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Where the road ends

I was destined to embrace BMWs as my motorcycling skill set was not defined by the motorcycle’s ability, but rather my trust in it. From that moment forward, the challenge became opportunity and brazenness, a risk worth considering.

Motorcycles are a mindset of the soul and when you entrust your soul to a properly maintained BMW motorcycle, it will lick you back like an excited litter of Saint Bernard puppies. Those who know me understand that I embrace a challenge, enjoy speed, encourage farkling and relish the pulse of BMW motorcycles. They beat in my right ventricle, and I retain space in my left for all other motorcycles.

My love for motorcycles began on Irish tarmac roads where an open throttle was king, and the brakes an impediment that not only wasted gas but delayed one’s arrival. Ireland was that mystical land where red lights didn’t mean stop but cautioned a rider to look in either direction before proceeding. That was 1970, and today Ireland remains a road racer’s mecca. Anybody wishing to be competitive at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy hones their skills at Irish road races.

Youth and speed are intricately linked, yet it is not age curbing my velocity, but maturity. My litany of triple-digit speeding tickets are memories that dwindle with all my other follies. My philosophy is to justify and forgive myself easily; it’s my road to Valhalla. Indeed it was in Ireland where I discovered running the speed camera at 178 MPH or above clears the road marking before the camera flashes. Hence the ticket was null and void. Now in my 60s, I still enjoy occasionally letting loose on the straights or getting some hot rubber squirming in the corners, though it occurs less and less often and is never sustained for long. Like today, I crested 103 MPH on my feisty F 650 GS, then immediately backed off to be civil and not embarrass my buddy on his less-proficient Kawasaki 900 LT. Speed and lean are entrenched in my roots and every plant must be watered at intervals or wilt.

I make no apology for my random thrill-seeking peccadilloes. I accept that in the event of a mishap, I will pay the tariff and will deal with it clinically. That’s how I roll. A calculated risk is the difference between youth and maturity, and admittedly both are stupid.

I was six years in America when one day I quite literally ran out of road. It just stopped. Ahead of me was grass and woodlands as far as the eye could see. In Europe they call such a road a cul-de-sac, but in America it’s referred to as a dead end. That’s messed up.

Thankfully, 40 years ago BMW produced its first GS specifically for such eventualities. GS, I believe, means Go Silly, which is how I came to be chatting with a young policeman in the lush hillside trails overlooking New Paltz, New York.

While some people are just inherently disagreeable in nature, this officer’s facial expression and demeanor emanated the possibility that comradeship might be possible. He looked somewhat out of sorts, like one of those reality TV shows where a surgeon or stockbroker is helicopter dropped in the wilderness with a compass, while overhead a dozen drones await the obvious. He had that city freshness about him, smooth cheeks, unblemished skin, sharp haircut, and curious narrow-set hazel eyes shadowed by the peak of his hat. He displayed no interest in my motorcycle, so I assumed he was not a biker. He looked too suave and well-kept for urban life. Not the type to finger-lick pulled pork around a campfire. Therefore, I surmised he was as out of place in this forest as he imagined I must be.

From his expression I suspected that he found my Irish brogue an enigma. Visor raised, I was explaining that I had already ridden five miles through dry fields and was fearful of my exhaust starting a fire, so when I saw a gravel path I jumped on it. I made no mention that I had surprised a small flock of sheep who were possibly still at a gallop, or that I had brushed heavily into prickly briars, fell three times, and abandoned ship once when things got away from me on a muddy decline.

I watched him struggle to understand my words. He wasn’t the first or last person to flounder under my vernacular and dyslexic rantings. Realizing we were bordering an impasse where only frustration could develop, I decided to dismount. This situation demanded a meeting of minds. I kicked out the side-stand and dismounted to remove my gloves and helmet. He took a step backward at this gesture, lowering his hands. I countered with a step of my own in the opposite direction and released the best smile I could muster and said, “It is a glorious day, wouldn’t you agree? The Lord can be kind and benevolent to all, even on a bad day.” I guess he understood at least half of what I said, as I could see him ease in posture.

Delicately inclined, my Bavarian masterpiece stood between us on its side-stand as gracefully as a giraffe at rest chewing the cud. It looked picture perfect. The glossy grey paint teasing sunlight to illuminate it in majestic form, while thread patterns blended like roots into gravel. Indeed, it looked like an innocent bystander, as if I had walked alone along this gravel strip of earth and miraculously chanced upon it. It was about this time that I noticed the officer’s Webber belt contained no gun and that he must be a park ranger. The dynamics were shifting like the shadows in my favor.

“No unauthorized motorized vehicles are allowed in Mohonk Preserve. How did you even get here? All the gates are monitored. Where are you coming from, and where did you park your vehicle and trailer,” he asked

“I don’t have a car or trailer,” I nonchalantly responded as I lowered my voice to draw him deeper into my tale. “I accidentally drove down a dead-end road near High Falls, and two overweight, angry German Shepherds attacked me like wolverines at a rabbit’s convention. I was forced to flee across a field, and I’ve have ridden several miles since seeking a path back to asphalt. When I chanced on this trail, I was hoping to intersect with a road. I would surely appreciate your discretion to get back to where I should be… or shouldn’t have left. If you would be so kind?”

“Can you stop speaking for a second? God, you’re like my grandmother’s gramophone. Please stop talking and take a breath. Listen to me, you’re riding your motorcycle on a Mohonk Preserve trail. That is dangerous for pedestrians and in violation of regulations,” he said while trying to sound authoritative, perhaps even vexed as he straightened his posture squaring off his shoulders.

Such stature just wasn’t in this gentleman’s nature. Some ships are meant to sail, while others are destined to be scuttled by the first rough sea. I wanted to empower this young man. To give him deciding control, the solution, a way to end this encounter feeling victorious. I’m always happy to accept the defeat of my choosing.

As I pondered on how to achieve this agreeable outcome, a gentle breeze made the shadows dance again, and they rippled across my bike and up the bank rustling dead leaves. The smell of moist forest and ferns hung stagnant from a previous rain. It surprised me that there weren’t any flies. This certainly wasn’t East Africa where they swarmed to your sweat like salt-seeking missiles.

I deliberately softened my voice trying to carry him with the will of my thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I live in Teaneck, New Jersey, and in all honesty, I just want to get home and have a shower and something to eat. I’m sorry if I’m trespassing. It certainly wasn’t my intention, and I do apologize. Sir, if you could give me directions to the nearest road I would be indebted and obliged for your informed intervention. Please forgive an idiot who erred and strayed, every day can’t be perfect for the living and the dead always rest calmly.”

I waited to see if I touched a chord within his ethos.

“If you drive for one-eighth of a mile,” he replied with a sinistral as he pointed to the path ahead of us. “Then take the first right you meet and after 100 feet there is an abandoned house on your left, you can’t miss it. Go by the side of it and down the short gravel drive onto Mountain Rest Road. Make the right, and it will take you into the town of New Paltz,” he said.

Further encouragement was not necessary. To immortalize his victory, speed was paramount. Offering my thanks, I straddled my bike. Applying haste, I stuffed my gloves in my pocket, dropped on my helmet, and cranked the motor into instant life. I know and accept when I screw up, and oddly it frequently involves meeting another person, usually in uniform. This however was a more congenial conclusion than most.

I toe-nudged my beautiful beast into first to hear the satisfying clunk and slap only a chain and sprocket can provide. I smiled politely again at the young man and gently rolled on the throttle. On the move, I looked in my mirror, and he was watching after me. This adventure was over, no bones broken, no tempers flared, and no real harm done.

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