The Journey

The converted

The summer sun was low in the sky. A Sunday night, it was quiet as we sat at the lights. Just the whirring idle of the CBF600 and that overarching sound of peace that is all too uncommon in an overcrowded place like the United Kingdom. The temperature had dropped down to the point of my being quite happy to be wearing a leather jacket, but still it was warm by British standards. 
The light changed and I gently rolled the throttle through a left turn. As the road went straight I clicked up a gear and sprung up to 40 mph. Crossing the bridge from Cardiff to Penarth, I looked down over the River Ely and out to the bay. I felt Jenn squeeze me with her legs, and she shouted out: “I love the bike, babe! I love this!”

What a difference a few months make. When I first started floating the idea of my earning my UK motorcycle license and thereafter getting a bike, her reaction was unsupportive, to put it lightly. If she had a little too much to drink her attitude could be pretty disparaging. The whole issue of motorcycles started pushing toward one of those chosen points of contention that sometimes spring up in a relationship.

If you’ve been with someone for any amount of time, you’ve almost certainly done this. Some thing or idea grows to the point of your feeling it is a statement of your independence or personality. And you defend it with the same tactical idiocy of a WWI general.

For example, many moons ago I used to be with a girl who was Mormon. Because it didn’t matter so much to me, I even went to the trouble to get baptised Mormon. I quit drinking, and willingly ticked off all the boxes of the Word of Wisdom, save one. For some reason, I got hung up on tea. Iced tea, in particular.

The more I thought about it, the more wound up I got. Iced tea came to represent some aspect of myself that I grew panicked about giving up. Iced tea made me think of hot days in Texas, it made me think of my father; I created in it all kinds of deep and silly connections, some of which I hold to this day. Take a look at the cover photo on my Google + profile. It’s a picture of Texas beer and a big-ol’ glass of iced tea. Iced tea is who I am, goddamnit. You can have my iced tea when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

So, the issue of iced tea became, really, an issue of my asserting myself as a person independent of the relationship. Fortunately, my partner at the time didn’t challenge me on it. If you want to drink tea, she said, drink tea. Heavenly Father has much more important things to do than waste His time punishing tea drinkers.

This motorcycle issue came close to being the same sort of thing for both Jenn and me. Obviously, assertion of self has been and is a part of the motorcycle journey for me. I am Jenn’s husband, yes, and happy to be. But before that and always I am Chris Cope. I am my own man, my own self. My decisions are not made by committee, my actions are not taken by anyone but this tea-sippin’ muthahugga right here. For me, getting and riding a motorcycle is a way of stating that.

Things became dangerous when it started to seem that Jenn was going to decide that blocking such a move was vital to her asserting her self. There were points when the whole thing made me extremely upset, because it shook at the foundations of Us (i.e., Jenn and me — the collective unit). It challenged my understanding of who We are.

I have my own theories as to why she was throwing up barriers, too various and incomplete to expound upon here. But the valuable thing is that at some point she started to ease a little. And I like to think it is because she saw this was so important to me.

Now, she squeezes me and shouts into the air as we roll through the lanes and roads of South Wales. She takes delight in the fact that all the passing motorcyclists nod back at her, and she gleefully tells everyone — everyone — that I have a motorcycle.

“I’m proud of you, babe,” she said the other day. “You had this idea of getting a bike and you focused on it. And you made it happen. That’s an inspiring thing. And, personally, I think your helmet hair is really sexy.”

Motorcycles are pretty amazing things, y’all.