There are many reasons people ride motorcycles: to see how fast they can get there; to beat everybody there; to see how much noise they can make getting there; to see how much enjoyment they can get out of the ride; to see if they can make it there and back without killing themselves; to see how many heads they can turn; to pretend like they’re in an alternate universe where every drop of life is worth savoring, everyone is friendly, and the world is a beautiful place where everyone respects them for how cool they are; and my current favorite, you’re not in a car.
When you travel a long distance in the car, you tend to think of the world as one long piece of concrete, everybody in a mad hurry to get somewhere, anywhere. The get-out-of-my-way mentality is a contagious disease. It’s stressful, too. People come up close behind you and try to push their way through the clog of traffic.
I join a line in the left lane passing a truck going up a long hill, and there is always somebody passing on the right trying to jump ahead of three or four cars. They always want to whip into my space cushion, so most times I close it up too tight and make them wait. Being an asshole is contagious, too. I try to hang back and then I realize they’re all going to get there ahead of me. I leave early and by the time I get to my destination, nobody’s home from work yet, because I didn’t stop like I’d planned, because I didn’t want to get left behind. Crazy, ain’t it?
That’s why I like traveling with Spike. He doesn’t care how fast we get there, or if we get there at all. He’s just happy to be tinkling his bell.
I took a long road trip via car recently to visit some good friends in Indiana. On the way back, I was trying to cut off some miles and get off the interstate. There was almost no traffic on the road that Sunday afternoon. I passed it all coming out of Indianapolis—they were all going to the basketball game. I-65 south of Louisville is just about worn out from truck traffic. There are even signs posted warning motorcyclists of the uneven lanes.
I pulled off at a KFC, stuffed my face, checked the map, and planned my scenic route from Elizabethtown, Ky. Glasgow to Tompkinsville to Crossville looked like it might work. The next exit I came to said Bluegrass Parkway, so naturally, I had to check that out. I could tell right away that I had made a mistake. To get home at a decent hour I would have had to hook up to I-75 and go over Jellico Mountain, which is what I was trying to avoid from the beginning. So I spent about an hour circling back to 65 through Hodgenville and Abe Lincoln’s boyhood home. At Cave City I started my original off-interstate plan, enjoying the scenery and wishing it was sunny and I was riding Spike.
Every T-road and junction I came to, I had to check my map, so I didn’t make a wrong turn and have to spend more time backtracking. And every T-road and junction I came to reminded me of how much I wanted to turn right instead of left, cram my map into the front of my jacket, zip it up and forget about it, using my homing instincts to find my way back. Sometimes when I ride, I’ll take a road just to see where it goes, then make only left-hand turns, (or right-hand turns), and see if I can make a big circle and figure out where I am. Kentucky looks like a fantastic place for that kind of riding.
Kentucky state road 63 is a beautiful curvy road through gorgeous farmland with mountains in the distance, and cow pastures right up front. There is some kind of weed that blooms with little purple flowers that looks like a purple haze has settled into the low, moist, curved corners of the tilled fields. It doesn’t last very long, so it was a treat to see it, even with overcast skies. On a motorcycle, with the morning sun shining, it would be a sight to behold.
On a motorcycle, things just look better. You can feel the air that you see, feel the warmth from the road, the mist from heavy clouds, feel the wind pushing you back instead of listening to it whistle through the cracked window. The curves in the road lift you higher, and hug you harder. You’re just more there on a motorcycle.
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.