Published on March 20th, 2015 | by Boris
Have you ever felt more alive than shortly after you’ve almost died? When every fibre of your love-handled being crackles and thrums with affirmed life, and all the world’s colours are suddenly brighter?
Fluffy endogenous opioids capering through your brain are to blame. Coupled with greasy gobs of dopamine, blades of oxytocine and a myriad of high-stepping endorphins, this brain-chemical Thrill Jelly is the greatest natural high a motorcyclist can experience.
And it’s all triggered right after you’ve stared death in the face. And I don’t mean one of them “Oops, that was close!” moments.
Amusing yourself is in peak hour traffic with near misses is only good for a short squirt of Thrill Jelly. For a steaming hot adult serving (when the excess leaks from your nethers), you’ve got to come much closer to The End for much longer.
On a personal level, I’ve never had a longer or closer look at my last card than when a box trailer came sailing down the freeway at me one frosty winter morning while I was on my way to work.
For a nanosecond after the red-painted, double-axled dray of doom parted company with its car, it’s newfound freedom just didn’t register with me. By the time it did, the trailer was 300 metres closer than it was when I was busy wondering how come it was no longer attached to the car.
These things happen rather quickly, you know, and they just get faster. In a shower of sparks, swerves and disintegrating welds, I watched in horror as the trailer danced and cartwheeled and lurched across the entire width of the freeway before me. Where was I to go? How could I second-guess the movements of a trailer traveling backwards at 140km/h?
Thankfully (in retrospect), it then became airborne, which is why I didn’t hit it. I don’t know how much it missed me by cos I had closed my eyes and kissed my arse goodbye the instant I’d deemed impact was certain. The last I saw of it, it was at an altitude of one meter and rising.
I had to sit quietly on the side of road for about half-an-hour after that. Alone. And so burning with life you could have lit sparklers off me.
Which is why I could relate to what happened some years later to a bloke I once knew called Gabe – who also had to sit quietly on the side of the road after getting a long, bleak look at his burial plot.
The destination was Oberon. The purpose was the shooting of animals. I was astride my shamefully loud purple Shovelhead and Gabe was piloting his accursed Triumph. Because his Triumph was truly accursed, he was unable to strap anything to it other than a shotgun to the handlebars. Everything else he needed had to be carried in a cheap, frameless nylon rucksack the size of walrus. Inside the rucksack was 150 rounds of 12-gauge SG ammo, a sleeping bag, a bottle of bourbon, 20kgs of tools and most of the internals of a 650 Triumph engine as spares. Gabe weighed 90kgs. The rucksack weighed 63kg. Which was kind of okay when the bag was looped around his shoulders and resting on the back guard. But only kind of.
The sheep standing on the side of the road would have tipped the scales at about 80kg. It was leaning in terror against one of them old roadside fences made out of wooden posts and wire mesh. And it was in terror because 98-cubes of straight-through-fishtailed Shovelhead was coming at it.
If you don’t know, fishtail exhausts make a truly unique racket – much sharper and nastier than most people and sheep can deal with.
This one didn’t and ran straight along the fence line towards me, so I swerved in case it bolted onto the road. Which it did, but only after I’d gone past it. So then it ran at Gabe’s Triumph. Fate decreed that that was the time for one of the rucksack’s straps to break. Just as Gabe was seeing feral sheep, grabbing brakes and finding gears, the rucksack came off the rear guard and swung into the side of the Triumph, still attached by one strap to Gabe’s shoulder. This cause him to veer off the road and careen along the verge, scraping the road-side fence at about 60km/h.
He still hit the sheep, but it was only a glancing blow, And it was only a glancing blow because the nylon rucksack, resting as it was against the motor, melted and spat out its contents. The laws of physics continued to apply, and Gabe (now screeching like a seagull) managed to swerve the suddenly 63kg-lighter bike back into the road by using the sheep as a pinball bumper.
The silence was all-encompassing, as I walked back down to where he was sitting astride his Triumph with the tattered wreckage of his now empty rucksack dangling forlornly off his shoulder.
The smile on his face was to behold. I thought his head was gonna split in half.
Thrill Jelly. The stuff of life.