by Victor Wanchena
It was late and the highway was wide and clear. There was a semi up ahead in the right lane, and as I approached it, I moved into the left lane to pass. At that moment, a light on the rear of the semi tractor came on and flashed several times. I took this as a warning of something ahead. I slowed and moved back into the right lane. Sure enough, over the next rise a trooper was lying in wait for speeders to pass by. The kindly trucker had saved me an unneeded ticket. I was grateful for the camaraderie of traveling and the freedom a motorcycle afforded. But was I really free? I was free to travel and move about as I chose, but I wasn’t free of responsibility.
Freedom. The word gets tossed around a lot in motorcycling. We, as motorcyclists, are a freedom-loving bunch. We value the real and perceived freedoms afforded us by our motorcycles. It has been my observation that we are at times disconnected from what freedom means and the reality of life.
Often the concept of freedom is spelled out as freedom from. Freedom from convention. Freedom from rules. Freedom from someone else’s rules. This is typified by the vagabond outlaw image so often associated with motorcycling. A rider who has broken loose from the shackles of everyday life; going where they want, when they want. Free to ride their machine without being hassled by the man. Existing on the fringes of normal or polite society. And while this image might be appealing to something in all of us, it is far from reality. I believe we sometimes substitute freedom from the distractions of life with longing for a carefree existence, unhindered by any rules.
The iconic movie “Easy Rider” typifies the image of the rider free from everything. Ironically, the movie’s plot had the heroes of the movie under a time crunch to get to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. So even our ideal freedom-loving pair was on a schedule. Regardless of that, they pursued their dream; the dream of riding their choppers at 30mph from California to New Orleans for a chemically altered intake of the Mardi Gras festival. Their greatest freedom was to pursue that dream; even if it was financed by smuggling drugs into the States.
Being a responsible rider, I see our freedoms in motorcycling as being a freedom to do what we love, not a freedom from rules of our great society. Sure there are many freedoms from in motorcycling. There is the freedom from our cell phones, pagers, blackberries, PDAs; and the list goes on. But, too often, we lose sight of our responsibility in our desire to rush away from the complications of modern life. Motorcycling is our relaxation, our release, our therapy. And we are free to pursue it. Therein lies our true freedom.