Something I read this morning and thought I would share. By Christopher Cullen I could feel the rumble of my motorcycle below me, its two wheels connecting me to the ground. I could hear the wind buffeting my helmet. My senses seemed sharper, more aware, more... alive. I felt content with the exception of one thing: A question that a stranger had asked me when I last stopped for coffee. A simple question really. "Why?" "Why do it? Why take the risk?" At the time, I had responded with my usual spiel. "MSF, full gear, defensive riding, blah, blah..." The truth is, motorcycling is a risk. Yes, one can minimize that risk, but it IS a risk. And one that shouldn't be taken lightly. So I asked the question aloud to myself as I rode. It echoed in my helmet. It echoed in my mind. Why? Why do you do it? You have a wife and two children, you have friends... why take the risk? My mind was blank for a moment. Without my defensive spiel, I was at a loss. But only for a moment. And then the reasons came flooding in. Many reasons. I only needed one. When I was 10, my mom met a man named Jesse (who was later to become my step-father). Having been without a father since I was a baby, I was uncomfortable around him, but liked him because he treated me like a young man. I was a small, awkward kid, and picked on at school quite a bit. He helped me forget some of that. Jesse and my mom had a date planned on a Saturday afternoon, and he asked if I'd like to come. I of course answered yes, and the three of us piled into his old, beaten-up truck and headed out. We drove in silence for about 30 minutes and then pulled into an open dirt field near the edge of town. I jumped out of the truck and noticed that Jesse was pulling the tarp off of a small mini-bike in the back of his truck. He exchanged a smile with my mom that told me this was a planned event. He pulled the bike from the truck and rolled it toward me. It was red. Without exchanging a word, I sat down on it. He asked me if I'd ever ridden before. I told him "no," thinking that by saying that I might lose my chance to ride. He just smiled and pulled a helmet from his truck. He handed it to me and said, "Well, then you'd better wear this." I put the helmet on, and Jesse told me to steady the bike while he pulled the starter. It started on the first pull. The engine probably sounded like a small lawn mower, but to me, it sounded like magic, it sounded like a jet engine from a spy movie. Jesse gave me some instructions, looked me in the eye and asked if I was ready. My grin must have said yes. Jesse stood behind me with his hand on my shoulders. I slowly twisted the throttle and felt the bike start to move forward. Jesse ran behind me for about ten yards (until I got the nerve to put my feet on the pegs), then he let go. Freedom is a word that has been used to death. It has been co-opted by corporations and politicians. We see it on t-shirts, underwear and tattoos. But the word... the feeling... of freedom, is REAL. And something that many people don't ever get a chance to understand. That day, in a dirt field on the edge of town, I felt freedom. Freedom from the bullies at school, freedom from loss, freedom from self-pity, and self-doubt. When I twisted that throttle... I was free. I was ME. And I suddenly understood the word in a much bigger way. In a context that allows me, even to this day, to fully appreciate what I have in this life. And 30 years later, on a section of open highway this is what I answered: "Because it is a part of me. That is why I ride." As the words echoed in my helmet, I twisted the throttle... and for that moment, I was free.