Monday, March 16, 2015

Suicide Machine* to Key Largo

This week-end, I went on my first rides on the new motorcycle.  What a treat!

On Friday, we zipped around the neighborhood.  It was such fun that we planned a trip to Key Largo on Sunday.  We knew that we didn't have lots of time on Sunday--it wouldn't be a leisurely cruise.  But we wanted to seize the opportunity.

On Sunday, once we had our church commitments complete, we came home and went into high gear.  Less than a half hour later, we were on our way.

We made our way through the St. Patrick revelers in downtown Hollywood as we went to the Turnpike.  The sun beat down on us, but that was O.K.--much safer than rain.  We got on the Turnpike, which was less pleasant.

At first I felt like I couldn't be sure I was breathing--the wind and the pressure were intense.  I was prepared for the feeling that everything on my body would lift, but it was still disconcerting to wonder if my helmet was really secure.  I had trouble focusing my eyes. 

More than once, I thought, I don't even like ceiling fans--what am I doing on this bike?

The trip from Homestead to Key Largo was the one I really wanted to experience, and it was breathtaking in different ways.  The idea that on a bike of any kind you're in the landscape, not just viewing the landscape behind a screen--that's not my idea.  I first encountered it in Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Yesterday I thought about how true it is.  If I'd been in a car, I wouldn't have smelled the marshy smells and the salt.  I'd have still oohed as we went over the big bridge on Highway 1.  But it was different on a bike. 

In many ways, I wish it had been a less busy day on the roads.  It would have been nice to go a bit more slowly.  But we're in the middle of one of our biggest tourist seasons ever, so we kept pace with the traffic--again, it's safer that way.

We ate at a Key Largo restaurant with the surliest wait staff I've ever seen.  We got there at 4:25 in the afternoon.  I expected the place to be deserted.  Nope.  It was still hectic.  The wait staff was unsmiling, only half of my food was delicious, but the view was great.

We didn't linger--it wasn't that kind of day.  We wanted to be home before dark.  So, off we went, back on Card Sound Road, which was the less busy way to get back to the mainland. 

Once we got on the Turnpike, the less busy feeling was over--lots of traffic.  But we were in a hurry to get home too.  The sun seemed to be setting more quickly than usual.  We pulled into the driveway just as the sun went down.

I wouldn't have realized how many motorcycles are on the road if I had been in a car. Are they always there or is it a function of our tourist season and the gorgeous weather yesterday? Zero percent chance of precipitation--that's great tourist weather, whether you're on a bike or in a car.

I also thought about what a traditionally gendered activity motorcycle riding is for most of us.  I saw two women yesterday in control of the motorcycle.  Everyone else rode behind the man driving it.  I thought about how I have no idea how to drive a motorcycle, and even if I did, this one is so heavy I expect that I'd have trouble.

Still, in my non-traditionally gendered life, it was nice to take a backseat for a change.  I sat in the backseat and tried to have complete trust in the man driving the bike.  Since he's my spouse, it wasn't too hard--just the newness of the bike made me worry a bit.

Some people say motorcycles are dangerous, and in a way, they are.  But any driving on South Florida roadways feels dangerous.

What to do?  Sit in the house for the next 50 years?  No, we didn't move down here to sit in the house!  We moved down here to be part of a completely different landscape.  And a motorcycle is a great way to do that.

*I don't really think of motorcycles as suicide machines.  But during our ride, I kept thinking of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run," and this allusion pleased me the most.

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