Episode #19 – Robert Pandya
Ghosts – Motorcyclist magazine
By Robert Pandya
10/18/2008The day was perfect. A planned group ride to Marble Falls, we assembled at our usual spot in Austin. Normally I set out with the lead pack – we all fell in where we were most comfortable – Ricky racers up front, cruising dudes in back. This time I was two-up on the little Honda CB-1 with my girlfriend, Snow. She didn’t with me often – but today she wanted to go along and I was happy to share the experience.
She met my friend Heather, a vibrant woman with glowing red hair, an easy smile and mid-western sensibility I always connected with. I liked her quite a bit, and so did all the local moto-boys. A woman who rode an even slightly sporty bike, in this case a Hawk GT, was an anomaly in Texas. One with such a friendly and welcoming personality was a bonus.
We took off in our group of nine or so, this time I trailed the pack in deference to my passenger, and to stay clear of the usual speed-meisters. A few curving miles later the group gathered at a junction, but I just waved and rolled past, knowing that there was another natural stopping place several miles up. We waited for the group, but they never came. As our tension rose, a bike came roaring around the last corner with the terrible news. The elderly couple in the Accord was on the way to church, and for just a second the Hawk was over the double yellows. I tried CPR, but knew she was gone. The absolute horror of that day haunts me at the strangest times. But I still ride.
Randy had an easy smile and was one of the most positive people I ever met. He was an occasional team member on my little CMRA endurance effort and always made us feel proud of ourselves at the end of the day – no matter the results. He had often drifted through my mind as I started working with a Supermoto race team – he was a huge Supermoto fan. His heart attack was a shock, and the irony of thinking of an old friend and not calling him chews at me. We’ll have our Supermoto track day in his memory, and I’ll ride.
An optician in Florida, Jack was a quick buddy. I was assigned to photograph his motorcycle collection for a British publication. He was humbly proud of his meticulous work on the Bonneville. We had a few days together and became fast friends – he even made a cool set of glasses for me out of his shop. The month his bike was featured in Classic Bike, he was hit in a road accident on his VFR. He never saw the cover shot. I’ll never get to visit with him again, but I think about him whenever I see an old British bike, and often when I see a solitary palm tree.
John-Mark was a co-worker and quick friend. His passion for the brand we worked for, our customers and representing the sport in a positive way was the same language I spoke. The race track was his home – with his wife racing as well, their friendships extended across state borders and motorcycle types. His terrible accident on the track snapped into focus the risks racers and track day riders accept in pursuit of confidence and speed. His towering presence is missed to this day.
In the face of accidents, death and loss, I am transfixed by motorcycles. It’s not in the genes – it’s not from living next to a bike shop when I was a kid. I don’t know why, but they are part of my soul. They are part of my oxygen. The complications of this passion are many. I’ve been hurt and I’ve come close to a big mistake or two on the road myself. So many of my friends share this passion; they share the rewards, the risk and sometimes they get hurt.
It’s the rewards of riding that are so much harder to share than the pain. The words do not seem meaningful – like when you really love someone, so deeply that the simple thought of expressing it cramps your chest and dries your throat. Words describing the ride only scrape the surface of true meaning. The depth of the experience is lost in translation when applied to paper. Riding is absorbing solitary moments and camaraderie at the same time. Using all five senses and touching on the sixth. We each have our own experience, and we somehow draw from the same well of emotions, stress, fears and satisfaction. We share the passion and a language. Words can’t describe it – but riding can.
I will always be riding with Heather. Randy will always be my race partner. Jack is a comforting friend when I ponder old machines. John-Mark’s enthusiasm is my yard stick. I’m not a religious person, but I do know we will all get together again. Old and new friends, cool bikes, blue skies and a twisting road.
Any time I can ride with the ghosts in my helmet is a great day.