I was single again, newly discharged from the Army. It had seemed to be a good idea to purchase some sort of transportation device. When I was in high school there was a daily newspaper column in the classified want-ads. A free listing for things under $50. Sometimes a running car was listed there.
I was dirt poor, going to college, waiting for my veteran’s benefits to kick in. 50% of my food was eaten out of my Victory Garden. My parent’s always had a small Victory Garden during the war, and they had kept it up for years afterwards. They had moved up to Tacoma, WA and I had taken their duplex for a small monthly rent, until I got on my feet. And I ate out of an ever decreasing Victory Garden.
The choices for transportation remained very slim, no cars under $50 that ran. My best friend had gotten married, and he had a 450cc Honda motorcycle that he needed gone. I bought it for $50 down payment, and something each month until it was entirely paid. It took months and months.
It was my 100% transportation so I put a lot of miles on it pretty quickly. Not a lot of interstate travel, it was a little too light for road-trips, but it was a great commuter, and local ride. I think I rode three years, or 12 seasons. Lots of cold, rain, blazing heat and everything in between.
I had dropped out of college to take a temporary one year position at the college, with no heath benefits. It was a time to save money in order to transfer to a four year school. My plans came to a crashing halt, when I crashed and was crushed by a car that “t-boned” me. I was broken, my motor was broken, and someone stole my wreck while I was in the hospital.
It was the end of my riding days. Although I did remember them fondly every time a decent bike would pull up beside me, and thunder ahead on the road.
I had a 40 minute commute on a slightly twisting two lane road that paralleled a beautiful reservoir. I used to ride my Honda on this same road. I lived in a nice apartment looking over the Bay, but I met a young lady that lived in the Valley. This two lane country road was the best way to go see her.
This was fine for the first month, but as the weeks went by, I began to get uneasy. I had a foreboding that the road was going to be my end. Some horrible accident was heading my way, a deer crossing, slipping on water, head-on with a truck, or just not making a corner with too much speed.
So I faced a few choices. I could buy a safer vehicle, I could move closer to the girlfriend, or I could end the relationship. I chose to end the relationship. I really liked the motorcycle.
A few months later I had my accident on the way home to my apartment, miles from that two lane road.
Fast forward ten years…
I’m back on that same two lane road, commuting on it twice a day in a safe vehicle. Periodically I’m behind a motorcycle for a few miles, but they eventually move ahead because they corner faster. I remember my days riding the same curves and I smile to myself.
This day was in the early winter, there was a brisk cold wind from the north. I had my heater on, and I was comfortable. The rider had a warm leather jacket, boots, gloves, and helmet. He looked well equipped. He also had a long warm scarf wrapped around his neck. He was in the weather, but he looked comfortable.
As I watched him tilt, side to side while taking the curves, I remember again the same movements. Just before he disappeared I saw that his scarf had unwrapped a turn, so it looked like a flag flying behind him, or maybe a WWI fighter pilots scarf. It was cool!
Then I thought I saw the scarf get longer. I was ill-at-ease, so I accelerated to see better. It was hard to catch-up. He cornered much faster, but I was faster in the straight portions. Finally I could see that the scarf was now flopping around almost above the rear wheel. It was a very long, flopping flag.
The dance at the end of the scarf went side to side, then it went up and down. When he slowed for the corners, it fell to the rear seat. Then it got a few inches longer. Now it was possible that it could caught on the chain.
It hit me so quickly that it took my breath away for a few seconds. I had read about the death of Isidora Duncan, I might be behind a future decapitation, unless I could get him to stop.
I raced ahead, honking my horn repeatedly. That only caused him to go faster in the straightaways. It made it worse. I stopped honking and focused on pulling along side of him, except he was generally much faster, so I had to be unsafe to catch up.
Maybe he was tracking me in his mirrors, because he wouldn’t let me pass him, or let me come alongside. I was almost on two wheels coming around the corners, and the thought occurred that this road was going to be my death in a car, not on a motorcycle.
The last long straightaway was coming up, I knew the road well. I floored the gas while coming out of the turn and went in the oncoming lane to pull up beside him. I honked my horn, then made choking gestures after pointing to his scarf.
It was like a game of Charades. Confusion in his eyes, then a sudden awareness, almost a smile, then terrible fear. There was a curve coming up, he was slowing down, the scarf was falling to his chain, but he was also pulling it back to the front.
Meanwhile I was still in the oncoming lane, a car might be coming around the corner, and I was still going far too fast.
Nothing happened… it wasn’t meant to be. I hope he had a future, a life, and a family. He waved goodbye, I continued my commute, and I think about it every few years, thankfully.