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  • Writer's pictureGordon Massie

On Slowing Down


I’ll confess that for nearly all of my 50+ years of riding motorcycles I have been

something of a “speed-demon” on two wheels. Astride my latest “pocket rocket” or

sport-touring bike I would careen down the curviest of backcountry roads with near

reckless abandon, scraping pegs and burning rubber all along the tarmac. The fact

that I have survived all these years is as much attributable to mere luck as it is to at

least having a basic knowledge of my skill level. Although, as many of us have seen,

riding speeds can often trump skill levels and tragedy can result.














I averted a near tragedy a few years back when I collided, rather unceremoniously,

with a full-sized mule deer while riding my Kawasaki Concourse two-up through

Montana’s picturesque Bitterroot Valley. Amazingly, I stayed upright, perhaps due

to striking the animal in its neck area. Still, I suffered a fractured ankle and my now

furry, bloody, and tangled Concourse was totaled, along with said Montana mule

deer. At least the local highway patrol let me off with only a stern warning after

originally threatening to ticket me for “wild animal endangerment”. Ahh, the joy of

small favors!


During my ensuing eight weeks of horizontal recuperation, I pondered much on how

this unfortunate incident could have been perhaps prevented. There really was only

one sensible answer: Simply slow down and I could add a few valuable seconds to

my reaction time.















Since my accident I believe that motorcycling had sadly become something far more

fearful to me and now my machines had unfortunately grown too idle and dust-

covered. It felt as though I had lost a beloved lifetime friend. Now it seemed that

the businesses of finding, restoring, and collecting of vintage motorcycles had

completely displaced my long-held love of riding. But some things never change for

long. I guess I just missed riding too much and the open road was calling.


My son and his family had recently relocated to Reno, Nevada, from Houston and he

strongly encouraged me to bring my Suzuki 650 V-Strom out from Texas this

summer. During a lull in my grandfatherly responsibilities, I snuck away from Reno

and rode north along the arid and rocky eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada

mountains, then west over the 10,000 ft. snow-laden Lassen pass, across the

sweltering Central Valley of California, and north into the rugged Trinity Alps.

Lastly, it was on to my cousin’s home in the tiny, rustic hamlet of Ft. Jones near the

Oregon border. What an incredible journey! In fact, I have never enjoyed

motorcycling as much as I had on this ride. My passion was alive again! Why, what

had changed for me after my Montana disaster?


It was all very simple indeed. The speed-demon in me had finally been vanquished

and I made the very conscious and deliberate decision to simply slow down. No

more white-knuckled corners, court summonses, or speed-induced adrenaline rushes.

In fact, I was even passed on a couple of occasions by lead-footer oldsters in

speeding RVs! But that just didn’t matter any longer.


I need not go into all of the many joys motorcycling has to offer because we all know

of them. But just ponder for a moment how excessive speed will seriously

compromise our ability to savor the many OTHER pleasures our sport has to offer.

Complete concentration on maximum cornering speed, lean angles, and traction

control leaves very little time or energy to enjoy the spectacular mountain vistas or

to “smell the roses” along the (high) way.













Now, as I look back on my Reno to Ft. Jones trip my memories are not hazy and my

mental images are not faded blurs. No longer traveling at the speed limit plus 20, I

could then appreciate the pristine mountain streams as they cascaded and tumbled

along my route. There was time to savor the dewy, pine-scented forests which at

times so richly engulfed me. There were moments to stop and explore the national

parks, the panoramic vistas, and secluded mountain communities along my winding

and breath-taking route. Throughout the ride my senses were keyed into the

glorious scenery, the joys of the open road, and the wonders to behold in lands

newly discovered. I was truly experiencing a new-found awareness, peacefulness,

and calm which was not possible at my prior “break-neck” speeds.


No doubt the cynics out there will simply say that “Dude, you’re just old and getting

older”. Well at 66 years I guess they are right. But for those relentless “speed-

demons” out there, give it some serious thought—on slowing down. Probably

something we should all do, on a motorcycle or not. You will live longer and you will

live better. Be safe out there.


Cheers!

Gordon



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