Thursday, March 25, 2010

Let’s Teach Congress to Wave, Friendly-like

I AM STRUGGLING to get past that good-time feel of being out on the motorcycle, cruising through spectacular scenery and being regularly greeted by an on-coming motorcyclist with a friendly wave or high five. The crotch-rocket sport bike rider drops his hand from the bike’s lowered bars. The dual sport rider lifts his hand. Big rumbling cruiser guys may only raise a couple of fingers – but they do wave. And at the gas station or out-of-the-way eatery, total strangers greet one another with stories of where they’ve been, where they’re going and “Oh, would you like to ride along for a while?” It seems the common experiences of the road expose the commonalities in all of us who ride.

Returning home, I make the mistake of reading the paper and turning on the tube to see what I’ve missed in my three days in the saddle. The blistering cacophony of left versus right versus left versus right makes me long for those pastoral stretches, mountain reaches, coastal vistas, fresh air and friendly waves from folks whose left-ed-ness or right-ed-ness has no bearing on the fact that they are just folks.

The juxtaposition of the civility of the open road with the opposite in the halls of our nation’s capital prompts this little fantasy: What if members of Congress were forced to ride? All 535 of ‘em? Suppose each Representative and Senator were mandated to learn to ride and further mandated to participate in a road trip. Here’s the plan.

• Target the full month of September for the trip. The weather’s pretty good across the nation in September and that gives everyone a chance to brush up on or learn safe motorcycle operation skills between now and then.

• Congress-folk may choose any brand or model of motorcycle they wish to ride. Perhaps members of the majority party might lean toward riding a Victory, while members of the opposition might something different because they wouldn’t want to be seen agreeing with the Dems. No matter. In selecting their mount, legislators vote their individual conscience. They don’t have to respond to a poll or ride what some member of their constituency thinks they should ride, although the representative from Milwaukee probably should be on a Harley.

• In the thirty days of September, all 535 participants must ride from the east coast to the west coast.

• Leaving DC, they must all stop for two-night rallies at each of nine pre-determined locations spaced throughout the nation over the course of the thirty days. This allows for a non-ride, rest day every third day. The rally sites would be secure, so the only yahoos there would be the Congress-people themselves.

• As with any good motorcycle rally, participants would eat together, maybe have a beer or two, listen to some local entertainment and just hang out with one another.

• The route an individual chooses between each point is an aspect of the freedom they all say they support.

• Participants may not bring support personnel, secretaries or chiefs of staff on this adventure. They mount the bike, crack the throttle and are on their own to get from point A to B to C and so forth.

Over the course of this road trip, it would be interesting for those of us who observe to observe:

• How members group up leaving DC, and how those groupings change as the tour progresses.

• Who hangs with and speaks with whom at the early rallies and how that changes as the tour progresses.

• What the specific conversations are about:

REP DON YOUNG (Ak at large): Boy oh boy. The roads in the lower 48 are sure smooth.
SENATOR SCHUMER (NY): That’s because they’re paved, Don.

SENATOR HUTCHINSON (Tx): It takes me a full two days to ride across my state.
SENATOR LEAHY (Vt): If I had a bike that ran that slow, I’d replace it.

REP ROY BLOUNT (Mo 7th): I can’t remember the last time I saw mountains like those!
REP ERIC CANTOR (Va 7th): Sure bigger than what we’ve got back home.
REP MICHAEL CAPUANO (Ma 8th): And what a big sky!
SENATOR BAUCAUS (Mt): Hey guys, there’s this place I know outside of Billings that I gotta show you all. It’s called the Mad Cow and they serve steaks that are…

SENATOR MCCAIN (Az): You shoulda caught the look on that cop’s face outside of Des Moines when you took off your helmet and he saw it was you.
SENATOR HARKIN (Ia): Yeah. But he wrote me up anyway.
MCCAIN: I’da helped you out, but I’m a law and order guy. Besides, I was laughing so hard…

SENATOR BUNNING (Ky): Boy that section of road through me a curve…
SENATOR BOXER (Ca): Wait ‘til you see the Northern California coast!

REP JOHN DINGELL (Mi 15th) to anyone: I’ve wanted to do this forever!

• Whether, upon return in October, because of this common experience, folks are able to reach across the aisle, or whether, in October for the most part, the aisle simply disappears.

It seems to me that if we create shared experiences that reinforce those values that unite us, we will have better success when addressing issues about which we do not agree.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Mr. B,

    Great idea. So how can you get every politician mentioned to read this?

  2. First, some of 'em would need to learn to read...