Popping wheelies at 70 miles an hour

As a native Angeleno, I've seen a lot of things on the freeways. Driving back from San Pedro on the Harbor Freeway one night, a dark figure dashed across five lanes of traffic right in front of me, heading for the center divider. And no, this person wasn't returning to a stalled car; I didn't see any abandoned vehicles.

I'll never forget the white-haired gent in a top hat and frockcoat, straight-backed and pedalling hard on an upright bicycle along the shoulder of the 101 in North Hollywood one hot summer afternoon.

In high school, after our beach-bound car broke down along the 101 in Calabasas, some girlfriends and I decided to walk along the shoulder until we reached a callbox. A policeman pulled over and told us to get in the car. Having just smoked a doobie, we were paranoid and protested that we hadn't done anything to deserve arrest.

"But you're going to cause an accident parading down the freeway in your bikinis. Now get in and I'll drive you to a gas station," was his amused reply.

But perhaps the most horrifying thing I've seen recently was the guy with the sports motorcycle on the 134 Freeway near Glendale several Sundays ago, popping wheelies at 70 mph.

"Oh my god," I said, not believing my eyes. Then, as I watched in horror, he did it again, riding on his back wheel for a while before slamming back onto the asphalt, where he wobbled precariously before righting himself.

I was one lane away and one car back. The freeway was full but everyone was moving smoothly for once, a rare moment when the traffic flow exists in perfect and precarious alignment with the universe.

If this guy lost control and fell, the car behind would run him over. Or brake to avoid the downed rider, thus causing a pile-up behind HIM. Or veer into my lane and hit me. Any way you looked at it, the wheelie-popping biker's fall would create a multi-car collision that would put more people at risk than Mr. Moto had IQ points.

At that moment, I didn't really care if the guy died and removed himself from the gene pool. He deserved a big fat Darwin Award. But I didn't want him to take me down with him. Neither did I want to spend the rest of my life in therapy because I ran his sorry ass over after he skidded into my lane.

I mean, dude, you want to kill yourself, find some deserted desert highway at 2 am to do it. Not a freeway stretch of Glendale at 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon when there are cars all around you.

I didn't get a chance to ponder any of this for too long, because with one last wheelie, Mr. Moto revved the engine of his ridiculously over-powered bike and darted off, weaving through traffic, up the highway and out of sight.

And you know what irks me the most? Me, the former reporter, trained to notice the tiniest detail, to react instantaneously. I didn't even think to get his license number until it was too late.


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