Pete and I started motorcycling this year. Pete rode dirt bikes as a kid, and he’s always dreamed of getting a motorcycle, but it was more pipe dream than anything else.
Last year I was wondering what we might do for our anniversary. Primarily because I knew he would enjoy it and it would be something different and fun, I suggested that we drive up to Maine and tour the backroads on a rented motorcycle. His eyes popped out of his head and his mouth dropped open as if I had just told him he won the lottery. Apparently, he had been talking to someone who was selling a motorcycle, but he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to broach the subject with me.
We didn’t end up getting that motorcycle, and it turns out that riding a motorcycle is a lot more involved than getting a license and hopping on — at least, if you want to do it right. So we did our due diligence — safety classes, gear — and got a Kawasaki Vulcan 750. (The last is a bit of trivia which Pete says is critical). “How can you talk about the motorcycle without saying what kind it is?” I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but okay, there it is.
Whenever Pete told anyone about our new hobby, he would go on about how much I loved it. I had never said that. In truth, I was very happy for him and cautiously easing into it myself.
The first time, I felt really awkward suited up like a Star Wars Clone in my armored jacket, leather gloves and boots, and full face helmet. But when Pete accelerated, I was glad I had my gear. I pictured myself sailing into the air and falling to the side of the road like a rag doll with a bobble head.
The first couple of times he leaned into the curves, I had to close my eyes. I kept thinking, how much do these things lean before they actually tip over? What if I scraped my leg? I remembered someone at the International Motorcycle Show saying, “Everyone has to drop their bike sometime.” I wondered if this is how it happened. I didn’t scream, mostly because I was afraid I might startle him. I realize now he might not have heard me, anyway. Which segues to my main point.
Riding a motorcycle is actually a great place to have uninterrupted quiet. Part of it is that we wear full face helmets. With the face shield down and ear plugs in (we wear these because the wind can get pretty loud), I’m in my own quiet cocoon.
I look up at the clouds, have conversations with God, make note of the way Pete’s hair is peeking out of the bottom of his helmet, and think about what I want to write. We pass a little stone house, water wheel by a stream, narrow bridge, horse farm, mansion peeking over a wall. It’s like flipping through a stack of postcards and watching them come to life. All the while, I’m just quietly thinking. Ah, bliss.
Meanwhile, Pete is enjoying the experience his way. He’s in the driver’s seat, exploring new territory, revving the engine, and carving turns. He’s thinking about speed and the way the bike leans.
You have to realize, Pete has only two modes of operation — fast or off. I, on the other hand, have a variable speed of moderate to slow. When we go on vacation Pete can endure only so much lolling around poolside. He usually dives in and does his sea otter antics, splashing me and trying to get me to join, or at least watch, him. While I do enjoy an occasional party and riding with him on whatever thing he’s signed us up for, afterward I have to retreat and recuperate.
Motorcycling is the perfect activity for us. Throughout the trip, we have this silent camaraderie — communicating with an occasional tap or nod. We take breaks, stopping by a lake or walking around a quaint town. After a long day out on the road, I feel refreshed by my quiet contemplation, Pete feels rejuvenated by his adrenaline rush, and we were together. It doesn’t get much better than that.