Saturday, November 27, 2004
"I Knew A Guy..."
A variation is the concerned female who will look disapprovingly and say "I have a dear, dear friend who lost her step-son on one of THOSE THINGS five years ago. Poor Jimmy was just riding home after work and he was hit by a cement truck." It's hard not so make some crack like "Yeah, I'll bet THAT left a mark!"
In some previous blog entry here I'd mentioned my own dear father's story of Ernie, who crashed and "was never right in the head after that." Odd thing, for as many years as as I've been riding, I have not collected that many stories of people I actually knew who were killed on a bike. Currently the number (and I hope it does not increase) is two. One fellow was in fact going home drunk on his Harley (but not in a snow storm) and the other was a kid way over his head into a turn on a borrowed Kawasaki 900 Ninja.
When you show up somewhere on your bike, a party, a family gathering or whatever, I have to wonder why people feel they must, MUST tell you about the death, destruction, and dismemberment of some hapless rider they knew, knew about, or heard about on the news last week. "Yeah, I heard the other day one of those guys on a crotch rocket lost control at over 150 mph on the freeway, flew into the air and went 'SPLAT" against the I-10 interchange sign. And he wasn't wearing a helmet!!" Gee, do you think speed played a factor in the accident or did the motorcycle just decide it wanted to crash and took him with it? I know motorcycling is not as safe as driving a car so stories told to me by other people, stories of mayhem and carnage are intended to do what? Stop me from riding? Shall I shout "Oh my God, I didn't know bikes were THAT dangerous, I'll walk home tonight!!"? It's really difficult not get sarcastic with some people.
Are people well meaning and genuinely concerned for my safety or is it some way they morbidly sample the excitement of riding without actually riding and taking the risk? I'll ascribe concern to my parent's motives and morbidity to everyone else. No wait, there's a third group, those who simply have to vocally disapprove of anything which falls outside their live-in-a-cocoon existence.
I guess I've heard the "I knew a guy.." story countless times over the years. Most recently was a co-worker in the lunch room at work who, after he saw my Aprilia Falco said "You're gonna kill yourself on that thing!" I replied (loud enough so everyone could hear me) "Earl, I'd rather die in a horrific, flaming crash at 150 mph next week than in an old folks home drooling on myself when I'm 85 years old." To Earl's credit, he responded, "Yeah, you probably have a point there."
I've used variations on what I call the "shock 'em" concept at different times depending how polite I wanted to be to the other person. Condemning absurdity by giving an absurd example works pretty well: "Yeah, I crash a lot too. Got hit by Buick once. Sucker drove off and left me laying there with my leg tore plum off. Had to bungee cord it to the back of the seat of the bike and ride myself to the hospital to have it re-attached. Kickstarting the bike was a real pain, I hope to tell ya."
More often than not, being the polite fellow I am, I just say "Well, I've been riding over thirty years. Life is full of risks and riding a risk I'm willing to take."
And on the subject of death, here's this week's wanderings:
The weather today was perfect: 73° and blue skies. It's the kind of day that makes enduring Arizona's blistering summers worth while. I rolled the Aprilia out of the garage to do a short ride and try out the Vista-Cruise throttle lock I installed last night. As usual I headed east toward Coolidge and Florence. I should have ridden a lot farther and in fact intended to ride down towards Tucson and Aravica but I've pranged my shoulder somehow so decided to give it a bit of a rest.
I took a different road out of Florence this time, a nice little two lane bit a couple of miles long with a few curves. As I zipped along I saw out of the corner of my eye and old cemetery. I'm a sucker for anything historic, historic markers, and the like and given that the cemetery had no sign by the road and looked unkempt, I decided to turn around and see if maybe it was the local pioneer cemetery. It's always interesting to visit those places and see what bits of history can be gleaned from the grave markers. I parked the Caponord by the small entry way, the stone posts are left but the gate is long gone. I imagine it was ornate and attractive and so long ago was swiped to decorate someone's garden.
As I wandered around, camera in hand, reading the headstones, two markers caught my attention more that the others. The first was an obelisk, now broken and it's top setting on the ground next to the base. As often is the case, the inscriptions tell a sad tell of hard times in the old west. One side of the marker reads "Our babies Lou, age 21 days Died 1884 - Lulu, age 3 years, Died 1887" The other side of the marker lists what I took to be the father's name, a Mr. Bailey, and his departure in the year 1888 at the age of 38 years. Even over 100 years hence it's hard not to be moved by the apparent plight of some poor woman, in the harshest part of the wild west, her children and husband all gone in the space of four years.
here if you're a history buff.
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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence
An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison