Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ridin' with the Myrmidons


“IF YOU CAN’T SEE MY MIRRORS, I can’t see you.” And apparently this long-haul trucker couldn’t see me. Or it may have been he was just figuring that whomever was behind him couldn’t miss his merge from the number one into the number two lane. With the courtesy one trucker always offers another, the gent pulling this fifty-three footer was giving way so that the big Kenworth tractor pulling the Ruan Company fresh water tanker could slip onto eastbound 80 at Douglas. My new BMW GSA has the power to accelerate out of a dangerous situation and the anti-lock brakes to avoid one.

To my left, two gentlemen on “American Iron” advanced; to my right the rear end of a utility reefer with Idaho plates. The trucker courtesy is missing from these two big-Vee guys. They bombed up to a point where I could not slide into the number three lane and there was no number four. One tipped his head my way and from beneath his FTC shorty helmet, his silk balaclava grinned a screen-printed skeletal grin. Gingerly, I applied enough brake to avoid contact with the truck and slipped in behind the boys. “Myrmidons” was arched across the backs of their sleeveless leather jackets. [Note: The group name has been changed to protect the author’s butt from being kicked out to the curb in case any member of the “Mymidon” brotherhood is literate enough to somehow access and read this piece.] A quick glance in my rearview mirror and I found myself riding with about fourteen of ‘em. Six more pair were advancing.

The thing about a American Vees is that in order to make it perform, after one shells out twenty thousand dollars for the bike, one must add another four grand in pipes, chips and a performance enhancement kit. The additional cost is enough to make an eagle scream. Even then, while the thing goes faster, it doesn’t go as fast as something costing half the dough, it just makes more noise.

The other thing is the mystique. Bold. Tough. Powerful. Many riders make these machines into works of art. Many dealerships have done yeoman service broadening their appeal to include a family aspect. Yet many riders think that by straddling iron they are immediately bold, tough and powerful. They’re not. They’re simply people who enjoy riding big, good looking motorcycles that don’t return particularly excellent fuel economy and don’t always handle with the greatest aplomb. Like driving a two-wheeled SUV, I unfairly opine.

Then there are the Myrmidons.

MERGING ON TO INTERSTATE 80 is not at all taxing on the GS. 105 horsepower is more than enough to safely assume a position in a lane and throttle down to traffic flow speed. Except when the big boys are jockeying around in their eighteen-wheelers and the Myrmidons are on the prowl. The Myrmidons weren’t driving all that fast, but they did seem to think they owned the deed-of-trust to the fast lane. So between Mr. Ruan, Mr. Idaho and these guys, traffic began to clog behind them.

It probably took two-and-a-half miles to eclipse the Idaho trucker, all the way through Roseville going eastbound. The wind off his high trailer buffeted the BMW just a bit and I didn’t much care for it. I gave some consideration to splitting between the two in front of me, but courtesy prevailed.

There’s a funky Country and Western love song that states rather unequivocally that “it ain’t right to go slow in the left lane,” and while decorum would dictate that once past the Kenworth dragging the 53-footer, Misters Myrmidon should assume a more rightward lane so that those of us with places to be could get there, these gentlemen had this deed of trust thing going on in their reptilian sized brains. So I notched over to the right.

Tiers two through seven roared up and as I prepared my departure from the freeway, Mr. Myrmidon in the right hand side of tier three, slipped in front of me, blipped his throttle creating an explosive roar, and slipped back over to his lane. I’m sure he saw me startle. I instinctively took evasive action, but saw that huge, chrome KW radiator just over my shoulder in the neighboring lane. I barely resisted the urge to gesticulate rudely to this fellow rider, but the Ruan water tanker was creeping up, limiting my options should any of the Myrmidon Brotherhood be offended by my actions.

LIKE SO MANY THINGS we enjoy in America, motorcycling is a gift. Open roads. Vast scenery. Freedom. Independence. Exhilaration. Something so grand we want to enjoy it exclusively our self, while at the same time, share it with others. Unfortunately, some riders don’t appreciate or perhaps deserve the gifts we are given. At least one of them (perhaps several) wears sleeveless Myrmidons leather and rides a really loud “American Iron.”

© 2009
Church of the Open Road Press

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