1,000 older brothers

An ex-boyfriend of mine who hated all things motorcycles--especially that I rode one--used to make fun of how motorcyclists acknowledge each other when they ride by one another. Whether the two fingers dropped low, the one finger lifted off the clutch or just the subtle nod of the head, he thought it was ridiculous.
I get that it may seem silly to you if you don't ride (or if you are one of the 95% of super-tough-guy-Harley-riders that opt out of the customary hello). But I love it! And I would feel inwardly angry and embarrassed like a teenager when my ex mocked it because of just how much I love it. First, that two people try to connect in a personal way when both going 70 mph in opposite directions is kind of amazing when many people don't even make eye contact while walking past one another on the street. And second, because I interpret it as two people taking a moment to honor and acknowledge each other for having the same passion. As if, through the tiny gesture of a finger lifted or a nod, we are saying to each other, "I see you are taking the same risks I am for the same passion I have--be careful out there, and have fun!"

Who knows? Maybe I read too much into it. But it's hard not to read into it when, upon recognizing that I'm a lady rider, the gestures become more animated. I've gotten fist pumps, enthusiastic waving, and something in between the two that includes lots of pointing. I've also gotten thumbs up, full salutes and kisses blown. But the absolute best was the really hard-core old guy who looked like an original motorcycle gangster who pulled close alongside me on the highway. I was terrified and really didn't want to look over at him. When I finally did, he hit his heart with his fist twice, pointed right at my heart, and then held his hand over his heart as he sped away. That one made me well up with tears and get all blubbery in my helmet.

Which brings me to one reason that I love riding that you might not guess: it's a great way to meet men. I don't mean pick up men, I mean really meet men. When I'm out on my bike and stop for gas or a snack or a meal or an errand, men of all ages and backgrounds talk to me. They walk right up like a fellow human being and they ask me about my bike and tell me about theirs. They ask me where I've been that day, and where I'm headed, and share the same. Or, like the guy named Moose that I ate with this morning, they invite me to sit with them as I walk into their local breakfast joint and then they give me beta on all the twisties in the area. And within the safety of having bike talk to fall back on, they almost always tell me about their wives, their kids and their hopes. They let me in on what is important and real in their lives.

They don't try to pick me up. They don't whistle when I walk by. They don't make lewd or disrespectful comments. They don't ignore me entirely.

They treat me like one of the guys. And they speak from their heart.

It's like it was when I was tomboy kid and played backyard football with my brother and all his friends. They respected my skills as a player and didn't take it easy on me, but if a boy tackled me too hard or said something insulting, one of the other guys would shove him. That feeling. Until I started riding, I hadn't felt it since I was a kid.

In fact, that's a feeling I wager not many women and men past the age of puberty get to feel--connections with absolute strangers of the opposite sex that aren't romantic or sexual but are sweetly intimate. Connections that feel friendly, caring and respectful, and healing in just how damned plain they are.

All that to say--riding makes me feel like I have a thousand older brothers out in the world who, in some small way, have esteem for me and have my back. And that's just one more of the many things that makes me have a smoosh-faced smile on my face as I ride down the road.

owen keturah