Kitchen Points

by

Jeff Hughes

 

I’d never been to a motorcycle rally before. I’m not really into crowds of people. Good, curvy roads are invariably what I’m looking for when I head out on a motorcycle trip. Not burning precious daylight hanging around a campground somewhere.

But Earle convinced me that a rally need not be just a social gathering. He said a lot of riders use them simply as a home base for riding the good roads in the area. A place to stow one’s gear and come back to in the evenings - much like we do at the condo or cabins we rent during our periodic multi-day trips into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The camaraderie and entertainment at the rally site is just a bonus. Kind of like an extended family to enjoy that end-of-the-day brew with.

And so when he pushed out our usual May run down the Blue Ridge parkway to coincide with the BMWRA rally in June, I decided I’d give it a go. I figure most things are worth trying at least once.

I had already scheduled a couple of shorter, 3-day motorcycle trips – our annual Memorial Day weekend “Chicken Run” into West Virginia; and another long-weekend trip into southern Virginia. As I happily recounted in an email to some of my motorcycling buddies in late May – “I’ll be on the road three of the next four weekends, eleven days in total. How great is that?!”

And it was. If there is something better in this world than being on the road with a good motorcycle, I haven’t found it.

Alas, that’s not the way it is for a lot of guys. The notion that they might be able to get away for days at a time to enjoy their motorcycle is… extraordinary. It’s not that they don’t want to. It’s not that they can’t afford it. And it’s not that they can’t imagine how much fun a trip like that would be.

It’s that… they can’t get permission. Hell, a lot of guys can hardly get away for a good, full day-ride.

I’m far luckier than most guys, and I know it. I’m away from home on at least four or five multi-day bike trips every year, along with a week away for hunting. And I’ve been doing that for years.

I’ll grant that my long-suffering wife, Ginny, has the patience of a saint. And notwithstanding her understanding that motorcycles are an enormously passionate thing for me, I’m sure if you asked her you’d probably get a very different perspective on my repeated wanderings! But the point is that some of us are lucky that way. We’re able to get away and enjoy our bikes the way they were intended, with long miles and adventure in the making. Others aren’t so lucky.

So why is it that some of us can, while others can’t?

John, one of my older riding buddies, one with much experience at this, long ago coined the phrase “kitchen points” to describe that currency of exchange between husband and wife. John reasoned that our marital relationships are inevitably a series of puts and takes, and that doing something like heading off at dawn’s light for several days on the road, sans wife, requires a commensurate payback in kind. That might be anything from an outright gift, to the completion of a chore that one’s betrothed especially wanted to have done, to embracing the thought of her having her own free time to indulge her own passions.

We all laughed the first time we heard John’s depiction of marital wisdom. But as with most things humorous, we recognized the grain of truth inherent in what he said. It’s funny how, over the years, our small gang of riders has repeatedly evoked his “kitchen points” characterization to describe the value proposition of something. We’ll be back at the condo, sitting around with beers in hand after a long day of riding, kicking around ideas for future rides and new places to go visit. Inevitably, at some point someone will shake their head and wryly disclaim “nah, would cost too many kitchen points”.

That’s only part of the picture, though. Without delving too far into the area of gender psychology, I’ll offer the observation that women, generally, seem to be wired to not want us to leave. With all due respect to the fairer sex – and they are indeed – but most of ‘em would rather have us at home, puttering around the house. To a guy who has never been on a trip away without his wife, all the gifts and chores – and concomitant wealth in kitchen points – won’t seem to matter. He’s got a different sort of problem, as in how does he establish the precedent for doing that kind of thing in the first place? And then, if he achieves that, how can he continue to take such trips on any kind of regular basis?

The answer is – it can’t be a choice. It can’t be asked as a question. And it certainly can’t put out there – like many guys do - as a quest for permission.

I wish I had a nickel for every rider we’ve ever spoken with over the years, who upon hearing about one of our upcoming trips, enthusiastically expressed an interest in going along. They’d be there through all the talk and planning – “damn right I’ll be there!” Right up until the end, at which point they’d quietly bail. There would be all sorts of excuses quietly offered for the sudden change in heart. But we always knew the real reason why, of course.

They couldn’t get permission.

To all the guys in that boat, here is a suggestion: Be mindful of your better half’s feelings. Truly try and understand her fears and concerns. Honestly ask yourself what seems to be an appropriate - and fair - mix of being at home and being away. And give her lots of notice, lots of time to get used to the idea of your being away at a particular time, on a particular trip. But at the end of the day – don’t pose it as a question. Don’t ask “would you mind if I went on a motorcycle trip with Jack and Dave in a couple of weeks?” You’ll probably get a less-than-direct response, but you already know what the answer will be.

Far better is “Jack and Dave are heading down to Deal’s Gap on their bikes next July, and I think I’ll go along”.

You’re still going to get some push-back. But the whole tenor of the conversation has changed – from why you should go, to why you shouldn’t. And if a truly good reason can be articulated for why you shouldn’t go – well, then you probably shouldn’t.

Don’t expect a panacea. I honestly don’t know a single guy, even those like myself who are blessed with wives of remarkable tolerance, who don’t still occasionally run into a bit of unhappiness when we leave. After thirty years with Ginny – long-conditioned to my wanderings - there are still sometimes a few tears as I head down the driveway. But at least she understands that my leaving has nothing to do with her... and everything to do with this two-wheeled passion that she married into. And she knows that I’ll be back in a few days, or a week, or whatever the case might be.

She also knows – and this is the other side of the coin – that when she wants to do something herself, without me, that I’ll fully support her in that. She often spends a week away at the beach with one of her sisters, or a few days away at some race with a few of her running pals, and she knows that I’ll do everything I can to make sure she’s able to do those things, including burning vacation time if necessary so the domestic chores at home will be covered while she’s away.

In the end, it all comes down to respect. She’s got to respect you, and the things that are part of your nature. And you’ve got to respect her, and the things she does that are part of hers.

That and making sure there are enough kitchen points in the kitty.

 

© 2007 Jeff Hughes