The Ride

Perhaps this sounds like a ride you might have taken…


The sun was shining as he rolled up the garage door. It was the first true day of spring. Already the pavement was beginning to reflect the warmth that the air would soon take on. His ride was black and sleek, the finest the local dealer had to offer. He’d had it many years, well past when “newer” riders had traded theirs in an gotten another. Not him, his fit like a well-worn pair of boots. Comfortable, just enough slop to relax in but still fit tight enough to be safe. Today they (he and his bike) were going to the mountains where what was left of the snow would give cool air to contrast the heated pavement. Level side roads covered with fine cinder gravel offered safe places to pull off to take a break and stretch his legs. Sometimes he even explored one a little ways, but usually not as the rough dust could leave minute abrasions on the shiny black paint.  Today the evidence of plentiful snow during the winter was seen in the cinder gravel along the road. He frowned, he didn’t like having something that limited him from pulling over off of the road. That sand could be deadly, the small bits providing a slippery surface for the large gravel to roll even easier. A fast moving motorcycle would find itself on roller skates if it ventured there. Even a slow moving bike teetered and tried to slip.

Ignoring the gravel, he flew down the road. He passed tractor-trailer rigs who blew their horns, the sound resounding off of the pavement. He could feel it in his chest, musical punctuation to the sound of the road beneath his tires and the chorus of the engine that echoed the beating of his heart. He reached his turn around place a bit ahead of time and decided to wander through town a bit before having lunch and filling up for the return trip. He chuckled to himself and shook his head, he really should plan this ride to go over in the afternoon and back the next morning. This way he didn’t have the sun in his eyes both ways. Still smiling, he found a place to leave the bike near an alcove of tourist shops. The town was one that had gone out of its way to establish a Western motif and cater to tourists in the summer and skiers and snow mobilers in the winter. It had a pleasant number of shops with low-price wares punctuated with artisan shops that had things many times out of his budget. He had seen a shop that would have just the thing for his young daughter, and while he was here he thought he should get a small peace trinket for his ex.  He and his old-lady had broken up a short time ago. She said she was tired of him coming home, opening a cool one, and then spend time in the garage staring at, and sometimes tinkering on, his bike. He argued that he deserved the dreams after working all day. She argued that his family deserved him, after he had some influence in that they were a family at all.  Deep inside he knew she was right, but his stubborn will born of freedom and the road kept him from saying so.

Lunch done and a full tank of gas and he was on the road. As he expected, the fading sun shone directly in his eyes and made seeing the road nearly impossible. He was somewhere near the top of the pass when his patience finally snapped. He decided to pull of onto a side road that traveled out into the snow pines and take a break while the sun dropped down.  Diving across the oncoming lane, through the left-over gravel and onto the small side road, he pulled it up and put down the stand. He looked at the bike a moment and wondered if it would be all that hard to install a center stand, then he shrugged and reached into his pocket. This would have been a place where in the past he would have taking out his pipe and gave it a few pulls while he waited, but his old-lady had talked him into quiting a month before she left. Now that he had, he wasn’t going to give in and start again. It was another thing she was right about, he didn’t need it and neither did their daughter. Again he shrugged and wandered about a bit, picking up pine cones and examining interesting rocks. With each one he thought about his daughter. She was the age where all things like this were beyond interesting. They were fascinating and beautiful and she was always looking for the next thing to admire. He stopped at a spot that looked across the valley and towards one of the snow-covered mountains. This would have been something his ex would have loved. He watched a moment as the setting sun painted its slopes with color then, remembering his ride, turned at went back to the road.

He was standing there looking at the bike as it stood in the cinder, the front tire completely flat.  All the air had gone from it as he wandered thinking about life. Taking out his cell he checked for a signal. None. Who’d thought how on the top of a mountain there would be no signal. On the mountain the traffic had slowed to a trickle, and even if there was rigs going by none would have stopped for a leather-clad road gypsy. Again he patted his pocket. Quitting smoke didn’t mean he had to stop carrying a lighter, but it seemed to lessen the temptation at the time. He rubbed his hands together as if they were cold already and looked around for a smooth rock to lean against. He would flag someone down in the morning.

The sun had dropped and the temperature was following it when he thought he heard singing. Standing quickly he turned and saw a small campfire a little ways further down the road. Curiously approaching, he saw an old, white bearded biker with an equally old ride. The man nodded and invited him to sit. Looking back at his bike, he wondered if he should leave it so far away. The old mad caught his concern, “Bring it down and park it there,” he nodded at a spot that seemed perfectly level, “that way you won’t be worrying about anybody messing with it. Not that there are many up here.” Soon the bike was parked and he was up against a rock that was perfect to lean on by the fire. The old man stared awhile then tossed a granola bar over. Tearing the wrap of ravenously he tossed the wrapper into the fire. “Easy it is to feed the body. Harder to feed a man’s soul,” the old man mumbled. “Where are you from young fellow?” was a logical question to ask. He answered where he lived. “Naw, I mean, where are you from?” he asked again. Now the man started to tell about the small town on the coast where he grew up. About his family, about participating in sports in school. He even told about his sisters and their families, even though he doubted the old man cared. All the while the old man nodded, even smiled once or twice.  When he was done silence filled the camp. He was thinking of trying to get some sleep against the oddly comfortable rock when the old man asked another question. “Where have you ridden?” He started to tell about the day’s ride that ended up where he was and the man interrupted, “No, where have you ridden?” Understanding, he spoke about how he got his bike so long ago, and how he proposed to his ex as she rode along behind. He spoke about how they traveled around the state, even going to a big bike meet across the nation. The thousands of motorcycles were not why he rode and he was happy for the solitude again.  The old man was genuinely interested, “And your wife? Does she still ride with you?” A sigh was followed by a long silence. After a while the man begain to tell about his wife, (all of a sudden he found it hard to call her “old lady” or “ex”) Where they met, how they fell in love, their first ride together – her arms wrapped around his waist. Then the birth of their daughter. How he loved her more than anything except his wife. How he still loved her so much. They had quit riding together after the birth of their daughter, three couldn’t ride on one bike. Then he thought some more. His mom and sisters would have loved to spend time with her, and his wife could get her own bike for when their daughter could ride behind him. He sat contemplating the fire. “And what if she doesn’t like that idea?” the old man asked. He thought for a moment, “I think I might even sell the bike, or store it anyway.” The old man smiled and settled back to rest, “Love is like that,” he mumbled. The man leaned against his own rock and was fast asleep.

The sounds of birds and rays of sun against his face brought his eyes quickly open. He sat up and glanced towards his camp mate and the spot was empty. He turned to his bike as he thought about the conversation over the campfire. Then he stopped and stared at the front tire. In front of him stood a full tire, no sound of air escaping or marks of a leaks to be found. He looked around again when he saw a folded piece of paper. “Sometimes you find God when you least expect to find Him.” The man stared at the paper a while, then looked again – turning his eyes up this time. There were tears on his cheeks.

Turning onto the pavement once again, he rode towards home. There were some very important things he needed to do. The rising sun cast a warm glow upon him as if it was surrounding him in a cocoon of blessing and safety.

 

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