the young single men under 30 for example and gave them motorcycles? The answer is not totally cut and dry but we would effective eliminate all of our traffic congestion and not have to build additional lanes for our roads. Imagine all the fun life would be if all our young people simple skooted around. As a society we would all watch out for them, watch over them, and allow them to be young and take up less space on our roadways while still allowing them to get their butts to college and or out in the workforce. I have a real opinion on this, and it’s very simple, have fun with whatever you do in life, if you see something you want to do, buy a magazine or research as needed but then, simply begin.
Personally no, i was not raised in a family of motorcycle riders. Yes my Pops rode a lot before he had kids and some after however, the story goes my Mother threatened to turn his chopper into a coffee table if he did not sell it. Off it went, sold to the next young man with Americana folklore aspirations of kicking an old rigid harley around.
When we all go through this wonderful thing called life it seems we have a lot of choices to make. Drink this, eat that, smoke this, walk, ride or drive. I drive sometimes when I have got the kids with me in my big arse Dad mobiles but when I can, I choose to ride. The wind in my face, money staying in my pocket, get out and feel the weather ride. It really is advanced citizenship for me, everywhere I go I get there better, faster, and more economically than the next guy.
My love for 2 wheels started way back when I was 8 and raced BMX bikes with my family race team. Most weekend my Dad would load up the old Winnebago Motorhome or the Caprice Classic Station Wagon and off we would go to the nearby towns of Perris, Norco or Lake Elsinore to have some family fun. A few neighborhood friends along with my older sister and younger brother jumped in, even my little sister who had to be like, 3 at the time got half a lap on her big wheel with all the other younger siblings. Sure we had a few good sponsorships but we weren’t all that competitive. We just kind of showed up, enjoyed the races, fought over who was going to be making the sandwiches and what kind of sandwiches to make while enjoying wearing our cool racing leathers and pedaling our asses off on the track. It was simply about good family fun, a good life lesson from my Pops to my siblings and myself, how to be a single Dad and rock it with a motley crew of children.
I would ride my BMX bike almost everywhere, around the neighborhood, half the town, and for my paper route. It was the mid 1980s so kids could get away with stuff like jumping off curbs and throwing heavy papers at your doorstep at 6am while not wearing a helmet, but I, was simply riding, feeling the wind at my face. When I got older I naturally wanted to ride motorcycles, I mean 2 wheels that don’t need to be pedaled, yes please. I had an old 125 yamaha my friends Dad Milton Pasternak gave to me. I would tool around on it a little in college but had a few issues with it that I did not know exactly how to repair back then and let’s face it, before You Tube or the act of Googling repair manuals was available, it was kind of harder to fix stuff, so fixing stuff, might be out of the question. The old guys could be helpful but damn sometimes they just talked way too much and you rarely got the information out of them you truly needed. In my mid 20s I got married and my wife had no interest in me riding and killing myself on it so I got rid of it, huge mistake. After a few years if being married, my Pops got a used motorcycle, a red 2000 honda v twin 1100, water cooled and everything. Yeah I took one look at that machine and really wanted to ride again. Finally my Pops and I took a class together and my wife conceded that if I wanted to kill myself on a motorcycle, I was welcome to do so. I know she did her best to be supportive but needless to say, she was just never quite happy with me and motorcycles, hence her title these days of simply, my Sons Mom, not My Wife.
The biggest problem with the idea of touring on a motorcycle is that it is very foreign and even scary for most everyone on this planet. You take a class, take a test, get your license and ok, now what? Some commute, some might ride on the weekends with friends or as part of a riding group but how do you learn how to tour on a skoot like really ride across this great country on 2 wheels? Imagine how many times I have sat down with people who are either in awe or just disbelief that I tour the way I do and even race a skoot cross country, let alone a personally built jobber like mine that is missing a set of shocks. Some have questions but most are of the opinion that what I and my competitors are doing is just for the elite or crazy dumbshit of a rider. In these conversations I work hard to get them to know that this, is my sport, like other people hike, climb, or go bowling. They are usually polite in their amazement or statements of how crazy they think I am but occasionally I get the simple “I don’t know how you do that, I could NEVER do that!” statements. This, is always a real bummer for me, it has to come from somewhere deep inside the individual making the statement and it really sucks to hear. Sometimes I have caught myself responding with a statement like “Hey it’s ok, don’t compare yourself to me, I’m a little sick in the head when it comes to wrenchin, riding, and racing.” I am simply using this statement so they don’t walk away thinking that I am an asshole for talking up my riding abilities. I don’t view what I do, as a direct ability of my riding skill. Yes, I have a lot of skill but it has come from years of practice and pre thought as to what it takes to get an old hand rebuilt machine across this country in one shot however, I truly believe anybody who rides can do this. When anot of us make the statement that they cannot do it, they have already failed.
Citizen Cope “Son’s Gonna Rise” The Clarence Greenwood Recordings. RCA Records, 2004.
This road is proving to be fantastic, just totally clear of clutter. The weather is nice and this morning ride is just what I needed to start day 2 of cross country chopper racing. The green in the rising and falling flat hills around me just puts my mind at such an ease. I have spent a lot of time and money to get myself here, best to sit back, flex my body and mind and simply enjoy the now, almost distraction free.
As young people set out in their lives today there is so much distraction, like true commercial distraction, it can really overwhelm so many a human being, so many of us just don’t truly get to find what makes us happy. Always someone is trying to sell us a better more comfortable life and get our hard earned money. It’s too hot, too cold, too rough, too soft, too hard, too old and on and on. We cannot do this or enjoy that until we buy this product or that product, and we can finance it, simply buy now and pay later. We are always at the mercy of what we give away to have that dream we think will, make us happy however from my personal experience, I can tell ya that dreams, are made from a lot of planning and pre thinking with a side of adventurous attitude and a want for something greater and more self filling. Let’s all get out there and get our gettin on. Let’s go enjoy life and make a game out of how little we spend or how little we give to the man in our adventure. This is my game, no matter how good or bad I might be at it, this is the road I choose to run.
Sooner or later on this race I’m gonna have to start figuring out the hard cold facts on my life and how to make myself better in the today of my situation with good decisions. Lately it’s all piled up on my plate as I have allowed it, shame on me for letting said plate get so damn full. Sooner or later, for now I am happy to enjoy running here on my road.
This highway system is all set up for us. There are only a few places, mostly in the west where you won’t find a gas station every 100 miles or 50 miles. Rarely can a skoot go more than 150 miles stock so it’s ok to add an extra fuel tank. Petrol fuel that we buy at the pump only weighs just over 6 pounds per gallon. If you want to worry about the extra weight, just lose 20 pounds and shut up about it, it’s not that big of a deal, add a few gallons, or carry an emergency fuel can. Yes I carry almost 3 extra gallons in my spare fuel cell mounted on the front of my skoot and, just in case things get stupid and I run out or a friend needs fuel, I also carry a stainless steel water tumbler or extra fuel. That thing only holds 14 ounces, just enough to get you started again really but, I don’t want to have to stop and refill my fuel, like ever, that exercise would take way too much time. Will be stopping every 220 miles or so to refuel, if I have to turn my petcock under my tank to the main tanks reserve, I can but damn that would be bad planning on my part. Easier and faster to stop to refuel when needed and when the road allows and enjoy the now of fuel availability.
Living in the now is always the best road from my personal experience but, totally and excersise of grecian proportions to get my mind around it sometimes. Today I am healthy, I have air in my lungs, my children are safe, warm and healthy and today my skoot, is moving flawlessly across this 3000 mile of illegal road race. There are only 2 types of mechanical devices in this world, those that are broken and those that are going to break. It does me no good to worry when this machine will break, I just have to sit back and enjoy the now of it moving forward from my hard work of repair and preventive maintenance. I have always done my best to put myself in the old school thinking that if ya own it, its ok to know how to maintain and fix it. Sometimes yeah that means handmade and beaten forged metal parts that aren’t so shiny, hell sometimes they may not even have a coat of paint on them but my parts work well for me, as I design and build them to. Other times it means hockey stick tape and duct tape but above all of that it means, I did it myself, for me and my machine and it is keeping me competitive in this race, so far. Sure I get flak from the normal consumer on my skoots that I rebuild and ride, I take all that flak as a compliment. I enjoy the lack of education so many people have on what works and what does not, or what is cool and what is not. All that can be said is, until you ride like myself and my competitors, ya don’t get to judge a book by its cover, it ain’t what’s on the outside that counts and chrome dont get ya home. Wow I can go on and on. Above all, we all get to find our own road, and our own way down that road, yeah my way looks a little different but, im moving faster and farther than most in this modern age via old skoot down this road, my road, my way, in the now. To a Man like me, that is the current definition of freedom.
I find myself in the middle of Kansas, stopping again for fuel, a big bathroom break, coffee, beef jerky, refill my trail mix container, water, oh look a banana on sale if you buy 2, just like the water oh and maybe some of those little crumbly donuts I only allow myself to enjoy once a day on the road like this. I take a glance at my phone realizing I have not heard from Ella yet today. I call her with no answer, I try to send her a text but my fingers aren’t working, crap, oh well. I jump back on the skoot, button up and go, accidentally leaving my light jacket on and the humidity of the middle of Kansas is raising. I open it and accept the small discomfort of warm and wet so i don’t have to stop. Soon I see it, a storm system right over the road in front of me and am about to ride into it of course. If I look close enough, I think I can see the beginning and end of it. It’s hot and humid as hell and damn would hate to put my suit on now. I stow my phone in my tank bag, find my sock to whip my face shield off which took like 10 minutes as it was buried in my tank bag and simply get comfortable in my decision. Well, here goes nothing, time to get pelted and wet. I ride through it, ringing my yellow leather gloves out as I go to keep my grip. It starts light, then gets heavy for 20 minutes but then, it is done and back in the humid heat of Kansas on a June day.
I get my phone from the tank bag and can see Ella has responded and even tried to call me back, that was nice of her and puts a big smile on my face. I’ll have to catch up with her soon enough. Getting into Kansas City now and just in time for lunch hour traffic. Being from a big city myself, this Kansas city traffic won’t bother me too much, I think. Traffic slows but never stop and then I feel myself shins and arms being pelted by something, fine B.B. sized dirt. I move from lane to lane hoping to find relief from it but i can’t escape it. The tires from the cars in front of me are just picking it up and throwing it high enough for me to catch it just so. Something is wrong with this road, I need to get in front of this mess and fast, this shit is annoying. Speeding up, swerving through traffic and after a few miles find the source. An old beat up van towing a car trailer has decided that this car trailer, is suitable for hauling dirt and i can see it just making a mess falling all over the highway. I pull next to him and yell he needs to secure his dirt, it’s making a mess. The older, not so gentlemanly type driver listens to me, then flips me the bird, I smile and wave back. Reaching into my left tool saddle bag and grab something, anything, I find a smaller or stubby phillips screwdriver. Calmly I pull in front of him and see pretty clear traffic ahead of me and, accidentally drop the screwdriver in the air with very little movement. Darn, I hate it when that happens but every so often, ya just lose grip of something on a skoot and away it goes into the air. I wonder if i should stop and pick it up? In my rear view mirror I watch as the tool slams his windshield with a sharp bang. I can’t see if his windshield cracked or not as I quickly shifter down 2 gears (click, click) and hit the throttle and calmly jam out of there.
He slows as I accelerate fast but with as little fanfare as possible. Eventually I see him pull to the side of the road. Ok, not my finest moment but damn people sometimes, and their crap attitudes towards public roads. Public roads people, we all get to share it, from big rigs to fragile skoots, it’s all for public use.