By lex, on October 9th, 2003
Zen and the art of motorcycle riding on Hwy 5.
This is the daily ride. That is not the daily rider. That’s the Kat, who not only is morally sure that she’s the boss of me, but thinks it with such authority that I cannot be quite sure she’s not right. A true force of nature.
It’s a great commuter, if you like that sort of thing. Where I live in Sandy Eggo is about 25 miles from where I work, which means that traffic is an ever-present factor in my life. There’s this thing called “the Merge” that is entirely unpredictable. It can be about cars all moving at 80 mph in close formation like a synchronized swimming team on meth, and then for no comprehensible reason it can turn into a parking lot. And back again. God forbid someone has a fender bender in the opposite direction lane: traffic will stop in both directions. You could maybe see a body part, who knows? Just as well to slow down and see.
Except if you’re on a bike. On a bike you can lane-thread, shaving, what? 10-15 minutes off the commute on a bad day. It’s a little nerve wracking though. It requires concentration not unlike that of landing on an aircraft carrier at night. I should know.
Normal commuting is roughly equivalent to a 300 foot above ground level (AGL) low level navigation flight at, say, 420 knots. Your imagination can wander, but not too far. You’re definitely in the moment. Lane-threading is like a low level at 100 feet AGL, or the night carrier landing. There are no higher thought processes, senses that are not in use (hearing, taste, smell) are filtered out. There is only touch and sight, a savage, survivalist primitivism. Time is meaningless, except in retrospect.
Speaking of low levels, unlike most fighter or attack pilots, I never really enjoyed them all that much. How low can you go? As low as you like, but you can only tie the record, you can’t beat it. There is a “wild impulse of delight,” but it’s never far away from your thoughts that flying, while the ultimate, multi-sensory video game, is a onetime ride: you can play as long as you want, but you only get one quarter. When you’ve used it up, the game is over.
I kind of like the motorcycle commute, it’s as close as I get to flying fighters these days. It’s a guilty pleasure though, married, kids, responsibilities. But I am pretty well insured, and I can save 15, maybe 20 minutes a day. But alas, I am also cursed with a rather vivid imagination, amplified by a really bad day I had on a bike about 10 years ago. Nothing in the world is as violent, as mind-shakenly turbulent as a motorcycle accident. If something beats it, I don’t want to know. It is all chaos from order. One moment perched in delicate balance, the next moment head flung over heels, with gravel to the bargain. The internal cringing, waiting for the hard stop – the penlight in your eyes, the tube in your throat. I should know.
Selfish? Sure… but it comes to me naturally. I flew fighters, at your expense.
Thanks for that…