Heading out the door this weekend, for a quick tour around town on my bike, I found myself looking at the same pair of lightweight leather gloves I have owned for the past 20 years.
The nondescript black gloves are nothing special, in fact they have a tear in the palm I sewed up with an unseemly blue thread, making them look like the hand-me-downs they were.
They came to me along with a 1978 Suzuki GS 750 I bought from a young man who had just moved back to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the US Southwest, where I was living, after his divorce.
For $575 he threw in a helmet, and the gloves.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – As we approach New Year’s Eve 2012/New Year’s Day 2013, I find myself preparing for the bitter-sweet send-off of motorcycle number 13 in my catalogue of bikes and maybe not coincidentally, singing odes to another dreamer and fan of new beginnings, John Lennon, “Another year over, and a new one just begun…”
There is a particular satisfaction to letting go of this favourite bike at the close of a particularly hard year.
Why? Because this bike has been so good to me – and is such a great bike altogether.
“Instant karma’s gonna get you…“ Letting her go amounts to an act of faith on my part; that 2013 will be an auspicious year, that stalled personal and professional aspirations will be rekindled, that I will be just fine without this counterbalance in my life – for a few months anyhow.
Getting ready to part with a loved bike inevitably follows the seven stages of separation:
- Anxiety at the thought of being without two-wheels.
- You picture yourself on a new bike on a high road with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
- Disdain, for your faithful but tired horse.
- Betrayal, when your bike refuses to start for a prospective buyer, or suddenly develops a phantom short in the headlight wiring.
- Shame and repentance, for having thought less of an old friend.
- Amends made, starter and headlight miraculously fixed.
- And again anxiety at the thought of being without wheels. “It feels just like starting over…“
I am at stage two right now – though my wife is trying to disabuse me of the future bike “Double Fantasy“.
For me, the world of owning and trading used bikes is a “Walter Mitty” affair, a chance to live out alternate realities with each unique machine enriching and adding depth to the life experience (it is also less expensive than serial marriage/divorce).
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, perhaps one day you’ll join us,” and the world will ride as one.
Here’s to happy and safe motoring in 2013!
This is where I found myself last Saturday, surrounded by good cheer and the smell of meat roasting on an open fire. Read more…
CANTON GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Nothing can be finer than a late summer bike ride along the Rhône River flowing south from Geneva. In spite of much poo pooing by cycling friends, the Rhône trail system offers hours of trail riding entertainment, minutes from the city centre.
You can drop into this urban jungle from the stairs descending the north side of Pont Butin, or from the backside of the St. George cemetery. Follow the trail signs along the river bank and enjoy the solitude of this sunken forest, a protected zone managed by the Canton of Geneva.
There are ample rises and drops if you are looking for a good workout as well as a few landscaped stairways to be portaged. And for those just looking to get away from concrete urban-ism, there are at least two beaches where you can spread out a picnic.
For a sweet two hour loop, follow the river south to Russin, climb up the road crossing the Barrage de Verbois to Route de Mandement, and take the bike lane back to town through Satigny’s picturesque vineyards.
Biking by the Rhône (click on images to enlarge)
At the end of a near perfect day of wine tasting in the picturesque Vaud, la Côte countryside, I pulled up to the Beetcshen Cave only to have my third tube puncture of the day.
No worries, this is Switzerland. I enjoyed a couple of fine glasses of red and hopped on the next bus with my bike headed to the train station.
At Gland, I arrived just as the train for Geneva pulled in and tired, jumped on ready to buy my ticket. And therein lies the catch.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – When was the last time someone said you were too old to dream?
For me, motorcycles and dreams, dreaming, have always been intertwined and I was unexpectedly cut low recently when a colleague told me there are few spots he would venture to on a motorcycle in Africa today.
We were drinking beer, celebrating a successful meeting and waxing poetic about bike adventures and the beauty of being at the same time more vulnerable, and more open to transformative experiences on a bike.
I was thinking of my lifelong dream to take a bike from Nuevo Laredo, Texas (nostalgic point of departure South) to Tierra del Fuego, loaded with a tent, some food and a camera.
I asked aloud if he thought it was statistically more dangerous to adventure-travel in the world of today than it was, say, 23 years ago when I was crisscrossing Central America.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Is it just me or have the weather gods smiled on Geneva this Fall?
All the better to get back in the saddle after what seems like an extended hiatus limited to commuting on two-wheels.
Sharing the road with a group on horseback makes me forget momentarily about gas stations, traffic lights and vehicle inspections.
And something about the empty vineyards early morning and late afternoon is calming to a mind overrun with extraneous garbage.
Like a dream more vivid than my waking moments.
For me, and millions of other Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band fans, a chapter of rock n’ roll history closed June 18, with the death of Clarence Clemons, the band’s iconic saxophone player, following a stroke suffered earlier this month.
The first album I learned the songs to from A to Z was Bruce Springsteen’s debut “Live from Asbury Park.” The garage band sound mixed with Springsteen’s junkyard poetry and anchored by Clarence Clemons sax solos formed my idea of what music was meant to be for years. Though Clemons had a full solo career in his own right, he will always be in my mind the earthy foil to Springsteen’s atonal crooning.
In my mind, Clarence Clemons was the embodiment of soul in an otherwise soul-filled lineup (this role is sometimes attributed to Steven Van Zandt, but to me he is the “cool”). His playing featured prominently on every E Street album into the oughts when Springsteen returned to his acoustic folk work.
Ironically, in this 1979 clip from Springsteen’s performance at the “No Nukes” concert in Madison Square Garden in 1979, it is Clemons who revives a malingering Springsteen who fires up the audience saying “I’m 30 years old, my heart’s startin to go on me.”
Clarence Clemons bringing soul to Passaic New Jersey, 1978
“…with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music,” Springsteen said on the passing of friend and band member Clarence Clemons.
Geneva – Ever wonder what happens to solid running cars that fail the feared controle technique, or inspection in Switzerland?
According to one mechanic I talked to, Volvos in particular often get a second life in places like Iran and Afghanistan.
While an automotive afterlife sounds quaint, I was less than happy when stringent Swiss inspection laws recently forced an early retirement for “Bertha,” our much loved 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon.
Finding them a second life makes sense actually, as many cars deemed either not up to Swiss safety or ecological standards are still in strong running condition, and a workhorse like ours, with only 285,000 km, can be expected to give many more years of life.
Never the less, it hurt, driving Bertha for the last time, to hand her over to a car transporter, who would shortly load her onto a trailer to be trucked out of the country.
Geneva, Switzerland – After having been tailgated, high-beamed and passed in a no pass zone by an overzealous school marm in…yes, a Honda civic, this evening on my motorcycle, I am thinking “Turkeys on Four Wheels,” would be a better title for this blog.
But the fact is, we are celebrating Turkey Day here in Geneva tomorrow, and it’s all about the love… So, what do turkeys and two wheels have in common you say? How about 24 pounds of France’s finest bird making its way across town on the back of my motorcycle.
Yep, after picking the beast up at Aligro, I stuffed it in my backpack and headed home on my bike.
On the way imagining, oh this could be a really messy exchange if some driver takes me out, there will be, a large bird flying through the air and various poultry parts strewn all over the road.