How can you tell that spring is really, actually, honestly, finally here?
Is it the optimistic sound of the lovely robin finally floating happily in through kitchen windows that haven’t been open for six to eight months?
Is it the beautiful buzz of bumble bees back from wherever they happen to go in the winter? (Mexico? Hawaii? Calgary?)
Or the perpetual popping up of potholes, those inevitable unavoidable winter-ravaged bumps and pits in our streets and roads?
Yes, yes and yes. But perhaps the ultimate real, actual, honest, final sign of spring comes at you with a roar, and goes right on by with a rumble.
That’s right – a city street sweeper.
No, just kidding, although a city street sweeper is certainly yet another sign spring has sprung. I was thinking more along the lines of something that has a heck of a lot more speed and a lot fewer wheels: motorcycles.
Spring arrives, and out come the two-, or now, three-wheeled motor machines.
One day, it’s still mostly winter and there are just one or two hardy biker souls rumbling along carefully, wearing four layers of leather and upside down smiles on their frozen faces.
And the next day, the sun is out, the streets are more or less dry, and suddenly, motorcycles magically appear like beasts emerging from their urban dens – garages, sheds and tarps – after their long and boring winter hibernation.
I half envy those intrepid riders, and half worry about them every spring, because those crotch rockets, hogs, choppers, scooters, mopeds and any other motorized transportation balancing on less than four and more than one wheel are often zooming directly down a fine line between outrageous enjoyment and rampant road rash.
And I’ve had both.
I used to be fully immersed in a certain kind of certified motorcycle mania. Of course, I was 14 years old.
Our family didn’t have a car when I was growing up (or attempting to do so), and we never really went anywhere on vacation, or anywhere else, for that matter.
In fact, when we finally got our first family car – a snazzy used 1958 Ford (bench seats, three on the tree) – I was already basically a snotty-nosed teenager.
So when the planets somehow aligned and the universe smiled directly upon a skinny, undersized junior high school kid suffering from a severe and constant case of hormonal cabin fever (that would be me), and caused Turple Bros. to kindly provide me with a second-hand Honda 50 Sport for an indeterminate fee (indeterminate on account of my dad paid for it), my entire world view was completely and utterly altered.
Not to mention my life in general.
I was suddenly joyously, incomprehensibly, dangerously free. Free to rattle over to a buddy’s place up in Eastview, free to take a girl for a ride over to the only Dairy Queen in town at the bottom of hospital hill.
Free to wipe out in gravel going too fast – and then free to roar home trying not to cry because guys on motorcycles don’t cry, and to ask Mom as nonchalantly as possible if we had any “large bandages, and lots of them.”
All my reprobate buddies and I had bikes, and then bigger bikes, and then cars, and now mall scooters. Kidding (sort of) about that last part, but the point is, I haven’t owned or even much ridden a motorbike since I was a teenager.
But now I seem to have developed spring fever. I wonder what 500 bucks can get me on Kijiji.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.