Friday, November 30, 2012

Emptiness and Running Away

The year was 1986, and my best friend Greg and I hadn't even owned our motorcycles for a year yet, and there we were already comparing ourselves to Wyatt & Billy, dreaming of a cross-country motorcycle trip and wondering what new people and places we'd see.

Such a wild, carefree endeavor mixed with such naivety and innocence could only come from two nerdy college students desperate to run away from their feelings of loneliness and abandonment.

But we were still kids back then, still more interested in radio shack computers and racquetball than we were about life on the road.

Twenty-four years later, and I find myself having been married for twenty years, a homeowner, a landlord, a business owner, and still a motorcycle rider. But yet, unhappy with my life. Seems my whole life I've tried to force things to happen. I was trying to show my parents how wrong they were for having divorced, remarrying, and starting their lives over with new kids.

Yeah, I was the one they left behind, a painful reminder of memories they'd rather forget.

So, I struggled to achieve just to show them that I was the pony they should have betted on. I made things happen, and made decisions I really didn't want to make, all for the purpose of getting their attention.

And all it brought me was misery. There I was, managing a rental property I didn't want to manage, climbing up a corporate ladder I didn't want to climb, and dedicating to a domestic life I didn't want to dedicate. And even though my parents praised me for my achievements, it still didn't get me any more closer to them.

I was still wanting to be like Wyatt, being free, homeless, just riding across the country not knowing where I'll sleep or who I'll meet.

So one day Sash comes along. She was in the same place I was. She was like this little girl who crossed my path saying she's sad and wants to run away. I told her that I'm sad too and that I want to run away. We decided to leave our respective lives and start a new one together, almost as simply and quickly as that.

But it was actually a long time coming. It had to take years and decades of heartbreak and misery one after another, just to numb ourselves enough to where we didn't care about the aftermath, allowing us to feel bold enough to quit. Even today, we're still paying for this decision.

So far, I still feel more free. I still run a business, but I left the house to my ex-wife and I no longer have the rental property. I even let her have all my tools and stuff.

Next year, April 2013, Sash and I are going to embark on a six-month motorcycle trip across the United States and Canada. We're going to vacate our apartment, put our things into storage, and ride bikes. But, we're not going to be riding the entire time. We're going to pull into a big city live in a vacation rental for about two weeks, seeing all there is to see. Then, we'll hit the road for three to five days until we pull into another big city and start over again.

Maybe after six months we'll love it so much we won't want to come back.

Somehow, someway, the mental, physical, and sexual abuses of children leave permanent scars. Feelings of worthlessness, trying to contain the storm raging inside, never subside. They're part of the reason why such people are drawn towards running away, and maybe explain why some of us ride motorcycles.

And it's not always about running away, but about starting over. When you live in the same place long enough, you can't hide your weakness anymore.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

The Irony Behind Riding Clubs

motorcycle in a curve
Lewis was a short, chubby, ugly Hungarian immigrant who worked as a cab driver in Riverside, CA.  I can remember his accent, his fiery personality, and his preference for the practical over the cool.  Yeah, he could ride, and yeah he could tinker with that old Yamaha V-Star 650, but he was still ugly.

I remember the afternoon when he and I took off for the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve to see the fields of gold in the middle of April.  He and I were both original members of the Iron Horses Riding Club, now defunct, based out of Temecula, CA.  I had put together the ride because no one else was putting together rides, and we were supposed to be a riding club.  So, someone had to step up and keep the club riding.

But only Lewis showed up to ride.

The rest of the members were fighting.  Not fighting other people or other clubs, but between themselves.  Riding clubs don't fight, except to cry and whine about the direction the club is going.

Lewis and I only wanted to ride bikes.

So off we went.

Brotherhood is not earned.  It's not measured by earning colors, and it's not even something you deserve.  It simply happens between two people whether they want it or not.  You can't stop someone from loving you anymore than someone can stop you from loving them.  Brotherhood just is.  Patch or no patch, club or no club.  The harder you try to find brotherhood, the less likely you'll get it.

I mean, we were a riding club, we were supposed to ride.  Even though there were disagreements between folks, I figured members could pull together for the sake of the club.

I guess not.

I knew that some members wanted the club to gravitate towards Harleys, where the only rides we took were to other bars and clubhouses, and where the members were younger and tougher, not older and grayer.  And I also knew that some members didn't want to ride that far, or do that many twisties, but instead do more poker runs, hang out with more bikers, and see more biker chicks.

Yeah, you can tell I'm being cynical.

But a true riding club doesn't exist.  The freedom of riding, of exploring, being in the great wide open, with no rules, no limits, and no expectations, can't be contained within a club.  A club means, by definition, to limit your freedom.

If you limit motorcycle riding to a set of policies and procedures, then you don't have freedom.

So, riding clubs are technically an irony.

If there are any riding clubs they're really just motorcycle clubs that use the term "riding club" to avoid the responsibilities and headaches associated with maintaining position in a pecking order of local area dominant clubs.  Both motorcycle clubs and riding clubs have less to do with motorcycles and riding, and more to do with organization and power, both of which I want less of.

Lewis and myself, 2005

When Lewis finally moved away to Northern California, I could tell the club would never be the same.  Even though there were other riders in the club, they still had their issues with me putting together 200+ mile rides, picking routes through tight twisties, or going to bars where bikers tended not to congregate.

The finger pointing started turning towards my direction, and at that point I put threw my hands up in the air and quit.

I tried my hand at getting involved in another riding club, one that promoted more freedom, but the less organization you have, the less of a club you have.  So, it never gained traction, and now I find myself doing a lot more solo rides.

I ran into Lewis a few years after he moved away.  He had traded in that V-Star 650 for an old V65 Sabre, which I felt was more suited for his style of riding.  We tore up some roads through the Redwoods and relived the memories of the old days.  I said goodbye to him and haven't heard from him since.

There were newer riding buddies I met, and I created many more great memories with them.  But in the past year I moved away from my old stomping grounds and now all but one of those buddies have stopped calling me.  I guess I'm just like Lewis, moving away.  

Somehow, the best riding buddies never seem to stick around.

I guess not sticking around is what a tried and true motorcycle rider does.


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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)