Monday, September 17, 2007

_This_ is what street biking has come to?

I'd seen this video before, but when it's billed as the "ride of the century" I really have to beg to differ

I like to ride. No, I love to ride. And I've broken my fair share of traffic laws along the way. But getting a few hundred bikes to all lamely cruise down the freeway together while some guys do wheelies... that's supposed to be as good as it gets?


Go carve some corners. Find some amazingly twisty stretch of deserted highway and drag some knee sliders, toe sliders, pegs. See some new places and meet people along the way. Stay out there for a few days or a few weeks. Now that is riding.

I'll now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Perfect Riding Day

What to say...

These types of days sneak up on you. This one didn't start out all that well. It started with me waking up tired, my neck was tight and the weather didn't look promising.

After getting some coffee in me and chasing it with a solid breakfast, I was ready to face some quality TV. F1 qualifying. But Jerry had already texted me and he left me a voice mail as well, so what's a guy to do?

I grabbed the leathers and suited up, packed some raingear and cold weather gloves, just in case and headed out to meet him. It was a late day for us, with a departure after 10 am. But we were on the road nonetheless. I lost Jerry even before the freeway. Again! Undeterred I rode out to 232nd, catching the gaps and getting a good run out. Jerry rode in not 2 minutes after I got to the exit.

We set off and the pace was solid right off the bat. After a quick pass we were heading down snake hill and I went in hard. The rear end locked up and I ended up backing it in on a 30 km/h downhill blind turn. Way to start the day. A quick turn onto some quieter side streets and I put the hammer down. I kept having to roll off to keep things ... well, I was going to say 'reasonable' but that would be an outright lie. We were flying.

Our goal was to take the Ninja and the 954 out to Ryder lake and loop through some back roads. It's late in the season, my insurance is up on Sept 30th and somehow that made it all come together.

The twisties in Fort Langley were covered in gravel and sand, but it didn't slow us down. As a matter of fact, today was the fastest we've ever ridden through there (average speed wise). Nothing stopped us. The pace was wicked!

The Ninja just flowed and I seemingly could do no wrong. Besides running into a hard right too quick on Elk View and having to trail the brakes all the way past the apex, things were dialed.

We took Sylvester road further north than we normally do and there is a serious set of S's. When we got to the far side and turned around Jerry said "Amazing, there was no gravel in there. There's always gravel in those corners."

I told him we were simply going to fast. He couldn't see it.

On the way back, I was going a bit slower. Jerry saw all the sand and gravel. We had a good laugh...

I made the bike dance underneath me on Stave Lake. The rough pavement, bumps and elevation changes made things more of a three dimensional ballet than a motorcycle ride. The Ninja seemed in it's element today and my timing took the bite out of the hard bums and smoothed out the rough sections.

The last bit of decent twisty via Kanaka Way was soon approaching. On the way over on Dewdney Trunk, I took some time to relive parts of the ride. It felt good to slow down and take it easy. I glanced at the speedo and it read 110. Damn. I'd felt like I was barely above the limit. But things flowed smoothly, the sun had come up and the day was warming up nicely.

As we cruised toward a gas stop and a bit of a break a conversation came back to me. A few years ago I met Mike, whom I went to university with, on Kits beach. He was kicking back, baking in the sun and enjoying the warm summer day. As we were discussing how relaxed he looked and how often I saw him there in his lawn chair in the summers Mike told me that "This is precious time."

No Mike, this is precious time. One of the last rides of the season, your buddy and the perfect flow.

Even on the highway on the way home slicing through traffic was easier than slicing through some warm butter with a hot knife. There was always a gap. Because I always saw a gap. No need to roll on and off the throttle or jam on the brakes. Just the same steady pace, faster than the traffic around, with nothing in our way. Just playing with traffic.

Maybe it was because we knew the season is coming to a close. Maybe it was just be cause we'd run these roads so many times that we didn't think we'd be thrilled by them. Maybe it's just one of those magic days, that you can't possibly decipher.

I took no pictures today. I knew that no matter what I did, no picture could capture what was happening. It would pale in comparison, no matter how perfect the lighting or how excellent the composition.

These are days you remember in your heart. And if you're lucky, you can remember that feeling for a long time. Or at least until you have another one of these magic days.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What do the things that affect us say about us?

Returning from my trip through Washington and Oregon, I figured out some things. Like the fact that I like riding alone. And that there is something about 'The road' that has a very strong draw for me. One that sees to be getting stronger every year.

And I gained some perspective. Which, if we are honest with ourselves, is a hard thing to do.

So many boring, well worn quotes may come to mind, but I think this captures it fairly well:

Clarity can exist only when there is freedom to observe, when one is capable of looking, observing, watching. That is only possible when there is complete, total freedom, otherwise there is always distortion in our observation. - J. Krishnamurti

But what even those who have insight never seem to mention is that while it's one thing to gain the insight, it's quite another to hang onto it. In fact, it is fleeting at best.

Rarely there may be times when it's palpable. When it's so at the forefront of our consciousness that we can't help but realize we have it. And when we can hang onto the moment just for a bit because it seems burned into our mind.

I reached that spot. I know where I was, what I was doing and what I was feeling.

At that moment, I was truly alone. Not because there were no other people around, but because those people that were around couldn't possibly relate to me at that instance.

It was the 7th day of my trip and I'd done some hard riding the previous days. Now back in Winthrop, I felt like I was in my backyard with 'only' 5 hours of riding still ahead of me. As I stood in front of the faux-old building that disguised the convenience store of the gas station, letting the sun burn down on me instead of sitting in the shade; eating my chocolate bar and drinking my pop, I had this incredibly strong, peaceful sense of separation.

On reflection, I must have projected part of it. At just about every previous stop, people had come up to me to talk about the trip, to talk about their own journeys, be they recent or decades ago. Yet this time, not a single person approached me. I wore the same gear, rode the same dirty bike, was no more unshaven than I'd been at any other part of the trip. Yet they left me alone. And I enjoyed some quiet moments of reflection amongst all the people that stopped by.

Maybe I had that stare.

With that in mind, it should be fairly easy to understand why I would feel quite drawn when looking at the picture I took when crossing back over the 45th parallel.

After all, I call it my 'middle of nowhere' shot. Which it literally is. But for me, also figuratively.

I remember absolutely marveling at the clouds that seemed to line up for my personal entertainment. And the desert. The first pronghorn I'd ever seen. The first pair of vultures, their red heads contrasting the green field as they swooped down. The fact that I happened to stop right as my odometer turned to 15,000.0 km after I chose the eastern route home on a whim. The route I hadn't taken before and wasn't familiar with. With no GPS, no map or anything beyond a general plan of traveling "East for a while, then North for a much longer while".

But what prompted me to write this entry was the effect the picture had on one of my coworkers, who came up and asked me if she could get a high res version she could print out and put on her desk. The fact that she actually got choked up and said "That's what life is all about. Right there."

It made me think. For all the differences she and I have had over the years, our diametrically opposed views of how to work and get things done. She seems to have understood.