Love on Wheels : One Woman's Love for the Open Road
drop myself into the saddle with attitude enough to cause John Wayne
envy, sinking into the seat; the cushiony leather caresses through
my blue jeans like a pair of silk undies (imagine!). Ignition key
turned, I knock the kickstand and heave the motorcycle upright. My
right hand toys the throttle as my thumb fires the start button, revving
the motor to life with the purr of a big kitty awakened from its nap
in the sun. I tap into first gear and gently ease the clutch out again--kitty
stretching its claws with a yawn--then in a flash, the everyday world
is left behind as my bike and I head down the road of oblivion.
Motorcycle Mama am I...or so I'd like to think, although any self-respecting
lady biker should probably take offense - but so what if I've never
crammed into a pair of studded black leather jeans. Does that a biker-babe
make? Recently my wardrobe grew to include a pair of black leather
cut-off finger gloves, and lemme tell ya, the potency residing within
these gloves borders tremblingly on the immoral; slide those street-hardened
babies on and Vroomhilda I become. Daddy's worst nightmare. I'm thinkin'
I'll spew some dust into the gaping mouths of those left in the smoke
of my tracks and race off to find a tattoo parlor. Inside the sweaty
basement depths I'll hold up for the day, hang with tattooed regulars
of ill-repute while roses and unicorns and skulls with crossbones
are etched across my body. Yes, do me up somethin' good with that
needle of yours.
I plan to drag on a cigarette, squinting one eye shut from the smoke
as it drifts over my road-wearied face. Little girls are mixed with
fear and awe as they pass by.
wake up in a cold sweat--oh it was all so real. Some of the
details are real, the gloves for instance, and, well, the gloves.
And the motorcycle, but really, mine is a Yamaha Virago, hardly your
run-of-the-mill Harley Hog. But it tries. The engine is so quiet,
though - ladylike. A Harley Davidson listens to my bike and snickers
to itself, then sticks out its tongue and lets rip an earth-shattering
rumble. My little bike covers her ears in shame.
when coasting over the tar upon my bike, I sure give off the air of
someone who knows. Knows something--the something only biker people
know. Yeah, that's it.
it: Pretension rules upon a motorcycle. The simple act of parking
brings hushed looks as I pull off my helmet to reveal the "feminine
surprise." Obviously this is no longer the exclusive terrain
of men, but you'd sure think it was. It's me departing the football
field after tackling and rolling in the mud, growling football growls
and patting my teammates on the fanny. I yank off my helmet on the
sidelines: Oh, it's a girl...gosh.
surprisingly, motorcycling creates an rapport with other
bikers on the road, as if we've all been invited to the same
A universal form of inter-bike greeting will be found
here: the extension of two fingers up from the handle, ever so cool;
optionally, a nod is thrown in. Unless confronted with the dilemma
of Harley riders who do not wave, nor do they acknowledge the existence
of anyone outside Harley's closed highway door. Theirs is the theme
party next door, and we weren't invited. Still, each time I spot a
shiny, feral Hog approaching, I think maybe, just maybe, this time
I'll do that right thing and be waved into his world. Hesitantly,
I extend my fingers in greeting, only to once again have them blown
backward in the whoosh of his passing. Nary a blink in my direction!
Next is the ol' lady driving her own Harley, her nose nestled firmly
in the clouds. I am utterly alone, my un-American bike and me an insult
to the road and source of shame to the leather-clad righteous. It's
a Prix St. George Dressage competition, and I've shown up seated with
proud ignorance upon my donkey--what could I even be thinking?
onward, I soon encounter a passive biker like myself, and sure enough
our fingers stand at attention for one another. My deflated balloon
sucks in much needed helium, and I laugh inside the confines of my
shielded helmet. We all know VW Bug drivers on America's highways
will always see the other Bug drivers, as Porsche owners are busy
regarding their own, but we motorcycle riders are the only ones who
actually acknowledge one another.
for me is playing dress-up while I make believe a statement is being
made. Yet it need not remain a solitary sport; the man in my life
also rides a motorcycle, same type as my own only larger. Being romantically
old-fashioned, I prefer his owning the big one, and as a man, the
Big One seems to hold some primordial significance for him as well.
When cruising together, I choose to sit behind him rather than ride
my own bike; it's a wonderful coziness and liberation from responsibility.
All assumed statements evaporate as my status is altered to that of
"passenger," my legs cuddling his while he mans the controls
barefisted (alas, I am alone in my fingerless glove obsession.) The
freedom of flight becomes ours together as we escape into that zone
somewhere above the level of your average commute. In no other capacity
is driving such a passionate adventure, a rolling metaphor of all
that can be right in a relationship, even when the drive is a mere
10-minute odyssey to the store for a carton of milk. On the road to
and from our mortal errand, we are freed.
I wonder if I could persuade him to join me in my dream visit to a tattoo
parlor for some cheap and tawdry body-art, throwing in a few cigarettes
as well. Unlit, of course, but we can pretend. And pretty soon it'll
be me heading into the sunset sticking my helmet-shielded
nose in the air as we Yamahas ride by the Harleys, who wish we'd wave.
Sorry babes; this party is closed.