There is a 45 mile stretch of road between Santa Rosa, New Mexico and Fort Sumner on HWY 84 that is a MUST RIDE for any motorcyclist. It is pure joy. There are few cars, no police to speak of, and the road is wide open for anything you want to do. You can see for miles ahead of you so you know when to throttle down on the bike. This is my second pass through this area as I head home, and I finally did get the bike up to 100mph! I had a few moments like that, and I averaged over 80mph the whole way. I also discovered that the Harley cruise control DOES turn off once you reach 85mph, I guess to prevent a rider from doing exactly what I wanted to do—cruise at a speed above 85. So, I left it set at 80 and enjoyed the ride.
My 8am paper presentation was a success. Of course, 8am conference sessions are rarely visited, so I was happy to see my friend Allen and one other listener in the audience. The first paper was by Ms. Bernadette Murphy who is a professor of creative writing at Antioch College in LA. Her paper focused on two chapters in her new book about her riding experience. She is an excellent writer her paper emphasized the things riding does to her identity that I have also discovered in my interviews with women riders. She had recently lost her 2010 Sportster “Izzy” to a crash in the LA mountains between The Valley and Hollywood (her son wrecked it but was not significantly injured) and was lamenting the loss of her beloved bike. I could tell she was really attached to it, as many of us become as we learn to be one with our bikes.
My paper focused on the interviews I’ve completed to date on women riders. The one thing I have taken away from this research is how much the women become attached to their bikes. This is beyond just the love for a commodity—it is a love affair with something she knows how to control. It is like a relationship one might have with a riding horse you’ve had for years. You know that every time you mount her, she will be loyal, efficient, and take you to wonderful places. It is a reciprocal relationship, as with a good horse, in that your end of the deal is to love her and take care of her because she is a part of who you are. These women feel the same way about their bikes.
The final paper was presented by Dr. Paul Nagy, and English professor at Clovis Community College. He had ridden his bike to the conference as well. He knows that stretch of HWY 84 very well. His paper focused on Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy and the act of motorcycle riding. Two Jeffersonian thoughts motivate the rider: first, we must know nature and have a love and respect for it. As riders, we know climate, terrain, and seasons. To fully grasp the riding experience, we must never underestimate nature. The second thought is Jefferson’s ethos of individualism. Riders, through the act of riding, are rebelling against everyday bondage. The bike becomes a tool of cultural resistance. The difference between people who want to own a bike and people who ride is like the difference between wanting freedom and being truly free—the gap is huge.
As the session ended, I used my “Jeffersonian” sense of nature to get back to the hotel and pack. I needed to leave the conference early because of the forecast rain for Central Texas on Sunday. I don’t have a problem riding in the rain. I do have a problem riding in the rain for over 3 hours. So once packed, I headed back home around 12:30. It would take me 6 hours to make it to Lubbock, and I am convinced now that the ride from Albuquerque to Lubbock was the best part of the trip. The wide open road! A true rush on many levels.
It is now 7:00am and I’m about to decide whether I leave in an hour or wait until it “warms up”. It currently is 21-degrees outside (“feels like 7-degrees”!!!) and the temps in Sweetwater look the same. But if I leave by 8, I can take my time and get back into Central Texas where the temps are supposed to be a whopping 47-degrees. But that meets my “40-degree rule” and the sooner I hit that zone, the better the ride will be.
This trip is best characterized as a wrestling match between the bike, myself, and the weather. In December while traveling in Tennessee, Susan and I noticed there were not bikes on the Interstate due to the extremely cold temperatures. When we did see that lone rider, we felt for him. He was either crazy or on the road due to some necessity. Today, I am that rider, and I must say I am crazy. But it's been worth the ride!