by Kristin Leary
We do our best to minimize the nerdiness of riding a Goldwing–if that’s even possible. The bike came with helmets that match the bike’s paint and have enormous foam-covered microphones attached. Those stay at home. We wear non-matching helmets, jackets and apparel. When on trips, we waste no valuable riding time washing the bike. We slop on the sunscreen to the point that it dries in white, crusty clumps. Then it attracts thousands of miles of road grime and bugs, leaving our skin a color that even Crayola can’t identify. We stack the trunk rack high with stuff. Basically, we look like penniless nomads–on a $15,000 bike.
Our professional sides give way to our more relaxed, carefree sides. We forget about the e-mails, voicemails, and inbox memos piling up. Our focus is on having fun with other bikers in the group. We swap stories about life, not work, laugh about everything and nothing, and dish out enormous amounts of B.S. And, as far as hard work goes, the only part of motorcycling that requires any work is polishing the chrome before the trip.
Hairstyles often take on a “just woken up” look which is quickly covered up with a baseball cap or a “beauty band” (translation: a bandanna) to look at least somewhat presentable.
As a result, we make no new friends on the road. The Harleyers respect the dirt, but not our bike. The Wingers respect the bike, but not the dirt. The Europeans on Beemers, with their matching, full leather suits, look at us like we’re from a distant corner of the solar system. The fleck-town shopkeepers keep one hand on the Smith and Wesson under the counter at all times. The metropolis’ McDonald’s Assistant Managers simply ignore us.
Even the all-accepting environment of our national parks has provided no safe haven. On more than one occasion, we’ve pulled into a parking spot next to a minivan containing “The Happy Family” and heard the power locks engage and the windows roll up. That’s usually our cue that we need to take showers; Do we actually look scary? Riding a Goldwing?
Occasionally we encounter The Happy Family on some narrow trail. The young children, who are always fascinated with motorcycles in the first place, come right up to investigate us freaks who Mr. Happy told them to stay away from. As a result, we end up talking with The Happys. We refer back to our corporate jobs and use polysyllabic words to let them know that we’re not vermin, we just look like it. They nod, incredulously, and smile so as not to offend us for fear we’ll cut out their organs and trade them for our next tank of gas. After such encounters, we always ask ourselves why we find it necessary to justify to non-bikers about our disheveled appearance? To other bikers, our greasy hair, dirty faces, are the signs of a good, hard ride. They envy us.
Should we wash our bike more? Our clothes more? Ourselves more? Should we wear matching gear with lots of patches and have “riding cards” printed up with which to introduce ourselves?
I guess that would take some of the fun out of it. We should just be pleased that we’re accomplishing our goal.