Thursday, November 29, 2012

Scenic Route

Today I'm working out of a Cotswold ambulance station about fifteen miles from home. It's very picturesque round these parts. Very scenic.

Being a one car family means I usually travel on my motorbike when working a bit of a distance away, a faster, cheaper and usually more fun mode of transport than driving. I say faster but that doesn't include getting togged up at the beginning which takes ages especially if, like me, you've built up your riding kit piece by black leathery piece over the years and can't just slip on a nifty bright onesie and go straight out. It also doesn't include getting undressed at the other end which consists of jerking around like a man changing into a werewolf in a black and white film, only with a more startling transformation resulting.

Apart from that, much faster.

My trip to this ambulance station is usually cursed with discomfort though. Rain is often the order of the day, with lashings of horizontal wet lasers probing my seams with the sole intention, it appears, of getting my undercrackers wet, and not in a good way. The beautiful scenery that flashes by, green and wooded, gentle hills, fields bordered by ancient walls, the honey-coloured stone of Cotswold dwellings nestling in cute villages are completely unavailable to me as I try to clear my visor. Last "spring", I got caught in a blizzard riding home and was reduced to a crawl, stopping every few minutes to shake snow off my jacket and peel ice off my helmet. Cars meandered by unconcerned and it occurred to me for the first time ever that I might have to swap my trusty old Suzuki for the all-weather comfort of a second car.

No one would blame me. Cars are easier, warmer, and you can go out in your pyjamas if you want. They have hot and cold running music, comfy seats and you can scratch yourself wherever you want.You can even  indulge in a beverage or snack with relative ease. 

Currently however, the only option I have is the bike. Dutifully I donned armour, secured my work kit on the back with the help of overstretched bungees and growled off, fully expecting a sudden chilly, utterly unpredicted monsoon to plague me en route.

But no! The journey this morning was gorgeous. The temperature was admittedly low and the roads icy, so I was forced to take it easy, but the emerging sun made every verge a diamond carpet, the dark silhouettes of the hills just magnifying the aesthetic effect of a marmalade cloudscape. The nearly full moon was still out and I could even see the bright dot of Jupiter in the dawn sky to my right.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I remember Robert Pirsig suggesting that one difference between riding and driving was that being on a bike moves you through the scenery, as a part of it, whereas being in a car you simply go past as a separate, insulated observer. Having been to too many incidences where a vicious tree has attacked a car and suddenly made both vehicle and occupants very much part of the scenery, I've never been particularly convinced by this.

Today though, I got it. I felt the freshness of the cold, heard the roar of the wind, could smell the air and feel the changing vibrations of tyre on road beneath me with an immediacy not duplicated in a car. My fingers were a bit numb because I hadn't put my inner gloves on underneath, I had to think about every corner, every icy patch of frozen flood water yet to drain away after our recent rains, even the slush of leaves in the car park as I arrived at work. On the way, my innards felt the surge of acceleration as I overtook a line of traffic, my inner ear enjoyed the long sinuous bends through the woods and I finally got it because this morning I really had to be there.

I still danced the undignified transmogrifying dance of the changing biker at the end, but it seems well worth it. I may change to a car in the future, but not for a while yet if I can help it and you can be damn sure that if I do there will be times I'll regret it.

Bet it pisses down on my way home though.


25 comments:

  1. It's been eight years since I've owned a bike, but I always think fondly of almost every ride I ever took.

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    1. Mr. M - Pretty jealous of the sheer amount of space and roads you have round your way. Be great riding, I reckon.

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  2. Love your descriptions-I have only been on a motorcycle once, a priest was driving and I was holding on for dear life. We had just been to see the Jean Claude Van Damme movie "Double Impact". During the sex scene, the priest had decided to clean his glasses. I did not know where to look, so I just watched him clean his glasses. I will never forget that movie, but I don't remember much of the motorcycle ride, except that it made my thighs numb.

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    1. Gweenbrick - With a title like Double Impact, he was probably a bit disappointed by how tame it was. And numb thighs following a bike ride are a sign of an interesting road. Or a spinal injury.

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  3. I have rarely ridden on the street, my only motorcycle was a dirt bike I rode many a mountain trail on. I miss those days!

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    1. SkylersDad - Now that's some great biking!

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  4. You make riding a bike sound desirable yet challenging. I used to ride a dirt bike but was terrible at it and spent most of the time with my face in the muck.

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    1. Tony Van H - Isn't that half the fun though?

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  5. Get you and your marmalade landscape. Nicety nice...

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    1. Sarah - I do like marmalade you know.

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    2. I wouldn't dream of implying otherwise. There's nothing worse than having one's confiture preferences being questioned. Personally, I can take it or leave it though I do like a bit of Lime Shred. But I imagine the sky you were on about was of a more golden hue. Unless you were on Ganymede, but then apart from the fact you actually said you were in the Cotswolds (POSH) I suppose there's probably little call for paramedics on Ganymede. Ooh - there's a new Channel 5 docudrama right there. "This week on Paramedics on Ganymede Duncan comes a cropper when his space ambulance skids on a patch of frozen helium." etc

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  6. Great that you appreciate the scenery while zooming through the countryside rather than imagining you are Steve McQueen or some other daredevil. There must be a way of making a helmet with an umbrella fixed to it.

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    1. GB - You see, that's what separates you from the hoi polloi. An idea that's stylish as well as practical.

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  7. I ride a Yamaha TT dirt bike and love this new one, I only wish I had such a nice bike when I was young enough to really need it. Ive had many bikes over the years and two TT's before this new one but only ever owned a hand full of road bikes. Those damn car drivers are always trying to kill you....
    I'd very much like to ride in England's country roads and lanes.

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    1. Tempo - I drive under the assumption that every driver has a personal vendetta against me. I've always had a hankering to do a big bike journey through Oz, in a sort of Long Way Round fashion. UK lanes are lovely but getting rather crowded these days.

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    2. Careful what you wish for Jules, it's 5,000km from East to West and something like 15,000km around.. IF you dont stop to look at anything. Thats a ride I have never wanted to do. Close towns are 80+ km apart with generally nothing in between. A few years ago (before speed cameras) bikes commonly cruised at well over 160kmhr, exhilarating but dangerous.

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    3. You're not exactly putting me off with that warning mate!

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    4. Fair enough to, lots of bikers come here just to ride the long stretches or deserted roads. There are very few places left where you can still open the throttle and ride all day. I used to own a new Seca 750 Yamaha which travelled 25,000km in a year at speeds up to 240km/hr but more commonly cruising at between 180- 200. After a time I got bored with it and sold the bike to go back to my off road bikes.

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  8. I once knew a woman with two lovely TTs.

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  9. Look at you, living fully!

    :-)

    My father drove an Indian through the winter of 1962 in Duluth, MN. There should be a punch line -- and feel free! -- but there isn't.

    Now get on yer bad motorscooter and ride!

    Pearl

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    1. Pearl - Did he ever leave his injun running?

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  10. i just found a pic of me on a honda/yamaha/toyota 450 (or something like that) motorcycle from back in the day. riding down the street no helmet, wearing sandals, jeans and a shirt! no protective clothing at all! LOL young and foolish, but damn, i still remember how much fun it was! xoxoxox

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    1. Savvy - Reminds me of the young beautiful things on the continent riding mopeds in swimsuits and bikinis. The riders, not the mopeds.

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