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The Dance

NYC-Police-Motorcycle

Photo Credit: Jason Kuffer

Jim Hale
February 27, 2012
Filed under Rider Magazine Blog

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The last two weeks have been crazy. I’ve been thinking about another word to describe them and I keep coming up short. After having our home in South Georgia for sale for several months, two weeks ago a young couple from Alabama made us an offer. The crazy part is that they requested immediate possession. They were willing to pay a decent price in this indecent housing market, so my wife and I accepted the offer and moved our possessions into a storage building.

The next week my wife, Deb, suggested I accompany her to New York. She had to be there for almost a week for work, and since I didn’t have a place to stay I figured why not. So I spent a week in the Big Apple, all hustle and bustle. I don’t think I’d ever want to ride a motorcycle in downtown Manhattan. One morning I was walking around, watching the cab drivers and those brave souls who fly up and down the crowded streets, honking and weaving in and out of traffic. It made me long for a lonely stretch of two-lane blacktop with shade trees rather than sidewalks lining the roads. I was the middle of such a daydream while enjoying a sandwich and a cup of coffee at a deli when a cab driver sat down beside me. He seemed friendly and I struck up a conversation, telling him I didn’t have the nerve to drive or ride in the traffic he faced daily.

“Traffic here is like a dance,” he said with a knowing smile.

“A dance?” I replied with a look of confusion on my face.

“If you pay attention and follow the flow, it’s much easier than it looks,” he calmly explained.

We parted company and I took our conversation as a lesson learned. I watched the traffic with a different viewpoint during the rest of my time in New York, and I started to see what he meant. Brief honks of the horn, the wave of a hand extended from the driver’s window and other subtle and not-so-subtle gestures keep everyone on the same page, going with the flow. Not exactly a ballet, mind you. More like a dance floor full of rowdy square dancers. Not a pretty sight but a dance nonetheless.

After our stay in New York, we arrived in North Carolina and began our search for a place to live. More craziness ensued. In more than 50 years on this planet, I’ve never been homeless. We looked at many apartments and finally found one that will suit our needs. So here I sit in Raleigh, North Carolina, getting ready to return to Georgia and pick up enough household goods to furnish an apartment that’s much smaller than our former home. We’ll have a warm, dry place to sleep and all of the creature comforts we have need, though already sacrifices are being made. At the moment I’m several hundred miles from my small stable of motorcycles. I hadn’t given much thought until my riding buddy from Ohio, Bob, called me the other day and started talking about planning a little trip. Bob and I have known each other a long time, and he’s a serious rider. His idea of a “little” trip could cover several thousand miles and take four or five days. As tired as I am from this whirlwind of activity, “getting lost” on a motorcycle for a few days with Bob sounds like the perfect remedy.

This little adventure isn’t over. By the end of the week we will be moved in and I’m sure Bob will have a trip in the planning stages. The apartment has indoor parking for at least one of the bikes, so my next big decision is which one to bring up here. Whichever I choose, it will be comfortably close at hand and my withdrawal symptoms will subside. And being in a new state, there are plenty of new roads to explore, especially those in the Appalachian Mountains. My conversation with the cab driver won’t be forgotten. As Bob and I are twisting along some back roads headed towards who-knows-where, I’ll keep an eye out for the dancers most of us refer to as traffic. Wish me luck.

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Comments

3 Responses to “The Dance”

  1. Randy Fishel on March 1st, 2012 10:02 am

    FANTASTIC Great short story. Jim actually made me taste the exhaust again. I’m from south central Penna. and need to go into the “City” occasionally. I’ve tried flying, the train, and even the bus… all of them only once. I’ve now driven into NY – Manhattan over fifty times over the past thirty+ years. I completely agree. It’s actually fairly easy, but do not drive a new expensive car ! I took one in a few years ago and got sideswiped by a bus and t- boned by a cab pulling away from the curb and trying to cross four lanes of traffic at the same time. They all seem to think if it shines, it will yield. I found out that is a rule, not a myth. Now I make sure to take a “beater” or get a rental in Jersey before I cross the river !

    [Reply]

  2. Bruce Ente on March 2nd, 2012 2:12 am

    I travel by motorcycle to visit my daughter in NYC, and I always find riding there exhilarating — it really gets the adrenaline flowing to play bumper tag with the taxicabs and crazy drivers.

    Riding safely in Manhattan is no different than riding safely in a less congested environment, just more intense and demanding. Defensive riding, SIPE, constant attention to traffic context, anticipating unpredictable (and stupid) actions by others — all these strategies are essential to survival in NYC traffic.

    In addition, there’s a high premium on riding skill and obstacle avoidance, just as there is with off-road and trail riding. The only difference is that in Manhattan, the obstacles are moving too, unlike trees and rocks. Not eveyone likes trail riding, and not everyone likes NYC riding, but for those who do — like me — it’s fun, challenging and rewarding.

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  3. Marjenarabul on March 14th, 2012 8:51 am

    You may be able to fit well on a Ninja but there is no way my long legs come close to fitting. Ninja, Vmax all the otprsy bikes are not for tall people. I’m 6 4 and about 200 pounds.I just bought a used Vulcan 750 and am finding it a great bike for getting used to being on two wheels again. It has decent horsepower (66 hp) and handles pretty well. Aside from all that, the price is right. New riders tend to bang up their first bike a little and it’s less painful to bang up a bike that costs less.Good luck on finding your bike.

    [Reply]

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