Those in the know know that squidding in the motorcycle world is riding a motorcycle without all the protective gear to keep one reasonably safe in the event of an event. An event can be best described as any occurrence in which the rider and the bike, for whatever reason, go horizontal. Take it from someone who miraculously walked away from a major event about 15 years ago, there are no little events involving 2-wheeled rockets that rival the g-force of a military grade fighter jet. Many don’t walk away, many don’t walk again, and many still live with their event forever etched into their psyches like a reoccuring bad dream. You’ll have to trust me when I say my understanding of time was forever, in that moment, altered. I sometimes tell the story of my Honda CBR-1100xx Blackbird, at that time the fastest streetbike produced, slamming against a concrete retainer wall at 70-mph. In that moment I was completely present. The here and now so many others speak of was clear, very clear, exceptionally clear. I can, at will, conjure the moment as if it were happening again. Time never stops. But time can be recalibrated within the experience. I have the vivid memory of realizing I was moving into a sharp curve hot!!!, too hot for my experience level on a machine I was just learning. Let me say, the bike did exactly what it was designed to do, this was surely operator error. And slamming into a wall at any miles per hour was not included in the engineering designs of this particular motorcycle. I managed to get the bike sideways into the curved portion of the retainer wall, but speed, gravity expressed as centrifugal force (science class) and the perfect storm created between the height of the throttle as it matched itself to the height of the retainer wall made it impossible to maintain a handle. In the moments in which time had no purpose I remember tucking my leg close to the bike and away from vertical concrete, angling my black-and-white snake skinned cowboy boot inward as to not act as an anchor. With no use for time, and being fully present, I saw 70 or so mph on the speedometer and with the throttle perched perfectly on top of the retainer wall I had no means of decelerating, funny now when I think about it because releasing the throttle is perhaps the least effective means of stopping a motorcycle. I acutely remember accepting the fact I was going to hit this wall, there was no way around it. Clear of mind, as clear as one can be with surges of unquantifiable adrenaline articulating grey matter and reflexes, my escape plan was to hit the wall sideways, “bounce” from the impact, and regain control of my 2-wheeled rocket. Lets just say my “plan” was flawed from the beginning. I didn’t factor into my quick calculations gravity pushing me into the wall like the cotton candy machine at the county fair spinning webs of sugar into delectable goodness or the throttle locking itself atop the anything but smooth highway grade concrete retainer wall. Even as I was being dragged against the wall, unable to do much of anything, my brain was thinking, calculating, waiting for the bounce. I will admit I panicked when I felt the rear tire attempting to grab hold of the retainer wall and adding lift to my experience. Lift was not in my equation. I had only planned to solve for “x”, not some Coach Donald Alvey, turned Math teacher, Geometrical-algebraic formula. The back end of the bike being lifted up scared me and I sought immediate egress, and I do mean immediate. Thinking, calculating, figuring out the problem went away, thanks adrenaline or was it testosterone: maybe a drunken illixer like a Boilermaker. I used my right hand atop the retainer wall to push myself off the backside of the bike. Hands and elbows meeting a near immovable object at 70 or so mph make strange bedfellows, nothing good can come from such a marriage. My fingerless weight lifting glove was shredded instantaneously, soon enough Id learn the glove wasn’t the only thing that didn’t survive the shotgun wedding of opposites. Later still I’d also learn elbows aren’t really designed to absorb this level of impact either. Committed at this point in abandoning the failed bounce and regain control plan I managed what I can only imagine was the best Batman roll ever executed in the history of off-camera Batman rolls. Damn why wasn’t this filmed? Oh, wait it kinda was: see above “etched into my psyche”. Ending up on my stomach in the safety lane, I executed a near perfect military push-up (hey this is my story) and simultaneously watched my bike extricate itself from the evil will intended concrete wall flip, land and skid to a halt in the right lane of the 2-lane transition ramp (see link: Hwy 166 to 75/85 North) known perhaps only in my mind as Rick’s Way. I still laugh to myself when I remember the car coming around the bend, slow and yell “are you alright?…well that parts not funny, but I can only imagine the look on my face as I yelled back NO!!!!!!! and thinking to myself “hell no, Im not alright, hell I don’t know if I’m alright or not, what the hell is alright, in reference to what?” man that Boilermaker really kicking into gear now. I didn’t realize the damage to my right hand until I tried to lift my bike to get it out of traffic. My brain feeling the effects of the Boilermaker was unable to comprehend a hand that no longer worked: blood? Another funny moment, the stuff we laugh at huh? I remember moving my unwilling-to-grip right hand from over the wrecked bike, sensible in not wanting to drip blood on my 1-week old superbike. Blood?
Ironic that a motorcycle cop was at the bottom of the transitional highway ramp and the driver of the silliest question known to man sent him to my rescue. Ambulance arrived, checking shock the attendant asked “who’s the President?” My response was classic for anyone in the throws of shock or the aforementioned Boilermaker: I don’t remember exactly but trying to be funny I combined about 4 U.S. Presidents names, am I glad Barrack Hussein Obama was yet an option.
Emergency room entrance, 8-hours of surgery and a week and a half hospital stay is its own event. Between self-administered morphine and no place to be anytime soon I got the best rest of my life except for the endless stream of Dr’s in residency waking me up to visit my wound. I can hear them now as if on a learning excursion to Zoo Atlanta: “here to the right we have a middle-aged dumbass who propelled a 2-wheeled rocket into a concrete retainer wall at 70 mph. Notice the glassy eyed, far away stare. We’re privileged to learned from this dumbass because most don’t survive the attack of speed upon near immovable objects found in many urban habitats.” My meeting with destiny took place on a nice Friday morning but my recollection doesn’t begin until sometime Monday. I took great pleasure in locating my bike and having it sent to a repair shop. I also chuckled as the flabbergasted nurses coming to check my vitals grew frustrated at my not being in my room as I chose to walk the halls of Grady Memorial Hospital, checking on my temporary staffing agency employees working throughout the hospital. Their biggest threat was I’d be sent home if I couldn’t better manage myself while in their care. OOOOOOO, not that, please please dont send me home where Id be very comfortable and in the company of my beautiful wife.
Talk about a detour. This was suppose to be about squidding. Guess I needed to tell the story so my position on riding without protective gear even begins to make sense. I ride motorcycles for a number of reasons. The thrill and exhilaration cant be contained in words. There are not many things in life to which words fall short and fail. I have an innate need to be a part of that one thing that doesn’t get saddled by even the most extensive vocabulary. Riding my bike accentuates my loner status as well. Sure there are many others that ride motorcycles, in all their 2 and now 3 wheeled varieties, but you wont find me mindlessly riding in a pack like wolves on the prowl. Im a loner and Iv’e grown comfortable in that. Sure, I offer other bikers the down-low salute as we pass one and other, but let it be known we’re not together. Its just me, my machine and a world of connected streets, roads, thoroughfares and highways coexisting in a perfect harmonious balance of being. Imagine the driveway of your home, no matter where you reside, is connected to the Pacific Coast Highway in California which is connected to the now infamous famed Route 66 of days gone by which connects to U.S. 1 snaking its way up the East Coast of America. You get the picture.
On my bike there is a freedom restored to my life Iv’e not found in any other experience. I’ve lived what feels like a constricted life. I’ve followed most rules, even those I’ve challenged were acknowledged if even to push the boundary out a little further than where it was. Like many I’ve openly embraced the labels of my existence: son, brother, father, grandfather, employee, business owner…etc. Endless labels used to define the many relationships that define me, and us. And Ive always followed the script even as a curmudgeon old man, I often find myself following that rehearsed role as well. I like the ideal I can meet the needs in others in the roles they assign me. There are advantages to a chameleon type way of being, until one gets so lost in the characters we play for others we don’t know where to begin a self portrait. Even in the tragedy of Dorian Grey (thanks Mrs. Brown) he knew who he was although the fear in his reality became a bigger figure than the vessel that contained it.
On my bike its just me. Im free to ride hard or coast smooth. Im free to push the 2-wheeled rocket to the edge of my own sensibilities. We, man, have a difficult time living in the moment. Grabbing the elusive hear and how gets muddled by yesterdays errors, todays events, and tomorrow’s projections.
At the heart of me is a little boy reared in the Southern California sunshine without need for coats and jackets. Hardly a need for shoes mostly. To this day I dont like heavy article of clothes. I’d rather be chilly than bundled from the cold. Perhaps because I’ve lived by others explanations, others ideals of me, roles played to the hilt, the physical restrictions of heavy motorcycle grade leathers offer me no appeal as the weight mimics the heaviness I often feel within my spirit. Like many others my spirit longs to be released. Donning heavy motorcycle gear would equate to putting a bridle in the mouth of my spiritual identity. As I delve deeper into my own spiritual understandings freedom to be is tantamount to survival. Not the extended, color between the lines, make everyone around you comfortable life that survives. My spirit longs to be released from the rules Ive adhered to. Like a oppositionally defiant adolescent my spirit is asking why to many things. The internalized voice is screaming “says who?” to everything. Im not looking down the barrel of a shotgun to see why the bullet didn’t come out, While I have no complaints, I’m not happy. I dont know if Iv’e ever been happy. I’ve had happy moments but those happinesses belong to the moments, not me. My default is safe. except for those ocassions when I do something really dumb just to feel alive. Riding my land-based fighter jet is freedom, ascribing to all the superbike gear, to me, is setting the stage for the Universal Law of Attraction to facilitate a major event. The old adage “the cause of war is in preparing for war” rings as an absolute truth to me. Im happy when Im out riding. I’m fully engaged in the moment of my ride. The heart of my internal rebellious adolescent is set free when others learn I ride a high-powered, 2-wheeled rocket because in this relationship I have with my Blackbird is about me being free, happy, unbridled and doesn’t include anyone else. I am compelled to live my life on my terms. My spirit commands it and Iv’e muffled spirit far to long. Iv’e come this far surviving all the bumps, bruises, bangs of a life fully engaged on the outside and fear-based in my spirit. I wont ride my Blackbird in fear. I wont do that to my happiness. My freedom is learning how to exist and damn it feels good. As a superbike motorcyclist that chooses to squid riding is spiritual and the one thing I know is my spirit tells me “You aint seen nuthin yet”