Motorcycles apparently make up only two percent of all vehicles on American roads. But it seems like all two percent of them pass my house in the summer and fall, their roar crashing into many a quiet morning, drivers shouting ‘OK, turn left’. In the blur of their motion, I first thought these mechanical creatures were mainly the domain of burly middle-aged men with chunky babes clinging onto the back. Closer inspection proves this untrue: younger men and women also pass in a fuzz of metallic glint, some of them blasting motorcycle radios above the volume of the bellowing bikes. The conversation-killing noise is one of the few reasons I look forward to winter.
Dear reader, this is my last column for Patch, so I’m going to lay it on the line. Local towns, will you please crack down on this demon noise-level in residential areas?
In the days when I had a semi-serious interest in them, my idea of a proper motorcycle was a Triumph or some Italian job like a Ducati. Eddie Johnson, a sort of Jimmy Dean type, was from our neighborhood, and he tormented everyone with his Triumph Bonneville. We kids would stand around in jaw-dropping envy as he revved the engine and screamed off down the road. He was killed going the magic 100 mph plus on a straight stretch of road. That was a long time ago; and I still remember all the girls, his good looks, and good-looking blue bike pulled. Eddie's soul is somewhere in motorcycle heaven, with the other 3,000 killed yearly.
That was in the early 1960s when British kids began to challenge the old guard. Elvis had gone into the Army, and his absence soon filled by the Beatles, the Stones, the Yardbirds, Cream and all the rest. Your choice of fashion defined you as a ‘mod’ (Italian mohair suits with 10-inch vents in the jacket, short hair, all night parties, pills, Vespa scooters and soul music) or a ‘rocker’ (leather, motor bikers, greased back hair, tattoos, a passion for booze and rock and roll). Watch the movie Quadrophenia and you'll get an idea. As a youngster when I fell off the back of a motorcycle going only 10 mph, my personal affair with the machine became decidedly shaky, never to improve.
Britain over the years has slapped safety regulations on motorcycles. None of this riding without a helmet; you and your passenger, if you have one, have to wear one or face a hefty fine.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier columns my wife and I recently had a home in the Lake District of England, a beautiful area of twisty roads so narrow that cars have a hard time navigating them. Bikes don’t. During summer months packs of ‘em, helmeted, reinforced upper and lower body leather gear, and looking like Star War troopers, thundered by, shoulders nearly on the ground as they cornered. I empathize with the desire to feel free and know that others are watching you whiz by. Back to those statistics, though: motorcycle deaths are more common than other motor vehicle accidents, and 50,000 people are injured around them each year. If it’s your thing despite all that, go for it. Just don’t force me to have to hear your motorcycling enjoyment.
OK. Connecticut is great and America vast and beckoning. Adios! I’m off for now (not on a motorcycle).