Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pittsburgh PA, Day 3: One of the best days of any given year is the day I get to spend with my Godson Anthony. I was there on August 9th 1994 when he was born, and I got to hold him when he 20 minutes old. For a guy with no kids of his own, that was a really big deal for me, and luckily we took a shine to each other right from the get go. When he was younger, “Michael-Anthony day” often consisted of doing things like building a dam on the creek that runs near my Mom’s house in Herminie, and in later years evolved into taking him to see Lords of Dogtown and whatnot. But this year will certainly go down as the most memorable day yet, as it marked my return to riding dirt bikes after (gasp!) 28 years.

From 1978 through 1982 I pretty much lived on a dirt bike, weather permitting. It was nothing for me and my friends to ride for 12 straight hours on a summer day, but when I moved to Pittsburgh in January of 1983, we sold my 1979 Honda XR 185 and that was pretty much the end of that. Punk rock and publishing have kept me pretty busy in the almost three decades since, but I was more than ready to hit the trails once again… or so I thought. The recently purchased Hondas were up for anything, but was I? Beato warned me that it isn’t exactly like riding a bicycle, that is you can forget plenty, and considering that we were riding on the slate dumps high above Adamsburg PA, easily break your neck. I have to admit that my confidence was a bit shaken when I saw that first massive hill climb, pile of rocks and/or tree stump on the narrow paths, and the ever present cliffs that one false move would have you flying right off of.

Look carefully at the ground in the picture of Anthony above. In Pennsylvania, at least where we grew up, you don’t ride on dirt but on the massive mountains of slate that were left behind after the coalmines closed down two generations ago. So for the first half hour or so, all I did was eat Anthony’s dust as I worked to regain my self-assurance, but sure enough it all came back. I forgot that riding a motorcycle at high speeds through the woods or over piles of slate is a very Zen-like experience, you have to just trust your abilities and know that the bike can do anything, you just have to handle it right… and be in the right gear of course. Yep, I’m happy to report that within an hour your boy MLV was hitting the jumps and hill climbs like no time had past at all. I don’t know if it was muscle memory, the aforementioned Zen thing, or the very real fear of looking uncool in front of my Godson, but it all came back, and I had one of the best times I’ve had in years.

About the only other thing I forgot about was the ever-present jagger bushes (ouch!) but I never laid it down once, and I would ride everyday if I could, but unfortunately I’ve yet to see a slate dump in Oakland. I’m already looking forward to next year…


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