01 June 2008

Rainy Sunday Morning

I awoke this morning to a steady gentle rain. It must’ve been raining all night because when I let Flicka (my German Shepherd) out this morning, the ground was so soaked, that the water percolated up between her toes. She quickly did her business and had enough of that, trotting back into the house with her head down and ears laid back, carrying an annoyed look on her face.

I had taken Monday off this week so that I could score another three day weekend with the intentions of taking some day trips on the bike, the steady cadence of the rain falling on the skylight in my kitchen suggested that perhaps I should make other plans.

Walking out to the KLR, I pulled Don Quixote out of the saddle bag (The book that is, the saddle bags on the KLR are nowhere near large enough to stow a 17th century Spaniard) and took it back inside to read until the morning rain subsided. While lounging on the Sofa in the living room, the window slightly cracked so that I could take in the therapeutic effects that a softly falling rain has on me, I started thinking about Quixote’s horse, Rocinante.

Jeff Buchanan, in his essay in the April issue of Cycle World, christened his R1200GS “Rocinante” in honor of Quixote’s steed, and that is when the thought struck me, “Why not?” The translation of the book that I am reading is done by Tobias Smollet, and throughout the novel, he does a great job of marking footnotes on various translations and interpretations for simple minded types like myself. One such interpretation comes when Cervantes introduces to the reader, Don Quixote’s horse.

Cervantes describes that the animal was as gaunt as Gonela’s (Gonela was a well-known jester in the court of the Dukes of Ferrara.) and that he was tantum pellis et ossa fuit (A Latin phrase that translates as “Skin and Bones”). Quixote of course, saw him in an entirely different light.

Four days had passed that Quixote consumed in inventing a name for his remarkable steed. Four days of choosing, rejecting, amending and torturing himself with a revolving world of names, in his imagination, he fixed upon “Rocinante.” In Tobias Smollet’s translation, Rocinante combines two words, rocin (work horse) and antes (before), suggesting that Rocinante is past his prime but, as Smollet notes, once “ranked before all other horses.”

Once upon a time, on the opposite coast......

Some twenty years ago or so, where I was living and riding my sport bike all over the Eastern coast of the United States; I read an article in Motorcyclist magazine on a comparison of the various Dual Sports that were out at that time. If my memory serves me, it’s the same article that had a picture of the brand new ST1100 on it. Nick Ienatsch and Lance Holst did a comparison between the new Honda and the Kawasaki Councours, riding 1200 miles in 24 hours from L.A. to the Grand Canyon and back. I still have this issue somewhere in a box, I’ll have to dig it out and see if my memory is correct. Somewhere in the back of that issue was the comparison of the Dual-Sports. Let’s see ummm.... a Yamaha XT650, the Suzuki DR650S and DR350 and the two Kawasaki’s, the KLR650 and the Tengai.

Keeping a long story short, the KLR650 came out on top in that competition, squeaking out a victory over the Suzuki on the merits of it’s electric starter and that “Ship of the Desert” fuel tank. The KLR was my favorite too. For somebody with my inclination for riding ludicrous distances on a bike, that 6 gallon fuel tank was the perfect ticket. The fact that I was only 19 years old and couldn’t possibly afford another bike, I put that KLR on my wish list, promising myself that someday, when the time was right, I would buy one. Who would’ve thought the bike that I was so taken with due to its simplicity and willingness to please on such a basic level, would have such a model run. Almost twenty years later, I kept my promise to myself and bought one. Okay sure, Kawasaki made improvements to the wind protection, electronics, and brakes that KLR owners have been wishing for through the years, but all in all, at it’s heart, it’s still the same basic motorcycle that it was two decades ago. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Needless to say, after twenty years of waiting and promising and now, finally purchasing, I can honestly say that I am very pleased. There is not an ounce of buyer’s remorse with this machine. A promise kept, feels good.

Back to the present

I feel there is something special amongst us Motorcyclists, looking out there at the broad kaleidoscope of bikes; it seems that there is a machine for each of us. We are all different individuals with our own values and personalities. We all ride very different machines suitable to our tastes and lifestyles, and yet, at the core, somewhere deep down, my own personal observation over my lifetime is that whether others choose to agree with me or not, we do share a common thread. A certain quickening of the heart that our bikes provide as we approach them from across the parking lot, anticipating the imminent ride. This is in fact one of a multitude of reasons why I’ve waved to all my fellow bikers (scooters too) through the years, waving even to those bikers that I am quite certain will not return the gesture, we all share that same quickening of the heart. Buried deep down, somewhere at the foundation of our countless diversities, we share something in common. But I’m wandering off here.

We Motorcyclists, as diverse a group as we are, look upon our machines (most of the time at least) as a thing of beauty, even when others can’t possibly see it. There are many bikes out there, but none quite as perfect as the one we personally ride.


“An appellation, in his opinion, lofty, sonorous and expressive, not only of his former, but likewise of his present situation, which entitled him to the preference over all other horses under the sun.”

Miguel De Cervantes

My own Rocinante

There once was a time when my humble KLR was at the head of the pack, a time when she “ranked before all other horses.” She is my Rocinante.

A few hours have passed since I put down the book and began typing this and the rain, it hasn’t stopped. I glance at the screen, look out the window at the falling sheets, and then back at the screen. I think about the weather, and then Jeff Buchanan’s article, Quixote and Rocinante..........

To hell with it, I’m going for a ride.


RazorsEdge2112 said...

Don Quixote is on my short list of books to read. Seems like reading it alone during a nice rain shower would be quite enjoyable.

Ah, to ride in the rain. I must admit that I have only done that once in recent history. It was exhilarating, asphalt rushing by, rain drops pelting my helmet and face shield and pants. There isn't much rain in Vegas, so I plan to enjoy it, whenever it happens.

Rocinante (the horse) was indeed scraggly and weak, barely able to carry Don Quixote. But he was reliable and loyal. Naming a bike Rocinante based on these last two qualities would indeed be apropos.

Great post! I hope you had a great ride.


Biker Betty said...

I have to admit that every time I go out to the garage or walk up to my motorcycle in a parking lot, it does make me smile and I think how great it looks. I never thought about it till you mentioned it in this post. We all have our vision of what a great motorcycle is and it's great that there is so many out there to choose from.

Great post and great blog,

Doug C said...

Although defining the essence of us motorcycle riders can be a daunting task, "being as diverse a group as we are," your essay nails it on the head.

I've never taken the time to read Don Quixote. I feel a trip to the local library is in my near future... on my trusty steed, of course.

Earl Thomas said...

Ken-Quixote has been a wonderful read, especially viewing it from a Motorcyclist point of view.

Riding in the rain this time of year up here can grow a little tiresome at times, however come August, I find myself enjoying the experience, I imagine folks down your way can appreciate the rare experience of a ride in the rain a little more than the rest of us.

Betty-I smile when I look back at all of the bikes that I have had in my lifetime, the joy that they effortlessly gave and the adoration that I held for each as a result. I recently found a photo of me on my XL125 just moments before my Dad sold it so that I could move up to an XR250. The sullen look on my face was priceless, even though I was getting a new toy, I was also giving up an old friend.

Doug-Our diversities in this sport is one of the many things makes me so proud to be a part of our group of folks.
One of the exciting things that I've learned from blogging is reading about other bikers personal experiences posted on their blogsites and just how different we all are and yet in many ways, equally passionate about a common thing! Things that I never would have learned from a passing wave. It's been a very positive experience for me; this blogging thing.

Charlie T. Jr. said...

Rode in the rain once in NC. Sucks when it comes down sideways. You have a very unique outlook on life looking at it from an angle most do not see. It is very apparent in your writing. Please continue your postings about your rides and observations of us common folk.

Rick said...

Loved the post dude! adding you to my blogroll! Ride On!

irondad said...

Naming your bike after the horse may be a bad idea. The Walter Mitty of Knightdom often rode his horse to places where he was soundly trounced, if I remember correctly. Who will be your servant and what will they ride?

What would be a mule to a KLR, I wonder?

Earl Thomas said...

Charlie T.; I had an English Professor in College once who, after reading a couple of my assigned essays noted, "You have a very interesting prose." I don't think that he meant it as a compliment when he wrote it, but I took it as one, and have never looked back.

Rick; Thanks dude, I'll see you over on your site.

Irondad; I think that I'll keep the name in spirit, uttering it under my helmet in adoration while on a long ride, much like I used to do with the horses that I rode with my sister when we were kids.

As far as the whole Walter Mitty thing......Well the cheese slid off of my cracker a long long time ago, people tend to keep a safe distance from me most of the time, kind of like a leper in a Nudist colony, haven't personally been trounced yet, but I imagine it'll probably come from one of those 1%ers that you described in your blog a few days ago.

Come to think of it, the KLR has always kind of been the Mule of the two wheeled world hasn't it.

And finally on the topic of obtaining a Squire. I'm finding that it a rather difficult task, trying to find a rotund Spaniard who is willing to follow me around on a Moped and letting me call him Sancho. Go figure. If you know of anyone who is sporting enough to give it a shot, have them drop me a line.