It might be a little long in the tooth, but it was that broad-ranging competence that first drew me to this bike those many years ago. And re-remembering that, I'm struck by the oddity of how easily we forget such things when something newer and shinier comes along.
Turning onto Crest View, a still-curvy but slightly more open road, I bump my speed a bit. My guilt has given way to a simple gladness that I'm once again back with my old friend. I'm not sure why I ignored it for so long.
Throttling up, there's that old lift as the machine comes alive. A smile tugs at my lips. We've hardly started yet. Looking down at the tank, I nod in thanks at that realization. "We still have many miles to make, old friend."
This route I'm on, this collection of good roads stitched together to fashion a motorcyclist's delight, is one I've ridden a thousand times. Most of those miles were on this bike. There are many shared memories along here.
It's an hour and a half before we stop. Not until we've crossed the Blue Ridge mountains and tracked deep into the forest beyond, to a remote valley fastness known to only a few. I pull into the small park and pull up hard next to the gate. With the engine shut down it's suddenly very quiet. That's one of the things I like about this place-you almost always have it to yourself.
Walking the couple hundred feet to the small wooden structure housing the primitive men's facility, my eyes sweep the path in front of me, mindful that I'm without a weapon. I've seen bears up here a couple times. But I've not seen sign of them in recent weeks, and I don't see any today.
Back at the bike I break out my sandwich and crackers and bottle of water, walking the twenty feet to the picnic table. Munching slowly on lunch, my eyes periodically pause over the old BMW. I do that with all my bikes, of course-gaze at them with a combination of happiness and awe and appreciation. But it seems especially evocative with this red K-bike. My old warhorse.
Many of us have a bike that we're especially connected with. A bike that, through countless hours and long miles we've become intimately acquainted with. Maybe because it's our only bike. Or maybe we simply like it best, and by virtue of that it gets the nod over others when it comes time to ride. However it is, you end up on that machine through the slow wear of time. What comes out on the other end is a burnished thing that is not nearly as shiny or bright as the day it was wheeled off the showroom floor. But what you get in return is an understanding between you and the machine that is almost preternatural.
It's then that the road tests in the magazines no longer apply. You've gone into a different place.
Looking at the BMW, I'm reminded of all that. I think of all the places we've been. I remember how for years I would tell myself that when the chips were down, this is the bike I'd want to be on. I remember all the times of mild angst when swapping bikes with someone, and how, no matter how terrific or new their machine might have been, there was always that sense of relief when getting back on mine.
The memories are as varied as the miles themselves. Everything from mundane one-day weekend rides like this one to multi-week adventures that traversed half the continent. Everything from the bliss of some of the curviest and best motorcycling roads in the world to the very worst interstate slogs-and everything in between. There was the hurricane we rode through. The rides at night. There were the times of being frozen. And then being baked. Mostly, though, through it all, it was simply being struck by a sublime magic. And, then, how many countless times, sitting and staring in wonder at the machine that might do that?
Nodding to myself, I stow my trash and mount back up. Thumbing the starter, I hear it yet again, the old music. Glancing at the sky, out of old habit, I judge what the afternoon will bring. Not that it much matters. A slow rolling U-turn returns me to the road.