Episode 29: Motorcycles and the Kindness of Strangers

I think I know you.  Yep, pretty sure that I know you.  You’ll talk to a stranger.  You’ll ask someone parked on the side of a lonely road if they need help.  When you see a little kid looking through the car window at you on your motorcycle, you’ll wave and you love to see that kid’s smile as they wave back and tell mom and dad about you.

In today’s episode, we’ll talk about why being kind to strangers is so important to the entire motorcycling community.  We’ll describe forms of kindness, different ways of showing that motorcycle riders are really good people, and then we’ll talk about why your actions as a rider, really impact all of us all.  Hum,... a lot to think about.  Thank you for joining me today!

Hello friends.  I’m just coming back from a break from the podcast.  I hope that it’s OK that I needed some time on the road with my motorcycle.  In this case, I spent several days riding with my brother-in-law, exploring southern Wyoming and most of Colorado.  He on his Triumph and me on my BMW.  I don’t normally talk specifics about motorcycles and brands on this podcast, but I gotta tell you, the BMW GS Adventure is amazing.  Now I have a Triumph also which I love, but I’m just saying, the GS is amazing.  Ok, moving on.

When you’re on your bike or you’re coming into a coffee shop wearing your motorcycle gear, you’ll show some extra kindness to the barista with a tip that’s over the top.  You’ll make eye contact with those who glance at your unique appearance in your motorcycle gear or carrying your helmet.  Yeah, I know you.  So, let’s talk about this whole deal.  

What’s the difference between a stranger and a friend? Well, sometimes it’s just a “hello“. I experienced this first hand on the road trip with my brother-in-law, Jim.  We talked to a lot of people on the road.  We talked to people at gas stations, at coffee shops, at lunch counters.  There were several places along the road where we stopped to take in the view and total strangers would come up and talk to us.  Oftentimes it was other motorcycle riders, but also others who just walked up to us in a parking lot as we were loading up our bikes for the day and would ask about where we've come from and where we're going and how we like our motorcycles.

 You see, riding a motorcycle is unique isn't it? That makes you a little bit unique. Unique people are interesting to talk to.  Now I wasn't wearing my motorcycle gear when I met a man named Fred, but when he found out I was a motorcycle rider that really triggered a whole new level of conversation.

Jim, my brother-in-law, and I stayed the night in Durango, Colorado. It was at dinner that evening that I ended up sitting right next to a man in his 70’s.  A very western looking man.  Very much a mountain man.  That was Fred.  Fred was indeed unique and I was really interested in getting to know him. Fred went on to describe himself as a local to Durango. He grew up there. Again, Fred was probably in his seventies so he had been around town for quite a long time. Fred went on to describe how he knew personally the fellow playing the piano. He said that young man's name is Adam and he knew Adam since he was a kid.

It was unexpected that, during our conversation, Fred excused himself from the table then returned about 5 minutes later. He handed me an envelope and in it he had about 10 pictures of himself as a younger man. Among those pictures was a photo of himself in the 1970s sitting on a classic Harley-Davidson Chopper that he had pieced together himself. He went on to describe that motorcycle and the  pretty girl that used to ride along with him. What a cool guy!

You see, that conversation was easy because he and I had a common passion for motorcycles.  Those of us who ride instantly have something to talk about. We know that it can be cold and rainy sometimes outside and we feel it the chill on the bike. When it's hot outside sometimes the temperatures soar by the fact that there is a hot engine sitting just below us. We know that riding motorcycles can have its risks.  We don't take the risks lightly, we wear protective gear to reduce the risks, and we know that riding also with comes tremendous rewards.  Two motorcycles will seldom remain strangers for long.

Motorcycle riders also communicate with strangers non-verbally.  We give a positive impression of motorcycling when we wave a give space and wave a car driver ahead of us when they are waiting to enter our lane.  We relay courtesy by not following too closely.  We certainly win some points when we wave at the little kid looking at us through the car window.

I think we relay a different message, though, when we are too loud or just obnoxious.  As I mentioned in an earlier episode, when I work as a tour guide in the National Park, sometimes motorcycles are too loud for the atmosphere.  I’ve been with groups of tourists who are experiencing a special time with their families, enjoying the silence of the forest or the up close views of wildlife, only to have it spoiled by loud motorcycles riding even way off in the distance.  I’ve seen people startled or angered by a rider blasting their bike’s stereo system, assuming that everyone wants to hear Led Zeppelin.  Now I’m a Led Zeppelin fan, but there’s no excuse for a lack of courtesy.

Ya see.  I’m convinced that one motorcycle rider’s kindness and courtesy has an impact on us all.  Just yesterday evening, I was riding on a forest road when I came upon a young couple standing outside their car on a very remote road.  As I approached, I gave them a thumbs up, which as you probably know, is a sign asking if they are OK.  The young man shook his head so I stopped to see if they needed help.  He described that a noise was coming from one of the wheels on his car.  I’ve seen it happen many times before on rocky roads like this, so I told him what I thought the cause was and that it was probably OK to drive it back to town.  They were so grateful that I stopped. 

So what does a little bit of kindness do for us motorcyclists?  Well, I’m pretty sure that if a car driver has an appreciation that motorcycle riders are people too and nice people at that, then maybe they will show us a little more care by not following us too closely, or by giving us a second look when getting ready to turn in front of us.  Either way, kindness matters.

So really, that’s what this podcast is all about.  We sometimes find Peace of Mind from the saddle of our motorcycles, but we also show our Love for humanity, through small acts of kindness, whether it’s in the form of a good tip at the coffee shop, or a wave, or a stop to make sure the other guy is OK.  That’s kindness and that matters.  And for that, we can ride with pride.

Thank you for listening!  I wish you peace.  I wish you love.