My motorcycle has been sitting in the garage since Thanksgiving weekend. Between the very cold temperatures, the rain and a busy schedule, there has been precious little time to ride. I am feeling it. It is not at all uncommon for motorcyclists and their steeds to take a winter break, but in California we are spoiled and this longish respite is somewhat unusual for me… the road is calling.
For the past two years, I have participated in an informal ride that takes place on New Years Day. Its origin is modest, but over the years it has grown to more than 50 local riders from the Sacramento, Auburn and Grass Valley areas. It consists of an overlapping network of friends that often includes re-located friends who now live outside this area. There is no cause; there is no charity, no flyers… nothing official at all. It’s just a group of riders who gather to ring in the New Year in the most appropriate way we know how.
It’s about freedom and fellowship. It’s about gratitude and memorial. It’s about the wind in our face, ribbons of asphalt passing beneath us, the sound and the feel of our motors rumbling. Although most of us ride Harleys, anyone who answers the guttural call of two wheels and too much power is welcome. Currently, the questions are circulating. Will there be a News Years Day Ride this year? Where, when and who? Like prior years, it will just happen. Or, maybe this year, it will not. It doesn’t much matter, if the weather is clear - no matter how cold – I will ride.
When I am on my Harley, it’s just us. Even when in traffic, even when riding in a pack and even when I have my girlfriend riding with me, the primary connection is between my machine and me. Of course, this makes sense from an operational point of view, but it goes deeper than that. There is a connection that I cannot replicate in my car. My car does not depend on my to keep it upright. My car does not require my immediate and constant attention while driving it. My car does not need me. While operating my car, or while attending to the many other things I do, my mind is free to stray.
Not so with my Harley. The irony, however, is that concentration allows my mind to get quiet for extended periods of time. The minutia that is constantly swirling around in my world is blocked out. Despite the physical realities of the wind, the heat or cold, the noise and other vehicles around me, the quiet I feel is unlike anything else. It is the best form of meditation I know of. Riding does not consume all of my mental faculties, but it does prevent those little distractions from entering into the equation.
And it is perhaps the clarity riding gives me that I miss right now. It is an odd time of year – it always is. We reflect, we resolve and move into yet another unknown year. This year has been a good one and the next promises to be even better. Perhaps I just need a good long ride to put it all into perspective…