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The Ride of My Life: Or Why My Son is Now Taller Than I Am

Phil's Bike, Whose Portuese Name is Loosely Translated  as "Instrument of Adrenalin"

Phil’s Bike, Whose Portuguese Name is Loosely Translated as “Instrument of Adrenalin”

Today I had what can only be called “The Ride of My Life.”

It started out with us leaving Paraquequara to head into town to begin the work on the phone system. We took the boat to the MAF site and then walked through the hangar to Phil’s motorcycle. While not painted on the chassis itself, I was soon to learn that this bike’s name is “Instrumento de Adrenalina.”

The bike itself looked innocent enough (see photo). It has a box mounted on the back for carrying items into and out of town easily. Phil put his backpack in there, and I put my water bottle and camera bag in it. There wasn’t room for my backpack, and Phil suggested I placed the backpack on my front rather than my back due to the box being behind me. More on this arrangement later.

Phil cranked up, pulled the bike around, and I did what I rarely ever get to do back home — hop on the rider’s seat of a motorcycle. I suspected it would be vastly different from being the driver. But I didn’t know how much of a treat I was in for until he hit the throttle and my head jerked backwards, and I felt my legs slowly being pulled back from the feet pegs as if by a strong hand.

Wow! This was already different!

We shot down the first road, a dirt road, following the contour of the earth more than any type of traffic ordinance. Left side, right side, middle — whatever was the best path for the bike.

Roads in Brazil are a study in incongruity. One section will have chunks of pavement torn up and lying in the road. The next section will be smooth. The following section will have pedestrians. And dogs.

I was worried about the dogs at first. But I reckon that Phil must have attained a bit of a reputation with the local kennel club, since most of the dogs’ ears perked up at the sound of the bike from over a hundred yards away. Then they would slink off into the houses or run into the bushes with their tails between their legs.

If I had understood the significance of this at the beginning, I would have realized that I was not so much taking a motorcycle trip as I was being an unwitting participant in the vehicular remake of Bruce Lee’s classic film, “Game of Death.”

It would probably help you to understand things if I told you that for most of the trip, we passed every vehicle ahead of us on the road. We were only passed by one car for the majority of the trip, and I’m sure that car was being driven either by Mario Andretti — or the person who taught Phil to drive.

Within five minutes, any passerby would have sworn that I had to be the happiest rider on the road that day. Such a large grin was spread across my face. On closer examination, they would have seen the wide eyes of terror and the stretched veins in my neck.

Within ten minutes, sweat was pouring from every orifice in my body. Even my pants were soaked. At least, I hoped that was sweat.

Not to say that the trip was a complete fright. I learned quite a bit. For instance, going through some of the potholes, I was able to study at least seven strata of the earth’s crust at close proximity.

I also learned a game called “puntalado” that Brazilian drivers play. It’s where a motorcycle passenger riding next to the driver of a car tries to shake hands with a passenger in the car next to the driver. At least, I think they were trying to shake my hand. I can’t figure out why Brazilians only shake hands with one finger.

There was another neat game called “para tois” which involves a motorcycle passenger reaching over the driver’s shoulder and writing phrases or drawing animals on the rear windscreen of the car immediately in front of the motorcycle. I got quite good at that and managed to draw a ducky and Michelangelo’s “Stoning of Stephen” on one Peugeot. Alas, I only managed to get half my name on it before we got a break in traffic and passed it.

It’s amazing how a little thing like a road trip will affect your view of things. I began to look at my backpack I was holding to my chest less and less as a tool for carrying computer equipment and began to see it more and more as a rudimentary airbag. Random thoughts ran through my mind such as “How much shock WILL 6 pieces of electronic gear each absorb in order to dissipate the impact from my body?”

Then we came to the roundabout. Except, in Brazil, it’s not called a roundabout. The locals call it “Amor de Suicídio” which, in the common tongue means “love of suicide.” Ha! Ha! Ha! Ask me why I laugh. I laugh because I have stared death in the face twice, slapped it and threaded traffic tighter than a camel going through the eye of a needle. Yes, -I- have been on a Brazilian roundabout!

There was one part of the trip I still don’t fully understand. It seemed that a pickup truck driver wanted to use my seat on the motorcycle. Being a visitor, I obliged by climbing off the bike into the bed of the pickup from the left side, took two steps to the right and found myself back on the bike again. If I figure it out, I’ll let you know what that means.

Oh, and I also learned that motorcycles actually have a passenger’s throttle. I suppose I use that word accurately. In order to steady myself, I would place my fingers tightly around Phil’s throat for balance. Invariably the bike would slow down and Phil would shout some Brazilian motorcycle term which sounded like “Oxigênio! Oxigênio!” When the bike slowed down and I got my balance again, I would release the throttle, and the process would start all over again.

Oh, and I can’t forget the bumps. They’re the reason for the blog title. After doing a bit of research on the Internet, I’ve discovered that what Brazilians call “bumps,” the rest of the world calls bollards, tire shredders, and crash beams. It was in Brazil two years ago that I saw the rear end of a metro bus hit a “bump” and lift 4-6 feet of the pavement. I wondered at the time what kind of damage that would do to a person’s spine riding in the back of the bus. Today, wonder turned to the tree of knowledge for me.

The bumpy parts of the road, and there were many, are best likened to watching a a cowboy trying to ride the meanest bull ever bred while simultaneously being swatted by a troll with a cricket bat.

My lumbar spine became intimately acquainted with my cervical spine while totally ignoring the thoracic spine. I believe the 4th through 8th vertebrae were permanently fused today. All I know is that after a series of spinal compressions, I am now 5′ 6″ tall, which will make my son infinitely happy since that means he will be several inches taller than I am now.

And that brings us to our arrival at our destination in town. Phil likes to test his brakes fully when he reaches the end of the journey, but seeing that we were going slow enough for me to disembark without loss of serious limbs, the fact that I was flying through the air kind of counted as a bonus at that point. Midway through the air, I flung off my helmet in order to passionately kiss “terra firma.” Unfortunately, my improvised airbag did little to sustain my impact and served more as a fulcrum to slam my pursed lips straight into a neat little present left by one of the local dogs. Well, if it was a dog, it must have been the size of a small pony. Yet, my friends, I can tell you that animal dung never tasted so good as today when I realized that our journey had ended.

Do you know what the best part is?

We get to do it all over again Thursday when we leave town!

ps – Due to the excitement, I may have inadvertently embellished a few of the details of the trip. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out which ones.

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5 Responses to "The Ride of My Life: Or Why My Son is Now Taller Than I Am"

  1. Jim Golden says:

    Love it!! I will make an appointment for your chiropractor when you return. I hear he has installed a medieval rack for this purpose. Stay safe and God Bless!!

  2. Mikey G says:

    Sounds fun – takes me back to days gone by on public transport in Kenya =)~

  3. John & Naomi says:

    Tell Phil to let you drive! You are hilarious!

  4. Hannah says:

    This is hilarious!

  5. Mark P says:

    You spin a great yarn, Craig. Loved it!


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