Fishbowls and Freedoms

From the MorgueFile

Moto-Monday:  Fishbowls and Freedoms

A fish-eye lens can add an interesting perspective to an object. It usually warps it a bit past reality, but shows an expanse and breadth of scope you wouldn't have gotten in another way. Funny, it seems to work just the opposite "out" in the "real" world.

When I'm riding for hours a day and maybe even for many days in a row, part of my mind does a lot of wandering and thinking, asking strange questions and wondering about different things. (Ok, I sing in my head sometimes too, but that's another discussion.)

One of the things I often think about is the contrast between riding on my motorcycle in the open air and being in a car or other enclosed vehicle.  When I wave at kids looking at me out of a car window or I see someone focused on really getting somewhere, I can't help but think of them as people in a fishbowl.  They are in an enclosed environment that doesn't feel the hot or the cold, the wind or the rain, or smell the good and the bad. They don't get hit by bugs or hail, or practically smell the bacon (that is their arms), as they wait in line to cross a border or get through a toll booth.

Even though I'm in a helmet and riding gear, I'm not a fish!  If I was in a car, think of the symphony of smells I'd miss.  I love the smell of a sun-warmed high desert with juniper, pinion pine, and sagebrush. The air is laced with that lightly-toasted dusty smell that makes you feel comfortably alive.  Or, how about the change in feel, tempo, and smell, right after a quick, cooling, afternoon rain, when you feel clean and pristine.  Yes, there are the stinky paper plants that smell of rot and reek of "man"-made processing, but then you feel a breeze, or sway a bit with the rustling trees and it’s alright again. You don't get that in a car.

Now there have been times when it has been so cold I’ve had to stop every 20-30 minutes to try to warm up fingers and toes (and to make sure they were still there).  I’ve been in rains so heavy I couldn’t see my own front wheel and hoped no one in a car or mini-van was traveling so fast behind me that they would run me over before I had a chance to float away. I’ve been out in the desert and looked down at my arms to see them turning into a new color that looked somewhere between blue-black and crispy over-baked (I swear I could even hear the sizzle).  I’ve clung to the shadowy-sides of a canyon, prayed for a rain cloud to pass overhead, and rejoiced to sit in the shady-shadow of an 18-wheeler truck.  I’ve been snowed on, hailed at, and covered in road slime.  I’ve been tired and sore and my butt felt like it had worn out down to the bones.  I’ve had soggy underwear and socks, and knots in my hair so bad I thought I’d have to cut them out.  But (with a few moments worth of exceptions), it has always been my privilege to enjoy the world on my motorcycle and count myself lucky to be out of the fishbowl once in a while.

Freedom doesn’t always mean “free to express one’s self” or “free to do whatever you want”.  Sometimes the best freedoms are the little ones:  free from the confines of enclosure; free from stale, filtered air; free to enjoy the rain on my face and the wind in my hair; free to smell the flowers around me; and free to think about crazy things like what it must be like to be in a fishbowl!

So, what do you think about when you ride?


  1. My friend used to drive a big rig for years and felt closed in. When he retired, he bought a motorcycle and he loves it. For the past three years, he has gone to Sturgis and enjoys experiencing the freedom of the open road along the way.

  2. I have had my legs from the knees down turn that purple-ish colour from too much wind/sun on the bike before. and presently i can not remember the pain but i do remember the joy of the ride and the scenery of that day. BEAUtiful.


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