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The Tentacle


November 27, 2007

10 Dumb Questions I Get – Part 2

Nick Diaz

In this space two weeks ago, I referred readers to three of the 10 dumbest questions that we of the motorcycling fraternity regularly field. In my 37 years on motorized two wheel contraptions, I’ve been asked all of these questions. So much so that I’ve developed some “smart-allecky” replies to them. We paused after Question #3, so now I’m continuing.

Since I’m so much older now, (will turn 60 next month), and supposedly wiser, my wise-guy comebacks have been reduced in number and acerbic quality – all in the interest of being “nice”. (I tell my students never to say that Mr. Diaz is “nice;” instead, call me “mean, but not average.”)

(Save the dumb math teacher jokes for some other time, Nick!)

Okay, let’s hear the next three dumb questions.

Question #4: “When are you gonna grow up and get yourself a car?”

When you give up chasing a little white ball all over a green field, spending far too much time and money, so you can feel frustrated because your name isn’t Tiger.

(Be nice, Nick…)

The youngest member of the BTS Gang is 46 years old. Most of us are in our 50’s and 60’s. Our token Harley guy is 74. Motorcycling is too much fun to be left to young people, many of whom have no appreciation for the poetic beauty of a scenic curvy road in the middle of nowhere, leading nowhere.

In his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, Robert Pirsig promoted the need for fulfilled human beings to meld the romantic with the practical, the spiritual with the nuts-and-bolts. The appreciation of these values comes to most of us with age and experience. I value fixing and maintaining my 24-year-old motorcycle as much as the spectacular, awe-inspiring vistas on the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Cherohala Skyway.

Back in the 1960’s one could see plenty of small Japanese motorcycles in high school parking lots. Guess what – these boomers are now “grown up,” with more time and/or money than 40 years ago. Contrast that with the few motorcycles you see in high school and college lots nowadays. Old people are riding – young’uns are driving.

Question #5: “Ain’t them things dangerous?” or “Ain’t you scared of all the traffic out there?”

Of course they’re dangerous, you knucklehead! Duh! If they were “safe,” we’d be home watching soaps in our spare time!

(My tongue is red from biting it so much…)

Frankly, folks, motorcycling is dangerous; however, despite what some may think, it isn’t automatically fatal for perpetrators of the sport. Thirty-seven years of riding, almost half a million miles, on 11 different machines, and guess what – I’m still alive and enjoying this activity.

Some may think we’re suicidal maniacs. No, I’m not suicidal, and neither are my old friends, the “Between the Sheetz Gang,” suicidal. We love life and have much to live for. We have families, careers, and love to ride to eat, and eat to ride.

I refuse to believe this two-wheel longevity on our part is a stroke of luck. Good riding is no accident, if I may paraphrase the saying.

Am I scared by traffic out there? Anyone who is is ipso facto a candidate for crashing and becoming a statistic to be thrown right in our faces by the do-gooders who preach their doomsday gospel.

Cars and trucks on the road don’t scare me. These four – and more – wheel contraptions are usually driven by human beings on roads or facsimiles thereof. Human beings have a certain degree of predictability to them. One of the most gratifying experiences while riding a motorcycle consists of predicting what dumb thing the human being behind the wheel is likely to do – and taking steps to avoid a confrontation that is most likely to end up a losing proposition for the two-wheeler.

Deer, on the other hand, do scare me; those rats on hooves are far more dangerous than road traffic is. They’re mostly unpredictable, and one or more will leap out of nowhere and t-bone the unsuspecting motorcyclist who’s watching Grandma pull out of her driveway without looking.

I know! I hit a big doe six years ago. I’m lucky that both man and motorcycle are alive and well and feeling swell. That was an accident. Watching out for cars and keeping from becoming hood ornaments – that’s no accident.

By the way, my family and I ate the doe – she was delicious, especially ground venison in chili and spaghetti sauce!

Question #6: “I used to ride, but stopped when I had kids. I hope to start again when they're older. Do you have any kids?”

Yeah. Parenthood and motorcycling are mutually exclusive, right, wimp?

(Be nice, Nick! Bite that tongue for the 6th time!)

The implication here is that only an irresponsible, reckless person takes up and continues riding motorcycles continuously, especially after marriage and children. I’ve heard this question, or something in that vein, countless times in all my riding years. To some it may sound as if I’m reading too much into such statements; unfortunately, I’m convinced of its underlying meaning.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky that, even after marriage and four children, I never stopped riding. Why should I? Why is it expected of “responsible” people to stop doing what they love to do just to meet some kind of imagined societal expectation?

It’s not as if riding motorcycles is an illegal, immoral act. Motorcycling is fun, folks – clean, responsible, friendly, sociable, family-oriented fun. We don’t ride to save money on gas, although that is a socio-economic benefit; we ride because it’s fun. Period.

Motorcycling is also a wonderful way to bond with one’s family. My sons and I rode many a mile together on that big, black MotoGuzzi, and, later, the 850 Suzuki. Son #2 and I rode out to see friends in Ohio, and doubled back via Kentucky and West Virginia, camping out most of the way. That was back in 1988; the memories are indelible for both of us.

Part III will round up the 10 dumb questions. Meantime, ride safe, y’all…



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