The other day, I was surfing the Internet and clicked on a link I had not recently visited, called Life is a Road.
It is hosted by veteran rider Daniel Meyer, who is a pilot, engineer, skier, and an avid motorcyclist who has ridden over a half-million miles. He is a big guy who rides a 2001 Honda Valkyrie, the hot-rod version of the Gold Wing.
A graphic at the place I happened to find on his website was this one:
For me, I suppose that it is a symptom, with an underlying bit of unbelief, that I, a more-than-slightly-past-middle-aged nerd, came to do such a thing at all -- ride a motorcycle. My friends, work associates, and wife couldn't believe it when I announced my intentions to ride, bought this bike, and began to learn to ride it.
I have enjoyed riding it year around in the beautiful area where we live, visiting places I might not have otherwise discovered. I have met a fair number of new people since then too, some of which helped me figure out how to ride this two-wheeled contraption.
Although I don't keep my bike pristine, when it is cleaned up, it looks pretty good for a middle-aged girl.
So, don't make fun of my little quirk of admiring my Ninja. I am apparently not alone, being, for one, in the company of riders like Mr. Meyer.
By the way, he is quite a writer. In addition to his website, he writes a blog, and has written four books about motorcycling:
- Life is a Road, the Soul is a Motorcycle
- Life is a Road, Get on it and Ride!
- Life Is a Road, Ride It Hard!
- Life Is a Road, It's About the Ride
He also has some short stories posted online. Amongst them is a favorite of mine, called "Today I Met a Man."
It appears below, in its entirety:
Today I Met a Man
by Daniel Meyer
It only took a millisecond to register.
I hate to shop, but sometimes a man’s just gotta. Stepping out of the store with my hard-won Christmas present for my wife, a terrible scene lay before me.
My first and unbidden thought was, “Somebody’s going to die!”
My second thought was, “Somebody’s really going to die!”
The Dragon was down you see. The big cruiser was laying on her right side, a bit of gasoline running across the asphalt. Standing over her in an incriminating manner was a teenage boy.
Let me start by stating that Valkyries do not just fall over. Period. She weighs 775 pounds dry, and she has a serious lean into the kickstand to prevent falling over if both tires go flat. It would take serious winds to blow her over, and even with the stand up, she will sit on her crash bars without falling unless she is pushed.
I am a Texan, and can be absolutely ruthless when needed, but I am slow to anger and must be seriously provoked to warrant a violent response.
I step out of the store and find a baggily clad teenager fooling with my fallen bike.
This was serious.
I was provoked.
I saw stars.
Somebody was fixing to die.
Still, I have been around enough to know that everything is not always what it seems to be in this world. Very little is black and white, or even gray, and while stereotypes and statistics can be highly accurate when applied to groups, they break down with spectacular rapidity when applied to individuals. I have also been judged incorrectly by people who do not know me, or what I am about, enough so that I am wary of jumping to conclusions. Benefit of the doubt and all that.
Good thing I do not shoot first and ask questions later.
I quickened my pace, headed toward the fallen bike and her unsavory teenage boy companion. For those that do not know me, I am 6 feet and 300-plus pounds. I am strong as an ox and supremely confident, and it usually shows in my walk and my manner (see the home page of this website for my definition of “pumping iron”). I can really move when needed. In this instance I was also dressed in my heavy leathers, the jacket alone weighing in at over 40 pounds. I am a BIG guy.
I have no idea what my expression was, but I am sure it was scary. I was pissed! My Dragon was fallen, my comrade was down!
About this time he looks up and sees me coming. Trust me, the better part of valor here would be to run and never look back.
His expressions went through an interesting range of emotions. Startle-ment, disbelief, panic, and outright terror rapidly crossed his face. His mouth dropped open and he actually blanched. I have never seen anyone go so white, so fast. His tongue and lips even went white!
I could see it in his eyes, he just knew I was going to pound him flat.
Then it happened. His arms tensed, his eyes rolled back--just a bit, he swayed, and his knees buckled--just a bit. He kept to his feet and recovered quickly, but not quite fast enough. A small wet stain soaked the crotch of his baggy blue jeans.
All this was observed in a matter of seconds. He recovered quickly.
But he did not run.
I stopped an arm’s length away. I could have reached out with one hand and throttled the boy. I knew it, and he knew it. He kind of squinted, looking a bit away, a hand half raised. The posture almost involuntarily taken a split second before you get clobbered by something. I would imagine that everyone that has ever been hit by a Mac truck looked like this a split second before impact.
And still he did not run.
All was clearly not what it seemed to be here.
“Explain yourself.” It was all I trusted myself to say.
He knew he was going to die. His voice quavered, but he could look me in the eye.
Here is the story, verified by all the parties involved:
His name is Shawn, and he and two friends were shopping. When they backed out of their space, they barely bumped the Valkyrie. Bad driving, and really annoying, but nothing sinister here. She went over and sat on her right crash bar.
Shawn (who was not driving) got out of the car and asked for help righting the bike. His friends laughed, and the driver backed up a little more, and over she went. Now we are into sinister. They then drove off, leaving Shawn to fend for himself.
Shawn tried to right the big cruiser but could not, so he waited for me.
He waited for me. He did not run.
Where I had seen just a boy when I came out of the store, I now realized that standing in front of me, quivering knees and all, was a man.
I turned the wheel to its stops and put my butt into it. Up came The Dragon.
She had sat mostly on her saddlebag and crash bar on the right, and the only damage I could find anywhere was the right rear blinker lens was cracked, and the front brake lever was bent. Not too bad.
I handed him my helmet. He was under 18 after all. “Come on Shawn, let’s go for a ride.”
A quick trip to the gas station, and a stop at the Honda dealer, then later we were at Shawn’s house. “That’s them.” Shawn said pointing to a white Honda Accord.
They had figured he would run, and were waiting for him at his house. Some friends.
I knocked on the door and things were sorted out in quick order. I can see where Shawn gets it from. His father is a man too.
He rapidly had the “friends’” parents over and we all had a little pow-wow. The driver was Terry, and his parents were furious with him. The end result was that I was given $50 cash for my expenditures ($47 or so) at the Honda shop, and then I was handed the keys to the Accord by Terry’s father.
He said, and I quote, “The car is yours. Do whatever you want with it. Give me ten minutes and I’ll have the title over here for you.”
And then, “Do you want to swear out a charge?”
I looked at him a bit surprised, “What?”
Turns out Terry’s dad is a cop. Oooooooooh, bad for Terry.
I looked him in the eye, “You’ll take care of this?”
“Oh yes.” There was no doubt at all in that tone.
I handed him the keys to his son’s car.
“Okay then. Have a good one.”
As for Shawn, I shook his hand. He is, after-all . . . a man.
If you enjoyed this story, consider buying some of Mr. Meyer's books.