The Company You Keep
March 26, 2012
Filed under Rider Magazine Blog
So, I am officially a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina. The biggest changes I have encountered up to this point deal with the weather and apartment living. It’s a little cooler here than in South Georgia, but the sun has been shining almost every day, so the changes are minor. My adjustments to living in an apartment are also minor. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss my garage. Just sitting on one of my bikes and listening to music from my “garage sale” CD player was a simple ritual, but I miss it just the same.
My ever road worthy Honda Shadow sits in the apartment parking garage now, patiently waiting for a road trip that’s still in the planning stages. I walked out to the garage the other night, sat on the bike and, in the immortal words of Bob Seeger, “smoked the day’s last cigarette” before I retired for the evening. I had been so preoccupied with setting up our new home that I hadn’t really looked around the parking area much. That evening I noticed four other motorcycles parked in the garage. At least I think they were all motorcycles. Two mystery vehicles were covered with gray no-name tarps, the third had a Harley-Davidson cover over it and the fourth was a red Ducati 1000DS Multistrada, uncovered but secured with front and rear wheel locks. I don‘t know a lot about Ducatis, but this one looks like it’s going 150 miles an hour even when sitting silently on the stand. My curiosity was piqued, but not having met any of my neighbors I didn’t have the nerve to peek under any of the covers.
Two nights later I was back in the garage when I noticed that the cover had been removed from one of the mystery machines. I was surprised to see a newer model Royal Enfield complete with a matching side car. What cool little bike! It looks straight out of 1945 with ammunition packs serving as saddlebags. The flat military green paint contrasted against the black knee pads on the gas tank, the bullet shaped sidecar, and the cool glow coming from the little bike made me want to take it for a ride.
My Honda Shadow is now keeping company with an eclectic mix of motorcycles: the Ducati, looking dangerous and fast, with flowing lines that just ooze speed; the Royal Enfield sitting at the ready like an obedient dog, looking like it would be incomplete without its sidecar companion; and the Harley-Davidson, too cool to reveal itself from under its bar-and-shield cover. The Harley, probably a Cross Bones judging by its fat front tire and spoked wheel with black rim, sits across from the other bikes, which doesn’t seem right. All of the bikes should be lined up together, against the same wall. They’re different brands, but they’re all motorcycles. Safety in numbers.
Looking at this cross section of motorcycles, I couldn’t help but think of what my mother used to say about the company you keep, and how that reflects upon you. The Ducati reminded me of some friends I had growing up, who, like the bike, were good looking but dangerous. They were always “pushing the envelope,” testing the limits to see what they could get away with. They’d push the teachers too far, then use their charm and good looks to get back on track. I had friends who were like the Royal Enfield, too. They were the steady types, a little old fashioned in their attitudes and behavior.
If I was going to categorize these bikes, I’d put the Ducati and the Harley together. They’re both V-twins, and they both give the impression of danger. The Harley seems to say “I’ll do what I want, so don’t mess with me.” The Ducati: “I’m fast and good looking, and you couldn’t catch me if you wanted to.” The Royal Enfield stands apart, as if to say wisely “I was here before you, and I’ll be around after you’re gone.” Then there’s my Honda, not giving impressions of danger, speed or history. Not that I’m biased, but the Honda seems to say “I’m ready, ready for a trip of two or three thousand miles, or a run to the grocery store.” The Honda looks approachable (“You meet the nicest people on a Honda”), like some guy you might meet in a diner having a cup of coffee, or a guy sitting in a neighborhood bar sipping on a beer. The guy in school who went about his business without making a fuss, but he had a secret or two that would have surprised a lot of people if only they’d taken the time to get to know him.
There is still one “mystery” bike that remains covered; it looks to be shorter than the other bikes and not very tall. Maybe a 1964 or ‘65 Vespa, or an old Honda Scrambler with the upswept side pipes, if it were up to me. I’d enjoy looking at either of those as I go about my business.
Perhaps the owners of these bikes are wondering about the latest edition to our little parking garage club. Maybe I’ll meet them, maybe I won’t. Either way, I like the company my bike is keeping.