There are many reasons to ride says FTR’s LA correspondent, Reagan Alexander. Most are riddled with foolishness, others prideful, some woefully forgetful, and then there are those reasons to ride that speak to the righteous and the meaningful, where, “abysses alyssum invocat” rings true.
Deep calls to deep
Los Angeles native, Samantha Moore never wanted to ride, her first experience on a motorcycle was adequately terrifying and short-lived, as she, as a young girl, gripped the back of her father as he pressed onto a highway, giving a heavy throttle to his belching cruiser.
“All I remember is my father reaching back and smacking my helmet,” she says, laughing slightly in the way that Sam laughs, mostly with her eyes, a squint that you can hear even from across the room. “Just to get me to get my helmet out of the back of his shoulders, because I was hanging on so tightly.”
Samantha Moore’s father rode for the sheer and unfettered joy of being on two wheels, started as a stripling, gained confidence, quit for a moment, and then embraced it again, that notion of the moment of friction, the rubber meeting the road, one giving up to the other, tangled in an embrace that is a battle fought in moments.
According to familial legend, one day Mr. Moore parked his Triumph Trophy, and said, “There are two types of riders, there are the ones that have fallen, and there are the ones that have yet to.” He then instructed his young daughters, “I have yet to go down, and if I get back on this bike, it is going to happen. I’m done. I am parking my bike.
I had fun, I don’t want to risk it.”
Or in a phrase that fits the motorcycle community a tad better, “You best keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down.”
Sam, and her twin sister, lost their mother first, after a long battle with Cancer. Their father passed shortly after, suddenly, unexpectedly.
In, seemingly, the blink of an eye, it was two young women scrambling to hold onto the notion and memory of the two people that brought them into this world, two young women attempting to define themselves minus half of their family, minus the shiny side up.
Two wheels moves the soul
When someone that you love is taken from you, there is that sense of loss that will haunt you for as long as you draw a breath. You do not overcome sorrow, as it is a wave that can quietly build itself ever higher, pulling memories back to the surface to gather even more of its terrific strength, but you can manage it, bring sorrow along for the journey, make it less terminal, open that same sorrow up to a conversation.
Samantha found her calling towards motorcycles through such sorrow, through such a conversation.
His motorcycle, not his first, but the belching one, sat for years in the shared garage, a relic and a reminder, until one day Sam joined in on a group ride that was precious to the father that she had lost.
Sam’s dad had been gone for only a few months, but at the “Why We Ride To The Quail” gathering, she came to an understanding of his passion, that thing that kept him away for hours, for days, that thing that brought him back wind-dusted and smelling of gasoline, with a creased smile and dust-filled crow’s feet on his face.
“I had to go in his place, to figure out what it was all about” Sam tells FTR. “To see, to check it out, and I gained all of the inspiration at that event, beyond just seeing my dad’s motorcycle in the garage everyday,”
She stood at the podium to give a speech, something profoundly short and sweet, a Proustian clip of her father’s entire life, and from her wooden perch she saw a sea of beseeching, welcoming eyes. Suddenly it was clear to her.
Standing at that podium, Sam saw a group of strangers filled with acceptance and love.
Brevity, and the whiff of petrol, became the soul of wisdom.
“I made a promise to myself,” she says. “I made a promise to them.”
Sam, who had arrived as a passenger, promised to drive the next year as a rider, not to bury her helmet into the shoulders of another, but to stare down the road that was in front of her.
It wasn’t easy, as any rider knows, as bikes can be as fickle as broncos, with the key exception that broncos want to stay upright, and bikes have a tendency to go down more willingly.
Learning the steps
“It was like a dance lesson for me,” Sam admits, and there is the laugh with her eyes that barely escapes her lips, as it is not often that you learn to dance with a partner that comes close to weighing in at five hundred pounds.
It had been only months, but those short days spanned a lifetime. Sam, whose sister learned to ride on a Thruxton, whose father’s great love was a Triumph Trophy, tooled out what she calls a ‘More-than-used-Bonneville”.
“More abused than used,” she quips.”When I got it, it was completely stripped.”
Her rides are not a legacy, they are a memory. Each ride reaches back to that moment that she is a frightened girl that is clinging to her father as the road shears past, each ride reaches back to the tap of his gloved hand on her helmet, each ride embraces the woman that she is now.
“I am not afraid,” she says, and the deft skill she shows on the roads of Los Angeles bear testament to that sentiment. “I am more afraid when I am not on the bike.”
And she laughs again. That quiet laugh.
Sam’s ride is a straight clip through Hollywood from Hollywood proper, Sunset boulevard, then the Sunset Strip, past places where The Doors where discovered, where Guns and Roses made their mark, where Tower Records once was, and is again.
The road opens to Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard cooled, opulent mansions on either side, bloomed and verdant even during the ever-present drought, and then you are at The Getty Museum, one of the few monuments that the city of Angels did right.
Monet, Degas, Millet, The Angel of the Citadel.
A museum, a monument, a memory built into a the hills that look out over an unrepentant but still beloved sprawl of a city.
“I feel like he is not even gone”
“The ride is a treat,” she says. “It’s just a beautiful place that I don’t think enough people take the time out of their lives to go and explore and witness, and absorb. The entire day feels like a walk through history.”
It has been said that history is, “written by the victors”.
And Sam Moore writes her own history each time she tunes up her now-beloved, once more-than-used Bonneville.
“Every single time I am on the bike, it is overwhelming,” she says. “There is a sense of pride that I share with my father. It’s not private at all. I just feel as if his spirit is embracing me.”
She pauses for a moment, suddenly bashful, and suddenly filled with pride.
“There is a smile on my face”, Samantha Moore admits, taking a quick but deep breath that recalls her father, that sudden slap on the top of the helmet of a frightened young girl.
“When I ride I feel like he is not even gone.”
There are two types of riders, the ones that have fallen, and the ones that have yet to fall, and already Samantha Moore is both.