Last Kiss

Published in the August 2022 issue of Keystone Motorcycle Press

There was a time in our 50+ years of marriage when our relationship was a bit rockier than it’s now become. Most of it was on me. I’d always deluded myself into thinking that I had an “artistic temperament” and that gave me certain leeway in the manner in which I interacted with people. It really was more of a rationalization of an innate, insecurity-driven self-absorption.

In any case, numerous incidences of this flaw in my character had a motorcycling dimension. You’ll have to wait for the posthumous release of my memoir to read the more entertaining examples, but one I can relate had to do with a late Saturday afternoon spat that triggered my fight or flee mechanism and had me jumping on my 650 Honda Hawk GT to escape the house.

Filled with raw emotion, I instinctively piloted the bike toward the route of my annual 60-mile ride up Rt 125 to Shamokin. As I’ve written way too often in this publication, it’s an up-and-down successive ridges ride with lots and lots of blind curves and hairpins­–a real challenge to navigate smoothly.

This day, testosterone’d as I was, all caution seemed to have left me and I handled every single meter of that ride rapidly and smoothly. When I got to the end, the sense of accomplishing something I’d never before experienced drained away all the pent-up emotion and I sheepishly turned around for the trip home. What a disaster. I think I bungled everything going in that direction. In the ensuing years I have never been able to repeat the piloting performance of that one-way trip, on that route or on any other. Not even close.

All of this is simply background for the point I’m about to make: Never leave for a ride when you’re not on the absolute best terms with your significant other. What if, in among all that perfection of curve carving, that speed, there had been one fatal mistake? What if some yahoo in a clapped-out pickup had come around one of those blind corners taking his half out of the middle? How would my dear wife have felt with us having parted so regrettably?

In case you haven’t noticed, motorcycling is a risky business. It demands a level of skill and constant attention on the rider’s part, and, if you’re smart, a willingness to try to mitigate some of that risk through a bullet-point list of do’s and don’ts. My list includes never drinking and riding, never riding at dusk or at night, avoiding Fridays, avoiding high-traffic situations, keeping a 360 view at all times (that’s one I have a hard time doing) and practicing things like counter steering and late apexing on every ride I take. Oh, did I mention, wearing appropriate gear?

But, no matter how careful you are with what you can control, there’s so much you can’t: That deer that bolts from the woods right into your path; the aforementioned pickup driver; debris in the road; even some mechanical failure in your machine. And I haven’t yet mentioned the hunk of blue ice falling from the sky.

I didn’t really learn my lesson on that fateful ride to Shamokin. It was years until a life-threatening medical event befell my wife and I was forced into a month-long battle with grim reality and with my own emotional and personality failings. In the end, we both came out the other end of our dark, dark tunnels. She recovered and I gained a much more realistic view of my own importance. It was only then that I vowed never to leave on a ride, be it a long one or just a short scoot, without a full embrace.  ’Cause you just never know when that kiss might be the last kiss.

©2022, David B Bucher

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