Reflections of a Motorcyclist

The perpetrator or the victim of stupid problems?

Motorcycling family
With sons or daughters getting their licenses it might get you thinking 'What were the stupid things I did when I had my license?'Photo Courtesy of John Morris

My 15-year-old twin boys just got their driving permits. This adventure allows me to spend some real quality weekend time with them enjoying the smells of a burning clutch and squealing tires and listening to the three cylinders in my trusty 1990 Subaru Justy scream for mercy.

Of course, I’ve given them all the automotive pointers fathers give their sons: pay attention, don’t speed, turn down the radio and don’t let me catch you with a girl in the back seat. My sons, who question everything, in an attempt to define the acceptable bounds of stupidity asked me what stupid things I’ve done behind the wheel. Because I’m on one of my motorcycles daily, I could truthfully answer in the negative.

Their question did get me thinking, however, about stupid things I've done as a motorcyclist. Now, I don't count dropping my bike after slipping on oil patches in gas stations or toll plazas. And I don't count my initial purchases of cheap hand tools from Taiwan and India that broke almost out of the box. I chalked up those episodes as valuable learning experiences.

Then there was the time I had to transport the enormous Christmas wreath I bought from the scout troop of a colleague’s son to my home. I slung the wreath over one shoulder like a bandolier of ammunition, put on my orange day-glo helmet and headed down the road, spreading fir needles over a three county area. At a light, one motorist told me my helmet looked like a gigantic Christmas bulb and thanked me for spreading holiday cheer. How can propagating Christmas spirit be stupid?

You can hardly count the “Great Tape Debacle” as evidence of idiocy. I had promised the love of my life I’d tape The Sound of Music for her if she’d let me watch Speedvision. Unfortunately, I screwed up the recording because I’m incapable of operating multimedia equipment without adult supervision. There is a fine line between ignorance and stupidity, and I had the former territory staked out on that one.

So, I have concluded that I have not done any stupid things as a motorcyclist, at least none for which I accept fault.

Once, I decided to combine a qualifying quest for Iron Butt membership with a trip to a professional business meeting. I was later forced to explain to my boss from a phone booth on the side of the road why I’d be missing the meeting due to “a vehicle malfunction.” He thought I was an idiot for driving my car instead of flying. At the time, I thought it wise not to disabuse him of the fact that he had overstated my mode of travel by two wheels. But this is hardly stupidity. I like to think of it instead as adventurous dedication.

I remember wearing a motorcycle T-shirt of dubious social acceptability while working in the garage one afternoon. How could I know my future in-laws would choose that very afternoon to drop by unexpectedly with a housewarming gift? Yes, the house was a lot warmer after they left, but how can I be held responsible for the vagaries of others’ schedules? It’s not my fault if I’m sartorially challenged and a prisoner of serendipity. Again, a victim maybe, but definitely not stupid.

I used to own three motorcycles, which necessitated my long-suffering wife to keep her car parked in the driveway. I will admit that it was a foolhardy decision last December to roll over in bed when she asked me if I’d scrape the ice off her windshield. But foolhardiness isn’t stupidity. The possession of multiple bikes may sound stupid to some who recognize that only one can be ridden at a time or that three old beaters present challenging maintenance expenses to one on a limited income. But when my twins and their 13-year-old brother started laying claims to their favorite bike in anticipation of my passing, I again seized an opportunity to exhibit brilliance: I bought a fourth motorcycle. It was easier, after all, than getting another son, and it does give them a little more choice.

So, I have concluded that I have not done any stupid things as a motorcyclist, at least none for which I accept fault. But still, for some reason, I worry about my boys on the road. Watch out for them. They’re not as sane as their father.

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