Vroom, vroom and happy birthday to me

News Tribune reader columnist Zac Smith. Photo by
News Tribune reader columnist Zac Smith. Photo by The News Tribune

I want a time machine. Not for the reasons you’re probably thinking, though. I don’t want it so I can jump to a future where the Mariners are in the playoffs again. (OK, maybe a little). I don’t want to use it to steal Pete Carroll’s coaching duties for the last 20 seconds of Super Bowl 49. (OK, maybe I want that a little, too.)

The real reason I want a time machine, and it pains me to write this, is that I recently turned 40. I don’t just mean it pains me mentally or emotionally. I mean it physically hurts to write that. Apparently at 40 you can pull muscles in ways you never knew possible. Like, while falling playing volleyball with your buddies. On the beach. In the sand. The sand.

Try as I may, I couldn’t find a time machine. (Side note: The one listed on Craigslist is a scam. Don’t waste your time.) Realizing I could never go back in time, I decided my only choice was to face this milestone with a positive attitude. I sought out others in my age range – friends, co-workers, trees – for sage advice. Their encouragements were as plentiful as the sands of the sea, and far less painful.

“Don’t worry,” they told me. “You look good for your age.”

“Age is just a number. It doesn’t mean anything,” they assured.

Maybe, but I felt like I needed something more. So I did what any rational, middle-aged man would do: I bought a motorcycle. (Dad, if you’re reading this I meant “bought a pet turtle.” Crazy autocorrect.)

I admit a bit of apprehension as I climbed on for my first ride. After all, I’d always heard riding a motorcycle is illogical, dangerous and senseless.

Illogical? Maybe, but not as illogical as McDonald’s being an official sponsor of the 2016 Olympic Games. (Because when I see a world-class athlete with 8-percent body fat I naturally think of a Big Mac extra-value meal.)

Dangerous? Absolutely. On a motorcycle you’re completely exposed to the world. In fact, your main protection is an outfit comprised of a leather jacket, polyester-blend pants and ankle-high boots. To be fair though, that also describes the 70s, and plenty of people came out of that decade stayin’ alive.

But senseless? That’s where I strongly disagree. In fact, I’ve learned the exact opposite is true. When riding a motorcycle, you’re full of senses. All five, to be exact.

Fire up the L-Twin engine and the exhaust note blares in your ears while the vibration moves through the handlebars, up your arms and out every pore of your body. Your sight is heightened because noticing everything and everyone is crucial to your very survival. Taste? Keep your mouth ajar and you’ll learn the subtle culinary differences between mosquitoes and gnats. (Spoiler alert: They’re both awful.)

Then there are the smells, perhaps the most involved sense of all. Your nose is filled with fragrant lavender growing in the median on Grandview Drive. The scent of apples ripening on trees enters your helmet as you pass Curran Orchard in University Place. You can’t ignore the smell of freshly cut blackberry bushes along Ruston Way, or the salty air of low tide that immediately follows.

Ride a few more miles and be greeted with the aroma of neighborhood BBQs as you cruise through the Hilltop area. My favorite, though, is the overwhelming scent of fir and cedar as you make your way along Point Defiance’s Five-Mile Drive. Riding is a never-ending cycle of olfactory delights, and each takes me back to another time in my life.

It was then I realized why a motorcycle was the best purchase I could’ve made. All of a sudden I didn’t look, nor feel, 40. A permanent smile will do that. Age was just a number, and it wasn’t nearly as important as the number of memories just one ride away.

As I sat at a red light, that smile hidden behind my helmet and one of those memories running through my mind, I heard a voice from the car next to me.

“Nice bike!” yelled the driver.

“It’s not a bike,” I replied. “It’s a time machine!”

Zac Smith is a water quality technician for Lakewood Water District and asks if you ever see a red Ducati with loud exhaust and a scared rider cruising through town, please don’t wave as he may fall over. He is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Email him with comments, suggestions or where you wish a time machine could take you at 76petrolhead@gmail.com