Our Tools by Jack Applebaum
I carry a knife. Few bikers would be surprised to know that. Most of us carry one – not for insidious purposes – but because it is a very useful tool. Knowing how to use it safely and keep it sharp and clean is, for some of us, a matter of pride. As it turns out, a dull knife is a dangerous knife because the amount of force required to make it work can be unpredictable. Sudden, unexpected movement with a dull blade can get you cut.
I am fortunate to know how to use tools. My life experience tells me that I likely got that ability from my mother of Scottish descent (a Campbell). I’m not a craftsman by any means, but I can fix basic things and keep a household intact. I have also had the privilege of working with US Navy Seabees (I was not one) who deserve much credit for awaking in me this particular ability.
I’ve found that the biker culture tends to have a much greater percentage of tool savvy individuals either out of need, interest, or profession. I admire a well-ordered tool kit that isn’t too big but has all that someone needs on the road and to get home. The epitome of the small, efficient, and useful tool seems to be the multi-tool, be it a Leatherman, a Gerber, or one of the other offerings with a smaller market share. Some of us old-school types stick with a Swiss Army Knife on our side and a Leatherman in the bag when riding. I do have a variety of knives to match the occasion be it a long ride or the slightly more formal look at an end-of-year event. I’m not a knife collector. I’m more of a knife “accumulator” lacking the discipline and foresight to stay with a particular brand or style (although I do favor CRKT).
As I alluded to above, it isn’t just having the tool on you that matters but also knowing how to use it. God’s Word is described as having multiple uses stating “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version). Additionally, the Bible is compared to a blade when it states “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 New International Version)”
My tool kit includes a small Bible given the great potential it has to help fix life’s problems. Consider carrying one and learning to use it. With an eternal perspective, it can become THE tool to point you to Christ and to help you get home.
My motorcycle has always been a solitary refuge from everything wrong with this world.
And given that that list has never been exactly been short, that refuge has been sought frequently, and repeated often.
Everything that might have been wrong with the world, though, simply fades into insignificance when compared with the past several weeks.
Since The Disease came, though, almost everything has changed.
We’ve all been forced from any kind of public life – work, food, shopping – now all needs to be done from at least six feet away from any other human being. The economic shocks created by a society that now can only function over videoconference has already caused a waterfall of business failures, layoffs, and retirement savings accounts that look like the smoking aftermath of The Battle of The Somme.
That ten days could change absolutely everything is something that the human mind probably has a healthy reason for being unable to imagine. Such imaginings would leave one anxious, paralyzed, unable to move forward.
And yet here we are, anyway.
I’m blessed in that my day gig in Technology has always allowed me to work from home when I chose to. There’s a pretty substantial emotional difference between choosing to stay home, though, and being unable, forbidden to leave.
And though there’s probably no externally observable difference between two, after about four days or so, I was certifiably bats in the attic dog barking nuts.
I, personally, have problems with rules. More specifically, rules that aren’t well supported by objective facts.
I wasn’t supposed to leave my home without reason. I wasn’t supposed to be inside poorly ventilated spaces. I wasn’t supposed to share any transportation methods with other people. I wasn’t supposed to be within six feet of other people. I was supposed to be protected with a mask, gloves and suit.
A ride was definitely a reason. I’d be outside and on my bike by myself. Shoei full face with sealed visor, elkskin gauntlets, and Roadcrafter.
Check, check and check.
I went into my desk drawer and got the bike keys.
Given that this had the potential to be The Bike Ride at The End of The World, I wanted, no, I required a completely engaging, fully immersive experience.
You know. If this was going to be your last roll, you’d better make it a good one.
So if it needed to be vivid, there was no choice but my R90S. I needed to feel each combustion stroke of that old school boxer – I needed to bathe in each movement of the wheels on the pavement – to revel in each corner exit with the front tire clawing to climb into empty air.
Before even getting up to town it was already clear that I’d be on my own. The Jefferson Pike, which at this time in the afternoon would normally be awash with folks headed to the market, ferrying kids, or headed home from work, was basically empty. Heading out Horine Road towards the Potomac did nothing to break the spooky, solitary mood.
I’ll admit that my childhood was filled with Post-Apocalyptic films about Guys That Through No Fault Of Their Own Found Themselves All Alone On The Earth. I saw all of those movies. They were all spooky.
US 15 South headed towards Virginia on a weekday afternoon and having it only contain a 45-year old motorcycle and me was in another universe of spooky.
Those were movies. This was real. If the world hadn’t exactly ended this sure looked a lot like it.
After crossing the Potomac into Loudoun County, I made the immediate right into Lovettsville Road – one of my favorite Snake Dances of a road – the follows the river West towards Brunswick. After slicing through the first three fast corners, I hit the first straight where I normally roll on serious throttle.
But what I saw made me roll off and sit up.
I suppose the rear view of an F-18 looks a lot like this – a bright white triangle making up the tail steering surfaces of the aircraft. This one, though, was just that bright, but made of feathers.
Living in Central Maryland has many blessings – our healthy population of Bald Eagles is just one of them. They are plentiful – I’ve seen lots of them.
Normally though, the Baldies keep a pretty healthy and wary distance from roads and other places where humans and their noisy machinery might be found. They can be found in the treetops away from the roadway or wading down the streams visible from the bridges.
What the Bald Eagles normally don’t do was what this one was doing. This eagle was cruising at an altitude of about 15 to 20 feet, and quite visibly following the double yellow line down the center of the road. We were coming to the end of the short chute – and both of us were setting our entry to lean into the next corner.
Brother Eagle, in short, was doing exactly what I was doing.
Since the humans seemed to have disappeared and ceded the territory, the Eagle was enjoying his new roads.
I did my best to lie back and enjoy the show. After two more nicely executed cornering lines, the Eagle finally noticed I was behind him, and peeled off right down the slope towards the river.
Clearly, if mankind were to simply disappear, the rest of our world and its environment would be just fine – we likely not be missed a bit.
The jury is still out on us, though.
Hope I get to see how it comes out. I hope you all do too.
Rubber side down.