Jackson and I went for a motorcycle ride on Monday. Since I had the day off for Memorial Day, we decided to go find a cemetery or two. I wondered why there were so many people at the cemeteries - who goes to a cemetery on a Monday afternoon? Other than people like me who are looking for interesting stones and stories and possible Christmas card material? Then I remembered why it was Memorial Day and felt like a real dolt.
Back to the motorcycle story. We were about 50 miles from home and stopped in between two sides of a divided highway. Jackson was talking some trash about who knows what and made me laugh. He took off across the highway and when I kicked it into gear and let out the clutch - clunk. My bike died. When I pushed the starter - nothing happened.
If you are surprised by this, don't be. I am a talisman of mechanical doom, an amulet of engine despair, a ravaging grigri of ruination to any sort of two-wheeled motorized vehicle. I'm getting a real complex about it. I can think of maybe two times when I have gone on anything more than a short ride around town that did not end in mechanical failure of some sort.
At first I thought it was just my bike. I started out on a Honda CB9000. It was a perfect bike for me. We fit each other just right. But I seldom ever made it home on this bike. The local rice-burner mechanic developed a close personal relationship with Jackson and probably acquired some vacation property over that bike. I finally gave up and bought an old Yamaha XS1100 Midnight Special. It rides like a tough little dream.
Jackson also has an XS1100. His never broke down. I've ridden home on the back of it a lot. One spring evening a couple of years ago, Jackson had to go teach a class at the prison. He asked if I would take his bike out for a ride to make sure the battery stayed charged as we had been too busy to ride for a while. I got about 15 miles down the road and the bike died. Thankfully I had a cell phone and I called my brother to come pick me up. By this time it was getting dark. I was dressed in black, wearing a black helmet. The bike did not even have power to run the lights. I sat on the side of the two-lane blacktop and waited. No one came.
My brother claims he spent an hour going up and down the road looking for me but could never see me. I don't know how much I believe that. You might think it is quiet on the side of a deserted highway at night. It's not. The pavement cracks from the receeding heat. The crickets do their thing and the coyotes get vocal. At least it wasn't boring. Jackson doesn't let me ride his bike anymore. It never broke down again.
I can't tell you how frustrating this is. I don't ride alone anymore - Jackson has to be there to help push start the bike or to give me a ride back home. Its downright embarassing. Monday he pushed me into oncoming holiday traffic and yelled "Let out the clutch!" Hmm...
We made it back home just fine and he has figured out that the problem is my starter celonoid. (I'm just amazed by this. I was raised by book-worms, which is the cosmic opposite of being raised by wolves. I've not had experience with mechanically-minded folks. I am way impressed by his ability to repair things like cars and dishwashers and lawnmowers and whatever else I break.)
So, as soon as the part comes in the mail, I will be back on the road. Literally. Sitting on the edge of the highway, leaned up against the back tire of my bike, listening to the buzz of the bugs and braiding the long grasses.