Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The fifty-seven regular season home runs didn’t matter. Bottom of the ninth. One out. Bases loaded. The most feared closer in all of baseball stared in from under an imposing Navy blue cap. It was now or never.

A BUDDY OF MINE is woefully between bikes. The circumstance from which this arises is of little consequence, but the conversation always ensues: Which motorcycle to get when the time for getting’ gets here?

He’s put a couple thousand miles on rented BMW GSs over the course of two extended-weekend road trips. “I like the upright seating and the durability of the Beemer,” he reports. Then he adds “But 140 horsepower on that Ducati…” or “But the Triumph Tiger with 114 horsepower…” or “The Rocket III’s got tons of power…” followed by, “What do you think?”

I own a GS – the Adventure model – that come with 100+ horsepower. I’ve owned Hondas, Kawasakis, Beemers and now a Guzzi, ranging in displacement from 90cc to nearly 1200cc and ranging in horsepower from 7 to the GS’s 100.

I’ve ridden trails and Forest Service Roads and thought at times, “If something ever happens to me out here, they’ll never find me.”

I’ve ridden US highways through states and spent hours on local roads carving sweeping turns or creasing stands of pine or splitting high country meadows. The only incidents wherein I wanted for power involved the 1970 Trail 90 as I traced the shoulder of state route 32 out of Chico, looking for a dirt road to explore. Beyond that, I’ve never wished for more oomph.

“What do you think?”

“What kind of riding do you plan to do?”

“Same stuff you do, only maybe not the dirt roads.”

The outfield positioned itself such that a well-hit ball would end the game, but anything just out of the infield could be caught and fired to home cutting down the runner from third. The first pitch was a laser that found the catcher’s mitt before the bat could be lifted from the shoulder. The batter stepped out and assessed the situation.

AS WITH MANY THINGS we’ve enjoyed or coveted late in the 20th and early in the 21st century, the mantra of bigger and faster seems to be ever present. The family of four’s middle-class 1100 square foot house of the 50s has evolved into a 2400 square foot abode with living, family and gaming quarters. The Vista-Cruiser wagon has slipped into memory, being replaced by SUVs capable of hauling the entire soccer team over boulders on roads leading to places where soccer is not played.

Phones now fit into pockets and include cameras that, until recently, took pretty grainy pictures. Typewriters are gone, replaced by computers that eclipse a “modern” Selectric’s function, but also connect us to a world of information and thought.

Arguments abound as to whether we’re happier or better off because we have access to such power and speed – not only for transportation but also for damned near everything else we do.

I AM RETICENT to accept that things must be bigger and go faster in order for me to be more satisfied. Some of my most pleasurable moments find me breaking out of a mid-day canopy of oaks into the bright daylight as the road finds a meadow or pasture.

Puttering along between forty and fifty and watching the scenery unfold is captivating, sending my imagination back into history, or my brain into a solve-the-problems-of-the-world mode.

But I can only speak for myself. For some, twisting the throttle and blasting forward through time and space must hold a hypnotic power, one steeped in anticipation and adrenaline. I guess I’m glad it’s available to ‘em.

It was now or never. He choked up only a couple of inches. As the second laser homed in, the batter offered a little “excuse me swing,” lightly lofting the ball over the second baseman. It dropped in front of a furiously charging left fielder.

Called the greatest World Series game of the decade, Arizona celebrated mid-field while the reigning world champions walked off the field - some glancing ruefully over their shoulders, packed and headed home.

SOMETIMES it doesn’t require raw power to achieve satisfaction.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

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