Updated: Aug 24, 2020
“In a car, you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it, you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle, the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Some of my earliest childhood memories involve my dad on the road. He drove semi-trucks and tour buses for a living, but as soon as he was off-the-clock, he was either cruising in his mint-condition '62 Cadillac or riding around town on his motorcycle.
He's owned a bunch of really cool bikes, too, including a mid-'60s Honda 90, a '74 Kawasaki 500 Triple (aka Widow Maker), an '81 Honda Goldwing 1100 Interstate, and a number of '90s-era Honda Valkyrie GL 1500s, including a '99 he converted into a SuperValk.
And though I've never asked him which bikes were his favorite to ride, I've always imagined he'd say it's the Honda Gold Wing.
"They're the Cadillac of motorcycles," he said, "like a convertible with the top down, and without doors."
He loved that thing! It was gigantic, a luxury bike that purred like a puma, and its chrome pipes glistened like a jewel-studded tiara in the sun. Plus, it's body was a majestic maroon, so it really was a King of the Road. He rode that bike everywhere -- including a 2,900-mile-trip from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, to Los Angeles, California, to be a contestant on Press Your Luck!
Even now, almost 40 years later, I still remember the way I felt while riding with my dad. The warm leather seats, the muffled sound of wind swirling around my helmet, and the butterflies in my belly whenever he tilted into a turn. But most of all, I remember the sense of security, trusting with childlike faith that my dad was in control, that he knew what he was doing, where we were going, and that he'd do everything in his power to keep me safe.
It didn't happen right away, but there came a day when, for the first time in all of our rides together, I stopped wrapping my arms around his waist. It was an Americana moment, embodying an awakening to the cosmic balance of freedom, faith, and security in a world fraught with danger and uncertainty. For it was there and then, with arms outstretched like an eagle, laughing in the face of fear, that something within me was set in motion... thoughts & feelings that, in a kairos kind of way, have helped to make me the Christian man I am today.
So I was ecstatic when my dad told me he was riding into town on his newly-purchased '93 Gold Wing GL 1500 Aspencade, and that he wanted to take my kids on their very first motorcycle ride! They had so much fun, that they didn't want it to end, and they begged him for a second round of rides around the block. (Like & comment on my YouTube channel!)
"Paps has to head home," he said, "but I'll make you a deal. How about I buy you a kid's helmet, one you can keep at your home? That way whenever I'm in town, we can ride!"
Suffice it to say, that did the trick... maybe too well, since now they're begging me to buy a motorcycle of my own! (It would be my first, as I've only ever owned a red Yamaha Razz.) I can't promise anything, but I'd be lying to pretend I haven't been scoping out bikes online -- something vintage, like an Imperial, Triumph, or Moto Guzzi (like the ones owned by my musical hero Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 and Lo Tom fame). And though I've never been a gambling man, I'm certain the kids would love it, and I'm confident that, like those rides on the back of my dad's Gold Wing, our times together would teach them to trust, to believe, and to laugh, soaring through life with arms outstretched, free as an eagle in Pennsylvania skies.