A motorcycle sets a body free. I’m not discussing a wreck, in which a body can potentially really be set free, soaring through the ether to land tumbling against a rock or a hard place. I mean that sitting balanced between two wheels spinning at high velocity gives a person the confidence to tackle any of life’s challenges. Being able to navigate the world on two wheels is something an automobile driver will never know. The vulnerability paired with the skill it takes to stay upright and in motion inspires confidence in one’s abilities.
I have yet to encounter a hill worth mentioning in Louisiana. The landscape that stretches from the east and west banks of the Mississippi River is level and flat. The roads are straight. I’ve travelled the following parishes on the back roads: Orleans (of course), Jefferson, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, St. Bernard, and, today, Plaquemines.
Leaving New Orleans, a person enters another world in the territory surrounding this great city. I am not in New England anymore. There is little that is picturesque in the architecture, mostly pre-fabricated homes or housing developments built on spec, strip malls, chain stores, shopping centers out of an corporate architect’s box. It is industrial land full of oil refineries, marine welders, offshore supply outfits, scrap metal yards, quarries, sugar cane plantations, cows(!), shrimp boats, and swampland. Odd land indeed.
Driving southern Louisiana’s back roads doesn’t offer much test to a motorcyclist’s skills but the scenery along the roadside makes up for the lull in hairpin turns and need to downshift. The people who live in this country aren’t necessarily used to an errant traveller gawking about so a motorcyclist is advised to keep his or her senses sharp. As usual, we are in the minority and often invisible when we aren’t expected.
I never want to hear these words again: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you.”
Overall, I can say that within the City of New Orleans, automobile drivers are courteous of those of us on two wheels whether we are driving a motorcycle, a motor scooter, or a bicycle. The city contains its own challenges, pot holes mostly, but other modes of transportation sharing the roadway aren’t a major concern. The good citizens of New Orleans, because of the state of most of the city’s roads, move slowly and are just as focussed on moving carefully and strategically as a motorcyclist. It is a pleasure to drive a motorcycle in New Orleans. It is only when one travels in other parishes that mind reading and safety become major concerns.
Whenever two motorcyclists encounter each other they part company by saying, “Ride safely.” No one who has ever steered the handlebars or leaned into a curve needs to be told this. It comes with the territory. It is a way of life that lets us arrive in the territory ahead, Heaven willing. It is a phrase we repeat and offer each other not to remind us to be careful and sharp, we say it as a charm that others will see us. As motorcyclists, we hope against the odds that someone will see us before they cut us off and bring mayhem to our trajectory.
Look twice. Save a life. Motorcycles are everywhere.
Thanks to The Selvage Yard for today's illustrations. "Get yourself a motorcycle. 'Nuff said."
I'll see you on the road with the rubber side down.
I've added a sidebar in the (your) left column of this blog collecting the posts about my motorcycle journey to New Orleans from Boston. This was a trip I waited all my life to make, all back roads across a part of our great nation. Rereading these posts makes me yearn to travel other roads I haven't been on yet. The future holds promise.