Free As A Bird

by Bill Hufnagle
aka Biker Billy

Outside my office window, the birds are having a field day. My sweetheart, Mary, has refilled the feeders and it’s party time for our feathered friends. The short stroll from my office to the kitchen for another cup of coffee reveals the same scene on the other side of the house—a few dozen more birds and I could film a remake of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Except, of course, these are happy, benign birds; they even manage to avoid voiding on the vehicles that are parked outside, as amazing as that seems.

What a delightful time of the year, when spring is about to happen. The migrating birds are either passing through or coming back for the summer. The days are getting longer and warmer and the riding opportunities begin to multiply. As I write this, the start of Daytona Bike Week is just days away. By the time you read this fine magazine, Daytona will be only a memory and the riding season will be in full swing. Spring will have sprung and the world will be greening out with gusto. It is all good.

It is a funny thing how the birds can be so pleasing to watch and listen to. After all, birds are everywhere and for the most part people don’t even notice them until they poop on their car. Really, it’s true—most folks just don’t see the birds; they blend into the background until the splat on the car thing happens. Does that sound strangely familiar?

For a long time, I have noticed that birds and bikers have some things in common. On the tragic side, we, like the birds, are not seen by most car drivers until they splat us with their cars. But there is a brighter side, too. Spend a little time watching the birds this spring. I know it doesn’t sound like a tough biker thing to do—that is, if you have some need to prove your toughness. One of the toughest bikers that I ever shared the road with would always find a majestic soaring bird to point out while we were out riding. Since Big Joe lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, every time I see a bird soaring while I am riding, I am reminded of his free spirit. In that way, he is forever in the wind.

It is the free spirits that birds are that is perhaps the most compelling trait we share with our feathered friends. Ever wonder why the Bald Eagle is one of our national symbols? There are bigger and stronger animals that call North America home. But bears, mountain lions, and buffalos just don’t soar high and free like the eagles do. Strength, independence, and living free; that is what the eagle represents. It is, I believe, what so many of us who ride aspire to as well: to be free as a bird.

Back to my recommendation of watching some birds this spring. Now that the hardship of winter is over and the rites of spring mating season are in full force, the birds will put on quite a show for you. Observe the sheer joy of their flight—birds seldom take the straight line to anyplace, nor do they spend much time idly sitting still. They swoop and dive, climb and circle. They are always flicking their heads this way and that, watching for the predators. Birds do stop often to eat and chatter with each other. To paraphrase: birds eat to fly and fly to eat. Yes, we share so much in common.

Next time you are at an event, notice all the eagles that are incorporated into the patches and pins on riders’ vests and jackets. Some bikes have names like Gold Wing or Hawk, and many folks have images of birds in their tattoos. In the avian species, it is the male birds that are more colorful and vocal, so they can attract a mate. You may not have recognized it, but it is the same in the biker world. Look at all the chrome and fancy paint on some guys’ bikes and notice the loud exhaust. Then check out the chick on the back (even that slang relates). Yeah, it seems the male with the flashiest wheels is sure to mate.

Well, when you stop laughing or ruffling your feathers over that last comparison, please do remember the tragic side again. Car drivers just don’t see you, even in this season when you think they would because all the bikes are out again. Loud pipes won’t help—bird songs don’t keep the birds out of the cat’s mouth—but the constant vigilance of looking everywhere to see the danger at least gives you a chance. Ride Safe and Soar Free!

Cooling Cucumber Dip

Sometimes enthusiasm is stronger than reason, which can take you way past your personal limits. This recipe for a cooling dip can help if you happen to get over enthusiastic with the hot stuff.

1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 (8-ounce) container of sour cream
Pinch of dried mint flakes (spearmint)

1 carrot, peeled and shredded
Golden raisins

In a small mixing bowl, combine the cucumber, sour cream, and mint flakes. Stir well to blend, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Stir well before serving.

If desired, add the shredded carrots or, if you would like a sweeter dip, add some golden raisins or a few teaspoons honey.

Makes about 2 cups


Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2006. Recipe reprinted with permission from “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” published by Whitehorse Press, Center Conway, New Hampshire copyright Bill Hufnagle 1995, 2004. Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” and has authored three cookbooks. Check out where you can acquire autographed books and also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.


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