Saturday, May 15, 2010


I get too moony when I think of friends. I know. But I am overflowing with soppy emotion again today. I have been thinking of all the riches motorcycling has bestowed on me, and the mysterious path that led me back to it, a place I needed to be even though I did not know it. Yet something, someone, did.

The friendships that hold me closest in their embrace--the ones that hold me up, and will ever do so--have come to me through this. In only a short while, they have become the tightest, the blissfully stickiest, that I have ever known. How do you know when a friendship will last until the final days? Look around. Then place your money on the folks who are wearing helmets.

Beyond the internal, unmixable, physical and spiritual joys of riding--the soul's great "yahoo!" reverberating inside your brain at every shift into gear--there is the equal joy of knowing you ride with a great net under you. A net made of people who also ride, and on whom you can call when you are in need (company, assistance, advice, presence, tools, time, affection).

I took a ride today on my new motorcycle. I have never before owned more than one. Much less three. I can see how this becomes a habit.

I took a ride today on my new motorcycle because a friend took two airplanes and rode it eight hundred fifty miles to get it back to me. Just because he is a friend, and because he loves riding, and because he loves it when others love it. Then he gave me a brief tour of the new machine's bits and pieces, intimidating since new, but soon to become friends, too, of a sort. Then he followed me on a forty-mile circuit of local roads not because he desired a ride--though he does not ever scoff at those--and upon returning home, gave me an intensive lesson in bike-washing. (I am impatient, but the bike is happy that he is not; it will probably never shine so well again.) Finally he stood by while I gingerly backed the bike into the garage, a maneuver that requires finesse and strength and an initial watchful eye, or at least it seems so to me.

This morning I had breakfast with motorcycle friends. Afterward, I went to borrow a tool from a motorcycle friend. Tomorrow morning, I will meet and ride with new friends. Throughout the day, I have been marking down on the calendar in my head future rides with other friends.

I have a friend, on the other side of the country, delivered to me by the agency of motorcycles. He is of profound heart and mind, and I can count on him to see into me, and through me, and to say things that will either make me think deeply or laugh idiotically. I have never met him, but he is one of my best friends.

The correspondence I carry on with another friend, also a writer and a motorcyclist, is to me like sustenance. When I get an email from him--literate, fascinating, long, full of thought and passion--I feel like the doorbell has rung and it's the takeout delivery man, with a delicious meal for a very hungry person. Go on and say it, though it sounds wifty as hell: I cherish them, and him.

With another friend down south, I have shared some ups and downs. But we have carried on. On bikes. They bind us, and I hope always will. It is not my fault some emotions have gotten involved: high emotions are what these machines are all about.

I realized, with a start, that in one short year, a circle of new friends has drawn itself about me, impermeable. It's a thousand friends strong, because with bike friends, friends of friends are friends, too. I could probably ride across the country and stay every night with some motorcycle connection, strung like pearls from sea to sea.
I could share every meal of the week with motorcycle friends if I wanted; I could talk on the phone, or email interminably, with no one but motorcycle friends.

What a good idea.

It makes me go all gooey inside. It surprises me, this suddenness, this unending richness from the one thing that life is all about: connection. And love. Oh, and that moment the gear engages and the world is new again.


Steve said...

Congratulations on the new bike!

This was a good opportunity to reflect on the friends I've met since returning to motorcycling. I have been unable to ride lately not because of illness, lack of time, or even poor weather; I've had too much on my mind. I haven't been able to focus well enough to ride safely.

Friends that have only the common interest of motorcycles have invited me for a ride, and upon hearing that I'm too distracted the response is almost identical: "If there is anything I can do to help just let me know. Anything."

It is a net. That's a nice feeling. Difficult to understand or explain how it happens, but nice.

Charles said...

I own a Royal Enfield. dont buy one. :P

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Then I guess I'll just keep the picture of the Enfield; pictures are much easier to tune.


Steve, you're wise to stay off the bike when your mind is elsewhere. You'll know when it's time to get back on. And your friends, of whom I am one, will help lead you back.

Adam N said...

It's pretty awesome to see people smiling in a motorcycle ad.

Nobody smiles in motorcycle ads anymore. Look at some motorcycle ads, nobody is smiling. Really, I am totally serious.

Melissa, be smiling. New bike! Whoot!

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Yes, Adam, only losers smile. And losers don't get the chicks. Because that's what a new bike is for, getting chicks. As well as a sour look on your face, which you mistake for cool.

seanny said...

Absolutely eloquent and brilliant. In MoCo culture we don't use the word "friends," but other than that, I totally loved it. I love it when you write about riding, it's freakin amazing.

I always wanted a Royal Enfield...

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Wow, thank you, Sean.

Have you also noticed that, pound for pound, motorcyclists tend to be smarter--and funnier--than the general run of humans? (These qualities are closely related, too, I believe.) And I've known some smart people in my time.

As for the vintage (even new vintage) bikes: I'll need a second lifetime to get into that. Anyone know where I can get a second lifetime, cheap?