Faithful followers of this column will both doubtless recall that back in 2005 I established the Church of the American Road Experience as a means of adding a spiritual component to my spectacularly secular existence. The mission of the new church was the celebration of the mystical mind state of the open road and the ecstasy of two wheels in the wind, as well as the appreciation for wacky roadside Americana while there still was some. At that time, C.A.R.E.—as we’ve come to call it for fraudulent fundraising purposes—had little to offer by way of formal churchy dogma, so I hastily pushed together the Holy Trinity of the Highway, consisting of Shoe Trees, Mystery Spots and Stuffed Two-headed Calves. In the intervening years we’ve managed to add some ritualistic practices as well, consisting of The Veneration of the Bungee, The Communion of the Red Bull and Slim Jim, and The Exorcism of the Monkey Butt.
So we’ve got all that stuff going for us, but one thing we’ve never had—largely because we considered it sort of pretentious—is an actual Bible. You can thus imagine my excitement when a volume entitled Motorcycle Touring Bible was recently published by Motorbooks. An honest to gosh “Bible,” and it even looks sort of bible-ish with the title foil-stamped in gold on a cover background that looks like pebbled leather, and the headings and pull-quotes within printed in a Gothic blackletter typeface, and even a number of illustrative sections called “parables.” And better still, the author, Fred Rau, is pictured in it sporting a really patriarchal white beard.
That’s the gas, man, I thought; seemingly just the type of canonical underpinning C.A.R.E. was lacking.
I cracked it and dove in to commence a thorough exegesis of the text, but soon discovered that I wasn’t getting enlightened, I was getting puzzled. And then irritated. The subject matter was all over the map, from a tedious chapter attempting to define exactly what the term “motorcycle touring” means, to another devoted to the history of Craig Vetter and the fairings he designed (which have been off the market for a generation), and another detailing the development of the Honda Gold Wing, including the bizarre statement that the GL1800 “was so good that virtually every other manufacturer abandoned the heavyweight luxury touring market,” and that it currently has “no competition from any other manufacturer…” Huh?
And it was a map that invariably led back to the author himself, who clearly holds himself in reverent regard—the “parables,” it turns out, are all about Fred and how awesome and experienced Fred is and the low regard in which Fred holds anyone who’s not a lot like Fred, noting, for example, his belief that riders of custom machinery are not “motorcyclists,” they’re merely “motorcycle owners.” Yeesh. Tiresome, rambling, self-serving and opinionated, Motorcycle Touring Bible proved to be of dubious value to anyone who’d ever actually ridden a motorcycle—or even those who hadn’t.
I was, of course, crushed. The book would not serve C.A.R.E.’s purposes. But what it did do was present us with the uncomfortable truth that if we were ever actually to rise in status to that of a formal religion and reap the tax bonanza that status would confer, we’d have to have a Bible of some sort and we’d have to compose it ourselves and, frankly, we’re way too lazy for that. So we’ve decided to open the process up to all touring bikers using Wikipedia as our model. We’re calling it Roadipedia and we’re anxious to get everyone’s input on the project, and to get the ball rolling I figured I’d have a go at whipping up some religious tenets, so I rolled up my sleeves, uncorked a fifth of Maker’s, grabbed a stone tablet and chisel and commenced to drink heavily and stare at my blank rock. Writing’s like that.
I finally settled on the idea of putting together a bunch of commandments, but I wasn’t comfortable with actually using the term “commandments” because of its pushy do-this don’t-do-that tone which tends to irk bikers, so I opted for “suggestions” instead and began. Additional suggestions are, of course, welcomed because that’s how this whole thing is supposed to work. Here’s what I have so far:
The Ten Suggestions
Thou probably shalt not:
- Wear flip-flops unless thou hast T6061 billet aluminum feet.
- Park thy bike where thou canst not see it from thy motel room if thou hopest to get a wink of shuteye.
- Burn regular gas in thy scoot regardless of what the manufacturer sayeth thou canst do.
- Pump Fix-a-Flat in thy tires. It never helps and just makes an unholy mess.
- Put thy gloves on before thy helmet. (Yea, verily, like thou never did that.)
- Leave the diner without tipping thy waitress unless thou dost not really need the sunglasses thou left on the table.
- Think that the deer whistle mounted on thy fender will do anything but attract coyotes.
- Ride with a large congregation of thy brethren and expect to get anywhere fast.
- Hit the road with anyone whose bike hast more problems than thine.
- Expect any book, regardless of the loftiness of its title, to teach you things that can only really be learned through personal experience.
It’s all right here in the diaries.