Fate is no matter of choice

Did your life turn out the way you thought it would? Have you made the right choices at the right time in your life?

Lucky you, if you can say yes to both vital questions.

Today I walked right into the envy and regret of another middle-aged woman. She met me and asked herself the same two questions.

I do not know what answers she found, I do not have answers myself. But maybe that is impossible.

Right, here’s a little story about parting, making choices and maybe regretting them.

I had to part from my little bike today. My old Suzuki LS 650 Savage I have had for nearly 14 years. The engine was gone and I gave her away for scrapping.

all year round

It felt painfully final. The trips we’ve made together, the places we’ve seen, people we’ve met.

Scotland

So I went to get her de-registered. I pulled a number (105) and waited for my turn, filling in a few forms in the meantime. The woman, to whose desk I was being summoned by a modest bell, had long greyish hair, glasses and a pale complexion; nondescript, really.

She was typing away but she kept looking at my passport.

I had lost the number plate recently, abroad. She dealt with that, too. And she showed compassion because she could tell I was sad to see her go.

“Well” I said, “I have still got the Harley.”

Her eyebrows went up.

Yeah, I went on “A woman of today should have two bikes, shouldn’t she?” and gave her a big grin.

She just looked at my passport again, than at me.

“I don’t. And I am only a year older than you.” she said with a sad voice as if she wanted to say: And look at me!

Then she grabbed my arm and said: “But I have four children.”

“This is something you don’t have, do you?” she went on and then apologised for it straight away.

There will always be times when you regret the choices you’ve made. And there are times when they feel very right. Successful choices are matter of degree. 

Applecross

But your life is not only shaped by the choices you make. Fate makes most choices and leaves you to deal with it.

Yes, I have always wanted a Harley-Davidson. For as long as I can remember.

Is it poetic justice not to have children, then? 

coffee to go

Is logic a predominantly male thing?

Yeah, you guys out there, I know, I know. Don’t shout “Of course it is!” at me.

I might just agree…. surprise, surprise!

And you know why?

easy in a carBecause I went for a coffee.

I took the Harley for the first ride of the season. The sun was out and there was no stopping me. I needed to be on the road again.

The air was still cold, especially going over the mountains, the sun has not the power yet to warm quickly. I guess there were no more than 5 to 7 degrees when we set off. But what a joy it was to start her (she kicked in at the first try) and roar along empty country roads. After an hour the cold started to creep into my fingers. My cheeks and chin felt frozen, the half helmet not protecting much.

I ached for a coffee. My body ached for warmth. So I stopped at McDonald’s.

I left her right opposite the front door and walked in. Clammy fingers nestled with gloves and sunglasses, trying to get my wallet out of my pocket.

A young woman seemed busy behind the counter, though for no apparent reason because I was the only customer. She was all done up, heavy make-up and an attitude to go with it.

“A large café latte to drink in!” was what I said to catch her attention. The words were difficult to get out because my chin felt frozen.

She gave me a look through dark mascara lashes and carefully pressed the order into the touch screen, making sure that her perfectly manicured fingernails with golden glitter varnish took no harm.

She gave me another one of these I-am-bored-like-hell looks and said.

“To drink in or to go?”

???

I couldn’t believe this stupidity. Not only had I told her I was staying in. How on earth did she expect me to drink the coffee while I was driving???

Ever tried that on a Harley?

Well, she obviously never and it took me some time to get over so much stupidity.

I finished my latte and walked out into the sunshine. Harley waiting.

to go

While I got ready to go (gloves, lid, jacket and things) I noticed a wee boy who kept a safe distance of about 20 meters. He can’t have been older than two and a half years. The wind played with his blonde curls, blue eyes followed every movement I made while all the time he held his two little hands quite firmly pressed on his ears. That wee man knew it was going to be loud the minute I started the engine. He was prepared. And he was absolutely fascinated.

I started the engine and a smile washed over his face. I smiled back at him and drove off waving a gloved good-bye to him. When I was about 50 meters away he waved back. He had waited until it was safe enough to uncover his ears.

How much logic in such a young boy and how little in a woman ten times his age.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Route 66

Yes! It is unavoidable and necessary. Inescapable. Like Pavlov’s conditioning and involuntary reflex action. You just must.

You own a Harley – you do the Route 66.

I always thought that’s what I wanna do, one of these days. Me and my Harley – like the unknown legend in Neil Young‘s song. Long blond hair floating in the wind. I could picture myself quite clearly, I could almost smell tarmac and  feel the heat coming off the cylinder. I could see myself ordering a burger sitting on engine red faux-leather in some roadside diner.

Like Thelma and Louise I pictured my self  looking dead cool and sexy in tight leathers. Dangerous and not to be messed with. On the road. Alive. Nothing more. An outlaw going through Texas (was that on the way?) or at least heading for the West. Have my own movie. Live my own story.

Until last week.

I watched a documentary feature on the telly. Route 66. The camera crew followed a posse of Norwegian bikers on Harleys. They had a tour guide (!) with them. Everything was prearranged. Motels, diners, picture spots. The guide made them pose underneath road signs, made couples kiss over the borderline of two different time zones. They stopped for a coke (!) in a cozy (!) biker bar and gave them time to haunt the souvenir shops. Fancy a Route 66 dishtowel? They said they had always wanted to be different.

What an bunch of numpties!

Route 66???

NEVER, EVER! Not like this.

So, American bikers out there: is there a cool route to take somewhere in this vast and beautiful country? A road where you can ride into the sunset and not from picture spot to picture spot??

LET ME KNOW WHERE!!

 

the things you need

This is about the insatiable appetite you develop when you own a Harley and I am not talking food here. I am talking things.

The fact that you are riding a legend soon creeps into many parts of your life that do not actually have anything to do with riding a bike. It is as if there is a need to let it take over. Be with you everywhere you go.

You want to put stickers on your car. Not on your Harley of course but you do want it glued into your every day life.

People give you Harley things for Christmas and birthdays. I got fridge stickers I lovingly rearrange ever so often. Harley-Davidson everywhere. Not only in the garage.

Am I overcompensating because winter is coming??

I had her down to the dealer’s for inspection the other day.Had to wait for about an hour in the showroom and drove away with a new jacket and hoodie I could hardly squeeze into the tiny side saddle bag. Of course it said Harley-Davidson on both.

When you don’t own one, you think all you really need in life is a Harley and when you own a Harley, you think you really need more things in your live that say Harley.

Is that just fantastic marketing by the manufacturer or middle-age stupidity on my side?

I don’t know yet but I wear the new stuff with relish and … I think the hoodie goes nicely with my new desktop picture……

Guess I really need a HD mouse as well.

Don’t they tell us women in all those glossy magazines to accessorize?

Well. I do!

anything like it

I took my Harley for a ride yesterday. It was way over 30 degrees so I was out with no leathers but denims and t-shirt. In addition to the long blonde hair I was quite obviously a woman, which seems to be a confusing thing for some men – on a Harley.

I had enjoyed the fresh coolness of the wind on my naked arms for a little while as I reached a traffic light in a little village along the way. I sneaked past the row of waiting cars and steered her right in front of the first one, a big SUV. The heat of the engine underneath me drifted up in waves. The SUV suddenly moved closer.

What the .… does he think he’s doing? I thought when I heard a slightly high-pitched male voice that sounded very excited out of the open car window.

Wow! It cried out. I have never seen anything like it.

A woman on a Harley? I wondered half surprised half pleased but aloud.

Yes he nodded wildly. But I think it’s great.

And he obviously had a great need to tell me so.

His wife in the passenger seat however didn’t look as if she found that great at all. The kids in the back just stared. And I drove off, the lights had turned green.

Why is it sexy when women break with gender roles? It doesn’t work the other way round. We might appreciate a man doing housework. But it is far from sexy when they do.

Probably this is another aspect why I feel this bike enhances female power. By refusing to submit to expectations you gain self-respect and even receive admiration. Well, sometimes.

I wonder if his wife was thinking about role models and the unfairness of it, too. I bet she did.

And rightly so.

This Harley has more influence on my self-respect, my sense of power and strength than anything else.

Funny since it is such a male thing, isn’t it?

united

I finally made the step towards her and took her for a ride. She felt mine again, safe and familiar.

United.

Isn’t it strange to behave like that? Treating a machine like a partner you haven’t seen for some time. The first encounter after a long time is often awkward and full of insecurity. What if…? You lose trust with absence and the lack of trust intensifies your insecurity.

It was but a short moment of hesitation. Back in the saddle everything was as it should be the minute I heard the two pistons hammering away, as if we were united if by nothing else by the mere magic of sound.

How much I had missed that and how little I had been willing to admit that to myself. The brutal wave of happiness and power was rolling over me.

On the road I felt we were gleaming like a wild star. Heads turned. Jaws dropped. I rode with a grin that wasn’t going away but was safely hidden behind the scarf round my mouth.

Smiles need to be internal here.

I passed a lot of bikers on that day, as you do in summer. Seeing, greeting, passing, it takes not more than seconds. But still I was very sure that only very few felt like me.

You own a touring bike, that is very reliable or a racer, that is very fast, a vintage bike, that takes up most of your time. BUT… you do not have a but. You do not have this thing that feels like a proper relationship. Or do you? I don’t think so.  

Unless you own a Harley.

 

 

 

 

The Real Thing

I went on a ride into the past recently and caught up with an old friend I hadn’t seen for twenty-two years. We were bikers then and both ride a Harley now, the same model even.

But that is as far as the similarities go. We each went very different ways in different countries until we met up again after what seemed to be a whole lifetime. What was perhaps the most surprising thing about it was, we were still in many ways the same people we used to be. Although so many things had changed for both of us.

Was it the Harley that provided the common ground?

In those twenty-two years I had turned from a student of literature into a journalist travelling the world.

He still wears colours, is a member of an old and widely respected international motorcycle club, the real thing. He had lived his dream all his life.

I had only dreamt it, not lived it.

But we have both made the Harley real.

So is it our dreams that make us what we are while our lives are just what happens depending on our respective conditions of socialization?

Are there perhaps more ways than just one to be the real thing and live it?

Or does your machine make you what you want to be?

There needs to be a clear NO to the last question. We were bikers then, even on Japanese manufactured motorcycles. Milwaukee iron certainly makes things easier but it can’t change everything.

It will not do, to buy a Harley-Davidson, trademark boots and a jacket and logoed shirts and all the rest of it. It won’t make you the real thing at least not in everybody’s eyes.

But maybe the bike starts a process that will get you there eventually, even a woman, even in the eyes of one who would never let a woman life his style of life.

I think now and even more so after I have caught up with him after such a long time, that it is the dream that does it. That makes us real and then eventually even the real thing.

You end up with enough common ground to cover the differences life has dealt out to each of us.

Common ground. That seems ridiculous if you look at it from a neutral perspective. But it isn’t ridiculous at all when you look at it, sitting in the saddle of your Harley-Davidson.

It was great meeting you pal! Ride safe.