I hear it time and time again. When I say goodbye, it seems everyone chimes in a "Be safe. . ." as I walk away. Often I turn and ask them to watch for motorcycles when they drive, because we're everywhere. Hitting one of them is the same as hitting me. The response is usually one of surprise, yet positive.
The first thing I noticed was that there was no traffic going southbound. Not a single car on the opposite side of the Interstate 5 in Burbank, CA, midday on a Friday. I had been concentrating so much on lane splitting, only my second time doing so, that I hadn't taken a breather to look around. I decided to stay in the number 1 lane for a bit, since traffic was starting to clear up. Highway followed closely, letting me set the pace.
Then I saw the pony-tailed blonde pulling the measuring tape wearing the green uniform. "FORENSICS" read boldly across her back. I knew instantly what I was seeing. The semi stopped in the number 4 lane, then another semi, then another semi. . . more forensics people, Highway Patrol officers. . . the driver answering questions with his head hanging. The traffic was completely stopped.
"They only stop all of the traffic when someone dies. . ." I heard myself whisper in my helmet.
The sound of my own voice startled me. I turned my focus back to the traffic I sit behind. Feathering the clutch, dragging my boots in first gear, I slowly inched ahead. It seemed to take a lifetime.
The long, makeshift, blue tarp fence started at the far wall and stretched across 3 lanes diagonally. I could see the officer standing guard, the crumpled front wheel and one fork of the bike and part of a black body bag. I turned my attention back to the traffic in front of me, determined to look no more, but it was too late. The lane opened up before me and I was slammed into sixth gear before I knew it, flying at 80 mph again.
I motioned for Highway to lead and I followed his taillights to Bakersfield. Shaken, I couldn't stop my mind from reeling. Scenarios played out in my head over and over. Having been lane splitting only moments ago, I realized how close I was playing to the edge. The semis scare the living shit out of me, no matter what speed, because I know they can't see me until I've passed them. When I felt the tears on my cheeks I became so angry at myself for entertaining Death in my head.
As a rider I realize the perils that I face on every ride. Death stands close without touching me. At least not yet. I wear skulls on my clothing not to infer that I am dangerous, but to represent that Death is part of my lifestyle. The skulls remind me the dangers I undertake every day. Dawning them on my body is an acknowledgement, the signing of a waiver which states I understand the risk and I'm willing to take it. I take this oath seriously, that while I may dance with Death, I do not taunt him nor mock him. I respect his power and pray he keeps his distance.
Turning my attention back to riding, I feel the wind dry my tears. Pulling back on the throttle, we rode the Tejon Pass at 85 mph, chewing up pavement like bubble gum. I know that if I didn't focus on the road ahead, I would be the next stain in the number 1 lane. Arriving in Bakersfield an hour or so later, I was to have had time to relax into the ride again and relieved to make it safely. Had I pulled off to take a breather or calm down, it would have been harder to get back on and ride. I've made this mistake before and I won't make it again. Stopping for Death only gives him free rent in my head. I will keep riding until I arrive to my destination or until Death catches me.
Monday, April 22, 2013