Two sensations to which I have never grown accustomed are holding a woman’s breast in my hand; and twisting the throttle of a well-tuned motorcycle. While each is about as different as two actions can be, both leave me breathless and utterly euphoric. The breast caress is generally accomplished in seclusion, amid whispers and an exchange of soft looks. The throttle twist is best savored when it puts you out in front of your riding buddies, or just ahead of the mundane thoughts that hold everyone else back.
I refuse to write a word of appreciation for the female breast. To me, it’s like expressing gratitude for oxygen. There are breasts, therefore poetry, sunsets, love letters, moon rises, candle-light, exotic beaches, rare liquors, and art all have a raison d’etre. (Breasts don’t have to be big, nor round, nor pointing upward to be perfect... Just connected to a sigh.) I am always amazed when a majority of men fail to understand that the fastest way to find a woman’s breast in their hand is to never let their eyes leave hers. And when the poetry is right, this sensation occurs again and again with the same woman — ad infinitum.
The motorcycle is a metaphor for life.
It is so easy to think of motorcycles as machines with the utility of painted ponies, with the loyalty of dogs, and with the killer instincts of leopards. Yet nowhere does the pulse of moto-metaphysics beat strongest than at the throttle. You may experience a buzz in the pegs... You might feel the imperfection of the road through the handlebars... And you may see your life pass before your eyes in the skid of the front wheel... But only through the throttle will you touch the soul of the machine, and feel it touch yours in return.
I touch the soul of my motorcycle every time I pull away from the curb, but there are some moments when it grabs me first.
The State of Delaware (US) is about the size of a large tablecloth, and yet it has some of the most beautiful and unique motorcycle runs in the country — albeit short. One of these is Delaware Route 9, running south from New Castle, through beautiful salt marshes and migratory bird refuges. The gateway to this stretch of heaven is the “Reedy Point Bridge” over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Built in 1968 by the US Army Corps. of Engineers, the bridge stands 138 feet tall and has two steep approach ramps that carry a two-lane roadway.
This is one of my favorite places to take the pulse of my motorcycle.
Coming south out of Delaware City, you first cross an archaic, steel-decked bascule bridge, providing a view up the curving ramp to the towering pile of rust that is the Reedy Point crossing. This is where I twist the throttle about three quarters of the way around. The steady hum in my right hand becomes an incessant buzz, as if I was holding a fist-full of bees. Shifting from third to fourth adds dimension to the buzz, as my 17-year-old BMW K75 digs into the ramp like a chain saw going through a crowd of zombies. I shift into fifth, the final gear, at the top, with the tach reading 6 grand.
The effect is amazing.
I feel as if I am being shot out of a howitzer.
The bike and I become one at the top of the Ferris wheel, fourteen stories above the water. For a few brief seconds, I can see three states... I am taller than the ships coming in from sea... I’m above a nuclear power plant on the horizon... I am as close to weightlessness as I will ever get... And then we swoop down into the salt marshes on the other side. I am astride a red Valkyrie, plummeting to the surface of the marsh. The road is barely an inch or two above the water under the best of circumstances, and the cattails tower over me as the bike levels out. The pavement on the barely-maintained bridge can best be described as “ Aspiring Third World,” and first-time riders on this route should expect some debris or flooding everyplace else, depending on the weather and the tide.
My bike is powered by a three-cylinder, 72-horsepower, liquid-cooled engine that sounds like a blender in a power dive. It is contained in a package that carefully replicates the sexy lines found in a bale of hay. And while it is as responsive as a whore aware of her advancing years, she still gets up to pole dance at five grand. (This mill routinely runs at an RPM that would turn the engine in my truck to paste.)
But you don’t need a bridge and a marsh to get the howitzer effect.
On another morning when the mist was glued to the edge of the pavement, I was accompanied by Dickie Burkenstock. and Michael Redcheek. (They are members of a soon-to-be renegade BMW riding club and have requested their last names be concealed... Not from the law but from their respective spouses.) We were headed for a fund-raising, lingerie breakfast and found an utterly deserted slab just begging for a little Houliganism.
The boys were in loose formation behind and I tapped the button for my flashers... Then I twisted the throttle around until I could feel the grip throb in my hand. The whine of the engine changed to a dare and I laughed in my helmet. The bike rode lower on the forks, but otherwise rose to the occasion. Dickie B. knew the drill and responded in kind. He was astride a much younger, bigger BMW “R” bike, that had huge opposing, horizontal jugs, and which had no trouble keeping up — though it would never pass me.
Michael R. came late to the realization that he was being abandoned. It wasn’t until Dickie B.’s tail light diminished to the substance of a rumor that he would put the spurs to his K75 too. Dick and I arrived at our destination, opened our helmets, and said... Nothing. There was nothing to say. We laughed quietly, knowing full well what the other guy was thinking. And then Michael pulled up, grinning like the village idiot.
“I have to get this GPS fixed,” he remarked. “It showed I was going 55 miles per hour over the 65 mile-per-hour limit.” Then he reset it.*
These are not the sort of things riders brag about, nor even admit in mixed company. Certainly not riders who are old enough to have kids in their twenties’ and thirties’. It’s enough that they just know what the soul of a motorcycle feels like set free... Or even just rubbed through the bars of the cage on the way to the Post Office or the hardware store.
I didn’t always know about breasts and throttles.
In fact, there was a time when I thought I was going to die as the direct result of a breast drought (age 19). It seemed as if every woman I looked at had joined a union, which circulated my picture attached to some kind of a warning. Then I met the first of four women who would forever change my life in the most incredible way. She was a Mediterranean beauty with olive skin and brown eyes, with waist-length hair as dark as my romantic prospects the day before I met her. Naturally, she thought I was an asshole... But that was before she got a look at the purple Kawasaki H2. (Once she saw the color of the bike, I think the word “douche” may have occurred to her too.)
Still, the day came when that bike carried us to the rim of the Hudson Valley, where we sipped a cool, herbal gin drink from a Thermos, and watched the sun dissolve into the mountains. It was there she learned that gin unbuttons blouses... And I learned that as exciting as a motorcycle’s throttle is, it doesn’t hold a candle to a woman’s breast.
*This erroneous GPS reading was scored on Route 182, the primary interstate highway in Samoa. Twisted Roads does not advocate irresponsible speeding on motorcycles.
Copyright Jack Riepe 2012