Friday, June 5, 2009

Better Start Again

Yesterday was Aaron's birthday.

We celebrated by playing hookey from work. The original plan was to go on a BSA ride, but the weather had predicted thunderstorms so we scrapped our plans. However, as we ran our errands around the city, we noticed the sky clearing up and bits of blue peeking through. We ate lunch and did a quick time inventory: Aaron's pie and whiskey birthday party was due to start at our house at 8, we had already finished the prep work, and it was only 3 pm. We donned our riding gear and hit the road.

I'm not a risk taker, but I love riding the motorcycle. Rather, I like riding on the back of the motorcycle while Aaron is driving. I'm not confident with my ability to operate any two-wheeled vehicle, despite my having taken a motorcycle riding class a few years back. Aaron, on the other hand, has both decades of experience under his belt and a healthy respect for mortality, the result being I can simply sit back and enjoy the ride, knowing I'm in capable hands.

We fought our way through pre-rush hour traffic, headed north over the Golden Gate bridge, and off through the mountains towards Bolinas.

I know it sounds cliche, but experiencing the road on a motorcycle is such an exhilarating experience. With nothing between you and the outdoors, you have a connection to the landscape you wouldn't have otherwise. The wind whipping through your hair, the scent of the greenery... even the rat's nest that is the result of the aforementioned wind/hair/whipping combo is all worth it as you just feel so alive!

You notice the small things:

Wild peas climbing a broken fence.

A doe grazing on a cliffside.

A hawk coasting on invisible wind currents, seemingly motionless in midair.

And then... we broke down.

breakdown #1

But not that bad. It turned out that the chain simply popped off. A quick fix, no tools involved, and we were off again. We rolled into Bolinas, hit the grocery store, and walked toward the beach. As we passed back by the parked motorcycle, a man stopped us.

"Ah, I wondered who owned my bike," he joked. He then went on to tell the story of how he used to own a vintage bike shop that housed scores of vintage BSAs, Nortons, Triumphs, etc, but how it all burned to the ground during the Stinson fire. He lost everything but was able to recover one 66 Norton, which, to this day, was his baby.

At this point I should back up and mention that we can't go anywhere without someone commenting on the bike. It's old, you even could say "vintage," and the result is that people go nuts over it. Even if you know nothing about bikes, the rumble is so loud and distinct you can't help but look for the source as it goes rumbling by.

Last weekend we pulled up to a biker bar in Port Costa and were surrounded immediately.

"Is that a '69?"

"What size engine? Oh, 441?"

"You know what BSA stands for, right? Better Start Again! Hahahaha!"

Even when we're in the middle of something, we always stop and listen to the stories. People like to share, and the BSA provides that platform. In turn they hear how the bike belonged to Aaron's dad and how he just spent the last year getting it to actually run.

As we hit the beach in Bolinas Aaron remarked, "It's funny. I've met so many people who work on old English bikes."

"Maybe that's because they keep breaking down," I shot back. We laughed.

The beach was beautiful and the weather perfect. While the sky was mostly blue, thick clouds hung in the air and mist enveloped the mountaintops. The threat of rain and the fact that it was a Thursday afternoon kept the general public away, so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves.


Eventually we looked at the time and freaked out. We had to get back and get ready for the party at our house.

On the ride back the chain fell off again. Like a well oiled machine we hopped off, each took a job and the chain was back on without us even having to stop the engine. A ways down the road it popped off again. And then again. And then again.

The last time I took a look and noticed the master link had broken. Half of it was missing and the remaining part had bent out of shape, causing the chain to continuously fail. As Aaron rolled the bike to a safe turnout the chain fell off for good. We were officially stranded.

calling for help

The bad news is that we were 5 miles from civilization in either direction. The good news was that we broke down in a spot where we actually got cell phone reception. The bad news is that for AAA to tow us I would need a special package, since the regular membership excludes motorcycles and RVs. The good news is that Aaron had the foresight to leave his pickup truck key behind, Dave was home, and willing to come rescue us. The bad news was that it would take him an hour to get there, it was getting colder, and the clouds were now threatening rain for real.

We decided to hitchhike. Once we made the decision, we realized that we were the world's worst hitchhikers. The first car was too fancy. The second had a baby. That guy looked creepy. Those girls look obnoxious. Okay, we'll take whatever car comes next.... wait, not the Landrover, it looks too yuppie.

Finally a bright turquoise 1957 Bel-Air drove up the rode and we started waving our hands wildly. They didn't stop, but the car right behind them did, and they gave us a ride into town (they explained their friends in the old car were unable to stop as they wouldn't be able to get it going again... a concept we understood completely).

They dropped us off in town 5 miles later. Using the iPhone as a guide, we found a nearby restaurant. Taking a scenic footpath, we stumbled into our destination via the bushes out front. Dirty, stinky, and covered with oil we pulled up to the 5 star restaurant bar and ordered a beer.

As we waited for Dave to arrive I reminded Aaron, "Well, this won't be a birthday you'll forget anytime soon." And then we laughed.


No comments: