I recently returned from a long motorcycle trip. Many of the guys I ride with ride with tunes pumped into their helmets. You can see their heads bobbing as they thump along. I wear earphones, but it is to block out the noise and wind and to try and preserve my hearing (I played loud music for many years). I find it very interesting what my brain chooses to do with this down time.
Granted, riding a motorcycle (safely) requires quite a bit of concentration. I am constantly scanning for deer, errant cars, other bikes…but the old brain has a lot of free time as well. Often, I spend hours singing the same song over and over in my mind. I love music. I listen to music all the time. I write music all the time. You would think that I would settle on an old favorite to keep me company on the road, but it is invariably a song that I cannot stand which occupies this time.
It is an odd phenomena. We will stop to stretch our legs and I will realize that for the last two hours I have been repeating the chorus of a song that has me reaching lightspeed for the radio dial under normal circumstances. Sometimes, I will consciously choose a song to sing. Sometimes I even sing it out loud into the rush and wind, through the damp layers of bandana around my face. But it doesn’t last. Too soon, I am back to the top 40 drivel that has haunted me for the last hundred miles.
I don’t know why this is. It doesn’t make any sense. I get songs stuck in my head when I am not on my bike, but they are typically songs I like. But put me on a motorcycle for any extended period of time and my brain will inevitable settle on something with a stupid chorus which I repeat ad infinitum as my wheels eat up the miles.
It isn’t masochism or anything in that vein. I don’t know what the hell it is. I’ll be swooping through gorgeous redwoods over crystalline streams and my brain will dust off some one hit wonder that I wouldn’t even remember exists during normal circumstances. It is quite odd.
It makes me consider the idea of listening to music when I ride, but I don’t think I could do it. I’ve tried. It made me feel paranoid and distracted. It took away from the meditational aspects of riding that I enjoy so much. It makes me afraid that I won’t hear the warning blast of a horn since I have tried to get the attention of my riding brothers by blasting my loud aftermarket horn right next to them…they don’t even flinch.
So, I guess I’ll settle for the worst hits of the nineties. I will look for deer and hawks and all the wonderful things I might miss if I was listening to the Wu Tang Clan. Long motorcycle rides are bizarre things in and of themselves. We did 1200 miles in four days. It was physically and mentally exhausting. People ask me if it was fun. It was a kind of fun. There were parts of it, twisties through pristine forests that took my breath away. Then there were stretches of freeway where you basically settle on seventy miles an hour and spend your time vasciillating between a handful of seating positions that all hurt. I do not ride a Goldwing. I ride a big dual sport which vibrates so much that it makes your hands numb. I do not have a big, expensive seat or highway pegs. I rest my feet on metal serrated footpegs that burn the balls of the feet…good for riding offroad…bad for comfort.
I love riding motorcycles, but I am beginning to think I like riding in small doses. On the ride home, we left at nine and I pulled into the driveway twelve hours later. My back hurt. My hands hurt. And I was covered in dead bugs. But the music had stopped. And that made it all worthwhile.
I don’t know if there are any rides that long in my future. I’d wager no. But then again, I’m still having trouble sitting. And I am not that bright. Next time, I will probably answer the call. And I will probably spend twelve hours singing the refrain from some terrible rock song in my mind as the world rolls by.