A Perfect Birthday Present (Ninja 650r) ...

Up and about at an earlier hour than is usual in our house.  All in preparation for my wife to drive me to the bus terminal.  My wife driving is unusual enough, even with me in the truck as copilot.  Today, however, she would be returning home without me.  That is something new.  Driving entirely alone was too much for her, so she brought her aunt to keep her company on the drive home.

Cloaked in riding gear, excitement and anticipation, I settled into my solitary seat by the window.  This after all, was the 24-seat green bus that runs between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, with two seats on the left side of the bus and one seat on the right.  The green bus has seen better days but is far roomier than the alternatives.  Earbuds soothed my soul with melodious tunes that seemed to magically emanate from deep in the center of my hairless head.  My eyes were treated to the wonderful panorama of village life and clear mountain views as my gaze was fixed on every detail of what lay on the other side of my morning, window on the world.

I found this experience unique in many ways.  First I was not driving, so was free to extend my gaze to whatever I wanted, for as long as I wanted.  I can’t recall the last time I took public transportation, so it all registered as oddly new.  Even the tourists were of a new and strange breed.  The couple sitting across the aisle from me was young, well dressed and decked out with iPhone, itinerary, (on Dusit Island Resort stationary), and a massive guide book with Thailand written in oversized letters across the top.

Backpackers, they were not.  It struck me, however, that they were not enjoying the view.  Their noses were buried in books, lists or gadgets.  Since what lay out side the window was not on some list, that needed checking off, it somehow seemed unworthy of a glance.  I found this very strange indeed.  Perhaps in the eyes of family and friends they were adventurers, out exploring the world and reporting back with pictures on Facebook.  To me they were simply missing the point of being in the moment and truly feeling or experiencing something new.

Living in such different worlds, I chose my view over any interaction with them.  Soon enough I was negotiating with a tuk-tuk driver to deliver me to my main destination.  Arriving at the Kawasaki dealer, the formalities of paperwork and the surrender of money, quickly ensued.  A friend of mine had ridden his bike over in the morning for a quick service and was waiting for my arrival in the comfort of his hotel room.

We met up for a purposeful break-in run on the ring roads around the city before returning to the shop for an oil and filter change.  The evening passed uneventfully, in terms of activities, but the company and conversation was stimulating and greatly appreciated.  A 6am start, had us heading home into a beautiful cloud mottled sunrise.  A true Kodak moment.

Eager to do right by my new Ninja 650r, and jonesing for my favorite caffeine fix, we made a couple of stops for cappuccino at conveniently located Amazon Coffee shops.  After one last stop, for breakfast in Chiang Rai, I was finally on my own and heading home.  Not sure how long this ear to ear smile will grace my otherwise uninteresting face but something tells me it is not going away anytime soon.

Oddly enough, I had always fancied myself cut more from the mold of a chopper or cruiser guy.  The Ninja 650 turned out to be more of a sport touring bike and strangely addictive.  Had my friend not insisted that I ride one his bikes, I would have remained blissfully ignorant.  At my age I’m not looking for track time and putting a knee down in the turns.  I do find this bike is uniquely suited to the amazing, twisty roads of Northern Thailand, however.  Quick, light, maneuverable and possessing an upright posture that I find more comfortable than a true sport-bike.  Far more comfortable than my Phantom which my wife had stipulated must be sold before I could get the Ninja.

With a new bike and an evenly matched riding companion, the months ahead can’t help but be filled with backroad adventure.  The goal being to have both me and the bike properly broken in and acclimated by the time the cool winter riding months are upon us.  Here is to enjoying life and keeping the shiny side up.