Whither motorcycling?

In addition to my disguise as a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, I often materialize as a substitute teacher. In that position at Jefferson High School last fall, some of the kids noticed me rereading Proficient Motorcycling (they’re always amazed when they see someone reading a book), so I started to tell them about my motorcycle trips.

One of those cherubs asked me why I would bother to ride a motorcycle all the way to Yellowstone when I could just Google it. I had no answer at the time, because I was unsure if we could actually speak the same language (I don’t speak hashtag). I’ve been mulling over what that answer could be for several months. This might be it.

The sacrifices of the Greatest Generation kept us from having to learn German, and the generations before that overcame obstacle after obstacle with grit, determination and hard work. We have become softer and lazier ever since, and we can legitimately blame our parents for that. They wanted us to have better lives than they did, but we don’t. We have easier lives, yes, but better?

Science has cured lots of the diseases that used to kill us early, but rather than being healthier we sit in front of televisions and eat junk food, wonder why we’re obese and who we can sue because of that. We join health clubs and still don’t get in shape. Apparently we’re actually supposed to go there and play on those strange-looking machines, but who has time for that?. We’ve been presented with so many miracles that now we expect them, demand them and take them for granted.

La Touche Lennui 1893.jpgBecause we feel we must be given entertainment all the time, we are easily and quite often bored. Kids (and some adults) are going to end up with their necks permanently deformed from constantly looking down at cell phones. This will not be an evolutionary trend, as it’s hard to mate in that pose; even if it could be done, the distracting baby goat videos on the phone and the laughter from the other Starbucks patrons would preclude completion. My new car came with a button that, when pushed, not only will it parallel park for me, it can actually choose the space into which it can fit! That is laziness bordering on insanity, but I do love the heated and cooled massaging seats.

The point is that riding a motorcycle well requires effort. Fewer of us know the meaning of the word. Granted, we have a volunteer military made up of amazing people who relish hard work, self-discipline and determination. We have folks who become police officers despite the bad press and requisite political correctness. There are individuals who will enter a burning building to rescue people who were so busy watching (un)reality TV that they didn’t get around to putting batteries in their smoke detectors. There are those who climb mountains and run marathons, those who provide aid and comfort to the downtrodden. These heroes are courage and sacrifice personified, and I am awed by them and grateful that they exist.

As more and more of us protect our fragile egos in our safe places surrounded by our participation trophies, there are fewer and fewer of us who find the true joy in accepting challenges, overcoming them and searching, even begging, for more. Look no further for an endangered species – or for the reason that motorcycle sales are down.

P.S. I’d have written more, but I must get a note of thanks out to the Flonase Company. Now that I know that six is greater than one, I consider my mathematical education to be complete. Once in awhile I catch myself wondering if other numbers might also be greater than one, but that heavy-duty philosophy stuff just gives me a headache, so I go back to my video games.

Painting by Gaston La Touchehttp://www.godelfineart.com/artist_works?id=338#!La Touche_L’Ennui, Public Domain, Link