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Knightrider - Fear is a Gift


Aug 1, 2008
Fear is a Gift

The three denials…. Together, they form the essence of the Knightrider psychosis. Without them, there can be no rides through the misty hills, the tunnels, no beachy antics, no candid discussions with nighthawk cabbies, no priceless realization of how sacred life is, how achingly beautiful dawn can be, no adolescent impulse to sprint against an imaginary rival …no KR.
The script invariably runs as follows:

Denial of Intent

Mind: "Knightrider… Knightrider.. we're there…"
Ponyman: "No way!, Not tonight….don't feel like it…got to sleep…got to get up early."
Mind: "Knightrider… Knightrider…we're there dude."
Ponyman: "Shut up! I'm knackered…weatherman says rain…"
Mind: "Knightrider… Knightrider… we're there."
Ponyman: "Shut up!! Shut the F**k up!! No way, no can do!!"
Mind: (Silence)

Denial of Plausibility

Mind: "Knightrider….Knightrider… we're there…"
Ponyman: "Where would we go?? No…. no… not goin' there… forget it…"
Mind: "Knightrider…. Knightrider…. We're there dude…"
Ponyman: "Where, where??…. I need batteries… don't have the good bag…. knee pain…. No."
Mind: "We're there dude…."
Ponyman: "You're out of your friggin' mind mate! NUTS!"
Mind: (Silence)

The Final Denial

Mind: "Knightrider…. Knightrider… we're there…"
Ponyman: "No… NO!"
Mind: "We're so there…. You know it dude… admit it…"
Ponyman: "No…"
Mind: "'Fess up!"
Ponyman: (Silence)
Mind: "Pump up your tyres Ponyboy… time's a wastin'!!"
Ponyman: "Right-O"

The droning tedium of daily life draws forth the denials, bids us to take to the bike, and with the click of cleat into pedal, we feel the blood coursing a bit more vibrantly through our veins. We feel alive. But, with this feeling comes a measure of fear. A creature of myriad faces, it can confront us at any given moment - when the ground shakes, when the mobile phone cannot be found, when a child is unwell, when the helmet hits the pavement, when the night gets too deep…

Fear of a kind I dare not imagine manifested itself in the skies above Gunma on August 12th, 1985, when Japan Airlines flight 123 came down on a ridge near Osutakayama, killing all but four passengers. Having lost most of its tail fin soon after take-off, and subsequently all hydraulic control, the 747 became little more than a powered wing, a boomerang with engines. Nonetheless, Captain Masami Takahama, first officer Yutaka Sasaki, and flight engineer Hiroshi Fukuda fought the broken bastard with body, soul, and honour for 32 minutes… enough time for some very scared people… parents, husbands, wives, brothers, daughters, friends, neighbours, to scribble a few desperate lines to people they knew they would never see again. Fear is a gift.

The First Attempt

As the anniversary of that tragic day came and went, Knightrider began the Three Denials. Sunset… cleaned and oiled the chain… paced to and fro… fidgeted… heated up some leftover pasta… watched Pantani obliterate Ullrich on Les Deux Alpes for the 100th time... entered the Final Denial… passed… pumped up the tyres. It was with a mixture of emotions that I set off around midnight, rolling into Saitama. As the kms clicked happily by on the meter, I tried to focus on the immediate task at hand, namely, Rt. 299 over Shomaru Toge, through that big-ass tunnel, and down to Chichibu. From there, feel it out. Sadly, the clouds opened up in Iruma, soaking KR with some considerable force. I stopped and sat outside a convenience store…. Was this a message? I chewed some Oinarisan and waited. The rain let up and I continued over the mountain and on into Chichibu, where the forces of nature made it conclusively clear that the ride was finished…done… over. It was friggin' pissin' down!! What's up with the Japanese weatherman? Does this cat get his facts wrong most of the time or what??? I caught the train back to Ikebukuro, feeling bummed…

The Second Attempt

Defeat is always momentary. And, in the spirit of freedom that motivates all of us to pedal, defeat for the cyclist is like a shot in the arm! I swore to myself, with each passing stop on the Seibu line, with the insult of dragging my bike through Ikebukuro station and pulling it out of the bag, that I would soon be back on the road to Osutakayama. The Three Denials blew by with one spin of Kings X 'Dogman', http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=ycyI_HWrZQoI ripped the Bianchi out the door, down the stairs, click click, and into the night. I don't even have a clear memory of the first third of the ride. Maybe I was thinking (as I often do) that the best strategy was to ignore the road, to occupy my mind with other things, songs, memories, dreams… and just let it go. Again on Rt. 299, I faced the climb to 志賀坂峠, 780 meters in the pitch dark. My light, taped onto the bars as usual, proved woefully inadequate as the road narrowed, winding it's Godward way for what seemed like ages. 'Where's the friggin' top?' queried I. Rain began to fall. Fog surrounded me… more like clouds… and I could barely make out the road. There are times when one questions one's own sanity – this was such a time. Fear is a gift.

Just as I was beginning to suspect that I had ridden right off the map into an alternate universe, an orange glow seeped out of the mists ahead. Through a tunnel full of clouds, in the dead of night, I passed from Saitama into Gunma and, were it not for the sudden sensation of raindrops on my face, I would not even have realized that I had emerged from the hole. A steep descent followed. The sun was just coming up, and the mountains loomed suddenly all around me… dark, threatening, beautiful. Along a river, through a valley, past houses that were becoming more and more infrequent, watching the sky brighten, returning a wave from an elderly man up early, savouring the scent of trees, the sound of birds… I went. I came at last to a turn in the road, and could read the small, arrow-shaped sign which said 御巣鷹山. Up a steep slope, 'Il Campione d'Italia' rolled beautifully, giving creedence to my belief that, despite all it's brake pads, chain rings, cables and cogs, it is indeed a living thing. God bless Eduardo Bianchi!

Turning left onto the road that would actually take me to the site of the disaster, I perceived a change in the air, an intervention, a tightening in the chest. There are six tunnels on this road, which climbs alongside a reservoir, and each seemed more depressing than the one before. The lights were mostly out, I hadn't seen any other vehicles, and it gradually dawned on me that the road had, for the most part, been abandoned. I tried my best not to think about why… This became difficult when I entered a long, curving tunnel with NO lights…. pitch dark… absolutely black… I questioned my sanity again. To my relief, a small pick-up truck passed me not long after I got out of the tunnel, and I found it stopped a few km up the road. What the driver was doing I know not, but I asked him where the crash site was. He gave me a look that belongs in a Hitchcock film, pointed at the mountain, and said 'Right there…'. That spooked me enough… but, then he mumbled something else. Translating his words as best I can: 'You can't get out… the road is closed… no one goes there…'
I continued, nervous. Ironically, the last tunnel is called 琴音 (Kotone), which happens to be my daughter's name. I emerged into a forgotten place... barricades, like locked doors in a deserted house, under the yoke of images that haunt, with an overwhelming sense that it would be best to just git on outta there….

Fear is a gift.

Lifting the Bianchi over the barriers, I rode on up the road, now strewn with stones and branches, and came to another barrier. There was a pile of sandbags blocking the way, and a plywood bridge over a small ravine. I walked with the bike onto this bridge, doubting its stability….. Beyond this sat several vehicles, looking like they'd been rusting there for years… The paranoia kicked in. I felt that someone was watching me… that, behind those dark windscreens, eyes were trained on me…. OK, I know what you're thinking… KR was freaking out. You may be right! Had I not been aware that 520 people died violent deaths right there, holding hands in those last terrible minutes, saying goodbye to the stranger in the next seat, remembering a birthday, a loved one, a picnic, a dog, a sunset….. I probably would have been fine.

I didn't find the trail up to the actual monument to the crash, though I had hiking shoes in my backpack…. In retrospect, I think that was for the best. After a few minutes of silence, and a prayer or two, I started back down through those dark tunnels….

Knightrider Vids


Loved your story Ponyman...very touching...
I remember...

Hey Simon (ponyman),
I remember you calling me that very night.... Thanks for the "invite"!
Unfortunately, it was just after my accident & I was in no condition to ride whatsoever.
The other thing I remember, was waiting for you to call/mail me that morning to tell me that "you'd made it out alive", while I was thinking "how long should I wait before I call the emergency services to go up and look for you?"
Great story, and a hell of a ride - particularly at night (Knight?):confused:

Anyway, looking forward to the write-ups of your other ... .... foolishnesses:D
Later! Travis

ponyman - this was a great account of a very moving journey, one that I would like to make myself sometime.

When I first came to Japan in 1988 I was introduced to the Tokyo British Club in Ebisu. It is now defunct, although remnants of the membership live on in minor associations and other groups.

There were several ex-forces personnel there, from both the US and GB who had several tours of duty, some going back to the immediate post-war period. Spells in Korea etc etc.

The saddest tale I heard from one of the ex-Yokusuka guys was the story of those chopper teams who were in the air, in a position to help, ready to make the jump and do whatever it took to help those poor people on the ground, only to be told to return to base as the SDF had it covered. The true story never came out for several years apparently.

An appalling error and an appalling loss of life made worse by inept leadership and misplaced pride.

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