Search This Blog

Thursday, September 3, 2015


I don’t want a pickle,

Just want to ride my motorcycle,

And I don’t want a tickle

‘Cause I’d rather ride on my motorcycle,

And I don’t want to die--

Just want to ride on my motorcycle.

             Billy Joel/Arlo Guthrie

noise on two wheelsAre you getting much sleep these warm summer nights? Nearly three weeks of 90 degree plus weather has us bedding down with the covers flung back and windows gaped open, hoping to coax a wayward Valley breeze into the bedroom. For years I’ve scoffed at the summer season commercials promoting AC. AC, here, in the cool, Pacific Northwest? Paying big bucks to keep three, maybe four days of solar discomfort at bay? Suck it up, I’ve always said. Get tough. Walk it off. What a bunch of whiners. This summer, however, has been a whole different animal, and I’ve found some cooling relief from a small desk fan whirring over me from the nightstand. A little cooling as the perspiration dries…. But I still lack the sleep I need and these sweltering nights aren’t the reason:

Did you know Harley Davidson has a wake-up app? Yes, among the multitude of products bearing the Harley Davidson logo, there’s the “straight pipes, set you bolt upright in bed ” feature. Harley merchandiseFor the second consecutive summer this app has roused me shortly after four a.m. three to four times weekly. Nearly four o’clock on the dot the rumble begins and then down High Rock like a rolling earthquake comes the drone of an unmuffled motorcycle. It rolls to a stop where High Rock meets SR 203 and sits there at a spluttering idle for a minute or so until the rider kills the engine. At 4:04 or thereabouts I hear another rumble approaching from the north. Almost immediately the resting cycle resumes its rumble, pulls onto the State Road and blasts past the house. Fast on its heels comes a second motorcycle, a tad bit more muffled than the first and the two bikes roar off down the road leaving me wide awake and thinking unkind thoughts. The routine has its variations: sometimes both cycles shut down for a moment (a bit early to work perhaps?) and on one occasion I heard the mosquito-like whine of a crotch rocket winding up on the Tualco Road straightaway behind the house. It rendezvoused with the other two and in concert the trio roared off into the dark like a host of stock cars.

In attempt to squelch this decibel deluge, I routinely awake about 3:20, use the triple pane muffle effect, and shut the bedroom windows.  Now, however, sleep’s impossible. I lie there anticipating that inevitable downhill rumble. Will it be just the one irritating bike? Two? Or the full complement of three this morning? Regardless, I know I must at least suffer the loudest of the three as it blasts by the house. Then I must exit my angry place before I finally drift off to sleep.

I’ve seen the movie Easy Rider, saw Peter Fonda slip off his wrist watch and fling it to the four winds. (No time constraints for Captain America.) Ah, the freedom of the open road, all that hair (Dennis Hopper on his chopper) dallying with the slipstream. Adventure over the next rise, around the bend; nowhere you need to be and all the time in the world to get wherever that is…. But can’t you, I plead, be a free spirit without making so much doggone racket? Must all that freedom come at a cost to others? Are mufflers a factory option on those gleaming machines? I suspect not…so just what is it that makes a biker so muffler averse? The wind’s the same; the freedom’s the same; the power, the speed, the thrill, all the same? So why not purrrr your way on down the road? I know some of you bikers must be annoyed by all that noise, too, or why would you try to drown out engine noise by playing your on board radios at top volume?

I’ve seen a car around town sporting the sticker “Loud pipes save lives.” As far as The Ripple is concerned, the only truth to that declaration is, yes, the cacophony of those passing machines without a doubt does attract attention. loud pipes...I happened upon an online article listing the several ways bikers can protect themselves in and around traffic. As a safety precaution, nary of mention of loud pipes, so why “deep six” your mufflers? No, that unfettered noise, in my opinion, is an obnoxious declaration of male ego: “I make a racket; therefore I am.” bikerAural kudzu, auditory graffiti…no other way to put it. I’ve shared my feelings with a friend of mine, a confirmed biker whose chosen ride is a BMW cycle. “Unless you saw me drive by, you wouldn’t even know I was in the vicinity,” he laughed, a tacit statement about the raucous machines the other camp prefers.

A bit of irony on this topic: did you know the Monroe Public Library has reserved four parking spaces for motorcycles? These spaces offer the closest parking—like handicapped spaces—to the library’s entrance. The irony? That an institution which prides itself on “shushing” noisy patrons would allow these boisterous machines to park within a stone’s throw of what once was considered the bastion of silence. Strange, too--I’ve never noticed a single two-wheeled vehicle of any sort parked in one of these slots. I’ve been meaning to ask one of the library’s staff about the motorcycle parking.muffled bikes only Perhaps a local chapter of that famous motorcycle club has its own book club? Or has there been a resurgence of interest in Robert Pirsig’s existential Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? (The “existential motorcyclist”…isn’t that an oxymoron?)

Rain has moved back into the Valley this week, a much wished for reprieve from the summer’s drought. Not only is Mother Nature’s liquor a boon for our parched lawn and garden, but for this noise-induced insomniac it means return to blissful sleep. Rain has brought quiet to the Valley. This long, hot summer the highway out in front, weekends in particular, might just as well have been the highway to and from Sturgis, South Dakota, during rally week. Rain. With it comes the soothing, gentle swish of car tires passing on wet roadways. Blessed rain—the motorcyclists’ anathema. Heaven-sent rain. Mother Nature’s way of saying : “ Hey, you in the leather pants and jacket, cool those straight pipes, give them a rest. It’s time for a little peace on earth.”pipes at rest

Print this post

No comments:

Post a Comment