They look at me and ask, "You ride a motorcycle?" That's so dangerous, they say to themselves.
They take another look and think, But you're not wearing a doo rag, or leather, and I don't see any tattoos, either.
"Yes, I do," I reply. I don't say how fun it is, or that I'm really, really careful. I don't even reassure them that I don't drink, speed, or ride around at night.
"I had a friend (/brother/coworker) who got killed on a motorcycle when he was 17 (/25/50)," they say. "I would never get on one of those things, they're just too dangerous."
So, what's your point, I think. You can get hurt stepping out of your shower.
Of course, riding a motorcycle is a dangerous thing to do. So's life in general. Nobody's getting out alive. Life will scare the bejesus out of you if you think about it. So don't think about it. Do something fun. Sure, speed is fun, for a short stretch down the interstate, but it gets boring. Speed is for the race track, where you don't have to think about what your head would look like smashed up against a telephone pole. Speed is for the salt flats, where there's no cross traffic, nobody changing lanes in front of you—where you can just be a rocket. Now, that would be fun. Going fast and dodging obstacles is for video games, where the only real danger is sore thumbs and wasting time.
You don't look like a biker chick, they think. I just smile and think about how I used to stay home and wish I had something else to do. Something that was fun... and a little bit dangerous.
They look at my leather jacket, leather chaps, and leather boots and think how bold I am. And they're right, I am bold. Actually, I feel like Steve McQueen sometimes, in The Great Escape. I stole Spike from a German soldier and we escape from boredom. I look in the rear-view mirror and see myself shaking my head and going back in the house to wash someone's socks. I look again and see the blazing sunset behind me and the full moon rising in front of me. I'll wear dirty socks if I have to, to see that again.
Danger is relative, really. Riding has helped me realize that what I used to think of as dangerous seems ordinary/every day to me now. By the end of the summer, I plan for me and Spike to have a few more tales to tell about wild and crazy/totally impossible /dangerous things becoming been there/done that/let me tell you how I wash my socks stories.
Riding a motorcycle isn't for everyone, but I have to say that it's one thing in my life that I tried and fell for. I like warm wind in my face... the way a cow pasture smells for the few seconds it takes me to blow by it... the alternating warm and cool air on a shaded back road... the view of the Smoky Mountains from Alcoa Highway with no A-pillar or windshield in my way. I love looking at the mountains knowing I'm going to be there, right about there, on top of that ridge, in just a few minutes, looking down at where I just came from.
The first time I rode to the Smokies I had to pull over right about Kinzel Springs and catch my breath. The curves were just too much. Ooh, the danger! I rode by the same spot again one day late last summer and ended up in Newport... via Maggie Valley. A rain cloud broke open on me on a narrow twisting road between Pittman Center and Sevierville. It was raining so hard I couldn't see. The first place to pull over was in front of a rental cabin by the river. No one was there, so I hurried down the outside steps, and ducked down underneath the back patio for about 20 minutes. I was praying someone wouldn't come in and shoot me. Now that's danger.
The hard rain let up and I was so wet I didn't even wipe all the water off Spike's seat. By the time we got to Sevierville, we were still dripping wet, but it was 80 degrees and sunny. We blew ourselves dry down Chapman Highway. That's the way I like to wash my socks.
Carol Watkins lives in Knoxville's Cedar Bluff area in a condo with a one-car garage—make that one-motorcycle garage. Been married and divorced three times, one son. Had a cat once. He died. If you want to know anything else about her, read it in her column or take her out to dinner. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.