This guest post was written by long time inmate @Wes Mantooth.

Mood: “Strengths and Weakness” by Oddissee.

During a wallow through a particularly challenging mire of existence, I found solace in a conversation with Cousin Max. His credentials include declining a Mensa membership as a teenager, earning a black and purple belt in Karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (respectively), and obtaining a PhD. in Philosophy from Berkley, and burrow deeper than most. He is a real-life Incredible. On a redundantly steamy summer night in New Orleans, he introduced me to a philosophical debate I later christened, Death or Coffee? The quote that inspired the discussion, misattributed to Albert Camus, is as follows:

Should I kill myself or have a cup of coffee? But in the end, one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.

Essentially, on any given day, we have two options: drink fully from the cup of life; or don’t. Live or die. Depression is an often unseen variable in that equation. I readily admit to pursuing and sometimes accomplishing self-destruction as a means to escape the darkness. As a bungee-jumping skydiving risk-embracing motorcyclist with a phoenix tattooed on my left shoulder, this may not be so secret. With baldness comes self-realization, they say, and I believed there to be only one final escape…and so there was. Neither smart-ass (that’s a compliment) Cousin Max, nor anyone else, could talk me back from the ledge. My Mother’s death, a fraying marriage, and professional instability made convincing arguments for taking “Death or Coffee?” literally.

That’s about when I stole a look down the street at my motorcycle, then a BMW R1200GS. 

The ride from Atlanta to New Orleans was uneventful, save the occasionally-murderous car, stupid-heavy rainstorms, and stalker-clingy humidity. Batwings were the rule rather than the exception. I enjoyed every minute. Perhaps self-destruction didn’t have to mean cession of life? What about destroying with the intent to rebuild? What about reconstruction?

That day, I remembered that my coffee was the art, science, and zen of motorcycling. Who knows if it would always be so, but depression shrugs while consuming. A motorcycle was my not-so-secret weapon (cliché alert!). Sadly, we humans make an awful habit of buffering ourselves from the moment. Even atop a motorcycle, now augmented with a spectrum of personalization upon ignition, ever-shouting digital screens, and Bluetooth connectivity, we sometimes allow the moment to escape. Perhaps crotchetiness has set in, but what happened to the wind, the vibration, and the feeling being enough? Porsche was onto something with their 911 R.

To each their own, of course, and I’m absolutely a hypocrite. The moment I rode with heated grips I was done. Then, if we can heat the grips, why not the seat? Oh snap, what about cruise control? While we’re at it, why not toss on an electronic windscreen? I’m 6’6” and that’s a lot of torso to catch the wind. How about active suspension and modes that change with my mood, the weather, or the terrain? Yes to all of the above. Then, I start to wonder, How much is enough? What else do I need to find some happiness? Any motorcyclist can attest to finding peace atop two wheels. Did it arrive while stopped on a windy B-road attempting a switch to “Sport” mode? For me, peace makes an appearance when the bike disappears from beneath me. It’s when I accept that I need nothing, in fact, to achieve zen. 

I, alone, am enough.

Still, I could use a new pair of riding jeans. Maybe a second GoPro to capture another angle of the exact moment I found said peace. Maybe a set of custom Alpina rims to shave off a few pounds? That new Ram T-Rex could suffice if I ever need to schlep the bike to a destination: unfulfillment…and so it goes until we decide to confront ourselves. 

Since the conversation with my cousin, the world has fallen off a precipice. But there’s always hope. There’s always love. There’s always motorcycles.

So, today I woke up and asked myself, will it be Death or Coffee? Neither. Today, I took inspiration from a real Albert Camus quote: 

Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.

Stay well, inmates.

Yours in two-wheeled solidarity,

Wes Mantooth

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