Pure Americana

Recently I was on another ferry ride to San Juan Islands, that last frontier before Alaska, in fact at various points on those islands we can gaze at the Canadian shores across the water. Most of my previous rides were during colder months of autumn and spring, so almost always I was the lone motorcyclist on the ferry. This time it was a summer group ride and also there were several other unknown motorcyclists waiting at the terminal for the ferry back to Anacortes.

Among those unknown riders was this older gentleman riding a 500cc Royal Enfield. The signature classic look and that inimitable thump, even though muffled by the newer pipes, were instantly discernible. I walked over to him and mentioned how much I have enjoyed touring on these motorcycles, but of course it was over a decade ago and it was also the older 350cc variant. Interestingly he knew exactly what I was talking about. Even though a Westerner, evidently he has been living in Nepal for a while, and has done extensive touring of Indian subcontinent. More I conversed with him, more I realized how well aware he was about the machine’s quirks, subcontinent geography, and the motorcycle culture there.

Just to put all this in perspective – my conversation is with an American several generations older to me, riding a motorcycle originally invented in Britain, but now Indian engineered and exported to the US. While I am on a British designed Triumph, and most likely manufactured in Thailand. We are having this impromptu talk on a ferry terminal, in a corner of the world so distant from the Great Britain, Thailand or India. Even in our near past, possibility of this happening would be remote. But not anymore, seems like both humans and the products we engineer travel the world.

Even though the conversation itself wasn’t about the US, this situation might just be another silent illustration of American exceptionalism. Might sound like a leap, but we are in a more cohesive, connected world because of early American Federalists. That causal chain from the formation of an experimental republic, to current world is definitely long, tortuous, and involves several complex factors. But, beneath all the layers, that mechanism underlying globalization — which is essentially a contractual union of countries retaining their political identity but coexisting without cultural and economic barriers — sounds like pure Alexander Hamilton – James Madison – Americana!