December 24, 2019
Xmas Eve Ride
The in-laws were hosting lunch today, and Autumn and Henry had a sleep-over, so I could make my way down at my leisure. I went to my workout this morning under grey skies, and there was a chill in the air. So much for riding, I thought. Yet, by the end of the workout, the sun had chased the clouds away, and the temperature had climbed at least ten degrees. The ride was back on!
And what a glorious one it was. I had learned from my last “winter” ride to layer. This time, even though the thermometer said 66°F, I was not fooled. It gets cold on a naked bike, even at higher temps. I wore a couple of t-shirts and a fleece pull-over under my riding jacket. It was perfect—I was nice and comfortable the whole ride.
This got me to wondering: I think part of the experience of motorcycling is to be a bit uncomfortable. Through discomfort, one grows and adapts—becomes more. You can extend this idea to travel in general. Travel should always be a bit uncomfortable for it to be beneficial. If you stay too close to home—i.e., too comfortable—the benefits are mitigated. I think this is why people vacation in the same places all the time: it’s not really travel they want. They just want a piece of home in another familiar location. Since it’s so small, you can’t take much of home with you on a bike.
Motorcycles also expose you to nature, whereas cars isolate. Planes? Forgetaboutit. You have to consider the elements when riding, and even if you prepare, cold and rain can still make your day pretty miserable. Back in 2009, I rode to Louisville to grade AP exams. The ride there was one of these days of wet, cold misery. It poured all day. I stopped about 30 miles east of Louisville thinking I could not possibly continue. Somehow I made it, making me a stronger, more skilled (definitely wetter) rider. In hindsight, too, this became something I could think back on, tell a story about; the tribulation led to the strongest memory of that trip. (The AP reading itself was a misery, but that’s a different story.)
I think this was something Mailer was getting at in his debate with McLuhan. At one point, he was talking about how planes changed travel for the worse, making it somehow less authentic: “When we get into a jet and travel a thousand miles in an hour and a half and get out, we have travelled through whole areas of existence which we have not necessarily gained. It may be confounding, it may finally be destructive of what is best in the human spirit.” Mailer worried that this was a symptom of dependency upon more powerful technology. Though I don’t think he ever rode, I’m not sure Mailer would look down on the motorcycle—certainly not for the same reasons.
The ride back from Kathleen was also lovely adding to a great Xmas eve. Topped off with a bourbon and Santa playing, it was a fine night.
- Foley, Ken (Moderator) (1968). "Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Norman Mailer" (PDF). The Summer Way (Television production). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2019-09-20.