Cross USA Motorcycle Trip – Reentry Problems in Rome, Georgia; 1973 BMW r60/5 and a 2004 Harley Road King Classic. The Rally That Wasn’t; A Car Driver’s Awful Confession.

You get used to things on the road and when you get home it can be disorienting. For days after I returned from my 5700 mile trip I would come downstairs where I live expecting a hot breakfast, or at least a poor continental one. That didn’t go over very well. Some days I found myself trying to figure out the motel check out time. Or I’d awaken in the middle of the night and run to the window wanting to make sure my bike was safe.

It would have been easier if I’d had some life to jettison back into but I’m a teacher and I don’t work in the summer. (And I don’t get paid.) So, it has been a struggle and everyday since I’ve wanted to hop back onto the bike and go somewhere. And on most days, I have.

Since I returned from my 20 day trip, I decided to give, Big Red, the Harley a break for a while and instead I’m riding my old 1973 BMW. I call her Rocinante – named after Don Quixote’s horse.  Being 46 years old she has, rightfully, a few complaints, but she tends to keep quiet about them. Her speedometer is broken, as is the rpm gauge but the odometer works just fine. So, most of the time I’m riding around not knowing how fast I’m going, unless I use my phone app, which is a hassle. Her stand’s a bit wonky and tends to sink into the hot asphalt. The neutral light doesn’t come on and so I have to guess when the bike’s in neutral, which I’ve mostly gotten used to. She doesn’t have a self-cancelling turn signal, so the blinking lights stay on until you notice them and turn them off. When I’m not looking, she’ll sometimes leak gas (petrol) out of one of her Mikuni carburetors. I have to turn off the petcocks before I set her on her wonky stand to avoid that. But she runs beautifully, is nimble and at stop lights you can barely hear her putt, putt, putt. I can say that the little thumper has great torque, four speeds and can get up to 100 mph but we won’t say how quickly. I can’t say, however, that I’m not waiting for something new to happen to the bike. The other day on a trip over to Alabama I hit some railroad tracks hard and the headlight popped out and was dangling by a few wires. That was easily fixed. I think. She also doesn’t have much storage ability – just a small tank bag. Still, I love riding her. She weighs around 450 pounds (around 210 kg) as opposed to the Harley’s 750 lbs. and because her engine sticks out, is horizontally opposed, it has a low center of gravity, which makes for better, easier handling. On the bright side she gets over 50 mpg, whereas the Harley struggles with 35-40. Here’s the two of them:

Two days ago, I got up early to head over to be a part of a charity ride for cancer patients. I was right on time, but no one was there. Then I figured it out that it was the following weekend. To not waste the time I awarded myself: Best Looking Bike and Most Handsome Rider awards. Anyway, I decided it was a great day for a ride and so I took the route the ride usually takes. (140 – 411 to Cartersville, Ga. )I stopped at the Harley dealer and looked at vests to replace the one I’d lost. Sitting outside in front of the shop a man’s shadow came close to me. I looked up and it was Carl, the mechanic I always ask to work on my bike. He was scanning the parking area and said: “I was confused because I don’t see Big Red.” I laughed and explained, but it may not be such a great thing that the repair staff there know me and Big Red so well.

On the way home I took highway 411 and then 293 which is twistier and prettier. I had hoped that the old man who sells boiled peanuts might be selling them in the parking lot of an auto parts store. He was!

I stop there a few times a year and buy a bag and listen to his stories. This time he was telling me that he was now 75 years old and the heat was getting to him. (It was 99 degrees). He could hardly breathe sometimes though he’d had surgery to try and fix that. We talked further and then I walked over to get on the bike. He came over to me and said, roughly:

“I hit one not long ago.”

“Hit what?”

“I biker.

“Really, that must have been awful.”

“Never had an accident I caused in my life and I just didn’t see him. Saw the white car in front.” His face reddened. “I have nightmares about it.”

“Is he all right?”

“Had to get a rod put in his leg – bone was sticking out – I was crying and apologizing to him and he was apologizing to me. Imagine that.” He glanced away. “He’ll be in rehab soon down here. I’m toying with going to see him. What do you think?”

“I think that would be good.”

He turned and started to walk back to his truck and then turned back to look at me. “Every once in a while, I just have to tell someone.”

“I’m glad you did. I’m so sorry.” I hesitated. “God bless you.”

He stared at me: “God bless you too. Be careful.”

I nodded.

Thanksgiving: Tybee Island; Doc’s Bar; Head Showered, and Kindness.

With my kids in LA. (not Lower Alabama!) and London, I decided to skip the local family reunion and head to Tybee Island, Georgia on Big Red, my Harley Road King. I needed to clear my mind (get my “head showered” as they say in Northern Ireland), think and work on my latest novel. My last novel: “I Should Have Seen it Coming” is out now on Amazon.

So I took off Wednesday and, despite a bit of traffic, after 340 miles I made it safely to Tybee. It has been beautiful here! Highs in the mid 70’s, clear blue skies and the ocean as welcoming as ever. So I’ve been walking the beach, soaking up the sun, writing some and enjoying the comfort of a few friends. Doc’s Bar helps too. When inspiration isn’t flowing you can be sure the beer there is. I took Big Red on a tour of the island, including where I used to spend my summers, and we also caught the golden rays of the setting sun as they languished in the reeds and grass of the salt marsh. Why would the rays want to leave? So beautiful.

So tomorrow I plan to do much of the same. I have a lady friend who’s coming later to meet me and we’ll walk the beach and grab some dinner. Why she would want to spend time with me is beyond my comprehension but we have to be thankful for such gifts, as unearned as they may be.

And Saturday, head showered or not, Big Red and I’ll have to head back to Rome, Georgia. Thanksgiving is never about a day plucked out of the calendar. It’s about stopping wherever you are, and whenever, and giving thanks for the unearned graces you have received; that we all have received. And it’s about somehow transmuting this thankfulness into kindness towards others.

At least that’s how Big Red and I see it. Kickstands up.Ride safely.

 

 

12,541 Motorcycle Miles Last Year. Reflections on My First Year in Rome, Georgia and Thanks

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12,541 Motorcycle Miles Last Year. Reflections on My First Year in Rome, Georgia

Last July I moved over here from Ireland. The kids had grown and my marriage had fallen apart. So after some painful reflection I decided to go home. I squeezed 16 years of my possessions and memories into four suitcases and said “goodbye” to a beautiful country and great friends. When I arrived back in Georgia, Jeff loaned me his Harley, Big Red, and eventually, reluctantly, he sold it to me. They are still on good terms. I promise. He can ride her whenever he wants to.

I had a tough time adjusting when I first got here. New land, new people, mixing with old memories, reflections and dreams. The dreams were the worst bit. I’d wake up feeling vanquished and shipwrecked, tossed onto an unfamiliar shore. I went through a period of mourning, which Freud says is love’s rebellion against loss. He was right. I viscerally lived out all the various meanings of the word: bereft. What has helped me survive and prosper has been my family, the incredibly hospitable folks of Rome, messages from friends in Ireland, God, prayer, and, of course Big Red. They all gave me hope and encouragement. I’m not there yet; I still have quite a few miles to go.

Big Red especially helped me stay in the “here and now”, practice my mindfulness and distracted me away from painful memories. All those miles, the long cross country trip, gave me time for peacefulness, silent reflection, centering, letting go of the past, prayer, forgiving, gratitude, redemption and for hope to spring anew. Prayer comes easily on a motorcycle, especially a Harley. Hope, for Emily Dickinson might be “a thing with feathers” but for me hope comes on two wheels, barreling down open and unknown roads, where sometimes you can see only as far as your headlight shows you. And that’s good enough for me.

Thanks everyone and thanks Big Red.