Night Riding

by Bill Hufnagle

The moon, just past its zenith, hung like a giant eye in the ether. Full and bright in the pale night sky, it wore the wispy clouds like a shawl against the moisture-laden air. Viewed from the corner of my eye as I dove into a curve, it for an instant took on the shape of an enormous squid. Tendrils stretched out to capture me as the bike and I swam in the waters of the warm summer night. With a sharp downshift and a growling crack of the throttle I narrowly escaped into the shadow of the mountain. No easy meal to be had of this biker.

Off into the sultry night I roared, my headlight playing amongst the shadows along the edge of the road. Just like the moon sometimes turns into a creature of the night, the shadows are at once merely darknesses yet to be penetrated by my headlight and mysterious forms threatening to leap into the path of my front wheel. While I know the illusions the moon casts upon my ride are always just stellar fantasies, the shadows are another thing entirely. At least once each time I answer the call of the night ride, a shadow sprouts eyes, takes on solid form, and darts across my path in the endless dance of life and death.

It is late and I have this ribbon of asphalt all to myself, that is except for that one creature, which tonight is a possum that scurries along the relative safety of the shoulder and never dares to tempt the front wheel. I am thankful for its choice to not dance with me this time. On this late summer night, I am content with the company of the moon; perhaps its fullness and the resultant tidal pull are what invited me to ride. But then, I don’t need much of an invitation to ride in the wee hours of the night. Always a night owl, I have ridden while the world sleeps since the beginning.

The night is my friend, my confidant, and my solace when the daytime world crowds me with work and stress. The road is my favorite drug. What a rush to consume mile after mile of intoxicating asphalt, both invigorating and soothing; I am addicted. By night the road is also a wild animal. Tonight it is a snake draped across the landscape, its smooth surface punctuated by bright yellow dots. As I race along its back, following the pattern of its skin, I am aware that at any moment it could whip around and bite me. It is in that edge of risk and that need to see where the road-snake heads that the attraction lies. At night the scenery is reduced to an almost black-and-white shadow play, which serves to bring the road into beautiful Technicolor focus.

But the night ride is so much more than drug or beast. It is a pathway through time, a portal into my memory and a touchstone in my life. Many a crossroad or complex juncture of existence has been sorted out on night rides. In the darkness of indecision, my headlight has led me to see the solutions and has illuminated the decisions I needed to make. The road and the moon are always there when I need them.

Yet the night ride is not always a medicinal. Sometimes it is just candy, a treat after a long day of toil, boredom, and heat. The rich summer air is like water rushing across my skin, like swimming&emdash;only better. It cleanses the senses and refreshes the lungs. The vibrations of the motor massages my sore muscles, the gentle manipulation of the handlebars works the kinks out of my shoulders and neck. The sweet perfume of honeysuckle sugarcoats the donut of rich green and brown earth smells that surrounds me. It is a calorie-free delight.

Other times it is passion and foreplay, arousing the senses so completely. While a night ride sometimes takes you off into the ether of deep thought, other times it centers you in your physical reality. It stimulates your nerve endings and connects the Chakras of your body so that your spiritual energy flows freely. Then the road takes on the voluptuous curves of the earth mother and becomes a virtual outline of an ancient fertility goddess. Long ago, buried in our genetic memory, there is a caveman who – inspired by the force of life; carved a primitive sculpture shaped like a Venus. If he had wheels, surely they would have carried him home to his cave where he would slide under the sabertooth-tiger-skin covers, do what came naturally, and become our collective ancestor. Sometimes one good ride begets another.

Just like your bike needs to have its pipes blown clean from time to time by a full-throttle dash towards the horizon, your mind has the same need. At those times when your brain is fried, your creativity blocked, and your thought processes stymied, you need a good long night ride. It truly is a miracle cure. A few dozen miles along a peaceful country road at a comfortable pace will take only a short piece of time, yet it can be more relaxing than a two-week vacation. There is no stress of travel arrangements and scheduling. There’s no backlog of work awaiting you on your return. And talk about bargains&emdash;even at today’s outrageous gas prices, a tank full of premium is dirt cheap compared to a trip to the islands. It is just what the doctor ordered.

Night rides always work for me; whatever ails me is sure to come into its proper perspective. While the moon watched me ride just out of its reach tonight and the possum decided not to tempt the fate of my front wheel, I found the cure for my writer’s block and this column magically appeared on my computer.

Killer Queso Sauce

This is a cheese sauce to die for–it makes anything Tex-Mex better. Just try it–like riding, if I have to explain it, you won’t understand.

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium-size onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 canned chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese

1. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic begins to color, 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Fill the bottom half of a double boiler not quite halfway with boiling water and place over medium heat. You don’t want the top part of the double boiler to be in direct contact with the water. Every so often, check the water level to ensure that the pot does not boil dry. Keep another pot of water boiling on the stove so you can add water if necessary. Transfer the sautéed onion and garlic to the top of the double boiler. Add the cumin, white pepper, and half-and-half and stir well to dissolve the spices. Add the cheese and stir until it melts and a smooth sauce forms. Keep warm over the simmering water until ready to serve.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire”, and has authored three cookbooks. Just released in 2003 is his latest book, “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”. The book includes 200 recipes from HOG members and Harley riders across America and an ample supply of Biker Billy’s own fiery recipes.

The book is endowed with Biker Billy’s unique biker banter. It is sure to bring the adventure and flavor of the open road to your table and family.

The illustrated book is published by Harvard Common Press and is available in bookstores everywhere for $19/95, or on Biker Billy’s web site where you can have it autographed. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.

Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.

M.M.M.

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