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Rants & Raves Index
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I mean FREEZIN'...
The Long, Cold Ride

So what is it that makes us head out on days that we know are gonna be bone-rattling cold? Maybe because the few days before were warm lulls us into a feeling that ďhey, when Iíve got the time to go riding, itíll be warmĒ Ė but it never is. Especially in Denver, in December, when itís overcast and has that nasty snow-bite in the air.

But there I was, out in the driveway, connecting up battery cables and pulling on a hooded sweat going ďyeah, itís just brisk Ďcause itís early, itís gonna get really warm today, oh yeahĒ. Now mind you, Iím thinking this fiction as I ignore the snow thatís surrounding the driveway, my breath in the air and the echoes of Wendyís voice going ďYouíre crazy, itís gonna snow!Ē. Never mind all that, itís the Sunday after a three day weekend where I hung Christmas lights, got out the tree, went grocery shopping, took Snake (my son) to a movie, etc. etc. Ė this is serious Dad time, and Iím gonna take advantage of it, even if it kills me. And riding at these temperatures just might do that.

So off I go.

The bike was a bit fussy starting (cold, do ya think?) but I really canít feel all that much with all the layers of crap that I have on. You know the drill, any chink in the armor will let that razor-cold in, so donít have any chinks. The result is ya end up looking and feeling like and over-stuffed, black-leather spaceman. Oh well, at least Iím not cold. Now Iím on my own today Ė one of those days where I didnít look up my buddies the night before or see who else I could roust outta bed. Sometimes you just wanna ride alone without the pack thing happening. Seems every time your riding with a buncha guys, it all becomes about compromise Ė you compromise where you wanna go, how fast you wanna go there, where you wanna stop, what you wanna eat, and on and on. So today it was just me and the bike and all that noise between my ears that I was hoping to quiet down.

So the question now is (now that Iím three houses away from mine) Ė where exactly am I going? I mentally search all my favorite destinations and decide Iím just gonna head out Parker Road (a road on the plains) and see what happens. You know what happens next Ė the rhythm of the road and the motor kick in and my mind travels to that place where only extreme zen masters and motorcycle riders can go. That land where you just ARE and donít have to wrestle with the issues of the world. Where the mortgage fades away, the job becomes pale and youíre flying three feet above a fast-moving river of black motion and vibration. And you forget about time, just for a little while.

The next think I know Iím about sixty miles away from home coming up on the town of Colorado Springs.

Now Colorado Springs is a pretty cool place in and of itself, but itís also close to Manitou Springs and Garden of the Gods. For those of you who donít know, Garden of the Gods is one of those bizarre rock formations that happen in Colorado. Itís a bunch of giant red spires and slabs that seem to have been stuck into the ground by some giant mystical hand. I decide this is my destination Ė the Garden of the Gods. Besides, it should be deserted being as itís about 30 degrees outside. Iím sure there wonít be any other bikers.

So Iím winging through traffic in Colorado Springs when I realize I canít remember how to get there. Iím lost.

Up ahead in the traffic I see another guy on a Harley winding through traffic, so I put on some go-power and Iím right next to him before you know it. Heís another middle-aged dude on a relatively custom sled that you can tell he works on. I look over and say ďHey, where the hell is the Garden of the Gods from here?Ē He looks back over at me and says ďIím just riding around, Iíll take you there, follow meĒ.

So we start the crazy stoplight conversation thing that car drivers never get to experience, you know, the one where you find everything out about somebody in two second snatches of conversation at stoplights. Heíd just put up his Christmas lights, too. His wife and kids were home too. He was freekiní cold too. But he was still out there, just riding around. I followed him through the town and we finally ended up at the entrance to the park where he turned to me and said ďMerry Christmas, man Ė take it easy, bro!Ē and sped off. Hell, we werenít traveling together.

I headed off into the gathering snow-darkness of the park. There was a large, black looking cloud that had come over the range and it was bringing flakes. Was I scared? Nah, what could be more spiritual than riding through giant rocks placed there by ancient Gods as storm clouds gathered on the horizon? In fact, I decided I was gonna stop and ENJOY the spectacle of the coming storm. I pulled over at a ledge that gave a view of most of the park and the mountain range. I clambered out on the ledge, lit up a saddle-bag weary Swisher Sweet and savored the smoke, the cold and coming darkness.

And I wasnít alone.

Other bikers were making their way through the park. Couples and singles, bundled to the hilt and winding through the magnificently freezing day. You probably guessed they were all Harley people, the crotch rocket guys donít go in for this stuff. But as I sat there and puffed on the cheap cheroot, dozens of individual scoots made their way through the park. I got to thinking about what this all means and came up with the fact that it really doesnít MEAN anything. Maybe weíre just a different race of people, a little out of step with what most folks would think of as ďsmart behaviorĒ. Maybe we do theses things like riding hundreds of miles through the freezing cold to a big pile of rocks because thereís something primitive in our inner soul thatís carried over from generation to generation Ė Viking Warriors? Celtic Tribesmen? Asian Warlords? Öor maybe just crazy people with an itch in a place that modern civilization canít scratch.

So what do we do? We build dangerous machines and ride them all over hell. Sometimes wherever our spirit tells us to. Sometimes in the face of everything ever known as common sense.

I once realized a long time ago that I couldnít stop riding. I couldnít stop building and working on bikes. I had a discussion about this with a buddy of mine who echoed my feelings. He said ďI just canít do anything else. Itís not in me to do anything elseĒ.

The stogie was a butt by now, and that storm really was coming on.

It all caught up to me as I sped through a dark woods a few miles later. The white flakes swirled, but werenít in the mood to stick. It was far too cold to get slushy. I pulled my black facemask down and my coat zippers up as far as they would go Ė and I knew they and the bike would get me where I needed to go. Even if it was a big pile of rocks on a cold Colorado day.

Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Warren & Wendy
warren@choppersrule.com