on the highway and taking tight corners twisting up the mountain, we rode
beside what was becoming a gorge. Valleys and lagoons tantalized the eye,
artwork of geology's hand was fingerprinted in every curve. The smooth hum of
the engine became almost tangible as my four-stroke HONDA climbed up the
mountainside like a snake slithering and weaving. I relegated my helmet to an
out-of-the-way position, the wind flowing through my hair.
As I rode there were two
things on my mind: Doppel's ‘Viking Exploits' and the proper functioning
of my motorcycle. Of more importance was the engine not breaking down, but I
was more fascinated with the Exploit chapter of the handbook. I recalled some
passages. ‘For the Viking-philosopher an exploit is like candy: it's a
piece of knowledge to be unwrapped upon perpetration,' was the line that was
ricocheting in my mind. The deeper I rode deeper into the Hsientun
Mountain Range, the more I remembered.
‘Exploits call forth the
best in the Viking, inviting a chance to see hidden abilities and dormant
gifts. For a Nietzschean Viking, another exploit inches him closer to
the much-coveted notion of objectivity. For the Religious Viking, it is
an opportunity to toy with fate as well as come into contact with God. For the Viking
Scientist, it is an opportunity to test hypotheses and witness the laws of
nature in play.' Each line throughout the chapter simply opened the door and
walked into my head.
the Loner Viking, an exploit is a time of reflection-and-mulling while
laughing-and-doing in a peaceful silence. For the Carpe Diem Viking, the
given adventure is always an once-in-a-lifetime occurrence special for its
uniqueness. For the Bored Viking, it is the ideal slot of experiential
time to explore new colors and regain the magic of novelty.' Ah Doppel, what
have you done?
me say that the handbook is an attempt to define those qualities most desirable
to be admitted as a member of the Viking-Poet's Club, so there are chapters set
aside to outline what it is to be acceptable. It explains the moral code that
best exemplifies that which is held highest to the Viking. It is the moral
ideal, like Nietzsche's übermensch but more adventuresome and poetic,
without the needless politics. It was a document that expressed the morality
best suited for his character to flourish and achieve in this world. Both being
fans of Schopenhauer, I knew it was his own World as Will and Idea.
club motto was "Live your life like a work of art."
Doppel's accumulation of
knowledge and nurturing of ideas had led him to require form of expression. His
seclusion in the mountains was a retreat from a dangerous societal collectivism
that stunted originality and flourishment of the individual. So to ensure the
survival of his own soul he had become a man of solitude in a foreign country
where he didn't speak the language.
hit again and again, moving around my back tires as if they were momentarily
flattening. It was dangerous not because of the movement of the earth and
losing control of your motorcycle, but because of the falling rocks. The
greatest potential for disaster was after an aftershock. On one occasion a rock
whizzed by my ear so close that I could hear it. Still I didn't put on my
helmet, but it was enough for Doppel to signal and pull over just out of reach
of the rockslide.
been working the engines for four hours so we should giv'em a rest."
I said. "My brakes are losing their grip a bit. A few of those corners were
kind of scary." I could feel the red burn on my cheeks from the sun.
relaxed on a rock facing the valley. The roar of nearby water shook the stone
that I sat on. Looking at the handbook, I selected some of the Viking passages
the Old Viking, an exploit is a time to recover lost youth through the
timeless thrill of challenging adventure.'" Shook my head and smiled. "'For the
Artist Viking, it's a bouquet of multi-colored images in symmetry, mise-en-scene
and the angle of light. For the Adventurous Viking, it is an opportunity
to push the envelope, cover new ground and graduate to the next level.' Wait,"
I said, "isn't an ‘Adventurous Viking' a double entendre?"
"It's true. It is." His eyes
opened a little wider for a moment when he looked at me. "I think you're the
only person who has ever read my book." Didn't seem to bother him in the
could say it's sort of growing on me a bit."
mention the Viking exploit?" He raised an eyebrow now keen to disseminate.
"Exploits are the Viking's bread and butter. Both meaning and art are rich when
the Viking undertakes an adventure. A crucial source of personal identity and
self-esteem, exploits provide the means for acting on healthy instincts. They
are actions where he makes his own rules and acts under no overseers other than
God, or Odin in this case. I would say that the freedom of how to execute an
exploit feeds the creative need of the ‘beautiful blonde beast;' his
vehicle to express that which he considers play."
I'm gathering that."
Even for the Morose Viking, an exploit is a time to try to get at the
root of his sadness while pumped up about the playfulness of the adventure. And
for the Student Viking, it's when he can procrastinate and still better
himself in mind and body, and forget about his exams.
"No matter how you slice it,
an exploit is always a chance to improve your situation. It's a blue-chip
positive. Without the playful flourish, the child within the man becomes
dormant; without the lightness of spirit, actions are perpetrated with lead
shoes. The spirit of poetry is demoted to the mechanics of war and cold
execution. Without the exploit outlet the man soon becomes sick in spirit and
unable to smile."
what about our present exploit? How does that fit in?"
everyway I've mentioned. It's a healthy road trip. It is in the art of
perpetrating an exploit that the Viking can realize his full potential." He
took out a smoke. I could hear the engines creak as they cooled down in the
it to page 38," he said. "‘Road-tripping Rules.'" I flipped it to the
list on page 38. I hadn't read the full list but was confident I was aware of
all the equipment needed for such a motorcycle trip.
read like a student to a professor:
never have too much tissue, water, bread or nuts
bring an extra wool sweater
be in the appropriate gear
give passing trucks wide berth
push a bad position
carry extra engine oil on long tours
bring raingear - tops and bottoms
bring extra pairs of socks
wear eye tackle
wear long sleeves and long pants despite the heat
have emergency phone numbers
bring a reserve wad of cash in small bills
have a decent map
bring a Zippo lighter and a candle
keep an eye and ear peeled for au naturale music
wear multiple layers
bring a bulky jacket
bring a journal and reliable writing utensil (pencil)
take the scenic route
feel like you're in a hurry
have a pair of gloves for mountain riding
terrains are desirable except sand
climb when you could be one gear lower
be on the lookout for side roads leading to lagoons
sport a posture that aligns with the form of the bike
responsibility is to be considerate to your motorbike
always carry a compass on your watchstrap
"Question. Eye tackle?"
yeah, eye tackle, kind of like wedding tackle. Eyewear."
"I must admit, there were a
few items on the list I hadn't thought of."
"Words to remember for this
One thing I knew before I
came to Taiwan was how his motorcycling had become a source of great meaning.
It was as if his riding was a composition and he was the composer. I had always
loved riding ever since Doppel and I had motocross bikes as kids. Like life
itself, motorcycling was a thrill that could only be experienced alone.
Doubling someone on a motorcycle trip was cumbersome and took away from the
ride. Alone on the bike one could follow their own way without infringement.
you should have in the handbook is an overview of what you need on a motorcycle
journey to make sure your vehicle doesn't break down."
it doesn't break down. Hmmm. Such as?"
I were to have a list, the primary item of top importance is oil. This is the
oil that lubricates the walls of the two-cylinders that enables the pistons to
work at their most efficient and reduces friction on the cylinder walls that
directly cut down the heat generated by the pistons."
"Well, yes. Overheating is
indeed a potential problem along the peaks and valleys we've traversed across
the mountain range already."
"Also, oil quality is
a factor," I said. "Instead of half-miling it, go to the HONDA dealership and
buy the factory type four-stroke, two-cylinder engine oil that was made for
this specific engine."
"Yes, good point. I see you
have found an exploit that interests you."
"Just as important is the
oil for the gears. Lubricating the transmission from the copious gear shifting
we're doing to negotiate these peaks and dips. Simply put, without sufficient
gear oil riding a motorcycle could turn into a truly painful experience."
"We should add this under ‘Viking
Motorcyclists.' I might have missed that grouping."
"Of other primary importance," I went on, "is having
the front and back brakes tightened. A small wrench is required."
"And we shouldn't forget
oiling the chain."
"No, we shouldn't." I drank
some water and looked across the valley and saw a corner in the road a few
"Also, with constant
turning, especially downhill turns, tires need to be filled up to a firm
pressure. They shouldn't be too low so the tire could actually fold or crease
during the pressure of a turn, or too high that it would pop if it hits a
pothole or bump in the road."
Doppel swung his arms
around, getting the stiffness out of his body. "Go on," he said.
"The clutch should be tight
so as not to strip the gears. Other things of consideration are the tightening
of the steering column, wheel alignment, and effective front mirrors,
functioning lights and blinkers.
"I don't know about you but
my back tire pressure is the one thing I'm aware of most because of the
aftershocks. It feels like it's loose, like riding on bubblegum tires,
especially when I'm taking a corner and the aftershock hits. A loose back tire
could cause the back wheel to shift onto the rim causing a possible tire
blowout. The fact is that I may have a slow leak. It's a pretty old bike. How
old is it by the way?"
"Twelve years old. Seen a
lot of action." Having a possible slow leak made think of the possibility of
becoming stranded on the mountainside with a flat tire and unable to speak the
language. I kept the concern in the back of my head because there's a fine line
between worrying about something that in fact may never occur and being
cognizant of a potential occurrence.
"Well, do you think you have
a slow leak then?" he asked.
"It's a possibility I'd
"Well, riding requires
clarity of the moment and sharpness of perception. And this is hindered by anyone
who worries about unrealized phantoms."
"I see your point,
"These are the demands of
excellence in motorcycling."
"And enjoying the smells and
colors and mountain views."
Self-contained and easy to
maintain, the motorcycle was my instrument to write the verse of my adventure.
It was an entity of freedom without glass windows cutting off my immediate
intimacy with the world. The smells and temperatures intermingled with side
winds that disheveled my hair. I knew from the look in his eye that Doppel too
was in his element on a motorcycle because like his life, the danger was
indivisible from the ride. Doppel had come to regard danger as the ingredient
that enhanced the thrill. Without danger an exploit was flat, like life without
death. He thrived on danger as a reminder of his mortality.