Flying by the Motorcycle

Standing in the garage tonight, I looked longingly at my motorcycle. It’s too hot to ride right now. I can feel the heat of the pavement through my boots, and the air that pushes through my protective jacket is furnace-hot. But I thought lovingly of the next time I will be out on the bike, feel the air rushing by. . . and get hit by a piece of trash someone throws out of their car window.

Fire-started cigarette about to bounce on the street. From

A lot of people in Arizona smoke, and when they are done with the cigarette, it goes out the window. Fire danger be damned, they can’t put it out in the car because ashtrays are now plastic and meant for coins. A cigarette butt comes out of windows on either side of the car,  trailing embers.  You can see it bouncing in the air stream, and you flinch when it smacks your face shield, drops in your lap and burns through your jeans.  Good thing I wear gloves when riding the bike; although the drivers who watched me slapping at my crotch must wonder why a motorcyclist behaves this way.

Cigarette butts are the least of what I see–and sometimes wear–when people throw them out of car windows. I learned a long time ago that washable clothing is a must when you are riding.

Coffee, with and without cream or sugar, in cups from Starbucks and Dunkin

There’s a road under there somewhere.

Donuts come flying out of passenger and drivers’ windows. So do Big Gulps, Slushees, ice cream cones. Food at 65 miles an hour is surprisingly hard. PB&Js leave a bruise at that speed. And that’s just the food. There are paper cups, napkins, whole bags of fast-food leftovers. Never money, though.

Seldom books, but often magazines, and once a baby diaper–used– and I was lucky to dodge that one. But I couldn’t miss the stuffed animal, shoe or hairbrush. Luckily, the T-shirt, beer bottle and teething ring weren’t close enough to cause damage. And the rope, sneaker and grocery bag with something in it were throw out of cars on the other side of the road.

When I tell people I ride a bike, most people tell me how we scare them because we stop too fast or they can’t see us. Maybe because they are throwing trash out the window.

–Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who bobs and weaves her way down Arizona highways on her motorcycle.


12 thoughts on “Flying by the Motorcycle

  1. Posting a little late here, but it almost sounds like people are pitching that stuff out on purpose to try to hit you! My last car didn’t come with any ashtray which I found very inconvenient but it is so easy to put the trash aside and just pitch it when you get home. I have ridden – not driven – motorcycles in the Chicago area years ago and never ran into anything like what you describe. However, I have noticed that people are just less polite and thoughtful as a whole these days.

    • It might seem that people are throwing out stuff on purpose, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t–well, except the purpose is not to have it in the car. The article was not written about one trip, just the variety of stuff I’ve seen thrown out of a car. Rural roads are more likely to get trashed than cities, oddly enough, and West more than East.

  2. I hate it that people can’t just take their trash home with them, I mean really, what’s the big deal of taking care of your own rubbish? And the things they toss away often make no sense to me in the place I find them. I mean I can understand in your example somebody having a piece of donut or a sigarette, but a sneaker, how does that get in the way while driving? On my walks in the beautiful nature of where I live I sometimes find the weirdest stuff. For instance a canister of hair mousse. I always wonder: was somebody on a hike and doing their hair at the same time? Or one sock or one shoe, how does one loose these things? They should be on your feet and if they’re not, shouldn’t you miss them right away because now walking does not go as comfortable as it did before? And don’t even get me started on the people who have their lunches on the benches alongside the shore. They leave all their packaging and lefovers under or on top of the bench when two yards behin them there’s a garbage bin. God forbid you should have to take a few steps to toss your junk away neatly. Grrrrr.

  3. Have you ever thought of raising a ntional campaign to make people AWARE of what they are doing? what about a national motorcycle society? a fire started north of Cheyenne from someone throwing a butt out the window of a car. I find that the majority of people are oblivious of anything going on around them. I am sure if they REALIZED, these incidents would stop.

    • Sadly, I don’t think they would stop. Some people think only of their comfort, their wants. (Don’t make me bring up guns in this context again.) Our wildfires start from cigarettes, too, or, the last time, some idiot firing a starters pistol into some brush. But no, I am not going to start an awareness campaign. In this state, they don’t even have helmet laws. I’m sticking with creativity and the inner critic. Plenty to do!

  4. I used to ride, and for whatever reason window-trash was never a particular problem in New England, at least not that I noticed.

    I don’t remember it ever being too hot to ride, but too cold and too wet for sure.

    By the way, I have a friend in Oulu, Finland who rides her motorcycle in the winter!

    • I did a memorial ride in January in New England once–and although the roads were clear and it was dry, it took me three days to get my gloved hands off the handle bars. Too cold! It’s going to be 115 degrees today, and since I suit up with the jacket, full head helmet, boots, jeans–well, it’s just too hot. I’ve never seen trash-throwing like I have in Arizona. Just never.

  5. Oh my,it’s my pet hate,used to drive me crazy in London,and I get upset to see all the rubbish beside the amazing roads here. But we have another thing in common….check out
    We run an off road motobike company here,we also don’t ride in July and August as too hot and fire risk to great,but are gearing up for our bookings in September! Fancy coming! There’s no rubbish in those far off places we can get to! Been along time setting it up,but we have fab reviews on trip,advisor. Do you have local motorbike clubs near you? We have had riders from,uk,south Africa,Canada and Norway ,people love the freedom of it here! You will also get a feel of where we are! Middle of nowhere! Have a great day with the wind in your hair!x

    • The photos on your site are amazing, Jain. I’m not an off-roader, I like my comfort on my cruiser. My husband loves motorcycle clubs, but I’m not a group rider. (Like that’s a surprise!). I do love my long trips, though, in good weather.

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