Monday, July 2, 2007

Broken Lever Pt. 1

On Saturday I went out for a ride with my friend Finnian, who has only recently gotten interested in motorcycles. We headed north on the 101, with Windsor as our destination. Finnian's parents have a house there, and he'd gone up the week before to check in on the place--his parents are doing an extended cruise in the Mediterranean right now. During that little visit he'd accidently left a bag of weed on the kitchen table, and this week he wanted to retrieve it (poor form to leave your drugs out for your parents to find, you know). It also served as a good excuse for Finn to take his bike on the freeway, which he's only done once or twice before.

The freeway part of the trip went without much problem. Finn hadn't ever spent that much time on a bike before, so his ass got pretty saddlesore, and the roaring and pushing of the wind freaked him out a little too. His bike handled fine, though. It's an old Nighthawk 650, made in the year when they changed out the chain for a shaft-drive. He's only had it for a month or so, and hasn't put it through serious use yet. My own bike is also a Nighthawk, a 750 from '92. I've had it for a few years now, and I've covered a few thousand miles with it, so I know it pretty well.

In any case, we got to Finn's parents place without incident, except for a few car wrecks we saw on the way (mangled cars, but no human casualties). The weed bag wasn't where Finn had left it, but he got up the nerve to ask the neighbor (who's coming by daily to feed the cat) to see if she'd taken it. She didn't fess up to doing so, though Finn thought she had a nervous look in her eye when he approached her.

So we were short on weed, but still had plenty of time left (the only constraint being my seven o'clock date with my girlfriend). We decided to drive the backroads to Bodega Head, have a quick hike, and start back toward the city.

I let Finn take the lead, because I didn't know the area. In just a few minutes we were out of the town and cruising on a two-lane with vineyards on either side. The weather was beautiful, the scenery a delight; perfect conditions for a bike ride.

About twenty minutes in we came to a sharp curve to the right that was followed immediately by a sharper left. We were moving about ten miles per hour faster than the posted limit for the curve, which isn't a big deal on a bike (or even most cars), but the turns were sharp enough and close enough together that a little charge of energy sparked in my gut. I breaked a bit in the upright moment between the end of the first turn and the start of the second, because Finn had slowed enough to put me on his heels, but we were carrying enough speed to cause the following to happen very very quickly.

Finn started in on his lean, but didn't seem to be leaning in enough. His break-lights flashed for an instant, and then the bike was on its side, dust and plastic and shards of the rear-view mirror floating in the air around it like a cloud. Finn came off the bike, his left shoulder and hip against the asphalt, his body turning as he slid so that he was facing back toward me when he and the bike made contact with the guardrail. The sun was shining down strong at that particular part of the road, and the whole thing seemed incredibly sharp and vivid in my eyes, like High Definition television when compared with regular TV.

I stopped my bike, leaned on its side stand, and headed in Finn's direction. He was already on his feet by the time I got to him, his eyes wide, saying "Looks like I'll be riding bitch back to the city." A kid who'd been driving a car right behind us stopped and hustled over to help. We got the bike off the road, and started assessing the damage.

Finn hadn't come out of it too bad. His jacket had a few new holes in it, and his left hip sported some fresh scratches, but the only serious casualty seemed to be his pride (during the next half hour he berated himself continuously--I must have heard him call himself "stupid" at least two dozen times). The bike, on the other hand, wasn't ridable. Besides the destroyed left mirror, and the dents and scratches on the tank and body, the clutch lever had busted off completely, so we couldn't put it into gear.

After making sure we were alright, the kid jumped back in his car and took off. We were alone, with an unridable bike, 75 miles from the city...

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