Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wanderlust installed, age three, at helm of a Harley Davidson

I remember laying on the gas tank of my dad's Harley when I was three or four years old. I had been wandering around him in circles in the garage all afternoon, he was tinkering with something. I'm not sure he was working on his motorcycle on this particular afternoon, although I remember a drip pan that was parked underneath it, and I remember grease on his hands.

My dad at the helm of our boat. In my eyes, he could drive anything, fix anything, he knew the way everywhere. 
In the summer, I would find him sometimes in the engine room on our boat, his big frame bent around some mysterious contraption, a cloth in his hand. It was so loud in there, I had to assume what he was saying to me was something like "Don't touch that, it's hot," but he always smiled at me when I crawled in there after him. To this day the smell of diesel  fuel and oil is one of my favorite scents.

I remember the day he asked me if I wanted a ride, and I said yes. I stood next to him as he backed the monstrous white Harley Davidson out of the garage and turned it around in the driveway. I remember looking up at him, his strong legs straddling the seat. I expected to climb up behind him, but he lifted me up and put me in his lap. "You sit in front right now, peanut." He told me.

I remember asking him, "What do I hold on to?"

He showed me how to wrap my body around the gas tank, how to lean down on it, how to sqeeze the sides of the tank with my legs. He reached forward and put both his hands on the handlebars, and the bike roared to life, like a feral beast, like a lion, like a bear that my dad could tame. My entire body vibrated with the sound.

The beast in question. I'm maybe 12 here. 
I remember the feeling of his body completely surrounding me, like a hug, like wearing your love, wrapped around you in strength and security. My dad was a big man, 6'3" or so, with a grey beard, and a big barrel chest, and a bit of a belly. When I was three he was in his sixties.

I remember rolling down the driveway, and feeling nothing other than the anticipation of freedom. I remember his legs coming up off the ground and landing on the pegs as we gained just enough speed, like landing gear coming up in a plane.

I remember the sudden stop at the end of the driveway, my exhilaration cut short, I was ready to feel it, ready to fly. I remember wondering where we would go on our drive, but not caring as long as we got to drive and drive and drive. I remember my dad saying, "Hang on tight, Peanut."

We rolled out of the driveway and onto the road, and his feet came up again, and suddenly we were rolling, I remember the warmth of the gas tank, the feeling of the engine vibrating through my tiny chest, the feeling of him all around me, I remember hearing him laugh, and then, oh then...

Bodhi and I on our first set of Bali wheels, an underpowered scooter. 
The bike began to lean. I remember the feeling of the weight of this beast beneath me, the sensation of my dad being able to control this thing, I remember the odd large windshield, the shape of the cap on the gas tank, the gages, the feeling of the engine as he downshifted, and the power of the machine as we accelerated through the corner, the sensation of my body trapped happily between the machine and the strength of my dad as we suddenly went faster, and faster, and faster.

At one point, I remember my dad saying to me, "Don't lean in anticipation of the corner, honey. Just stay with the bike, go with me. Not before me."

I looked up at him, big as a grizzly, my whole world and everything I loved smiling down at me. I nodded and laid back down on the gas tank, ready to rumble.

I'm sure we just went for a short spin that day around our neighborhood. But I remember feeling like I had found freedom, like I understood my dad a little bit more, and like suddenly, I was a big enough peanut to be a part of his world.

A few weeks ago, on my way back from Tanah Lot temple in Bali, my friend Edi let me drive his motorcycle. It was a chopper style low slung two seater. I don't know the make. I know it was loud, I know it was heavy. He sat behind me and put his hand over mine on the clutch, his dark skin a stark contrast to mine, even tanned from the summer in Bali.

"This is the clutch. Brake, foot brake on the right side. Shift on the left."

I had driven a clutch bike years before, but in laying it down in the gravel in Lake Arrowhead had scared myself, I thought forever, from finding freedom like this on two wheels. A couple of summers learning how to race a mountain bike down hill had erased some of my fear, showed me confidence in the corner.
Finally confident, the road is ahead, life is good. 

"Be patient, Kate." he said. "Pelang pelang." (go slowly.)

I put it in first gear and eased off the clutch slowly, gave it a little gas. A little too much gas. Not enough gas, just enough gas, and we were rolling, and my feet came up off the pavement.

Freedom. Behind me, Edi sat, his arms framing mine, the beast alive beneath me, I shifted into second, into third, we were rolling, and here comes the corner, and I downshift, and feel the engine rev, and I lean the bike over, and give it some more gas and we are through, the force pulling me down onto the seat, the warm air flowing over my face and arms, the palm trees rolling by me on either side.

A few days later, I pulled my own peanut up onto the back of an old Kawasaki we had hot wired and rescued from unuse in the jungle. It sputtered and came to life. "Wahoo!" yelled Bodhi from the back of the bike. "Freedom!" he said.

His arms wrapped around me from the back, I could feel a little fear and a little exhilaration in his body as we wound down the mountain road into Ubud. "Don't lean in anticipation of the corner baby, just go with the bike. Go with me, not before me." I said, and there was my dad, right there with me as the beast roared to life underneath us once again. We had stalled at the traffic light.

Now, we are doing something I had always hoped to do with my dad, we are building our own set of wheels.
Something like this, maybe. 

Yesterday, we looked drove all over the south part of the island looking for a "donor bike," an engine, something to start from. 200 cc, 250, Tiger, not too old. Freedom indeed.

1 comment:

monique said...

Love, love, love this. Something about dads and daughters ...