Science tells us that smell is the most evocative of our senses, intimately tied to memory, probably going back to our most primitive state when recalling where food was found before was important for survival of the species. This piece from Motorcyclist magazine brought into mind many memories tied to a particular smell from my youth.
The aroma often takes me back to arriving at an Observed Trials meet in the 1970’s. We slowly drive the van, with my trials bike in the back next to the bed, over a bumpy field at the edge of the woods. We start recognizing people by their bikes or their parked trucks/vans. We can’t yet hear the bikes from inside the van because we are listening to Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez or Harry Chapin or maybe Jefferson Airplane.
Then I turn the van off and we open the door to the soft burbling sound of 50 or more two-stroke trials bikes swarming like cicadas and there is that smell. The air is filled with it, hanging in a light fog. Soon our clothes and the inside of the van will be permeated with it. It will be a day of competition, wins and losses, but also camaraderie among the families of those involved in this esoteric branch of motorized sport, with children running in the woods, food eaten on tailgates and at the end a long, pleasantly tired drive home with muddy kids snoring in the back of the van.
It was a major part of my life for many years.
I was without a two cycle bike for many years as I transitioned out of trials riding and into street bikes again. (See “Long Term Relationship” earlier on this blog) Then I picked up an Alpina at Vintage Days one year and began riding in the woods again, savoring the aroma of the burned castors as I fell in love all over again with being out in a forest, following a narrow trail through the trees. Grandchildren arrived and I introduced them to the pleasures of riding on a gas tank as I had done with their father many years before. Now they are adults, with such bikes in their garages, building up memories to share with the next generation. Memories that will include that smell.