I call my freedom liberté

Rhine On a sun soaked autumn afternoon I took the Harley for a run, took it because I can.

It might sound slightly obamaesque but that was the main reason apart from warm weather and time on my hands.

Yes, I can.

border to FranceI took it for a run as a statement because statements need to be made just now. Now more than ever, especially statements about freedom.

Normally I would probably have taken a route through France; not only because it is picturesque and quiet but also because it is close and I do the trip to France often, be it for cheaper petrol, tastier cheese or just the fun of being in another country. After all, France is just a 20 minutes ride away.

France is so close

But I didn’t enter France this time, too many controls at the border and a distinct feeling of unease after the terror attacks. I did not want to face police and military all geared up with deadly weapons checking me out. I wanted to celebrate life, feel joy to be alive on the bike after the death toll of Paris. I wanted to get the pictures out of my head, people dying, panicking, and desperate to escape. I wanted to feel free.

To feel free is difficult these days

borderI turned round and shirked France. Only to be stopped in my own country soon afterwards (I was already well away from the border at that time) by the police. Random vehicle checks they said but they didn’t even bother with the exhaust or possible illegal parts on the Harley. That was a first!

Terror throws its dark shade over all of us these days. Fear and retaliation is part of any news item the tv channels broadcast, everybody talks war and the politicians all sound like Churchill to me: “We shall never surrender.” Just like Winston Churchill 1940. We all know how deadly and brutal that war was. There are wargrave aplenty along the Rhine.

Freedom has become fragile

selfie with FranceHow often have I written about riding my motorcycles, how it means freedom to me. And now I am aware how fragile joy and freedom can be, and how importat freedom really is.

All it takes is a massive terror attack just across the border and it is threatened. The retaliation has started, bombs fall over Syria and France is somehow not abroad anymore. It is here and everywhere the terrorists can fire bombs.

The bike now hibernates under white sheets for winter. Strange thoughts of burial and death sheets went through my head as I made her ready to rest for a few months. In France they bury the dead but they do not bury in what they believe: in freedom.

France is everywhere and this is why I call the freedom I got on my run liberté: Out of anger and defiance of anybody who kills at random, subdues women and tries to take away our freedom.

 

I fear a new age is dawning and it is not a happy one. The fight for freedom has begun. I am just not sure if everybody is aware of the other thing Churchill said 65 years ago. That they would fight “…whatever the cost may be.”

sunset over France

 

There might be a high price to pay for La Liberté.

 

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Freedom is the absence of what if

summerI wonder if it is a German thing or if it is a general attitude?

I do not know. But I know that the concept of freedom seems to scare people more than it seems to make them happy. Most people don’t want it, some even shirk it. Why does freedom scare them so much?

The bike is my idea of freedom in perfection, no matter where I am, no matter which bike I take, no matter where I go.

Most German bikers seem to differ.

Last summer I walked into one of the big motorcycle shops, I had to work round the corner and had half an hour to waste and money to spend so I decided to have a look at half lids, I fancied a new one, the strap on my old one had come a bit lose.

While I perused the helmets on display I couldn’t help but overhear a German biker giving advice to his son who obviously bought his first bike and needed a lid. And took his dad along to the shop, maybe his dad took him…

See son, the guy said, this has EU norm …. and a safety badge from ….. and it has been tested by ….

He went on and on and on discussing the security aspects of just one helmet.

Better be safe than sorry, son!

Better grow up soon, son, I thought.

Then I spotted my favourite one, a US police helmet remake, Electra Glide in Blue style that would go nicely with my blue sunglasses. I put it on and (since I had come in the company car I had a handbag with me) checked what it looked like with my make-up mirror, looked great from the back as well, so I bought it.

I can still feel the German father’s shocked eyes upon me as I walked away, completely flabbergasted because I had never even checked the security features once.

How could I be so free?

 

Just because I can, man! I want wind in my face!

 

But I have another story to prove my point.

 

It has been rather hot here lately, often way over 30° Celcius. If you wear black leather in this heat, you are more likely to faint at the next set of lights than arrive safely at your destination of choice. I set off on a trip (200 km, minor roads) with denims, trainers and a T-shirt. How great to feel the wind caressing my skin and the sun shining on my face, no heavy gear to restrict my movements, nothing to make me sweat more that necessary, it still felt more than riding through the desert but that was ok. It felt right, it felt Californian.

When I arrived at work my colleagues looked at me with reproachful expressions because I didn’t wear any protective clothing. They (no bikers) felt the need to point out the dangers you face when you are riding a bike without a jacket.

Why do these people always assume they know more about the danger of riding a bike that the biker. I have been on one for more than 25 years now. Believe me guys, I have seen dangerous moments aplenty.

And then they said….. But what, if you have an accident???

What if?

Forget you “what ifs”!

This is what freedom is about. It knows no restrictions. Freedom is the absence of worries, it starts in the head and it makes your heart burst with joy. Freedom is happiness and it is the choice you make despite the danger that comes with it.

All things come at a price. Of course they do.

Why do you car drivers think we do not know that?

We do know and we choose to do what we think is right for us because we want freedom. We know what it feels like.

You can have all the “what ifs” and keep them!

wherever the road may take me

What is joy?

When the sun sends sparkling calls in the morning, when you have time to spend on what looks like a warm lazy summer’s day, and the road outside just seems to wait for you.

Joy is, when you have time to take the bike for a run and the weather is kind.

 

You get your gear together, that in itself is joy because you are anticipating what is to come, the smell of leather seems like the memory of past miles driven.

I can’t stop smiling. I take the bike for a run, I say.

Where are you going?

Now that is as philosophical as it can get.

Where am I going?

The most amazing fact about the solution to this quibble is – there is no need to know.

Utmost freedom is the answer. And that is pure joy.

I do not need to know where I am going. I don’t need a plan, a map a schedule. There aren’t many roads to take here and I know them all. I can’t get lost. So I can give the answer that includes all the freedom you can have on a bike.

I go wherever the road may take me.

Simple as that.

 

Freedom – how the way you wear a piece of cloth can make all the difference

 

I know ! Everybody mumbles about freedom when it comes to riding a Harley – Davidson. I won’t. At least not in the sense most bikers would. Not now.

If you have ever been on a bike, you know how a ride can make your thoughts wander. Mile after mile you are alone with you machine, the sound, the smells, with your thoughts. You have time to think. Unless of course some housewife decides to suddenly pull out of a driveway without looking or a pensioner to cross the road right in front of your front wheel. These are other stories.

I was out on a long ride through beautiful if slightly cold autumn weather. The roads were clear of leaves, traffic reasonable, I enjoyed my run thoroughly. And yes, I felt free. A happy woman if ever there was one.

After an hour or so I stopped at a set of traffic lights when I spotted a young woman with a plain black scarf on her head following a man I assumed was her husband. She always kept three steps behind him. She never looked up. Her husband did. He stared right in my face or what he could see of it. My black bandana covered my mouth and nose. Protection from the smells and dirt of the city I had just escaped.

bandana

That was the moment when I felt the freedom of riding a Harley intensely as never before.

That woman and I both wore a piece of cloth. I wore it to cover mouth and nose, she to cover her hair and her beauty. She walked three steps behind her husband. As they think a proper woman should.

I let the clutch go and roared away full speed. Free. Independent. Strong.

As a proper woman should.

How the way you wear a piece of cloth can make all the difference.

waiting

At first it was easy.

The thought of having done it was enough.

Secret smiles would cross my face at the oddest moments – I’d bought a Harley!

The weather did its best to stop me going mad. An icy cold winter held my country and me in check. It felt as if spring would never come.

It did of course. And heaven decided to celebrate the day of days with glorious sunshine and temperatures above zero. March. After a night with very little sleep I was a nervous wreck.

Two hours now as I am writing this. Two hours and she is mine. The nervousness is painful. Tears lurk behind my eyes. AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS!! The happiness is hardly to be borne. I feel as if I could explode in laughter, tears and screams at the same time. I wonder if all those tough bikers feel the same. Inside only, of course.

What if I look like an idiot at the dealer’s. If I can’t get her started? If I drop her in front of everybody?

Amazing how ridiculously “teenagy” you can behave in your forties.