Motorcycles are everywhere!
Especially on Saturdays, and Sunday, on two lane roads, scenic byways, riding in packs, enjoying the open road.
After a week of riding America’s open highways, I learned that motorcycle riders have a secret handshake, a “cool guy” wave. For over a year I had been riding a tiny dorky scooter on busy city streets. Later I rode by Bergie in stop and go city traffic. When I finally hit the highways, I’ve been the guy in the middle of a pack on a group ride.
Maybe somebody somewhere shot me a wave, and I didn’t notice, or understand. I guess I’m finally dressed the part, on the right country lanes, and cruising by myself. I guess I made it into the club (but an honorary member, I tell you). On days when riders are rare, and you are feeling just a little isolated, its nice to get and send a friendly wave, to know those other riders are all friendly faces.
So I had to Google “Motorcycle Wave”, I’m such a dweeb.
It turns out this wave is harder to do than it looks. My Bergman scooter sits up high, especially at the start of my trip when I rode more stiffly. If you do a regular “friendly guy” wave, you hand whips up in the wind and smacks you in the face. Like I said, and “honorary member”.
For two weeks I didn’t understand what I was seeing. Then for a couple weeks I just looked like an idiot. Sometimes I would swerve when releasing my hand grip. Sometimes my hand would blow behind my back (at least not hitting my head). Sometimes I my glove would get tangled up in the grip. “*sigh*”
After 4 weeks, and with several months ahead of me, I actually started to practice. I waited until I was in the deserted farmlands of Ohio, aith nobody in sight. I’d casually release my left hand grip, finger point to the ground, thirty degrees, then try to calmly return my grip. Oh my God, it took hundreds of practices. I’m not kidding. Other riders would pass me during my practice sessions and I test my wave, my degree of “coolness”. But it was days and days of private practice to gain the calm country rider demeanor.
But another interesting thing was happening. At that point I also started to sit farther back in the seat, a more exaggerated pose, longer legs and arms. This is a more natural riding position, where I had been in a more natural seating position. After 60 or so minutes in any day, you naturally start to stretch. The longer pose puts your arms lower, cuts wind resistance, gives you a different look at the road.
I started taking off my glasses to enjoy the big picture and tune off the tight pixilization of my bifocals. And these adjustments encouraged a slower more confident wave. Oh dear, I was transforming from a nerdy scooter geek to a cross country motorcyclist. I was slow, and confident, and low and understood the wind and the banking and the traffic.
It was really after riding the smokeys; “tail of the dragon” and its other twisty turn filled routes, that I gained that slow self confidence. After my breakdown in Ohio, and my dizzy spell in Pennsylvania I had come into touch with myself. Gone was the silly giggles, the rush, the darting eyes, the sitting on top and holding on for dear life.
I have grown into a confident look, calm and commanding. I now control the bike and it goes where I want it to go. I found I could put the front tire on the 3 inch white line and leave it there, seemingly as long as I wanted, without sway or waver. I could always ride full throttle without fear, but I can also now go as slow as 3 miles per hour and keep her straight and balanced underneath me. I hold her upright, with confidence, at red lights and have no fuss using the center kick-stand (once my nemesis).
I walk into stores in my jeans and boots and bright red armored jacket, sometimes holding my red helmet or wearing my yellow safety vest. I’ve always made sure that I never sent the “black leather chaps and wrap around sunglasses” vibe. Maybe that’s what has made me so frighteningly approachable by strangers.
It was more than shooting the wave at passing bikers. I have come to understand what it feels like to become a cross country motorcyclist. But one that is middle aged, and riding a big red scooter not a big black Harley. Calm, and confident, and in control, but living life on my own terms. The feeling was definitely new to me. And its darn cool.
And with a long summer ahead of me.