One Last Ride for Summer: Rome, Georgia to Savannah, Georgia and Tybee Island. Before that – a Micromarathon

School meetings start next week so I’m trying to get in as much riding as I can before I have to return. I’ve put about 6200 miles on Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King Classic,  since the middle of May when I headed out to California, and I still haven’t had enough. Since returning from that trip I replaced my windscreen (which had been damaged by a dust storm in Arizona), replaced my horn (which broke, also because of that storm), got the oil changed and repainted some of the tank and fenders. I did a horrible job with the painting and have drips of clear coat running down the sides. Until I can sand that down, I’m telling folks that it’s supposed to look like a candy apple with drips of glaze. So far, nobody’s buying that and so I distract them by showing off my REALLY LOUD horn.

I have been busy otherwise. I trained for and competed a few days ago in a micromarathon – a .0420 mile road race. Unfortunately, half way to the finish line I hit the wall –

IMG_0664

Undaunted, I quickly switched to a Tai Chi running style and finished the race.

IMG_0668

Other than a forays around town, I’ve ridden up to Dalton, Georgia and over to Cave Springs and I participated in a charity ride for Cancer Navigators of Rome, Georgia. Still, that hasn’t been enough. I’ve decided to head to Savannah one more time. It’s my favorite USA city. I need to “feel the ride” on the old marsh road to Tybee, inhale the scent of the of the blooming oleanders and pluff mudd, and let myself  become mesmerized by the changing colors and shadows of the green and goldWP_20190713_12_03_41_Rich

(Big Red parked at the benefit ride for Cancer Navigators of Rome, Georgia)

cordgrass. I love that ride! I need to walk the timeless, cobblestone paths of old Savannah, soak up the fragrance of confederate jasmine, and sip on a Harp beer at the old-worldly Irish pub, Kevin Barry’s. That’s just for a start. The trip is about 370 miles each way which will give me plenty of time to ruminate on the meaning of life and other mundane subjects. I plan to stop about halfway, in Macon, to see my oldest buddy Joe.

Check back with me. Meanwhile, safe riding to you.

What’s That Long Line of Motorcycles? A Charity Ride for Cancer Navigators.

About 80 bikers gathered at the American Legion in Rockmart, Georgia yesterday, to raise money for Cancer Navigators of Rome, a great organization that helps, at no cost, cancer patients and their families steer through the nightmare of treatment, resources, adjustment and survival.

I went by myself. A friend had to cancel at the last minute. But I didn’t mind. Bikers are a friendly lot. We salute each other while riding, stop and check on others sitting on our bikes on the side of the road, and chew the fat wherever we stop – gas stations, fast food places, sketchy looking bars. I remember one memorable conversation with another biker while waiting in line for the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida. Admiration of mermaids can bring together folks from all walks of life.

Motorcycling has been used as a metaphor for life. You’re on a long journey and you load up on supplies for the trip, usually more than you really need. You might plan your route out, but you inevitably get lost, often ending up somewhere you had never dreamed of. Of course, you need to stop and refuel along the way and you have layovers in certain towns with haunting names, like Last Chance, Colorado. You often pick up and drop off passengers for the trip. Some might ride with you for the whole journey; others you might have to leave at a crossroad so they can catch the next stage west. We are all sovereign wayfarers with our own highways to traverse.

After the salute to the lost POW’s, a rendition of the national anthem and a blessing of the bikes it was KSU – kick stands up. With the local police leading and backing up the pack (Ha, I thought. If the cops were looking for me they’d never find me here!), I just mellowed out and enjoyed the view. Eventually, we got out into the country and down some twisty roads, past pine trees, maples, willows, pecan trees, cedars, blooming honeysuckle, and Chinese privit with its cloying scent. In staggered formation we flew among modern brick homes, doublewides with built on decks, shotgun cottages and rickety barns with rusting tin roofs. There were cows grazing and brown horses romping in fields of brilliant buttercups. The trees cast long secret shadows across the roads and innocent children waved from porches.

After returning to the hall it was time for chicken dinners, a raffle, an auction and some music. A lot of money by some good-hearted people was raised for Cancer Navigators that day.

Whatever our mode of transportation we are all sojourners on the short time we have on this earth and some lives are briefer than others, because of the devastation of cancer and other diseases. Diseases that are hard on both riders, and their passengers who eventually must disembark, usually too soon.

We all need some kindness and support on our journeys and it’s great that there are fellow riders and organizations like Cancer Navigators out there to provide it.  And even if you don’t ride, I can assure you that there’s someone out there who needs your compassion, or maybe, just maybe, you might need theirs.  

What’s that long line of bikers about?A Motorcycle Benefit Ride for Cancer Navigators; What’s it like – in insider’s view.

I really didn’t want to get up when the radio alarm went off in the morning. But I did what everyone does, reset it for 10 more minutes and went back to sleep. That wasn’t the only thing that held me up. Showers can do that. For me, they are the only places you can walk into where time doesn’t exist. Oh, and beer caves at the beer store.

So when I finally got the last directions to Log Town from the man at the farmer’s market in Adairsville (“Just go straight ahead and around that white van and y’all are there.), I was just putting my kickstand down while the other bikers, about 30 in total, black and white, were lifting theirs up. A woman fanning herself with some raffle tickets yelled to me – “just pay me when you get back.” So we all headed out. All sorts of bikes: Harleys of every type (Big Red was the only Road King!), Suzuki Boulevard, Yamaha 750, Honda Goldwings, a few trikes (3 wheel bikes) 2 Can-Ams (two wheels in the front) and a Sling shot – the first I’d seen. Beautiful, but more like a convertible – except for the one wheel in back.

Soon we were heading down the highway. Yippee! Bikers started lining themselves up, one right of center, one left and so on. At the front and back were police escorts. Not that I have any current outstanding warrants against myself but it’s great riding in the pack with the delicious thought: “They’d never find me here! Ha ha!” That, plus the reality that because of the police blocking roads we got to run every red light and cruise at higher speeds than the limit. All making it worth the price of admission alone!

It was hard to find any colors along the two lanes which were mainly forested by oaks, maple and pine. But the pink/white silky flowers of the Mimosa were dappled into spots along the way. Closer to towns there were the crape myrtle in various colors such as: watermelon red, crimson red, lavender, white, coral pink. We rode through the forests of Northwest Georgia passed farms, ranches, wet bottomlands, and fields of corn, some scorched by the drought. Cars stopped along the side of the road and folks waved as we passed. I waved to this thin erect guy waving at me from a corn field only to realize it was a scarecrow.

The guy in front of me had his speakers blaring so I backed off until I couldn’t hear them. I ride in silence. My thoughts are loud enough. But I always reach the right combination of speed, silence and reverence where I am overwhelmed with a sense of awe and gratitude. My church is the open road where I always find hardship, hospitality, authenticity and praise. I open myself to beauty, strangers, risks, doubts, faith and getting lost – all traditional unmarked roads to God.

After an hour we were back. The organizer spoke some tearful eloquent words about who were riding for: Cancer Navigators of Rome – a free service for people with cancer and their families to help them navigate the labyrinth of confusing medical, financial, social, emotional and spiritual services that are hidden in our communities. We were also riding for the memories of those in the community who had died from cancer, including the organizer’s wife – and he read out their names in a crackling voice… “especially little Timmy” and he pointed to the picture of a small boy. Every town has had a little Timmy. Doc said a prayer and then folks lined up for food. Non riders actually outnumbered the riders and everyone was busy filling their plates and buying raffle tickets. A brief presentation was given by a biker talking about Bikers Against Child Abuse. After we ate, the raffle and auction started. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a tall heavy set biker with a Rip Van Winkle beard, wearing a black leather vest, auctioning off a carrot cake.  There were about 30 different kinds of cakes people had baked and donated that went for as much as 50 dollars (But I left early). The mood was so brotherly and sisterly and kind that one man even bid against himself to keep bumping up his donation.

I spoke to the few people I knew and others that I didn’t and then I left early. I hadn’t bought any raffle tickets – wouldn’t be able to fit a cake properly in the saddlebag and didn’t want one of the top prizes – a Glock Pistol. (This is Georgia after all!)

I took off and as soon as I was out of town I started up-shifting with my foot. As I clicked Bid Red into fifth, I felt a wave of gratitude hit me like a soft, loving breeze. And I still feel it blowing.

Home