Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

June 19, 2014

First ride on motorcycle provides new experience on open road

— — One thing you have to say for journalism is that it gives you the opportunity to see things and do things you might never have experienced otherwise. I’ve climbed up the conning tower of a nuclear submarine, pushed a button that fires a nuclear missile (it wasn’t hooked up), fired a World War II rifle, and flew in a National Guard C-130 that let its cargo ramp down. I only just kept my lunch.

Last Saturday, I had another new opportunity to do something I might never have done otherwise. I rode a motorcycle.

I was at the Back of the Dragon festival in Tazewell, Va., to get a weekend feature. Motorcycle riders from all over the region came to ride in the county and show off their bikes. After talking to some visitors, one of the riders, Larry Stanton, of Radford, Va., invited me for a ride on his Honda Goldwing Trike.

For a second, I hesitated. My Mom doesn’t like motorcycles and actively discouraged me and my sister, Karen, from ever climbing aboard one. I’ve never considered getting one or even riding one because the idea never occurred to me. I’m perfectly happy with cars and trucks; in fact, the idea of not being enclosed in a steel box while going down the highway at 70 mph didn’t appeal to me, either.

But I don’t like letting an opportunity slip by, so I accepted the offer and awkwardly climbed aboard. I put on a full-head helmet complete with a microphone, and we headed for the road.

The microphones helped because I know I couldn’t have shouted loud enough to make myself heard or vice versa. We were enveloped in cool wind — I suddenly realized why leather biker gear works — and I was seeing and hearing more than I normally would notice in a car. Larry pointed out that you even smell more than you would in another vehicle. You’re more aware of your surroundings.

I did notice how the pavement was a lot closer than I liked, but I think that I’d get used to it after some more riding. I know I’d get motorcycle gear including pads, a helmet and everything else I would need for protection. One rider I saw had protective gear that wouldn’t be too out of place in a “Star Wars” movie. That’s the sort of outfit I would want.

It wasn’t hard to understand the appeal of riding a motorcycle. The experience touches more of your senses than other forms of road travel. I imagine that flying in an airplane with an open cockpit would be a similar sensation.

Larry did emphasis the need to be extra alert while you’re enjoying the open road. The fact motorcycles are smaller than cars and trucks make them harder to see; in fact, most motorcycle crashes occur because a motorist didn’t see the bike. Bikers need to beware of making mistakes, and watch for the mistakes of drivers, if they want to stay safe. You don’t have much protection in a collision.

Tazewell County’s roads are great motorcycle routes, but paying attention is important, he added. The curving roads and their ever-changing inclines mean that you can’t let your eyes wander. You have to watch out for dirt and rocks that roll into the road.

Being a native West Virginian, I understand the need for vigilance. If you blink your eyes while driving through the Mountain State, you’re going to fly off an embankment or smash into a tree or cliff. There are few straight lines on our highways. I always see things I’ve never noticed before whenever I’m a passenger and not the driver. Driving in southern West Virginia or Southwest Virginia demands a narrow focus that disallows any sightseeing.

A motorcycle isn’t in my future right now. Getting a Harley-Davidson or a Honda would be too much for my budget, and I’m not quite ready to give up the security of four tires and a steel body.

This might change if I won a big lottery and had a few hundred thousand dollars to play with. Then I’d be thinking big motorcycle with a Darth Vader theme. Red light saber neon, a professionally done image featuring the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, and laser cannons would be part of the package. Why would I get a bike like that one? It would appease my inner geek, I think. And I’m sure the kids would love it at motorcycle shows. Ever notice in science fiction movies how much cooler the villain’s ship looks?

Riding a motorcycle is now part of my “done that” list. Going for a ride in a tank or a jet fighter is next on the list. I’d like to visit Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia, but I doubt my job would take me to any of those places; they’re out of our coverage area, and I know the newspaper would never pay for the mileage.

My motorcycle dreams will remain dreams for now, but I’d consider turning a dream into reality if the circumstances are right. I can still hear that engine and feel the wind.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.

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