I know that for many readers halfway or all the way across the globe, that the notion of riding a motorcycle alone through the Middle East sounds either far fetched or perhaps incredibly dangerous. Many would pick a hundred other destination before choosing Jordan or Syria. But the truth is, I have never felt in danger nor have I felt the curse of “an American?”
But today I did experience my first targeted act of aggression. The perpetrators, however, were hardly terrorists. But the act was not to be taken lightly. While making my way to the Amman, capital city of Jordan, I decided on an off-the-beaten track road which carved through rocky hills and winded around scenic buttes. Cresting one woop-de-woop roller coaster like hill with a quick drop I spotted some of the friendly locals walking on the side of the road. There were groups of them for a mile or so. Closer inspection revealed they were young school boys walking home.
Then in a second I felt a dull thud strike my jacket. It took a minute before it sunk in. Was I shot? a few hundred meters as I tested the anti-lock braking system of my trusty BMW. I peeked in the cracked rear view and watched the kids flee in all directions. Thankfully, I wasn’t bleeding. The weapon? A small stone about three inches in diameter and an inch thick. It bounced off my gear and then nestled itself neatly between the body of my bike and the bracket holding my Jesse panniers.
Remembering my childhood winters where my brother, Dick Jones and several other neighbors would camouflage ourselves in the tall hedges of nearby neighbors and hurl snowballs at cars that sped by. Our hearts would pound heavily when the brake-lights of an irritated motorist would glare as the car slammed to a stop. And nothing ignited the fear nor our running shoes faster than when the reverse lights lit or the car made a fast U-turn. We’d hide in the pool shed or under the steps of another neighbors house. We’d sometimes sit there for an hour until Mom made the nightly call for dinner. We were barely 12 years old. At the same time we were fearless and bold and in a second frightened and shaking like the young school boys we were.
I popped the clutch and popped a small wheelie and screamed back after the kids. I jumped off the tarmac onto the rocky front lawn of a roadside home. I climbed a rocky hill and spotted the kids running up a hill away. I revved the engine with fervor and shouted at the top of my longs, “Get back here now!!!”
I figured that if I scared them enough the next motorcyclist or motorist might be spared the dangerous act — a rock is a far cry from a snowball, but in the desert I’m confident these kids never seen a snowman before.
It was fun riding off the tarmac so I made my self audible and visible until I was waved down by a man sporting the typical Bedouin headdress. Sitting behind him was a young boy — but not one of the evil-doers — far from it. Attayak promised that he would speak to boys of the neighborhood and to the school teacher so they know the danger they could cause to drivers. He then invited me into his home for tea. We set in a room about 20 feet by 12 with cushions lining the perimeter of the room. An Arabic calendar graced one wall while a single window provided light. I never did see his wife but when the tea was ready a knock of the door and Attayak then served the tea. We spoke of the upcoming presidential election in the USA and I asked about the late King Hussein, who was known to be a motorcyclist. After an hour it was time for me to ride again. We exchanged hugs and a few photographs and I rode on.
I had no destination that day and though the incident was really the first I can 100% confidently say I was targeted by stone throwing kids, I wanted to ride the desolate land of Jordan. In a few days I’d make my way into Israel. For now, I wandered Jordan coming close to both the Iraq and Saudi borders, but never crossing.