Days Thirteen and Fourteen: Wendover, Ut to Vernal, Utah – 287 miles; Vernal to Steamboat Springs, Colorado – 164 miles; I found Colorado!; Tired.

I decided to take a day off in Steamboat Springs and I’m staying at the Nordic Lodge which is right on the edge of town within walking distance. I had been thinking of spending another day here when I went for breakfast this morning and the man behind the counter said he had heard I was spending another night. That was enough for me.

Leaving Wendover the other day was amazing because the Interstate went past miles and miles of pure white salt flats. And nothing else. Well except for the ponds from all the rain. No animals and no birds. It was eerily calming in a way, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I ducked under Salt Lake City on Hwy 201 and then re-caught the interstate and rode it down to Hwy 40 and Heber City. Had a wonderful banana milkshake at Dairy Keen – Home of the Train. Besides pictures and stories about trains there was a toy train running about the ceiling from room to room. I’m a sucker for trains.

Made it to Vernal and knew it looked familiar. I had been here five years ago on a cross country trip. I looked it up on this blog to remind me what I had done and remembered it well, especially Little B’s bar. This time I just went to a sports bar, Wingers and watched a basketball playoff game. I continued the next day on Hwy 40 and I finally found Colorado! Most of the countryside was empty but the flora was beautiful in its own way. There were yellow, purple, and peach red wildflowers. Faded jade green scrub brush and the grass was various shades from jade to peridot green to ocher. There were confers, quaking aspen and cottonwood trees, the latter with their cottony seeds flying all around like snowflakes. The hills were undulating, and in the distance the mountains, some with snow, were misty, as in a Chinese watercolor.

I had been through Steamboat Springs on an earlier trip and had thought it was beautiful. I couldn’t wait to kick off the boots, change out of the Joe Rocket Ballistic motorcycle trousers and stroll about town. Of course, don’t worry, I did put on some jeans and some Saucony running shoes first.

Tomorrow, I hope to take Hwy 14 across the Rockies and the Continental Divide, but hey, anything can happen.

Resting Days: Wetting the Baby’s Head; Motorcycle’s Fixed; The Joys of Lyft; An Irish Traditional Music Session – I’m in Love with the Fiddle Player – the Lonesome Touch; Son Number 1 comes to Town – The Light-Years of an Embrace.

The day little Henry was born, I went  that evening to one of my favorite pubs, Timmy Nolans, to ‘Wet the Baby’s Head’. Wetting the Baby’s Head is a tradition in Ireland and the UK. It simply involves going to a pub and having a drink to celebrate a baby’s arrival (Just like when the baby’s head is wettened during a Christian Baptism). At Timmy Nolan’s I ran into Don and Janet who remembered me from my visit here last Christmas. Not because I’m that memorable but because I resembled a friend of theirs back in Indiana. Another man, Bryan, joined us, and we raised a toast to Henry Arthur! One other night at Nolans, they had their usual weekly Irish music session. A session is an informal gathering of musicians – often anyone can join – where one starts a tune, a jig or reel and if you know it, you join in. That night there was a flute player, tin whistle, guitar, bodhran (drum), and a fiddle. I fell in love with the fiddle player. Not because she was especially beautiful, but instead for her playing on the fiddle. She had the lonesome touch.

(My last girlfriend told me I had the loathsome touch but that’s for another blog. Uh, maybe not.)

It took a few days for the Harley folks in Glendale to track down the electrical problems with Big Red. She ended up with pretty much everything new in the charging/recharging system. Meanwhile, I experienced the joys of Lyft. I had drivers from the USA, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Poland, and Mexico. I love to listen to people’s stories, so it was a treat for me. I got to talk with an actor from Poland about my week in Kutno, Poland coaching a little league team from Ireland.

My oldest son Rory came to town on business. I hadn’t seen him in over a year because he lives in London. I hugged him for what seemed like forever. Love can sometimes be measured in the light-years of an embrace. An immensely talented, modest young man (This Paranormal Life -British Podcast of the Year 2019 awards, RKG -Patreon/Twitter, Team RKT.) who takes after his mother. I was now with my daughter, my first son and little Henry, my first grandchild. It was all a bit much for me. I leave in two days.

Day Six: Gallup to Flagstaff, Arizona (190 miles); Things Started Well for the Most Part. Omens; Porky’s Pub and Sports Bar.

This will be a short blog. I am holed up at a motel in Flagstaff, ready to go, just waiting for it to stop snowing. Yes, snowing. The average high temperature here in Flagstaff on this day historically has been 72 degrees, but it was 34 degrees when I woke up. The high today is expected to be 38. Not much better immediately west of here for quite a ways. A few years ago, I took Big Red, this 2004 Harley Road King I’m riding, up to Alaska and had a devil of a time when we got caught (my buddy Kevin Grigsby accompanied me in a heated car!) in snow and freezing temperatures. I was woefully unprepared then, even though I had planned for the possibility. I’m completely unprepared now. I keep thinking about the title of a book I wrote – I Should Have Seen It Coming (Gene Powers – available on Amazon!). Well, anyway, I’m going to wait an hour and then nickel and dime my way down Route 66 and see how far I get.

Yesterday, Day 6, started well except for the wind. Gusts again up to 20 mph, this time from the south west which really blew the bike all over the road. Had to be especially careful when passing, or being passed by, the huge trucks – they have their own wind dynamics. I had hoped to reach Williams, Arizona -230 miles- but the last 30 minutes of yesterday’s ride proved my undoing. It got really cold and rainy, and though I have waterproof gear on, it was wet and freezing with the wind chill. I decided I wasn’t going to push myself and pulled off I-40 at Flagstaff. I rode past a motel, that looked alright but the clincher, what felt like an omen, was that it had a place named Porky’s Pub and Sports Bar out front. My whole being shouted “yes!”. I’d get a room and then walk the few steps over to Porky’s to have a draft beer. I stopped at a McDonalds just past it for coffee and to check the reviews. They looked very good, so I booked it. Did I want cancellation insurance? Hell no, I thought, I can see the damn, warm motel, and Porky’s, right out the window! I rode over to the motel, but they said they didn’t have my reservation. I showed them my text and the man said: “Oh, that’s the other Rodeside Inn. I can show you how to get there.” They couldn’t transfer my reservation and I couldn’t cancel it. So, I rode over to the other one, that DIDN’T have the heated pool, or Porky’s, and it was good enough. Later, after a nap, I had the best meal of my trip at a Texas Roadhouse across the street. No one at the bar wanted to talk, and for once, I was grateful. Grateful, for everything.

 

Day Four: Elk City, Oklahoma to Tucumcari, New Mexico (286 miles – 1296 trip total); Route 66; No Baby Yet; Lovingkindness, Three Dogs; Amarillo.

The day started out windy, with gusts striking up from the southwest. I can handle rain and heat, I’m not great with cold, but I hate random wind gusts and crosswinds; the kind that blow you across a lane of highway and then blow you back. Winds that try to yank your helmet off.

The countryside changed too as Big Red and I slowly moved from verdant crop fields to scrub brush, grazing cattle, and rolling prairies, with distant mesas on the horizon.  We moved from Oklahoma to the Texas Panhandle and into Amarillo. The interstate crosses over a huge area of freight trains. And, if you want you can stop at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, where if you can eat a 72 ounce steak in one hour it’s free. Yeah, good luck with that. Leaving Amarillo on I-40 you pass the Cadillac Ranch where 10 caddies are half- buried, nose down into the ground. Some call it art. They were buried there in 1974 and you can walk out to them from the highway. Next, were the enormous stockyards. The winds died down and the speed limit picked up to 75 mph.

I found a McDonalds and stopped. McDonalds get a bad rap but I have found them everywhere to be a gathering area for locals who meet regularly, sip their coffee at an unhurried pace, and share stories. They are a place of fellowship and support. The regulars know all the staff and they, in turn, look after them. I spoke with a harried cashier and asked her: “How are you doing today?” She looked at me, rolled her eyes and said: “I got a new dog yesterday. Kept me up all night. I wasn’t supposed to work today but they called me in and I am so tired. My brain is not functioning. You want any cream and sweetener with that coffee?”

Later, I ran into a woman with a dog who was hovering around a truck stop. She looked like she was trying to catch a ride. I found myself closing down emotionally, limiting my conversation. Why? What was I afraid of? She wasn’t going to ask me for a ride. If she wanted money I was happy to give her some. I wasn’t showing lovingkindness to strangers and I knew it. “Ever ride in the mountains?” She asked. “Some.” I replied. She continued. “I’m from the mountains of North Carolina. Ever hear of Tail of the Dragon?” I stared at her and noticed how straight and white her teeth were, but her trouser legs were stained. “A few times. It’s a very challenging ride.” (318 curves in 11 miles). She smiled. “Last time I was up in those mountains at home, they were so beautiful, I cried.” Then she turned away to forage in her pack for something. I cranked the bike up and when she looked up I wished her safe travels.

Cruising at 75 mph really sucked the gas out of my tank and twice I almost ran out. For a number of miles I shifted down to 60 and took it easy. I coasted into one gas station and filled Big Red up with 5.2 gallons of gas – she holds 5.

Eventually, I made it to Tucumcari, and found a motel. Later I ate supper at Del’s restaurant. Waiting at the cash register to pay my bill I saw these two older ladies (okay- a few years older than me.) both wearing the same red shirts. One was really cute. They had matching tee shirts they were buying that said Route 66. “Those are nice colors.” I said. The cute one turned toward me and said: “We’ve been friends ever since we were children. Across the street from each other. We’re traveling together up to Yellowstone and then going to Minnesota for my granddaughter’s graduation. Then we’re heading back to Florida.” She smiled and then saddened. “It’s been rough since Packie died.” She paused. “He was my dog.” I smiled tightly and nodded and then as they were leaving I said: “I expect to see both of you wearing those shirts next time I see y’all.” They giggled, wished me a safe trip and scrambled out. Another man jumped ahead of me and paid and when I left the two women were waiting in their mini van for me, smiled and yelled across the parking lot. I waved. They took off while I got ready to ride. They rode past the restaurant, yelled, waved and honked. I headed out, back to the motel.

 

Winter into Spring: Transitions and Preparations; Divine Providence; Road Whispering.

I think we’ve reached the last of the cold mornings. When I took off to ride to my job the other day at 7 am it was 42 degrees (5 degrees Celsius) and when I returned it was 80 degrees (26 Celsius). It’s as if winter hasn’t wanted to let go, that it’s shouting “put up your dukes” to Spring. They fight it out with rain and tornadoes, swollen rivers, blustery winds, and thunderstorms. It’s as if winter has no memory of all the seasons before, despite the shouting blooming all around trying to get its attention. There are the dogwood trees, and red buds, cherry trees, magnolias, and azaleas. How can winter not notice the garlands of purple wisteria draped among the trees? The yellow buttercups in the field with the romping chestnut roan and the leaning shack with the bright red door?

Winter is a slow learner, like me. I ride the same stretch of Interstate 75 for twenty miles to work and keep forgetting the pothole in the right of the middle lane near Resaca. Bam! I always think I’ve probably blown a tire or damaged my rim. Other times, I forget to charge my heated gloves for the morning ride.

I’m excited now and counting down the days (May 12th) until I head off on my cross-country trip to LA. Researching possible places to stop along the way, where I might stay in LA, has my head spinning. I think Big Red (my 2004 Harley Road King), and I will just leave it up to Divine Providence – The Tao. I’ll do some road whispering while I ride. And, thinking of the hot days ahead of me, the heat lines rising off the baking roads in Texas, I’ll probably miss winter.

The Challenges of Winter Motorcycling: Part Two – Autumn Rides

I tried to capture the beauty of an Autumn ride and made these notes a few months ago.

A rustic, weatherworn, gray shack

With a bright red door.

A sun-glistening brown horse

Plays with the buttercups

Pink and charcoal clouds float

In a haint blue sky,

Looking like their arms are crossed.

 

Later, riding home

The sky, honey-apricot.

Black clouds scud like ravens,  

Over the orange-scarlet colors of the sumac leaves.

Philosophy, Time Tunnel, and Motorcycle Riding: Heidegger

In the late 1960’s there was a TV show called The Time Tunnel about two scientists, Doug and Tony, who got caught up in a time machine. While their scientific compatriots were trying to bring them home Doug and Tony bounced around from one historic time period to another. This week they might show up on the Titanic; next week in the Badlands of South Dakota on the day when Custer made his last stand.  Their appearance in another time zone was inevitably accompanied by them being thrown, tumbling out of the swirling black and white striped cave and onto the ground in their new temporary home.

The philosopher Heidegger coined a term “Geworfen” which essentially translates to “being thrown”. He suggests that individuals are essential “thrown” into the world. We’re thrown into this world with an attendant list of people, circumstances, sufferings, and conditions that we had no control over but must make the best of.

This is how I felt when I returned to the USA after having lived in Ireland for 17 years – as if someone had thrown me out of the time tunnel and I had landed here. I still feel it now and again when I’ve entered into some new situation, something unknown. As the poet Rilke put it:  when “Our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity”. These feelings are accentuated when I travel long distance, especially on the Harley. I end up being thrown into towns where I don’t know anyone, and folks are eyeing me suspiciously. (People eye me suspiciously even in the town I live in!) The choice is to accept the way others see us, to live up to their expectations – to avoid the anxiety inherent in the possibility of freedom – or to embrace it. In addition to being thrown into our existence, Heidegger also says that humans are Sein-zum-Tode – “Beings toward Death”. (Those Germans have a word for everything! Mark Twain once exclaimed that eternity was invented by God so that people would have a long enough time to learn German!) Living with this truth, that we are all on the road to death, is not meant to be depressing, instead, it allows us to step out of our “Everydayness” (“Alltäglichkeit” in German), and to become more passionately aware of our freedom and choices. It reminds us to be aware that our time is limited, that we need to dare to be ourselves despite external pressures, so that we can move from an inauthentic way of living to a more authentic one.

Along with Doug and Tony, we’re constantly being thrown out of the time tunnel. It’s up to us to decide and act upon, who we’re going to be.

Philosophy, Time Tunnel, and Motorcycle Riding: Heidegger

In the late 1960’s there was a TV show called The Time Tunnel about two scientists, Doug and Tony, who got caught up in a time machine. While their scientific compatriots were trying to bring them home Doug and Tony bounced around from one historic time period to another. This week they might show up on the Titanic; next week in the Badlands of South Dakota on the day when Custer made his last stand.  Their appearance in another time zone was inevitably accompanied by them being thrown, tumbling out of the swirling black and white striped cave and onto the ground in their new temporary home.

The philosopher Heidegger coined a term “Geworfen” which essentially translates to “being thrown”. He suggests that individuals are essential “thrown” into the world. We’re thrown into this world with an attendant list of people, circumstances, sufferings, and conditions that we had no control over but must make the best of.

This is how I felt when I returned to the USA after having lived in Ireland for 17 years – as if someone had thrown me out of the time tunnel and I had landed here. I still feel it now and again when I’ve entered into some new situation, something unknown. As the poet Rilke put it:  when “Our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity”. These feelings are accentuated when I travel long distance, especially on the Harley. I end up being thrown into towns where I don’t know anyone, and folks are eyeing me suspiciously. (People eye me suspiciously even in the town I live in!) The choice is to accept the way others see us, to live up to their expectations – to avoid the anxiety inherent in the possibility of freedom – or to embrace it. In addition to being thrown into our existence, Heidegger also says that humans are Sein-zum-Tode – “Beings toward Death”. (Those Germans have a word for everything! Mark Twain once exclaimed that eternity was invented by God so that people would have a long enough time to learn German!) Living with this truth, that we are all on the road to death, is not meant to be depressing, instead, it allows us to step out of our “Everydayness” (“Alltäglichkeit” in German), and to become more passionately aware of our freedom and choices. It reminds us to be aware that our time is limited, that we need to dare to be ourselves despite external pressures, so that we can move from an inauthentic way of living to a more authentic one.

Along with Doug and Tony, we’re constantly being thrown out of the time tunnel. It’s up to us to decide and act upon, who we’re going to be.

The Road Home; The Majestic Diner on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta; 40 Year Reunion; Existentialism, Eggs and Grits.

On my way back to Rome, Georgia Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King and I decided to stop at Griffin. I had earned enough frequent visitor points from a hotel chain that I got a free room at the motel. Then I had a Mexican takeaway and watched TV for a change. The Dirty Harry movies were on.

Next morning I headed to Atlanta to meet my two old buddies Jeff and Kevin for breakfast at a place we used to haunt years ago: the Majestic Diner. This was when all three of us worked at Peachtree Psychiatric Hospital. Sometimes we worked a 3-11pm shift and it was the only restaurant open. I figured that it had been forty years since the three of us had sat together in one of the booths. Back then we had talked about women (problems with or lack of) and what we wanted to do with our lives. Now, forty years later we were talking about women (problems with or lack of) and what we wanted to do with our lives. The difference was that we had forty years of existence since we had first discussed philosophy over eggs and grits. I’m not sure that any of us felt like we had learned very much. We got to talking about existentialist philosophy, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre and Marcel. Our memories were rusty, which was okay because existentialism had grown pretty rusty too. Regardless of the roads we had ridden on over the years the young, naive, arrogance and hubris of our twenties had been battered, scarred and smelted into a more pure vulnerability and humility, which was a good, albeit painful, thing.

After two hours it was time to hit our different roads and talk about when we might get together again. Maybe at Huck’s Cove right on the bayou in Gautier, Mississippi where we had ridden to once before?  Who knows? We’re more patient now. And more trusting.

Paving Over Memory Lane; Chico’s Monkey Farm; Nowhere to Go and No Hurry to get There; More Motorcycle Adventures on Back Roads Georgia Highways 17 and 341; Wooden Nickels.

I’ve never had a great memory. That’s why I write things down. Old photos of family and friends, and places I’ve been help me somewhat, but actually seeing the old things helps me the most. Highway 17 used to be the main conduit between Florida and Maine and was filled with fascinating, and sometimes troubling, roadside entertainment. When I-95 was completed, the roadside services, motor lodges and entertainments began to dry up. Highway 17 is still an important road linking communities but it’s become a four lane. That came at a further expense as when they widened the road they knocked down many of the old facilities. The rest were left derelict.

So here I am driving down the highway and trying to remember where things were. Where was  Chico’s Monkey Farm and the Dixie Jungle. Once you could see their bright pink advertising signs with garish colors and wacky designs every half mile down the road: “See the Monkeys!”, “Pet the Alligators”, “Pecan Logs” and “Souvenirs”. Men were boiling peanuts by the side of the road and there was scent of barbecue from Mammy’ Kitchen and Howdy’s Restaurant where they had the wild pink flamingos. And there was Archie’s Seafood Restaurant in Darien.

Leaving Darien this morning I decided to head north and took Highway 341, which I took all the way up to Griffin, Georgia from where I’m now writing. Got in moments before a thunderstorm hit.

Here’s just a list of observations for my memory lane:

Homes: Shotgun cottages, clapboard houses; small brick homes, some fancy, single and double wide trailers.

Trees: Pine, willow, maple, magnolias, mimosas, cypress trees in blackwater swamps.

Farms, pecan trees, peanut farms, peach groves, the scent of newly cut pine trees on a logging truck.

Peach ice cream at Dicky’s Peach Farm.

I just enjoyed the ride. I had nowhere to go and there was no hurry to get there. I daydreamed, meditated, prayed and gave thanks. Aren’t all our journeys, whether down memory lane or the four lanes of new adventures, ultimately about love? Remembering it, discovering it, preaching it?

Oh, and I passed lots of signs for Vacation Bible Schools. If they don’t teach those kids to love everyone, regardless of what roads they’ve taken to get here, then those classes aren’t worth a wooden nickel.

I remember wooden nickels.

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