Roads in and of themselves are not dangerous. They're simply layers of pavement that remain still. It's the riders themselves that lose control. Yet, motorcyclists often describe one road as being more dangerous than another, and often speak of roads reputed to be so dangerous that some riders refuse to ride them.
When I lead Sash to Palomar Mountain Road last winter, I felt compelled to pull off to the side to give her some tips about what she would encounter. I didn't want her to underestimate the switchbacks and decreasing radius curves and end up dead. Many riders have crashed and died along that road.
"Be careful" I said to her, thinking that somehow, she'd ride more carefully.
But in thinking it through, I felt a conflict. I love Sash for her tenacity, detemination, and guts, yet here I was asking her to be a little more intellectual so as to address my fear. The truth is, it's not fair to a rider that they tone down their enthusiasm to suit someone else's concerns, even if the sentiment was out of genuine care. When someone else asks me to "ride safe", I usually don't give it much thought, nor take any offense. But after having logged hundreds of thousands of miles myself, I like to think that I can make my own decisions on staying safe.
At the root of all this, is a conflict between love and comfort.
We all have things we love, but we also want to feel comfortable. Can we love something and set it free, but at the same time control it when we're worried?
We see it all the time in other facets of life...
- You love your new boyfriend because he's so creative, spontaneous, and free thinking, but you want him to put on a shirt and tie when taking him to meet your parents.
- We love sports figures who battle to the death, break records, and pump their fists in victory, but we want them to be humble and civil in public.
- You love having your buddies over for a night of poker, beer, and jokes, but you want them to keep it quiet because your wife is sleeping upstairs.
In fact, it was Sash who decided a couple years earlier that we ought to wish someone to "ride fun" instead of "ride safe" because it seems to be a more neutral valediction.
But that doesn't always relieve the conflict between love and comfort.
The more you love someone, the more you worry, and the more comfort you seek. Setting someone free is not that easy, yet it's the letting go that mysteriously makes them come back.
These days, I've become more conscious about bidding farewell to a fellow rider. I catch myself wanting to say, "ride safe", but instead say something like "catch you later".