April 18, 2008

First Person:

Mid Life Motorcycle Maniac

By Al Carlos Hernandez

I could have been damaged or inspired as a child to have to know nefarious Fat Freddie Martinez, who based on Biker Folklore, is touted as one of the founding Fathers of the legendary motorcycle club The Hells Angels.

Freddie was the boyfriend of my Mom’s best friends, Pachuca extraordinaire Estralita Lopez back in the day. No doubt she had a visceral effect on me too.

My affair with motorcycles parallels the modern American experience. I learned to ride on a little Japanese 50cc unit, then went through a 70tys Sportster phase, then a 80tys touring bike, then a 90tys multi- purpose unit, settling down now with a custom chrome spoke white walled Harley styled big V twin cruiser and quite recently an outrageous pavement shredding street fighter.

Something inside me snapped one day while crossing a bridge during my 90’s normal 750cc bike phase. A snobbish looking Preppie blew by me in a Porsche, I couldn’t catch up. I decided then and there to acquire one of the fastest open class 1000 cc bikes on the street. These bikes are called rice rockets, Harley guys’ call them rice cookers, my wife called the Pastor so he could talk to me.

Having a bike that can outrun an F-14 jet on takeoff, is indeed dangerous, what is more dangerous is the thinking behind such a purchase. The issue can be understood through basic math, here is the equation; (40+ Years X 185 Mph=X number of days in the Hospital + an infinite number of I told you so’s from well meaning normal people.

The speedometer on the bike reads 185 MPH maximum and people misunderstand. Just because a motorcycle can go that fast in theory, doesn’t mean it is obliged to do so. A woman asked once why would you want to go that fast? My answer was, because most people can’t.

During mid life when a man starts to feel his clutch slipping on his virility, and Babes call you Mr. You know you are half way though life, and sort out regrets. The biggest losers have affairs, others change careers, still others cosmetic surgery. I have chosen not to go out like that. Owning a couple of the most extreme two wheelers on the street gives me a sense of macho pride outlaw arrogance while concealed in a helmet, which works like veil of arcane anonymity. No one knows how old you are, the bike cancels out all suppositions.

Fat Freddie would have foregone the helmet, I no doubt treasure my head more than, he treasured his. Maybe they didn’t have one in his size?

Anyone with good credit, which unfortunately rules out most of my friends, can buy a high powered sports car. Most Corvettes, Porches and Vipers are sold to mid lifers like me. Anyone can go fast on four wheels, when I blow past a six figure euro-cute turbo, on my 10 grand two-wheeler, they probably go home and turn the water hose on the ethnic gardener.

Some say mid-lifers who do things like extreme sports have a death wish, for me it is the exactly opposite. Someone asked “Aren’t you risking your life by riding bikes?” My answer is simple, I’m not afraid of losing my life, I’m afraid of not living it to the max.

I have found that doing something edgy that you love which gives you a break, a reality check a respite from the rigors life and media over stimulation, is primal therapy.

I would much rather spend an hour canyon carving on the 130 Hp., street fighter, or mean mugging folks on the chrome spoke noisy Chopper, then spend the time with a therapist, who unlike a witch doctor, is more expensive takes longer, usually with the same results.

Maybe Freddie had it right, ride to live, and live to ride.

When riding at high speed, there are only four pounds of pressure on the pavement as the bike is virtually floating atop the road. Your eyes must be fixed at the farthest point ahead possible, because you will be there in micro-seconds; you click by telephone polls like being shot out of a cannon parallel to a picket fence.

This sensation seems to parallel my sense of time passing as I get older, the seasons are shorter and it seems to be a Holiday every two weeks. I keep looking for life’s road signs along the way, the days, weeks, months, years, appear and disappear, then fools start talking to you about retirement.

I’ll consider that, when I’m done with my ride.

Freddie would have understood but maybe not Estralita.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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