16th February 2007
Jim Peace has made many friends on his motorcycling travels. Meet Nebraska, the bug...
Riding a motorbike in America is no more dangerous than anywhere else, but there is one hazard that you never see mentioned in any riders manuals. Bugs. I'm not talking about little buzzy things here, like midges or mosquitoes; American bugs are big. They have a wingspan of about two inches with a solid fuselage down the middle and when you ride into one it hurts. Also, they split open and cover you with a sort of yellow goo, which can only be removed with Coca-Cola. Honestly.
They are, not to put too fine a point on it, best avoided.
I found out about bugs at a gas station in West Virginia, when I was riding from the east coast to California. A very shiny Harley-Davidson was parked on the forecourt, along with its owner, who was quite clearly a banker. Well, he may not have been a banker but he certainly looked like one in his chaps with leather tassels on them.
'Keep your visor down,' he said, 'there's a lot of bugs around today.'
It was good advice. Fifty miles later one flew into my shoulder with a loud smack. For a minute I thought I'd been shot, this being hillbilly country, but on pulling up I realised that my blood was normally red, not yellow. Then I started to worry because my dad had caught jaundice in America in 1938, and I wondered if I'd got it. Fortunately I spotted the remains of a large insect and spent ages cleaning the muck off my jacket. I hadn't been told about Coke at this point. I was careful to avoid the bugs after that, but even so one hit my visor as I rode into Cincinnati. I couldn't see a thing and just managed to pull up at the side of the road. A young lad in a pick-up truck behind me had seen what had happened and stopped to offer me a bottle of Coke to clean it up with. Well, half a bottle as he'd drunk some, but it was a nice gesture.
This was true, I'd been there once before, and it was pretty awful. We went, anyway, and it was just as bad as I'd remembered. A flagpole, a four seater 'church' built on a trailer chassis and a derelict motel.
'Do you realise that you're the most central bug in America?' I asked him.
He did not bother to reply.
Crossing the Mississippi at St Louis just wasn't funny. Several roads converge onto one bridge with exits and entrance slips on all sides and busy, rush hour traffic. We survived, just.
'That was not nice', I observed as we turned off onto the comparative calm of Route 40 East.
'Bloody well wasn't', agreed Nebraska, fluttering agitatedly.
That night we stopped at a motel in Maryland. The next day I would have to leave the bike at Baltimore docks, to be shipped home. They would not want a dead bug on the mirror. I scraped what was left of my friend off the arm and placed him in an empty 'Hostess' fruit pie wrapper. He lies buried at the end of the motel car park. I won't divulge exactly where; I don't want him disturbed.
Two weeks later I rode the bike home from Southampton docks. Even now, several motorbikes on, I still glance occasionally at my left hand mirror stem to see if he's there. Sometimes I really miss having him to talk to.
Rest in peace, Nebraska.
Anyone think of any better bike related insects?
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