‘Tis the season of the 5″x7″ personalized state-of-the-union address.
Unless you happen to have a mild Grinch-streak and unlimited-space motoblog, in which case you’re rejoicing at the opportunity to dissect the holiday card phenomenon while you simultaneously indulge in it. (I may be a hypocrite, but at least I’m self-aware and honest).
So here’s the thing. Every December, our mailbox—probably like yours—fills up with cards that look like this:
Perfectly art-directed tableaus of your friends’ perfect families, often with religiously-neutral seasonal messages. Note to Christian friends: it’s okay to send a Christmas card and to call it one, since that’s what nine-tenths of Americans actually celebrate. Nice if you remember to wish “Happy Hanukkah” to your Jewish friends—you have eight chances not to forget, but if you do, no one cares. The Kwanzaa thing seems to have come and passed, but if you celebrate it, I’m happy to wish you a happy one.
The funny thing about these holiday cards is that, in the age of Instagram, they’re like a more permanent status update. But even more considered, since you’re committing to actual ink, creating a sort of suburban family tattoo. You have to decide if you’re going with the hero shot of the kids in their scrubbed, hair-sculpted glory, or making your statement with a montage of smaller family victories—ski vacations, teen tours, the sailboat, the dog.
I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, I really do look forward to receiving these appealingly cheery moments of our friends and their kids. Some of them I see all the time; some I haven’t laid eyes on since a soccer tournament three years ago, and it’s wild to see the kids change (and the parents age). I also really do appreciate the ritual well-wishing and holiday tidings, and the fact that we’re on someone else’s mailing list besides Hammacher-Schlemmer, AT&T, and J.Crew.
But then there’s the neo-Rockwellian staginess of it, and the fact that so many of the cards look like literal outtakes of a J. Crew catalog right down to the cool typography and merry witticisms. Sites like TinyPrints, Shutterfly and Minted have democratized stylishness (and IMHO sapped originality) to the degree that everyone’s family winds up looking beautifully, homogenously generic. Like the Crate-and-Barrelfication of the American family.
We seem to be in the minority in not sending out a holiday card. This is mainly because we’re lazy and discombobulated, but also because getting our teenage kids to cooperate with any kind of photo-taking (other than selfies) is an exercise in frustration and futility. They’re good kids, just bad photo-cooperators. Then again, maybe we ought to try because our card might look refreshingly, awkwardly imperfect.
But that doesn’t mean Mr. Grinch here doesn’t have a two-wheeled family to pose and primp to his heart’s content, and then subject the internet-at-large (ok, maybe a dozen blog visitors?) to a holiday roll-call of this year’s rides.
So since you won’t be getting a card from me, here’s my 2015 Holiday “Year in Rear View.” Oh, and Merry Christmas from my bikes to yours (only the Vespa is Jewish).
After the Mother of All Winters (snow in the Northeast hung around until frigging June), I seized the first thaw-day to unplug the Ténéré from its electronic teat, roll it out of the garage, and take it to the bridge in Cornwall, CT. New England bliss. Brisk, but bliss.
Back to commuter-scooting (or is it scooter-commuting?) When I first fired-up the Vespa after winter hibernation, I noticed tufts of hay and what looked like horse-hair poking out from the side of the front cowling; I think the scoot was home to a few shivering mice for the winter. I understand, fellas—it was a rough one.
Initiated a new tradition to break up the commuting week: summer f#ride#days. On the last day of the work week, I ride my Ténéré to a more distant train station than usual, just for some extra saddle joy. Work feels a lot less like work when you ride to it (even if you have to ride the rails afterwards).
I also squeezed in a Sunday Mass run through the Litchfield hills and into Massachusetts. My version of church on Sunday.
My riding buddy Jonah and I met in Salt Lake for our long-planned Utah BDR ride. We covered 1,300 miles in four days—about half off-road—doing a southern swing from SLC down to Torrey, across Capitol Reef State, up to Price and Heber City, and eventually into Wyoming.
Best part? Riding Skyline Drive in a full-on hail storm.
Worst part? Eating dirt in the slick Utah clay, and doing a number on my ankle. You can read the whole shebang here.
After flying home from our (completed) Utah ride, the only place I rode to was the orthopedic surgeon. If you’re going to play, these are the breaks.
Still, I had to get my late summer moto fix, so I drove to the 30th annual Brit Jam 2015, gimping around a sea of vintage bikes in lovely Haddam’s Neck. You can see the bikes (and read my drool) here: British Jam and German Toasters.
After the Brit Jam show, I was bitten by the vintage bug hard. Somehow, the gods smiled and the Craigslist planets aligned, and I found myself the new owner of a not-so-new ’74 BMW airhead, after lusting for one for years. Here’s the skinny on my R75/6.
Fall meant less riding & more tinkering while the ankle healed. Used the time to get acquainted with the airhead; I did some clean-up work on my own, but sent her off to MAX BMW in Brookfield, CT for some new tires, carb work, and professional TLC. Also commissioned a guy on Etsy to make a replacement tool roll for the bike, and it came out sweet.
Thanks to global warming (or el Niño or la Niña or whatever the hell it is), the New England weather remained freakishly warm through Thanksgiving. Which made rides like this to Roxbury possible. I know, it’s only global warming. But I like it, I like it, yes I do.
Even went to the beach a few times this fall. Not quite warm enough to get your toes sandy, but still.
I went for a 160-mile exploratory loop up through western Connecticut (lunched in Kent), where the daytime high hit seventy degrees. In New England. In December. Bad for polar ice caps and Vermont ski resorts. Good for kooks like me (and apparently fly-fishermen, too).
Also celebrated Hanukkah with the help of my trusty Vespa menorah. Always fires up on the first try.
NEW YEAR’S EVE DAY
On the last day of 2015, I road tripped up to Wethersfield, CT to make my airhead an honest woman (she’s been un-plated until now). The DMV’s website indicated that to register any vehicle more than 20 years old in CT required an inspection at the main DMV office. So I rented one of these things for $14.95, and up to the altar we went.
Turns out no one asked to see the bike or inspect anything. I didn’t care because it was our special day. Here’s our marriage license. Does this mean we’ll be honeymooning in Hawaii?
And that’s my 2015 on two wheels. Hope yours was equally ridey. Mahalo for reading, Happy New Year, and here’s to another year of interesting rides…