Saturday, February 11, 2006

Born To Be Wild

The weather in the Sacramento area has been unseasonably warm. For the past week, the temperature has been in the low to mid 70s. Not bad for the beginning of February. It is not uncommon or even all that unusual to have these winter “heat waves” in California, but it is not something that can be predicted. Therefore, it is important to take advantage of this weather when it presents itself – it won’t last.

I recently acquired the use of a 2001 Harley Davidson motorcycle. It’s not mine – yet, but I do have use of it. I have had a few motorcycles over the years, but from day one, I wanted a Harley. Ever since I knew what a motorcycle was, the one I wanted was a Harley. There’s something about their sound, their attitude… their aura that is different from every other motorcycle. Now that I can ride one at will, I know these weren’t just idle impressions; the substance of the experience more than exceeds the abstractions of the dream.

Grass Valley is a small town in the Sierra foothills, elevation about 2500 feet. Although it is fastest to get there by taking Interstate 80 most of the way, today’s trip was not about efficiency. I met a few friends (and friends of friends) in Sacramento at 9:00 this morning and we headed for the hills. Every one of us, 30+ total, were riding Harleys. It was indeed a thunderous procession. We rode at a leisurely pace, winding our way through the gently rolling hills, passing though shadows and sunlight feeling the alternating chill followed by the sun’s warmth. It was pure and unadulterated heaven.

There’s something about riding a motorcycle that is unlike any other form of travel. There is a solitude, a oneness that is with me even when surrounded by other bikes or traffic in general. It is the manifestation of the destination in the journey. When riding in a pack though, it’s sort of like a group singularity. We are alone with our machines and our thoughts en masse´. We all know the experience as an individual, personal one yet we are all experiencing it together. There’s really nothing else quite like it.

We had breakfast in Auburn (CA) and continued on the back roads into Grass Valley. Upon arrival, we dismounted and congregated with some other friends we arranged to meet there. After about an hour, we stoked our machines back to life and rode back to where we came from. There was no other purpose; it could have taken place anywhere. All we needed was some sunshine, a machine and each other – the rest took care of itself.

Today was a good day!


OldLady Of The Hills said...

You make it sound so wonderful Mke...I wish motorcycles didn't hold such fear for me, but knowing someone who was killed in a motorcycle accident..I just think they hold tremendous know? Plus knowing other people who have had dreadful accidents...OY! But it souns like you have an almost zen experience with the motorcycle. I'm happy for you, Mike...truly.

Saur♥Kraut said...

I've never been on a motorcycle and always wanted to. My uncle owns a Ducati, which is a very good bike from what I understand. He's ridden motorbikes since I was a little girl.

I remember my mom warning me that I was to NEVER get on a motorbike with either of my wild uncles. ;o)

I'd love to now, though...

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

That sounds awesome!

I would love to get on a motorcycle and 'hall ass.'

Have a good day!

neal said...

I haven't been on a motorcycle in ages, 1984 to be exact. My friend had a Ninja and we would get stupid drunk and ride around on it. He would try to scare me by removing his hands and weaving in and out of traffic solely by leaning left or right. I was scared but the act of riding was too much a thrill to let him know.

Before that I had an old 175cc Yamaha Enduro that I loved. It was not the fastest but it is just as you describe, the solitude of riding a bike. Plus they get great gas mileage.

Your post brought back some good memories, thanks.

Ellen said...

It's been a long time since I've been on a bike as well.... but you described every feeling that I had when I used to go out with a friend on his. We used to travel to the beach, or just anywhere... the destination wasn't the point.

He was a careful driver, which turned out good, because I was never afraid. I used to wear the skimpiest shorts, flipflops and bathing suit top so I could catch some sun on the trips. It remains as some of my best "20 year old" memories.

Good for you! I'm glad you had a glorious day!

Bar L. said...

Mike, I have to make sure my friend KT sees your post today. She's a devoted Harley fan and rides all the time.

The only riding I have done was as a passenger. Back in the day loved it, it's been a while since I don't know anyone with a bike.

Glad you had fun!!!

Lacey said...

I don't ride a bike, but you've described perfectly the journey up to the foothills. I hail from Colfax, and someday hope to buy my dream home in Grass Valley.

I used to commute from "down here" to "up there." The drive is long, peaceful... a return to home. It doesn't really matter where you head, because just -going- is freedom in itself. My car and me, we understand. :)

Sadie Lou said...

Okay. I was born and raised in Grass Valley. I live up highway 20 towards Yuba City now, about 20 minutes from Grass Valley.
I'll never leave here.
You should have told us you were comin' into town--we could have met up!
Where did you eat lunch?

Michael K. Althouse said...

oldold... ~ It was and is wonderful. As far as the danger is concerned, well all In can say is that lots of things are dangerous - I can't live in a cacoon.

saur ~ Ducatis are cool bikes too. They are fairly uncommon and not just like every other bike made in Japan. My mom isn't too crazy about motorcycles either, but I gotta live my life.

barbarafrom... ~ It is awesome, however, it's not always about "haulin ass", but even at the speed limit, it feels like it.

neal ~ riding motorcysle drunk (stupid is just redundant) is never ok. I understand how it may be viewed as a sort of rite of passage, but surviving this rite in one piece is lucky indeed.

Not having the "fastest" bike (I definately don't) is not a requirement.

ellen ~ Being careful is a requirement on a bike. There is no roam for mistakes. It really makes one much more defensive because cars don't see you. I am always anticipating what a car might do.

As far as skimpy clothing is concerned - I don't reccommend it. As much as I despise the helmet law, I would wear one anyway - I just don't like the do-gooders telling me to.

bar bar a ~ I can get to that space sometimes by simply driving, but it is different on a bike. Although I have never really been a passenger, I can see how the experience would be the same.

lacey ~ I used to live in Truckee. I didn't do any street riding there (a little in the dirt), but I agree that is beautiful up there. Someday I will get out nof the city and get back to the mountains, but not for a little while.

sadie lou ~ I honestly don't remember the name of the restuarant. It was a little diner either on or just off highway 49 between Auburn and Grass Valley. We took the back roads to a little place called Rough and Ready and then down to Grass Valley. I couldn't even tell you the roads we took, I was in the middle of the pack.

UltimateWriter said...

sounds that anywhere near wine country?

X said...

I love road trips for the purpose of the opposed to the destination. I did that this past summer, when I friend and I started driving up north (cottage country)....and just randomly stopped in a town and had dinner.....and then drove back to Montreal. Stuff like that is just great. Although I don't ride a bike, I get what you're saying.

And 70's? I am extremely jealous of you right now! :) We haven't gone over 0 (32F) for weeks. I'm getting sick of winter! :)

Sadie Lou said...

I live just beyond Rough & Ready. Sweet.

Anonymous said...


I live here in the Valley (Manteca, CA) and over the wekeend took a ride up the foothills, never been to GV, but someday. Saturday was my 45th BD, so took the opportunity to get out,and had lunch in Knight Ferry. Well I hope that this wont be your last ride.


neal said...

I realize now how stupid we were. Back then I felt young and invincible. I am very lucky to be alive some of the stupid stunts I pulled during my 47 yrs on this planet.

neal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kathleen Jennette said...

Well it sounds to me you had a perfect day. I have family up in Grass Valley and being originally from Northern California I know the area. Nice ride from Sacto to GV. I am going up there next week (driving) just to check the roads out more. I have never been riding up there so I am very excited to do so. Oldoldlady of the hills (love that name!) is worried...sure there is danger, and we riders accept that when we get ourselves on the seat on the bike, but (now its only my opinion but,)if we don't conquer our fears and pursue our dreams--then we just aren't living life. Ride Safe and hope to meet up one day in No. Cali. Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City and the wine country should be some beautiful smelling roads!!!
Thanks for the visit to my blog come back.
KT Did

Kathleen Jennette said...

I came back to re-read your second to the last paragraph. That really got me earlier today and it speaks so well of the true feeling...
"There is a solitude, a oneness that is with me even when surrounded by other bikes or traffic in general. It is the manifestation of the destination in the journey"...
I love that...its so perfect. I just wanted to come back and say
p.s. I had to have a Harley too. Just had too.