Slow Guy on the Fast Ride!

"Looking up at novice" edition

I’ve written almost exclusively about bicycles for the last six years, which I suppose makes me something of an expert in the field. It’s strange to think it, but yes, I am an expert at something! Like a grown-up!

Enter the motorcycle, here to disabuse me of my confidence.

The great equalizer. A real jerk, if you ask me. Thanks to that stubborn hunk of metal, I have been reduced to a quivering mass of curse words covered in motor oil, flipping feebly through a Haynes manual in a vain attempt to understand wiring and carburetors and other things that burn fuel and otherwise cause a stink in my garage.

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About a year and a half ago, I bought a 1980 Honda CB650c, a lovely old motorcycle that ran a lot better than it looked. I can fix that, I thought! A few cosmetic tweaks and I’ve got an awesome motorcycle on my hands!

I was so young. So naïve. And I should have known better, since it was my third attempt at rehabilitating an old motorcycle. I’ve flipped this motorcycle on its head: Now it looks awesome…and doesn’t run.

But I have to say, Grandpa Moto has taught me something important: It’s refreshing to be a novice at something.

The long path towards expertise in a specific field is a rewarding one. By the time you’ve tripped and fell enough times to learn how to jump, you’ve reached the end of the path with some sort of title bestowed upon you.

“Henceforth you shall be known as Dan the Derailleur Cyclist Guy! Take your Lycra and pedal forth into the world!”

The forest looks familiar by then. If you had to, you could fashion a canoe out of some moss and deer droppings and navigate rapids.

That expertise, hard-earned and well worth the struggle, also feels somewhat final. The lovely, dark-and-deep woods feel all too familiar, and even the circling coyotes don’t feel dangerous anymore.

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I’ve taken this tenuous-at-best metaphor as far as it will go, but my point is, reverting back to the beginning makes the adventure new again. That’s been this motorcycle project for me: I haven’t got a damn clue what I’m doing when it comes to re-wiring a motorcycle. But I’m doing it, and it’s scary and frustrating and I have invented new curse words as a result.

I’m on the path again and that’s exciting. (In the case of the wiring, I’ve gone down the path, then went back to the beginning of the path, then gone down the path again, then realized that this path doesn’t connect properly to the battery, let’s try this other path over here. I’ve yet to blow myself up but I’m still hopeful.)

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If I was to pretend as though I have a point here, it would be this: Sometimes it’s good to not know. That forces you to figure it out and enjoy the path again. When you don’t have any choice but to move forward, you’ll move forward.

Right now, there’s a lot of not-knowing going on in our world. Many of us are experiencing deep anxiety, perhaps for the first time. It’s frightening to not know what’s coming, and the answer to the question, “What would I do if…” all of a sudden seems far more imminent.

The answer is, of course, you’ll react. You’ll learn. You’ll go down the path. You’ll fall. You’ll get up and curse, and go further down the path. (Sometimes you’ll short out a few fuses and maybe get zapped because you forgot to hook up that one wire…)

We don’t have a choice; forward’s the only way.

So I’ll figure out the damn wiring and someday I’ll ride that big ol’ metal jerkface.


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While you’re at it, if you love whiskey, follow me and my buddy mark at The Practical Still. We talk whiskey of all kinds and have a fun podcast to help you figure out what’s worth your money when you walk into the liquor store.

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I’m a full-time freelance writer/editor these days. Got a project? Need a devilishly handsome, slightly surly, yet oddly charming writer/editor/photographer? Feel free to drop me a line or visit my website.