It happened a few years back. I'm riding my motorcycle down the road to Cape Spear. Shea Heights is behind me. The turnoff to Petty Harbour is ahead. It's a gentle downhill slope and I feel like I'm just coasting along, although I'm probably doing the speed limit, maybe even a few kilometres over. No other vehicles around and I have the road all to myself.
I'm feeling smug, secure in the knowledge that my old BMW is simply the coolest bike in the world and I, by association, am just as cool.
I'm hypnotized by the rich, relaxed rumble of the flat-twin engine.
Then all of a sudden I'm jolted by a blast of noise and fury.
Some kid on a lime-green sport bike comes screaming out of nowhere and passes within inches of my left arm. He must have been doing 150 k/hr — or at least so fast that I have absolutely no warning, not even a stray flash of light in the mirror.
Just sudden sensory overload that makes every muscle contract, like sticking a fork in a toaster. My butt rises off the seat, my feet off the pegs, my hands off the grips. (The only time I've been so shocked, startled and scared was when — many years ago — I was on a deserted island in the middle of the Atlantic when it was the subject of a mock attack by a jet fighter. But that's another story for another time.) At this time, in this story, I'm totally disoriented and trying to focus, absorb what's happening around me.
By now the sport bike is long past and I see something's not right. Then it clicks.
The kid is riding on just one wheel!
He blasted by this sleepy old man at 150 km/hr while doing a freaking WHEELIE! And he continued on down the hill, even negotiated a turn. With his front wheel a metre off the ground!
My head spins. Initial panic subsides as I confirm that I'm safe and all bodily fluids are where they should be. Next comes self-doubt — why didn't I see that guy coming? When did I last check all around me? Soon I'm overtaken by boiling rage — who does that idiot think he is, risking my life and his? Clearly this behaviour is irresponsible and unacceptable.
But even as these thoughts race through my head, something else is happening. New thoughts, childish, bad thoughts creep in. I know they don't belong in the head of an old guy, so I try to push them aside. But there they are.
Part of me wants to be driving a big truck so I can chase this kid down and run him off the road. But as the mad biker disappears around a bend I realize there's something else. I'm a little bit jealous. Part of me wishes I had the balance and skill and a machine capable of doing what he just did.
Because I have to admit that, even though it was dangerous and immature, it looked kind of fun. I just wish he didn't scare the crap out of me.
Which is why I like watching trained stunt riders do their thing in a controlled environment. The risk is minimal, and it's all theirs. I'm safely behind a fence, enjoying the spectacle without the stress of wondering if I'll have to administer first-aid to a dying stranger.
Speaking of which, take a look at the video on top, of Gavin Anstey of St. John's entertaining the crowd at this year's motorcycle Ride For Sight in Gander.