The five-year-old twins were looking with wide-eyed wonderment at a tree in the front yard of my friend’s house, so engrossed they turned their heads only for a moment at the sound of my bike’s pipes before returning their gaze to the tree. As I approached the house, the twins didn’t even look my way. Something about that tree had them spellbound. “Hi guys”, I said as I moved toward the front door. The boys gave me a dismissive glance and the briefest of nods before resuming their fascination with the tree. “Wow, look at it move!”, I heard Michael say with excitement. “Cool!”, John chimed in.
I was curious as to what on earth had these kids so enchanted. I walked over to them, hoping that an adult’s presence wouldn’t spoil their special activity. “What are you two looking at?” I asked. “A spider!” they replied with gusto. “That is cool”, I said, noticing a huge, intricate web. “Why do spiders do that?” one of the twins asked. “Well, they need to catch bugs for food and they also need a home to live in, just like you do”, I answered. “Cool!” said the twins in unison. “Yeah…”, I retorted, “…now, don’t touch the web or the spider. You have to let it do it’s own thing, OK?” “We won’t. We just want to see it!”
Suddenly, the door opened. There stood my friend clad in riding attire. “The sitter’s here, I’ll pull my bike out of the garage. Let’s go!”, she said beaming with delight. My friend was so excited about our ride that she forgot to say hello, forgot to ask me in, or inquire as to how I was. This was unusual behavior for her as she has always been the acme of politeness. Much like the twins, she was too engrossed in her own sense of wonderment to bother with anything else.
My friend fired up her bike which let out a stumbling roar, the noise that V-twins make when they haven’t been started for a while. “I’ve been waiting for this ride. I love my nephews but I can’t wait for my brother to get back from Europe and take them home. I’m too old to be asked, “Why this, why that, why the other thing all day long by little kids”. “Ok..”, I said, “…let’s get going!” My friend’s bike roared, stumbled again and then stalled. “Please start, why won’t you start? Why won’t you start for me?” she pleaded to the motorcycle Gods. “Calm down…”, I reassured her, “…let it warm up a bit”. In a few minutes her bike was sounding smooth and ready for takeoff. “Wow…”, she said, as if listening to an angelic symphony. At that moment, I saw the same expression on her face that I had seen on the twins - an expression of sheer wonderment.
One of the reasons people ride motorcycles is because it brings back that childhood sense of awe, wonderment and amazement that are common personality traits for kids. For children, the world is a new and exciting place. This is why the Harry Potter books and movies captivate the young. For kids, the world is a magical place filled with possibility, fascination, curiosity and wonder.
When we are kids, we see the spectacular even in everyday, ordinary things. As adults, we tend to lose that sense that our world can be filled with wonderment.
For example, if kids see a spider web they are thrilled, just like the twins. If an adult were to see the same web most of us would curse and cuss about how it’s time to clean again or tend to never ending yard work. But for adults who have a passion for something in life, such as motorcyclists, that passion serves as a gateway back to the childhood sense of wonderment. For motorcyclists, the sense of thrill, magic and possibility engulfs us each time we ride, just like kids engrossed in the pleasure of watching a spider tend her web.
Unfortunately, many adults have totally lost touch with the majesty and magic that can be found everywhere, if we look hard enough. People without passion see no meaning to their own life. They are often depressed and view life as one long continuum of work, home, and paying bills. There is little doubt that the old saying, life’s a bitch and then you die, is really a mantra for many.
Psychologically, it is easy to see why some middle-aged motorcyclists go on treasure hunts for old dirt– or street bikes that they owned or wanted in their youth. Many of these people will spend thousands of dollars and work hundreds of hours to restore such retro bikes. Clearly, they are trying to recapture the wonderment of their youth. So, cheers to those of us who can still capture the zest in life. In other words, cheers to motorcyclists!
I will always have affection for older bikes that don't have any of these fancy gadgets. However, I've come to conclude that once one gets used to newfangled gadgets, it's easy to see how they act as a psychological tool, a witness that may potentially increase riding preparedness and safety.