Where’s My Pointed Purple Hat?

Hunker in the bunker, or take the road less traveled? The choice is clear.

Kevin Cameron has been writing about motorcycles for nearly 50 years, first for Cycle magazine and, since 1992, for Cycle World.Robert Martin

Do you eat the same dinner every night? Listen to the same song every day? Even that paragon of uniformity, the United States Marine Corps, provides 24 different MRE menus to their troops, including such varieties as Pepperoni Pizza Slice, Shredded BBQ Beef, and the dreaded Cheese Tortellini. To do otherwise would surely inspire rebellion.

Yet recently, when I dared remove my pointed purple Mr. Wizard hat and write about something less technical than deflagration of monodisperse sprays, a reader took me to task. It may be difficult for some to accept, but from time to time I grow enthusiastic about something other than carbide segregation in the intergranular zone.

The tingle of not being sure exactly how to handle such things, and the uncertainty as to the result was exciting.

Back when David Edwards was Cycle World’s editor in chief, he assigned me some story ideas that involved aesthetics, and which were centered on his particular interests: custom bikes and their builders. Even though I have neither tattoos nor fingerless gloves, I was pleased. The tingle of not being sure exactly how to handle such things, and the uncertainty as to the result was exciting, much as riding an unfamiliar motorcycle is. Even longer ago, Cycle’s Cook Neilson assigned me to write about an up-and-coming roadracer, Mike Baldwin. The result was “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright.” I felt pride in that one because, again, it was off my well-trodden path, and it received favorable comments. Same with the story Kenny Roberts gifted me with in 1980 because a chance question got him talking in a fascinating direction.

Mike Baldwin on the way to a win at Loudon in 1982.Cycle World Archives

Stories that write themselves as that one did, are the best. Kenny, up in the Goodyear truck all morning, mentally grinding through Match Race practice frame-by-frame, and coming out to equal the lap record in next practice. Take a chance and see what happens; the road less traveled, whether writing or riding, often holds grand rewards.

I should think that motorcyclists in particular should understand that. As a group, they value variety and nonconformity. I find it weak-minded to just hunker down in one’s groove and stay there, cozy and secure. I don’t intend to travel down that particular road just yet.