The Professional


I called my dad last night to give him a heads up on Jeff Gordon’s Pepsi commercial. He had already seen it, but it kicked off an interesting conversation. The commercial is funny, but I was amazed by what Gordon did with the Camaro, particularly since he was carrying an ostensibly unsuspecting passenger, and presumably not pushing the envelope.

I mentioned a Grantland.com article I read on motorcycle trick riding, and while not discounting the potential for injury, I was at odds with the article equating trick riding with risking lives. My dad respects the balance and technical ability of trick riders, and noted “girls like trick riders”, but said he knew three very good trick riders and had an opportunity to do some “street riding” with them.

“Street riding” in the parlance of my dad involves a street legal bike on desolate winding roads at illegal speed. Since retiring from racing, it is his treasured hobby. The trick riders showed no aptitude for “street riding”, and “could barely stay on the road”. All three were “spooked” and never came back.

I have no experience “street riding”. The closest I came was on the back of my dad’s bike during a trip to Pocono. We were on the interstate with some open road ahead. He lowered his chest the the gas tank and rolled on the throttle. I was sitting behind him with a motorcross helmet and visor. The wind got under my visor pulling my head back as I held on. This happened thirty years ago, and I can still access the sensation on command.

In dismissing the trick riding trio, my dad said there have been only “three maybe four” people that could ride his “pace” and make him “concentrate” to stay in front. His tone was matter of fact, but I hung on the word “pace”. It was something he owned, purchased through hours of riding and thought, occaisionally tested by crash or exposure to someone with a greater “pace”, but ultimately a professional standard of competence.

I had considered he was speaking mostly of the past before the heart, the back, the neck and the knee, but I wasn’t entirely sure. So I asked, “Can you still do that?”

“Sure. I can ride with good speed and concentration, but it’s walking that’s hard. I walk into doors and stuff all the time.”

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