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Free Range: Bravado

By Felicia Morgan

“So, how do you like that thing? Awful big, isn’t it?” the tall gal in pink leather asks. I smile and tell her I love the Beast as I sort out my groceries to carefully load the saddlebags.

“I’ve never really been a Harley girl, myself. Especially not a bagger,” she offers in a disgusted tone. “I have a 2016 Z1000. It’s pretty quick… easy to handle.” She shifts her weight and flicks her hair out of her face as if she’s squaring off for battle. I shrug.

“I don’t really know much about Jap bikes,” I admit. “That’s a Kawasaki, right?” She rolls her eyes and smooths at her jacket as she looks away, gives a deep sigh and a “Yeah” as if she’s bored.

“I think those bikes are quite a bit higher at the seat than mine. I’d never be able to touch the ground comfortably on one of those. How many inches is yours?” She admits she doesn’t know the exact number but says she has no trouble with the height as she points at her very high platform heels. I shake my head.

“Wow, you ride in those? I’m pretty sure I’d break an ankle in those boots. Hell, even forward controls would be a hassle. Can’t imagine doing a hundred miles, let alone an all-day ride with heels like that. But you have pegs, right? Not footboards like me? I guess that would work but man, I think those shoes would really be hard to deal with. That’s gotta be a talent all its own. How do you do it?”

“It’s fine; they’re comfortable,” she assures me. “I don’t really do long rides. Just day cruising. I love riding up to Yarnell; it takes the curves great. Have you ever been up there? It’s a fantastic ride, but a lot of people just can’t handle the corners up there. You have to know your shit.” I nod slowly and resist the urge to challenge her on routes. I bite my tongue instead of talking about the Dragon’s Tail, Bear Tooth, Italy’s Passo dello Stelvio or several other much more exciting rides. Instead I try to find a common ground, so I go back to chatting about her bike. I ask how much her machine weighs, a question that gets a frown. I explain that I think her bike is about half the weight of mine, but I’m not sure. She shrugs and admits it’s really her boyfriend’s bike, so she doesn’t know all those kinds of details. She just knows that she loves riding and she’s really sure the Z is faster than my heavy, sluggish old Harley… a statement that sticks in my craw immediately.

“I got the Z up to 100 mph once,” she brags. “Baggers aren’t really meant for that kind of speed though, are they? They’re really just bar hoppers, right?” With that, I’d had enough. I stop packing and turn to face her. Taking a deep breath, I look around the parking lot and ask where she’s parked. “Oh, I’m not on the bike right now. It’s at my boyfriend’s. Why?” I suggest that maybe she’d like to find out how fast my sluggish ol’ bagger really is. Her face goes blank. I admit that she might be able to beat me off the line, but I point out that I’m pretty sure she’d be impressed with the Beast’s long legs when I leave her eating my dust. She sputters and puts her hand up. “Uh… Wait… You actually want to race?” she asks in an incredulous tone. “Like, seriously?” she scoffs and flicks her hair again. “What are you, like 70 years old? Like, really?” I latch the saddlebags.

“Yep; I might be old, sugar, but my bike isn’t. And didn’t you get the memo? Old age and treachery beats youth and exuberance every time. I’m willing to bet I’ll blow the letters right off your boyfriend’s Z1000,” I sit side saddle on the Beast and cross my arms. “Go home and get it if ya wanna find out. I’ll wait.” She throws her head back and laughs as she waves and walks away. I didn’t move. As a matter of fact, I sat right there trying to figure out what had just happened. I’m not competitive by nature, but here I was issuing a throwdown to a 20-something-year-old spoiled brat over the agility of a bike that wasn’t even hers. WTH? Once I’d collected myself, I felt ashamed. I gave the Beast a pat on his big ol’ bagger butt and promised I’d try not to get him mixed up in any of that kind of crap again. I was quite certain he’d have left the kid in our wake, but was grateful I didn’t have to prove his might. Her assumption that grey hair meant diminished skills was something I was anxious to refute, but abusing my beloved Beast wasn’t the way to prove that out. I was glad she turned out to be the wiser of the two of us by walking away, but I still hung out a while in case she ended up being just as ornery as me and came back. Later I looked up the Z1000s. Those suckers can get up to 150 mph. No wonder she laughed. I still think I’d have won, though. I’ve got treachery on my side, after all.

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