I WALK to my bike and notice my heart rate speed-up. Life shifts as I throw my leg over and sink down into the soft leather seat. I push the start button and feel the frame twist. I squeeze the throttle and a rumble opens the throat. I plan a casual ride; leaving the driveway, I start slow.
I’m at ease and positioned at a red light ready to merge onto the highway. Seeing the green arrow, I squeeze the throttle and gravity thrusts me back against the seat. Testing the Milwaukee iron, I feel the wind buffeting my face.
Two lanes converge and I jump to the 202. The green blinker light on the chrome instrument panel communicates my intention. A small white car in the next lane moves left, so I shift lanes and lean into gravity; in seconds, I’m slip-sliding past the car at 80 mph.
We’ve see them on the highway in stale containers messing with their cell phones and Cheetos while squinting through dirty windows. We sit over power and ride into the wind. Our hands and arms are engaged – NO DISTRACTIONS – as we listen to the language of the big twin’s explosions.
Ahead of me, a black truck is spilling small rocks from its bed. I squeeze the throttle and my back hugs the leather seat. The engine’s roar quickly sends me past the hazard. I sink deeper and notice the sound. It’s a sound I enjoy, and a smile crosses my face as I decipher a language fueled by a rich mixture of heat, highway, and Harley.
After cruising a few minutes, it’s another lane change for the 60 merge. A first overpass is bathed in a subtle orange-light, a putty colored concrete is painted by a setting sun. It’s a summer-evening scoot on an Arizona highway paved by desert color, southern heat, and a dry west wind. I’ve taken this road before, but every day is different.
Today, wind pushes a dark, smoky odor. Perhaps tomorrow it will be the acrid scent of livestock, or roadkill. A zeppelin, tethered by a long line, flies above the Lexus dealer next to highway 60 and it reminds me of the Hindenburg and its world-shaking explosion. I tune into the moment where I’m free from distractions and the urge to multi-task.
An image of the Hindenburg has me recall my visit to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, and their draftsman’s diagram of the Big Twin Engine, along with a four word explanation to describe – in layman’s terms – what’s happening below me: squeeze, suck, bang, blow.
Coming to a cluster of overpasses, I notice my bike and its steep tilt into the corner line; my confidence is unshaken. I trust the Dunlop’s to hold gravity and they do. I move aggressively to get away from a distracted driver in a silver van with a dirty rear windshield.
To the east, the Superstition Mountains shimmer with a subtle purple; to the west, a setting sun looks small but turns my face golden. I’m absorbed by the warm embrace of wind, the shadow of purple mountains, touch of highway music, and a glance at desert shadows falling. My headlight throws a glare on the dark highway and my steel steed follows it as a ship to a safe beacon. Everything is loud and yet soothing. At 80 miles an hour there’s no mystery; my bike’s therapeutic is the work of squeeze, suck, bang, blow.
There is theater in every ride though; it takes place during the unfolding drama in six gears – like life itself – with its share of obstacles and hazards, autos and animals, and characters acting out their scripts both on and off the road. Riding home, I replay the story of pavement and its forward-moving drama in six gears; a balance of beauty and danger; it’s a gravity thing, a bike thing, a thing in the moment, and a prelude to my next ride.
Gregory Ormson, #motorcyclingyogiG, is a former Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider/coach for the state of Hawaii. He teaches yoga at MOTTO yoga in Queen Creek, Arizona and YOGA FOR BIKERS: yoga and leather, at Superstition Harley Davidson in Apache Junction, Arizona.