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GOING THE DISTANCE
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
JULY 3, 2009
On this eve of Independence Day, thoughts of gratitude for the honor and privilege of being an American cross my mind. I am extremely thankful for being part of the fabric that weaves this way and that way, yet ends up as the whole cloth we call the United States of America. It is all too easy to think along partisan lines in these times, times that have seen America divided by opposing political philosophies of living and governance. There are those like me, who believe that we have lost irretrievable freedoms since January to encroaching government intrusions into every facet of our American lives, who also believe that the reckless, senseless and out-of-control spending by the Obama administration and the democrat-dominated congress are ruining our economy. There are conversely, those on the other side of the political aisle who just cannot perceive these dangers to our way of life, the way that their more conservative American cousins do with unabated alarm. It is times like these, that make me wonder how sincere and intelligent people on either side of the divide, could think in such diametrically opposed directions. It boggles the mind, and I'm sure that there are liberals who wonder about this very same phenomonon of opposing views among smart people. Perhaps on the eve of the celebration of our country's independence, it might be entirely appropriate for the pitchforks and demonization on both sides of the political avenue, to be stowed away temporarily, so that we may concentrate on the freedoms that we commonly enjoy---to savor them.
On this day when one of our soldiers is held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan, is there any greater freedom than the freedom that ordinary Americans enjoy from captivity, and all that malignant captivity implies?
For bikers, is there any greater modality of relishing and expressing that freedom outside of captivity, than to be able to motorvate down the highway on two wheels? To be in the great outdoors on a motorcycle, unencumbered by walls of either concrete or automotive steel, mere inches above the blacktop below that rushes by our feet at eighty miles per hour---this is the experience of a lifetime, and we have the freedom to to experience it any time we want to. This is freedom of the highest order, and a type of visceral freedom that is unequaled by most other experiences. You sit on this great hulking machine that that seems, no---is alive by all lights, with a throbbing heart of noise and thrum, propelling you through empty space as effortlessly as the finest equine steed alive. Just as mere syntax cannot convey to liberals our conservative beliefs, ordinary words cannot convey the freedom experience of a Harley running strong and free, to the uninitiated. Even after 41 years of motorcycle riding, the sheer exuberance of being on the bike, out in the open air and passing cars on either side of us, makes me mentally shout an inner and silent scream of delight. Reveling in the righteous freedom of riding a bike, causes you to appreciate the rest of your life that much more. Perhaps it's being on the edge that motorcycling is, that makes you cherish all that life offers all the more. Not to overanalyze it, but perhaps having the courage to climb aboard a motorized machine on two skinny wheels capable of ton-plus speeds, makes us grateful to be alive.
Here's the interesting thing about the experience. It is executed with a positive mind, with zero thoughts regarding the dangers while we're on our bikes. Riding a motorcycle for a biker, is as mundane as brushing his or her teeth in the morning, or jumping into the shower. It is compeletly natural. So natural in fact, that it must blow the minds of non-bikers who could never fathom doing such a thing. They must view being on a Harley rushing headlong down the road, like I think of jumping out of airplanes, an act that I can't imagine performing.
In terms of relativity, a motorcycle is a machine of subtraction, a means of using one's body to control a machine to move at high speeds, but at a barebones level. If one thinks of an automobile as a logical vehicle for man to move down a road at artificially high speeds beyond the pedestrian abilities of the human body, than the motorcycle is the extreme conclusion of the concept. Subtract the car's protective shell, then two wheels. What does this leave one with in the conformation of the motorcycle? It leaves the most radical form of personal ground transportation possible. A motorcycle does the most, with the least. A Harley-Davidson represents true freedom for a human being to be able to propel down a highway on patches of rubber perhaps four inches in total diameter. No wonder Harley riding has reached a cult status among its practitioners.
On this eve of Independence Day, Americans have different ways to celebrate our freedoms. We have our way, and that way is to get in the saddle and ride. Doesn't matter where. Just ride. As bikers, it's easier to feel that freedom we enjoy, as we're closer to true freedom that others not on two wheels. I feel this is because we can see America passing beneath our feet. Looking down at the illusion of the gound moving past our motorcycles, means that we are feeling America in ways that aren't possible in other means of ground transportation. To be so close to America when we ride, to feel her heart beating beneath us---this is the legacy of freedom we embrace.
When we're blasting down the road with the wind whipping past our faces, the freedom is palbable. Happy Independence Day, all. Later.