Head out on the Highway
…sing it, Steppenwolf! http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o
I know, I know. It has been established that I am not a “biker.” I just like the song, ok?
The “bike of my life,” the one that I loved more than all others (at least to this point), was a Suzuki GS 1100L. Although I refer to it in the past tense, I am still the owner of title; it’s just that I now have a new bike.
I bought the 1100 about 20 years ago, and she was a beauty. Great lines, classy, and strong! Shaft drive, and a speedometer that went to 120 mph. I will confess that it took some time for me to figure out the difference between a chain drive and a shaft drive. For example, one doesn’t slam the accelerator from a dead stop into a right turn. The bike will just torque sideways and slide down the street while the rider just kind of watches the blacktop grind bits of metal away. But I soon learned how to ride the 1100, and I just loved it. Beth, although a bit of a reluctant motorcycle owner at the beginning, learned to enjoy riding with me, and we did a lot of stuff together.
That probably started when I got the Honda 750 (see my post, “Get your Motor Running”). Once I got a bit more confident on the bike, Beth got on the back and we learned to ride together. Mostly we did day trips, short rides, that kind of thing. That continued with the Suzuki 750. We would ride to small group on Sunday night perhaps, or pick an afternoon when the kids were elsewhere and go for a bit of a ride. The problem was that although the 750’s were strong enough to take us both, they were just about at their limit. With the two of us on, they didn’t have a lot left to really jump when I asked them to. But, we were young, and it was just great to ride together.
I had learned through the earlier years of riding that I really like a windshield. I can ride without one, and I love to ride, but I much prefer having a bit of plexiglas in front of me. I like that bit of a break from the wind, and having it catching most of the bugs that decide to splat on something. And I would rather they went splat on the windshield than on my face shield, my sunglasses, or my teeth. Although, even with a windshield they can still manage to find their creepy little way to your face.
Since owning my own bike, I have always ridden with a full face helmet. Yep, I have heard the arguments regarding full-face vs. three-quarters helmets. For the proponents of a three-quarters helmet, it usually amounts to something like, “If you’re in a crash with a full-face helmet, it could break your neck if you land on the chin.” My reply? If you are in a motorcycle accident with a three-quarters helmet and land on your chin, chances are you’re gonna be DOA (Dead On Arrival) anyhow, and your chin, jaw and half of your face will still be back with the pieces of motorcycle on the road. At least if I break my neck with a full-face helmet, I’ll look good in the casket. A touch morbid perhaps, but that ain’t nothin’ compared to the stuff I have seen and heard with thirty years of police work behind me. And I would rather look good than be chinless…
Anyhow, back to the bugs. I’m riding along one day on one of the 750’s, can’t remember which one. In one heartbeat, I clearly saw this wasp come at the windshield, ride the air current over the top of if, and flow right into my helmet. My face shield was up, and up to that point I was enjoying the fresh air flowing through the helmet.
And it had to be a wasp. I hate them all! Bees, wasps, hornets, doesn’t matter. I call them stingy-things, and I! Hate!! Them!!! The bottom line is that I have loathed stingy-things since I was a young teen. My theory is that anything with a needle in its butt is an unnatural object, and it needs to die.
That’s a story for another day, but…ah, why not. Growing up, my family lived a few miles outside of Meadville, PA, in a rural area. Pop was pretty good with fixing things, but not such a good teacher. Ergo, I was the I-need-a-wrench-fetch-it kid, the “hold the light right there; no, stop moving!” kid, the “hold this tight while I whack it with a hammer” kid. If it sounds like I’m griping, I’m not. My Pop was the best in the world, and I would give anything in the world to be one of those things for him again.
So on this one day, he was making fence posts out of 4×4’s, and he did this by sharpening one end of the 4×4 with a double-bitted ax we had. My job? Hold the 4×4 against the side of the garage so it doesn’t shift while he whacked away with the ax. It was a beautiful summer day, and I was a young teen, bored out of my mind. I had gotten to where I was pretty good at being invisible when Pop had a project, but I guess I wasn’t quick enough this time. Anyhow, here I am holding this stupid 4×4 while Pop was whittling away with the stupid ax. I’m looking around for something interesting, and I saw a wasp nest hanging under the eaves of the garage, probably about three-quarters of the way down the garage. I remember seeing this one wasp drop out of it and start flying. It was pretty cool, it just dropped, and then picked up the pace. It made a slow, lazy loop, coming right toward me. And then the little #$*&!! landed on my left eyelid and hammered me three times, bam, bam, bam!! I started howling, and holding my eye. Man did that hurt! Three pops from a wasp right on my eyelid. Dad went nuts, trying to peel my hands off my eye and yelling to find out what had happened. I later found out that he thought he had hit me with this double-bitted ax, but at the time, I had no idea this was in his mind. When he found out that he had not hit me with the ax, and that I was “only” stung, he called me all kind of names. Yeah, Dad, I might be dumb, here I am holding this stupid fence post, but Pop, I am not a son of a bitch, and when Mom hears what you called her you’re gonna be in big trouble, mister!
So, back to the wasp in my helmet. Imagine that which you hold in an unreasonable fear. Now imagine that it’s happening right now. And that you’re moving on a two-wheeled machine at about, uh, the speed limit, and you can’t do anything about the situation. Since this is my story, I’ll tell you what I did. I pulled over to the side of the road, slowing down just as quickly as I safely could, and pulled off the road. When I stopped the bike, I put it in neutral, put the kick stand down, and got off the bike. So far so good. I can still feel the wasp inside my helmet, and have been able to feel it this entire time. It’s little stingy-thing feet are crawling on my face, and it feels like it’s searching patiently, looking for my eyelid (do they go to wasp school for this? What the hey!). I then had to get my gloves off (come on, come on). Next, I undid my chin strap (this is taking forever). The wasp was on the right side of my face, around my ear, on my cheek, just crawling around. Apparently the impact made it’s little stingy-thing mind go blank for a minute, because it hasn’t been able to find my eyelid yet. I pushed the helmet as far as I could to the right, and then slowly, slowly I lifted my helmet up. Did I mention that this seemed like about twenty minutes to this point? I finally got the helmet up far enough that the wasp found the opening, and without ever stinging me even once, it just flew away. Then I did St. Vitus’ Dance all over the highway. I ripped my helmet the rest of the way off, and if a football coach had seen how far I flung it, I would have probably been immediately recruited for the pros. Hollering, dancing all over, waiving my arms around, it seemed like the thing to do at the time, but looking back, I’m kind of glad no one had video cameras then.
Man I hate stingy-things!!!