Zen Motorcyclist: A Curious Collection

Zen Motorcyclist: A Curious Collection

I’m not by nature a collector of things. I’m actually somewhat of a minimalist and don’t much care for clutter. Tonight, though, I find myself in the garage, on my sofa, looking around at the assortment of items and motorcycles that decorate and beautify the one place, off the bike, where I find the most peace, and where, after the horrific event detailed in my last column, I sometimes come to negotiate with God, to borrow a line from my favorite film, Creator.

There’s never been a car in my garage. As of this writing I own three motorcycles that I shuffle around based upon which one needs attention on any given day. My plan was to trade in my beloved 2014 Triumph Street Triple R for a 2019 Kawasaki Versys; but you know what they say about best-laid plans. I ended up damaging the Triple in a moment of lost focus in the mountains of West Virginia. Parts are on order and it will be sold, grudgingly, to make a little room. The constant here is my 2012 Bonneville T100, which I’ve been chopping and updating and customizing for about a year and a half now, and which I swore I would never part with.

If you’re anything like me, the next best thing to riding motorcycles is being around them and working on them. To that end, I’ve set up the garage so that I can hang out there even when there is no maintenance or upgrading to be done. There’s a flat-screen TV for casting YouTube videos of whatever task I’m trying to get done, plus a seating area, a library of RoadRUNNER back issues and all manner of motorcycle DVDs and books, and of course a fridge full of IPAs for those lazy Sundays spent watching MotoGP races.

As I look around tonight, there are, in fact, things that I do collect, and I see them hanging on all four walls. I don’t see them as things, per se; they serve no purpose other than as reminders of memories. It’s funny how many times you hurry past things like that without stopping to remember the story that a part or piece of equipment or gear has to tell and why you couldn’t part with it.

I still have my daughter Devon’s helmet from her days as my co-pilot; it’s adorned with a sticker we bought at a bike show that reads, “Yes it goes fast and no you can’t ride it.” She’s married and in her mid-20s now, but when I see her helmet and take time to think back I can recall vividly riding with her in the hills around our house in Hellertown, PA, and teaching her how to ride safely.

My father was a lifelong mechanic, and after he passed away I took possession of his rolling, red Craftsman toolbox and cabinet. It’s showing wear and still contains many of his tools. It has dents and scratches and marks made by Mr. Bud over many years of use, and I can still trace the letters he put there to label the contents of each drawer. I love the feeling of using his tools and having that piece of his history in my garage. I think of him often when riding, and he’s always with me while I’m wrenching away.

On one wall I have hanging parts of all sorts: the stock fenders and bulbous, Christmas-light-looking turn signals from my Bonneville, old chains and sprockets (waiting to be made into clocks when I find the time), and more horns than I’ve had motorcycles. On another wall are hand-drawn maps and license plates collected over the years. On yet another are trademarks from endeavors of varying success and the framed original artwork from my book Waypoints that the artist, my friend Gretchen, signed for me.

I’ve also begun my own “wall of shame” with the bodywork damaged in my only riding incident that didn’t involve a deer, a reminder to “ride focused” as my friend Yuval likes to remind me (thanks to him I no longer use the ubiquitous “ride safe.”

To paraphrase a quote from my favorite sports movie, Vision Quest, this is the way a room ought to look so you can tell something about the person who spends time there. Without realizing it or intending to, I’ve become the curator of a curious collection. Memories attach themselves to objects somehow, and when I stop to look around, my little impromptu museum displays the story of my riding life over the last 20 years, a life I can look around and be reminded of whenever I like while preparing for memories to come.

“Garages, barns and attics are always older than the buildings to which they are attached.” —Leonard Cohen