Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

CB 450

I am currently packing up my bike for a week-long outing with a buddy of mine.  Consequently, I thought an appropriate follow-up to the bicycle story might be to explain my love of motorcycles, so I borrowed the title of Robert Pirsig’s best-seller.  Even the customized bicycle was meant to reflect a motorcycle. That was the point of the handlebars, the seat, the cards in the spokes.  At age seven, I was making progress toward my ultimate goal.

About a year later, we moved to a new town, and I met a friend who had a mini-bike.  It was a short little frame powered by a lawn-mower engine. You had to pull a rope to start it, then you could hop on and ride around at a nice little clip.  I asked my parents if we might be able to get one.  My father said we couldn’t afford it, and my mother said absolutely not.  In fact, she said, “When you are 18, you can do what you want. Until then, you cannot have one.”  At age 16 John Terrell, who lived on a farm, would invite me over, and I could use one of their small bikes, a Yamaha 80. On the first day, I rounded a curve too fast and slid under a barbed-wire fence, slicing my right calf open. I still have the scar, and I still had the fever.

When I turned 18, I reminded my mother of her words and promptly secured a Kawasaki 125 enduro (street/dirt) bike that was a true fixer-upper.  That was the first of a long line of bikes I have thoroughly enjoyed.  There’s nothing like a couple of hours with the wind in your face to get your head straight.  As bikers say, “It’s cheaper than therapy.”

The thing I could never figure out was the reaction I got from parishioners.  A preacher on a motorcycle? What? Why?  I guess films like Easy Rider created a certain persona about motorcycle riders that good church-going folks felt was incompatible with the ministry.  In fact, at my first full-time church staff position, I rode my motorcycle to the office one sunny summer day.  I thought it might be a great way to open doors for youth ministry.  It was an avocado green, Honda CB 450, that had been chopped (the front forks cut and re-welded at a much sharper angle and extended). Well, the leaders of the church had a different opinion and strongly requested (demanded?) I not ride it to the church.  They didn’t want their youth led into delinquency and suggested I sell it; I didn’t.

Even though, through the years, my bikes got progressively larger, more comfortable, and more suited to touring, I still got the question: a preacher on a motorcycle? The most spiritual answer I can give is, I like it. Some people paint, some people have animals, some collect stamps, I ride my motorcycle. And what about bad company?  I have encountered many truly rough folks as our motorcycle paths cross.  It has always created a sort of mutual ground from which to establish relationships.  There’s a sort of unspoken brotherhood with bikers.  Maybe is the shared danger of dodging cars driven by the short-sighted and distracted. Anyhow, that’s what Jesus did. He looked for mutual ground to establish relationships.  With him, it was always about relationships.  He didn’t go out of his way to manipulate circumstances; he simply did what he was going to do anyway, and looked for the opportunity that presented itself as he crossed paths with someone else.

This next week, I will no doubt make new friends, at least I hope I do.  My buddy (a retired Pentecostal pastor and army chaplain) will accompany me in some much needed recreation and relaxation.  Look out, world: TWO preachers on motorcycles.


Published in: on June 26, 2017 at 10:50 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. 😊

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