The Joy of Riding a Motorcycle; Navigating by Dark Clouds; River Zen

The weather has been hot, but perfect for motorcycling, except for that torrential downpour that caught up with me, soaked me silly and forced me to hunker down at a Starbucks.

I’ve spent the last two days on my old 1973 BMW taking short trips through the beautiful surroundings of northwest Georgia. Not much has been blooming. The magnolias are finished but there are still a few remaining pink ballerina flowers on the mimosas. Pink, purple and fuchsia colored crepe myrtles are still blooming in the towns.  Orange trumpet vines cascade along the highways and the staghorn sumac, with its stalky, crimson flowers, races along the riverbanks. It’s beautiful. Not much in the way of scents other than the petrichor, that earthy smell that arises after a hot rain. Then there are the amazing scents of barbecue places you drive past, the ones with faded pigs drawn on the store glass. Still, I’m looking forward to Autumn, when the air will be filled with the scent of wood fires burning.

I had nowhere I needed to be so I navigated by dark clouds. Wherever they were, I went the other way. I ended up on some roads I’d never traveled before. Passed farms, fields, cows, and donkeys. There were tumble down barns and leaning, rickety houses, most of which were covered by kudzu.

I parked the Old Knight (the BMW) by the bank of the Oostanaula River, sat down next to a sassafras tree, smoked a pipe full of cherry tobacco and just watched the river flow. I gave thanks and said prayers for some folks who are struggling and watched the smoke rings from the pipe disappear into the air.

Later, I found a quote that I liked from a woman biker:

“…Riding on a motorcycle can make you feel joyous, powerful, peaceful, frightened, vulnerable, and back out to happy again, perhaps in the same ten miles. It is life compressed, its own answer to the question “Why?” (Melissa Holbrook Pearson)

Why not? Safe riding to you.

Day 21: Dust Storm, Zero Visibility, Gusting Winds = Dangerous Riding, Tumbling Tumbleweeds, World Cup, Watercolor Sky: 367 Miles Traveled.

All day long I was thinking that this was going to be a rather boring blog entry. The heat index today had fallen into the 90’s and the ride was reasonably comfortable, especially compared with yesterday. And the scenery of I-10 was still the same: Cacti, willow trees, rough grass, huge stones, mountain ranges in the distance, long stretches between towns, filling stations with Tee Shirts, Mexican and Native American crafts.
I hunkered down in Wilcox, Arizona at a McDonalds and watched the second half of the USA match on my laptop, in Spanish.
Then I headed back out on the road and finished my trip in Arizona and entered New Mexico. There were signs warning of dust storms, zero visibility, and asking drivers to not stop in the travel lanes. I looked to the north and south and could see dust devils spinning in the distance. No problem here, I thought.
I stopped at Deming, and for some reason, found myself just driving around the town, looking at the old buildings and shops. Cops were frisking some guy outside an auto parts store. Farther down the road another cop was taking witness statements by the side of the road. Time to leave. Gassed up and saw a huge dust storm coming out of the north. This storm stretch for miles, just a golden cloud heading my way. I took off and headed towards Las Cruces. It looked like I was going to outrun it and I did. I watched in the rear view mirror as the sand colored and black clouds swept the landscape behind me. But 10 miles down the road, the wind suddenly picked up and a huge dust storm closed in. I flipped my helmet visor down, rode for about 5 miles through the dust and battering winds until I reached a spot where I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me.
I had to pull over on the interstate shoulder. I leaned over the gas tank of the bike and steadied it as the wind kept trying to blow the bike over. This lasted for about 15 minutes until the rocking winds died down. I cranked Big Red back up and she ran sluggishly through the remnants of the dust storm. (Air filter?). I stopped at a service area, got an orange juice, calmed my nerves and checked on my phone, the weather at my next destination: Las Cruces. Severe thunderstorm warnings. I could either go back about 15 miles to Deming or try and get to Las Cruces, 40 miles away, before the storm got me.
I took off toward Las Cruces. I could smell rain in the air, petrichor, (Wikipedia: “Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɨkɔər/) is the scent of rain on dry earth, or the scent of dust after rain. The word is constructed from Greek, petros, meaning ‘stone’ + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.”) Love that word! It’s alchemical.
The rain fell intermittently but the sky, the sky was amazing. Behind me, to the west, the sky was a golden ochre color. To the north there was a swath of blue, with gunmetal grey clouds. The south looked like a Chinese watercolor with a wash of grey on the horizon, and above, indigo clouds descending. Then I topped a hill and headed down into the city of Las Cruces, the city of the crosses. Looming high behind the city are the Organ Mountains and at this moment the setting sun from behind me was illuminating the foothills of the mountains, painting them an electric golden color. It was majestic. Holy. Wow.
Then I headed back to the mundane and secular and got a room at a Super 8