I COVET MY NEIGHBOR’S Ducati. But not just his. Damned near any Ducati. The other day, somewhere along highway 49 between Downieville and Sierra City, as I was going up the hill, a couple of Ducatis were coming down. One, a red GT 1000, had the after-market Termignoni exhaust creating a bike that not only looks intoxicating but sounds sensual. I coveted it.
For a few moments, my suddenly lunky R1200GSA was transformed into a lithe Italian exotic, one with which I imagined myself dancing. The bends in the road were merely steps in a grand waltz composed off-handedly by Puccini, perhaps as he took a break from writing Tosca. The steel tank, cold and smooth, the work of Bartolini, sculpted from pure Carraran marble. And the sound? Lyric poetry. An endless loop of Sophia Loren whispering the works of Eugenio Montale inside my helmet. I traced the clear waters of the north Yuba with its spangles of sunlight glinting and reflecting off this confluence of art and engineering and song. Dancing. Singing. No longer on 49, I’d gone to another place. The Dolomites? Maybe heaven.
THERE’S A BRAND NEW TWO-YEAR-OLD GT 1000 sitting at a local Ducati showroom. Gray with a silver stripe applied as only the Italians can. It’s been there for some time. I make excuses to run errands down that way, simply to drop in, see if it’s still on the floor – perversely hoping that it's not – and settle on its broad sculpted seat. I lean forward and place both hands on the grips, twisting the throttle, pulling the clutch. Instantly, I am riding the Stelvio Pass with its 48 hairpins to the top of the Alps.
The salesman approaches: “I’m Bob.”
“I thought so.”
He sees my quizzical look.
“Yeah, I knew it because this bike’s been calling your name ever since I unlocked this morning.”
“Ahh,” I muse aloud. “The covetation is mutual, I suppose.”
THERE’S A POINT on Highway 49 east of the scenic overlook of the Sierra Valley where a primitive road breaks off and courses north and west through broken granite and past twisted pines into the heart of the Lakes Basin. I adjust the big Beemer’s pre-load and rumble over rocks and through ruts imagining myself the first to have experienced the crystalline Sierra Buttes sprouting up over the ridge beyond. I find myself back in reality, surrounded by incomparable beauty atop a machine that can do “Ducati” – and do this.
Thus, my face is slapped. I wince and shake my head.
I vow that I will never again visit that showroom and straddle that temptress, never again run my hands across her cool and shapely tank, never picture her in my darkened garage waiting eagerly to take me for another ride of my life. Never again wonder “what if?”
Never again covet.
FIRST, HOWEVER, I must go to the dealer and tell the gray GT that we’re through. It’s the honorable thing.
Church of the Open Road Press