Thursday, July 8, 2010
A Superhero Cycle Roars Into My Driveway
All the neighbors will be rolling their eyes and wondering about me. (At least I hope so.) A motorcycle out of a superhero comic book roared into my driveway, just in time for tea.
Writer Steve Thompson was at the helm of the 2010 Can-Am Spyder RT-S, racing around Northern California in his quest to put 10,000 miles on the new and curious-looking machine in one year. And though he is using it as an excuse to visit friends and colleagues on his rides, he's actually going to be writing about the bike in upcoming articles for Cycle World where he has long been a writer and editor.
Steve Thompson getting suited up for the Spyder.
When I first met Steve and his wife Lanny, they had just moved to a home near mine in Bethesda, Maryland. Steve had been hired to serve as AOPA's vice president of publications and to be the new executive editor of AOPA Pilot magazine. At about this same time, Steve had sold his first novel about the Air Force spy/race car driver Maxwell Taylor Moss (Recovery ,1980) and he was driving a brand new, butter yellow Jaguar sedan (the 1980s version, in which the interior smelled like your favorite deerskin gloves) bearing the license plates MAX MOSS.
The bespectacled Steve managed to look very cool in spite of himself.
Though Steve is an historian by education he has long made his living as a writer and editor at most of the top magazines that cover the world of the internal combustion engine, including Cycle World, as I've mentioned, along with Cycle Guide, AutoWeek, Road Test, Car and Driver, Air and Space, AOPA Pilot, and Range.
Lanny Thompson took this picture of Steve and the Spyder in Northern California with Mt. Shasta in the background.
In 2004 his life changed dramatically. He was riding his Triumph Tiger on a rainy night in Annapolis and was in a terrible accident. Though his helmet saved his life, he was in a coma for a long time. He recovered with much hard work on his part, the love and help of his wife Lanny and their family, and the prayers of his large network of friends. He still has pain, and one of his legs doesn't work as it should, but you would have to know him well to know that. He has gone forward with an even sunnier outlook than he had before the crash. He continues to live a life of adventure and to travel life's highways as he always did: with intellectual curiosity, a talent for finding interesting things to do, and at a very good clip. More than most of us, he has been reminded that we only go around once.
Now about this thing he drove to my house. It is a $26,000 machine built by Bombardier Recreational Products, a company that builds snowmobiles and jet-ski-like thingees with the unfortunate names of Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo, which, in spite of their monikers, are very popular. The Spyder is so quirky-looking that Steve says, every time he stops to park the bike, he has to spend at least ten minutes answering questions from onlookers. I don't know anything about motorcycles--except to occasionally ride along on the back of one in some of my weaker moments and that is a story for another day--but I have never seen a three-wheeler that looks like this one. From some angles it looks like a two-wheeler. From the front, it looks like something imagined by Marvel Comics. Or, more to the point, something out of the original film version of The Fly with Vincent Price (1958). ("Help me! Help me!)
It is so much the size of a small sports car that I asked Steve: why not just drive a small sports car?
That one made him look at me as if I needed to have my head examined. Since he knows a great deal more about head examinations than I, not to mention vehicles powered by engines, I decided I better stop asking him girl-type questions and wait instead for his articles in Cycle World.
So thanks, Steve, for making me look truly glamorous with the neighbors. With things that go vroooooom, you are the essence of coolness and you've earned that title the hard way.
And I must confess: that is one very mean machine. Even if it is Canadian.
CLICK FOR MORE ON THE CAN-AM SPYDER