There are “riding buddies” and then there are “road buddies” and there’s a world of difference between the two. Riding buddies are friends and casual acquaintances with whom you happily pal around on poker runs and local bar-hopping larks. The road buddy is of a higher order and is someone with whom you can cover a lot of miles over a number of days pleasurably, owing to compatible riding styles and road rhythms, and someone who is also a good bunkie since days on the road will find you lodging in close quarters. Sometimes the one can become the other, but you’ve heard the horror stories and perhaps have a few of your own about riding buddies who when pressed into a road buddy role transmogrify under the stresses of serious touring duty into moody neurotics with their own unstated agendas.
I’ve had my share of those mismatches in the past and seen how they can undermine a friendship and as a result developed a questionnaire consisting of a half dozen telling questions aimed at determining compatibility, sort of like eHarmony.com, since at my age I’m short of time as well as patience and can’t be waltzing around the issue. I’ve taken to administering the test to potential road trip partners and it’s worked out pretty well, though telling a riding buddy that they’ve failed the test can also occasionally undermine the friendship, but I figure it would have happened anyway on the road and spoiled a good trip to boot, so I’m OK with that.
A true road buddy is a precious commodity and fortunate are those of us who number our spouses among them, though in fairness to non-spousal road buddy aspirants it should be noted that certain behavioral idiosyncrasies that might be accepted as “endearing” in a significant other would not and should not be abided in lesser intimates. My Personal Nurse, a.k.a. Belle Raucous, has proven just such a spouse, usually, so naturally that exempts her from the vetting process, but once I had let it slip in passing that my road buddy questionnaire existed, she insisted on taking it. She said she thought it would be “fun.”
I reluctantly obliged and sat her down at the kitchen table to undergo the procedure. I made sure all kitchen utensils and cookware that could be easily weaponized were out of arm’s reach and commenced.
“Here’s the first question, Belle: Is your motorcycle a reliable machine maintained in an optimal state of road readiness?”
“It damn well better be, Terry. You service it yourself, remember?”
“Don’t change the subject. It’s a simple yes or no we’re after.”
“Fine. I’ll take a shot in the dark and go with yes.”
“I’ll put that down as a no. Next question: When on the road, do you feel compelled to stop mid-day and linger over a sit-down lunch even while knowing full-well that you’re burning daylight and irritating the snot out of your traveling companion?”
“This better be a joke,” she said darkly, shooting me the stink eye, and gauging the distance to a saucepan.
“I’m as serious as psoriasis, sister.”
“The answer, then, is yes, I do. And what’s more, I feel compelled to powder my nose when the check comes, thus compelling my traveling companion to pony up or risk looking like the cheap bastard he is.”
“Interesting response. Try this one: Are you frequently subject to spells of hypoglycemia, migraine, the vapors or other ladies’ complaints?”
“That’s sexist, Terry. You’re a pig.”
“No it’s not. I ask the guys the same question. You’d be surprised how many of them lie about it.”
“I’ll pass in protest on that one. What else you got, pig?”
“OK, how about this: When on the road, do you need to stop a lot to take a leak?”
“Negative. I’ve got a respectable holding tank.”
“Wrong answer. Personally, I wiz like a nervous tomcat.”
“They have medicine for that, Terry.”
“Duly noted. Moving on to question five. This one’s multiple choice, so pay attention: What do you consider your ideal average daily mileage, A) 100–200, only because there’s no option for under 100 miles and you’re a pantywaist poser. B) 200–300, because you’re not a pantywaist poser but still fully intend to linger over lunch and have a migraine. C) 300–400, because you like to sleep in but still ride hard and suck the very marrow out of the road experience without colliding with wildlife at sunset. D) 400–500, because you’re an early riser who wants to suck the aforementioned marrow without wearing the aforementioned wildlife on a sunset ambulance ride. D) 500+, because you’re insane and want to turn the thing you love most into an excruciating ordeal.”
“When you put it that way, I guess I’ll go with C—though it seems I should have a choice that has me rising early and sucking marrow while still lingering over lunch.”
“Duly noted. That brings us to the final and most critical question of the exercise: Do you snore?”
“Not when I’m awake.”
“How about when you’re sleeping?”
“How should I know? I’m asleep. You tell me.”
“Hmm. We’ll put you down as an occasional angelic murmurer.”
“That sounds vaguely sexist too, Terry, but I can live with it. So… how’d I do?”
“Actually, you did pretty well, Belle. You flunked, but not by a lot.”
(Epilogue: The best road buddy of all, of course, remains my venerable blue Electra Glide, sitting ever-faithful and road-ready out in the garage… where, incidentally, I’m sleeping these days. It’s all right here in the diaries.)