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  #1  
Old 12th September 2006
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Bare with me, I'm feeling long-winded today ....

Well, it's that time of year again. The beginning of seasonal transition when summer and fall are battling for dominance. Still early enough that summer reigns but fall is slowly and assuredely gaining a foothold. Despite the heat the afternoon will bring, you can just smell a hint of autumn in the morning air.

And so I've been making a commitment to ride as much as I can before I have to put the bike away and sweat out winter's grip. Even if it is just a ride to work, I've been putting in a lot of saddle time.

Went out yesterday for a short ride. To just reflect on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 and give quiet thanks for the fortune of my freedom borne on the backs of so many.

This morning, I woke up not feeling so great. Not sick, just a little run down and tired. I'd told myself last night I would go for a nice ride today but was beginning to question whether I would go. While I was waiting for my little girl and grand-niece to head off for school, I was slowly talking myself out of the ride. It was a brilliant sunny morning but chilly and my flannel pj bottoms and hot coffee were conspiring to suck me into a day of complete laziness. And when the kids left I knew I had to make a decision.

I knew I'd feel guilty if I just laid around and more important, I knew I'd regret not going when I was staring out my window at a blanket of snow wishing for Spring. So, somewhat grudgingly, I dressed and sauntered out to the Sporty Shack.

Decided I'd just head out for a nice easy ride and then meander back home. Maybe it would be going through the motions but at least it would appease any sense of guilt I would otherwise have felt. Besides, there was this road out on the prairre I've been meaning to head out on.

So I filled up the tank, and with my heart only half in it, I set a course for that road. And as I rode, and my pony tail snapped around in the crisp air that filled my lungs, I found myself sinking more and more into the ride. Relaxing and enjoying it and likely had a sarcastic smirk on my face as I openly chastised myself for being so close to just staying inside and wasting the day watching tv.

Before I knew it, I was winding my way up into the mountains. Gorgeous country where the road is nearly just a tunnel through the thick forest. Roads that slip between wide easy curves to tight sharp esses. I was very much enjoying myself but slowly and surely I had to finally acknowledge two facts: 1) I was cold and getting colder. 2) I had to pee...BAD.

I wasn't dressed for the chilly air of the higher elevation and shadow covered mountain roads. I would have been alright but my hands got cold. Real cold. And that set a chill in me that I couldn't shake. And I don't know about you, but for whatever reason, when I gotta pee real bad, I only seem to get colder.

No longer able to deny my bladder and starting to be a little more serious about the safety of my slowly numbing fingers, I made a bee-line for the hiway and turned back towards the city. There's a Mickey-D's right on the outskirts of town and I decided I'd stop in there, grab a McMuffin and a cup of coffee, empty my bladder and then decide if I wanted to head back out or just go on home.

To my surprise, I'd been out longer than I thought (don't carry a watch, don't have a clock on the bike, and don't own a damn cell phone ) and breakfast was over. So I grabbed a chicken sandwhich. I sat beside a window right beside my bike. I watched an old fella come over to my bike and take a great interest in it. His eyes were going over every inch of it and he must have made a dozen circles around the bike. In fact he was so engrossed in the bike and was getting so close to it that I got a little anxious. Not that I was concerned about him scratching it or anything, but he had a look like he just might jump on the thing!

But after a little while, I watched him stiff-leggedly shuffle off across the parking lot and back to his mini-van. As I ate I saw through his windshield that the small amount of exertion caused him to have to wipe his brow with a hanky and take a number of deep breathes. I finished my meal and noticed the old guy was still sitting out there in his van. There's a hair place next door so I imagined in my mind that he was likely waiting on his wife of a zillion years. Prefering the solitude of his van to the cackling of a beauty shop.

I went out in the parking lot and the sun had truly begun to assert itself. So I stepped out into the sunshine to finally shake the chill that had set in. I just sort of stood out there for a few minutes basking in the warm rays. The meal had filled my gut and it combined with the sun to cause me to start thinking that I would just head on home and maybe sneak in a nice nap before the kids got out of school.

I heard an engine start up behind me and turned to see the old guy slowly coming across the parking lot toward me. He pulled up beside me, window down, and said, "I just want to tell you how much I envy you." He looked me straight in the eye when he said it then his gazed turned down and away and landed back on my bike. He had a strange look that was something like longing mixed with an odd smile. It was only then, up real close, that I realized he was not nearly as old as he appeared.

From a few feet away the gray hair, wrinkled eyes and painful gait gave the impression of a man at least seventy years of age. But now right up next to him, I could see the clarity in his eyes and pinkish tone of his skin and the ease of his voice and realized this man couldn't be more than half way into his fifties.

He went on to compliment my bike about a dozen times, he likes black and red , and tell me about how he used to ride. How he didn't get a bike until a little later in life but he rode like crazy for nine years. His face lit up and his eyes sparkled as he told a few stories. He laughed like a kid when he was telling me about how goofy he used to look in his big blue snow suit because he didn't like being cold but wanted to ride just as late or early in the year as he could.

He pulled his loose-fitting button-up shirt away from his chest and said he had to give up his bike when his ticker gave out. His chest looked like a topographical map and there was one very prominent wide thick scar right down the center of his chest.

He got sad and for a second and I though he might cry. I have to admit there was a heck of a lump forming in the back of my throat and I secretly hoped I wouldn't need to be trying to speak for a few seconds. Then he took a deep long breath and again said, "I just want to tell you again how much I truly, truly envy you." I told him to take care of himself, and he backed up and drove away. That's when it occured to me, he'd sat there in his van all that time waiting for me (or whomever the owner was) to come outside. He wasn't waiting on some blue-haired old wife having her curls set. He just wanted to talk to me and tell me about how he used to ride.

I climbed on my bike and eased away from the curb and rolled back up to the hiway. A left turn would take me south to home and that nap. A right turn would take me back north and to...

Last edited by GOTWA; 13th September 2006 at 00:50..
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  #2  
Old 12th September 2006
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Great story Eric...and how did you happen to get a weekday off to go riding you lucky barstard?

Edit: Hold on...now I have to read more...
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Old 12th September 2006
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...I didn't actually make a conscious decision. When there was a break in traffic I rolled out and the bike just set it's nose to the north. One day I'll be sleeping more than I'm awake so that nap would just have to come another day.

I jumped off the hiway and headed out over another prairre than the one I usually travel across. I wanted to get out into the country and away from the city. Out where things just feel better. Where old farmers still wave at long-haired bikers. Where wise old men settle the world's problems over checkers at the corner store. Where cats are working animals, not pets. Where people are judged on their manners and their worth, not their politics or their income.

You have to ride farther now to shed yourself of the ever sprawling stain of Yuppiedom. Their quaintly named gated communites popping up every where now as they build their cloned houses "out in the country" and pretend they are in touch with the land.

I thought a lot about that man in the parking lot. I thought a lot about myself. I thought alot about life.

I just rode. Not keeping any track of direction or time. Sometimes not really knowing where I was but always finding myself back in familiar territory. By pure chance I came across an old graveyard that I know. There are a lot of these tiny old graveyards out in the country and this one had never held any particular interest for me until last year. Last year, my good friend and brother in law, Ron brought me here when we were out riding. We rode our Harley's right up in there and as I followed I had no idea why. There was an ancient guy mowing the weeds, yes weeds, no grass out here and Ron started talking to him like they'd known each other forever.

Turns out they had. It was his uncle. His dad's brother. Ron's dad died in a freak accident when he was just a little boy. He never even really knew him. Turns out, he was buried here. As were numerous members of his family, on one side or another. He and his uncle went on to tell me how at one time some member of their family, however related, pretty much owned all the land I could see. Ron showed me his dad's grave and then I kind of wandered around taking it all in. Old graves that made you ponder what life must have been like back then. Ron is NOT a sentimental guy so it meant a lot to me that he brought me there.

And so there I was today. For whatever reason I stopped and went and found Ron's dad's grave. I spent a little time there and then moved about the headstones and again pondered what their lives must have been like.







And then I climbed back on the bike and kept going. On and on. Everything just felt perfect. The bike. Me. The conditions. I found that sweet spot where for me it all becomes black and white. Where everything just flows and just is. I increasingly rode harder and faster. Pushing and simply feeling. No more thoughts. No more pondering. Just feeling the ragged peace of man and machine.

Somewhere along the way I pushed too hard and almost lost it in a corner. Too fast, too late in. Close. It was time to slow down. And so I did. Stopped to take some pictures and then meandered on home.

I'm tempted to say "Back to reality." But that wouldn't be right. It was and is all reality. From the farmers to the yuppies. From the dark winding mountain roads to the hot congested city streets. From nothing but the sound of the bike and the wind, to the distorted thump of a way-too big bass speaker. It is all my reality because I make it my reality. I could have stayed home today but I didn't. I went out there. And I encountered something I'd never expected when I left. Stark reality. I looked into it's eyes and saw my own reflection in them. It came to me today in the form of a tattered, broken man. He could have stayed home today too. And he could have left but he waited in that parking lot. And he could have decided not to approach the scruffy tattooed biker. But he did. And I thank him for that.

He said he envied me, but in a strange way, I envy him too. I envy his wisdom and elightenment. I'm just sad it had to come to him such a way.

Last edited by GOTWA; 12th September 2006 at 23:56..
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Old 12th September 2006
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I don't know what lies in store for me out there. But I do know that no matter our politics or opinions or income or biases or choice of oil, we're very lucky. I know that despite all that, we share a common bond. And I know that one day each and every one of us will take our last ride. I truly hope that for all of us, that day is a long time in coming.

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Old 12th September 2006
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And no disappointment with the ending either...now, please refer to post #2...
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Old 12th September 2006
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great story
let me guess, you turned right??

oh part 2

cheers
crackers
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Old 12th September 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ole
And no disappointment with the ending either...now, please refer to post #2...

I landed me a weekend gig. I work Fri-Sun and have the rest of the week off. I tell everyone at work it sucks real bad. Ya know, giving up every weekend and all, but I love it and just don't want to the secret getting out.
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Old 12th September 2006
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Well Erik, you've done it again. Another fine story.

Sometimes I reckon something more like destiny rules things----I think you were supposed to get up off yer duff and take a ride today so that guy could see you and talk to you.

Keep 'em coming. And after looking at those latest pics I think you just got yer bike in the Sporty Calendar....
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Old 13th September 2006
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Erik, I see in my crystal ball you may hop on your bike someday and visit with Mel/Sportster Girl and I and Lorraine some day. I know we would be very proud to meet up with up with ya.
And your real life stories always put me in your shoes, we are a few years apart but I know just what you mean
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Old 13th September 2006
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GREAT story, Erik - thanks... It's always good to take a moment and appreciate things... XLF'ers are to be envied! And it's also good to remember not to take things for granted...
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