Quijano read escape literature, full of knights rescuing fair maidens, vanquishing evil with his sword, all good Star Wars stuff. Then Quijano lost his mind, renamed himself don Quijote (don means sir), climbed on his skinny old horse and rode off to vanquish evil, accompanied only by one stubby servant on a donkey.
Over 400 years later don Quijote remains with us, as a still-remembered musical named “Man from La Mancha.” He’s in our language as well. Try to live your dreams and you will be called quixotic. You will be accused of “tilting windmills,” which don Quijote did, believing that he was fighting giants. Tilting meant charging at full speed, armed only with a spear. The “giants” almost killed him.
One summer, in my early teenage years, I got quixotic, trying to live out a dream. My only transportation was a rusty old bicycle. I craved a big, black, powerful hog of a motorcycle, lightning and thunder, riding the wind past the awe-struck gaze of pretty girls. It was a recipe for disaster, but I got over it by fall, still alive and maybe a little smarter.
Some friends had a dusty old gray Cushman motor scooter, origin unknown. Somehow they got it started and were taking turns riding circles in a grassy field.
A motor scooter is nothing like a bike, or a motor bike, and especially nothing like a motorcycle. The engine is in a box you sit on to ride. Your feet rest on a floorboard. Short, stubby handlebars are mounted on a sort of vertical stalk.
It’s like riding a lawn mower, just a little faster. But for my summer fantasies, that was close enough.
It started like a mower, too, until the rope broke. Somebody had a car and a long steel cable. Quixotic me volunteered to be the pilot. Not smart. We lined up on a gravel road and took off.
Just a couple of problems we hadn’t considered. One was dust; I could barely see the car ahead. Goggles? What goggles? A second was brakes; there were none. If the car slowed too quickly, its rear bumper would become my third problem.
What did happen wasn’t much better. The car slowed, the cable wrapped itself around the front wheel, and then I was face down surfing the gravel backwards about 30 miles an hour, glad I had leather gloves for hands that had become outriggers. I stopped just as the gloves lost their palms, back in the real world, otherwise unharmed.
I never saw the scooter again, nor did I want to. Years passed before I got the motorcycle I had dreamed of. Sort of. Not much lightning or thunder, and virtually no pretty girls to impress. Shucks.
In the book, Don Quixote eventually comes to his senses. Me? I still marvel at what I had accepted so blithely. I finished growing up with fewer fantasies. And I never see a windmill without tasting dust and feeling gravel rolling under my fingers.