by Jeff Wanchena
The low vibrations pulsing through the handlebars and the broad smile across my face confirm that I am the proud owner of a shiny black Valkyrie. This is the nicest bike I have ever owned; it fits my riding style and me perfectly. It is low slung, powerful and unique, not just another V-twin clone. I’m a big guy and this six-cylinder cruiser and I are perfectly proportioned to one another and from our very first encounter I knew this was going to be an enduring relationship of appreciation and gratitude for hours of joy and miles of delightful riding.
As I logged my first couple thousand miles in May and June of this year, I spent many of those miles reflecting upon how much I was enjoying myself and why. As I said, I love this bike, but it was not just the machine and being back in the saddle again, it was something more. Pondering this I thought of how we are often traveling on familiar roads, roads we have driven for years in our cars, trucks, and vans and yet I find the experience on two wheels profoundly different. I sense the difference is more than the difference between two wheels and four, but what exactly is it? There are the ordinary things of course: the exhilaration, the elements, being in the brotherhood, all these things that make us want to ride, but there is something more, something I had never really clarified within myself before.
It finally came to me, in one word, “Connected”. And this is what I mean.
As I rode, I saw all these cars, trucks and SUVs around me as kind of a metaphor for life. All too often we travel the highways in the same way we move through life, plowing ahead in our insulated bubbles. We try to protect ourselves in a world of our own making, a world where we try to control our every environment. We manage sounds, smells and temperatures; we hide behind tinted glass to protect ourselves from prying eyes. We are risk adverse and while we try so hard to protect ourselves we can end up cutting ourselves off from the very best this world has to offer.
Here though, moving through the world on my Valkyrie is a place of wind, weather, sights and smells: a wonderfully rich, sensual world. I feel so completely connected. The absence of steel and glass is a thing itself, it surrounds me, an absence that many may experience as fearful and yet it is that very vulnerability that is the source of my connectedness. In that vulnerability I can experience the world around me. As I embrace this world the freshly mowed alfalfa field becomes a blessing, its rich aroma filling unfiltered air, the heat of the sun can warm me, or a gentle lake breeze cool me down. I find this world ever new as in this connectedness I am present to much that I never noticed before. The lone cottonwood in the middle of a field is suddenly interesting as I wonder about the history it has observed. The towns and villages I pass through now have a life about them that intrigues me, they are no longer just speed bumps on my journey as I am forced to disengage the cruise control and slow down. Connected, the stranger, broken down on the side of the road, is my brother or sister and I must stop to help. I can no longer sneak past anonymously protected by steel and glass; I’m just too connected.
Connected, my life changes. I now more deeply than ever experience myself as part of a larger, shared world. I find that the more present I am to that which is without me, the more deeply present I am to that which is within me. I believe we are basically consistent beings and the more we are in touch with our world the more we will be in touch with ourselves. As the miles slide by I find them a time for rich reflection and introspection.
I always end a ride with a touch of regret that its over, but a little clearer about who I am and how I relate to the world around me, more connected.
So while every ride may not be a metaphysical experience, it need not always be transportation from point A to B or a cathartic exercise in aggressive speed. Try slowing down to an easy pace, take some deep relaxing breaths, draw in the world around you and enjoy just being “connected”.