If you look hard enough, a bright spot will appear in your day. On a cloudy, wet, cool day here at the motorcycle shop, my folks stopped in to say hello. Both in their eighties and slow to get around, they came to town to pick up a few things. Mom doesn’t always get out of the car at every stop as it can be difficult at times, but today was an exception. Dad is great when it comes to helping her around and for me it’s not hard to find a moment to stop and sit down while at work and visit with them even if its only for a few minutes. Even though they live about 8 blocks from me, it’s always good to see them, and it’s nice to know they want to stop and see me while they are in town. The conversations aren’t usually too deep; it’s mostly about the how everyone is doing and the buzz around the community or where the gas prices are the highest. Dad will let me know where and when I should buy gas to save a penny or two and as crazy as it seems - I do it.
This particular trip to town, my dad picked up some fried chicken at the local full service grocery store, and my mother was looking forward to getting home and having dinner. She’s very petite but a pretty good eater so dad felt like he couldn’t leave her alone in the car with the fried chicken. Although the chicken was safe in the back seat, he thought it better to bring her in. It’s always great to see them and listen to the banter they have going back and forth. It shows me that after all these years they both still have a great sense of humor. I can only hope to have the ability to laugh at myself at their age.
My folks are always amazed at the motorcycles on the showroom floor. We talk about how much they cost and who in the world would pay that much for something like that. They are always impressed by how beautiful they are and as I have ridden motorcycles for the last 40 years, – my mom and dad have never ridden. Pretty amazing. While we were visiting, just five feet away from us sat a 2014 Harley-Davidson trike. Dad looked at mom and without any hesitation said “if I were to get one it would be this, and I wouldn’t let you eat fried chicken on it.” Like any new vehicle ever purchased, I guess there are always rules for drinks and food.
I love my folks. My mother is a dear and as in any conversation, she has a hard time keeping up. But if you listen real close to what she has to say, it will make you smile. I love my dad as well. I am lucky to be graced with his looks and I wish I had half the talent he has with a hammer. Good people and awesome parents. When I see them together I consider myself lucky to be their son.
If you could have heard the song playing in my helmet on my rainy ride to work this morning, it would have sounded like a broken record skipping along repeating the same verse over and over. All too often we bikers get something stuck in that helmet of ours and it takes miles to shake it loose. I know it’s not that unusual to be riding down the road taking in the sites and humming a tune, but do we always get to pick the tune? Is there some deeper reason a lyric or song gets stuck in our head? The song stuck in my head this morning was Gary Allan’s “Every Storm,” and not just because I was riding into the rain. But when you think about it, every storm will run out of rain. Just not soon enough for a biker.
Being the avid motorcyclist, I’m always prepared for days like this, and when the weatherman talks percentages for rain, he really should mention the odds. Like your odds of rain in comparison to not having a rain suit with you. Your odds of ever seeing rain go down considerably after investing in a quality rain suit. Much like the odds of running out of gas near a gas station. That will always happens at the furthest point from civilization as possible.
Just like every song you hear, there are deeper meanings involved. It’s always up to the listener how words will be translated and how it will apply to you specifically, and to me this song is all about how vulnerable we are in this world and as life sets you back, it’s a matter of holding your head up knowing there are better days ahead. We can’t live our life waiting for the weather to get better; instead, we must go out in whatever weather is surrounding us and push through it. Some days it feels like you can’t win as the storm rages around you, but this storm, like the storms before it, will end and the sun will come out again. Very important words for a guy who rides a motorcycle.
As random as the weather can be, we can also be surprised by the winds of change as our lives take turns unexpectedly. We should always know this is temporary and even if there is damage and destruction surrounding us after the storm we will see the sun again. We don’t forget, we just move past. The lyric that stands out to me in this song is how we all have thorns. Below the surface of something as beautiful as the rose, you may experience a little pain. We all experience a few thorns over the course of our lifetime, but it’s the beauty of the rose we remember – not the pain of a thorn or two.
I’m a fan of Gary Allan. From the surface his music is a little dark and for good reason. To know where this darkness comes from is important to understand the emotion which comes through in every word he sings. And with that I was humming along with the words silently being sung in my head. I don’t mind riding in the rain as some of my most memorable rides happened on days just like this. I wonder what song will be playing in my head on the ride home…
It’s easy to find that old road home. Sometimes it can be automatic and effortless finding your way here and other times it can be a road no one wants to travel. Why is it easy to find the road home when the road out-of-town is so difficult to locate? It can’t be those roots around your feet holding you down as so many before you have proven it possible to cut loose and make a run for it. Look around – there are plenty of family and friends who have broken free and found the escape route from their hometowns to find greener and brighter places to reside. There must be a brick for every one of those who left, making up the cobblestone four blocks of our main street. Countless bricks – a quiet reminder that it is possible to call somewhere else home.
Not everyone wants to stay behind. The quiet of a small town can make your ears bleed, and it’s often the invisible expectations we place upon ourselves which keep the porch light on at night. Is it a fear of the unknown or the lack of confidence in myself that keeps me here? Is the grass under my feet greener than that which grows down the road? Or is it me that makes the grass greener wherever I’m standing… Great questions with answers yet to be determined.
I know for some it’s a race to get beyond the railroad tracks. Life begins when the cake is cut at the high school after-graduation party, and then it’s off to who knows where to start who knows what. We’re young and excited and we want to see what we’re capable of. We want to make our mark in this world and this small town is standing in our way! The grip of any one-horse town is no match to college, work and distant dreams and besides, who’s going to notice when I’m gone?
We go about our business of living while planting our own roots so the family we raise has a place to call home. We water the grass to keep it green thinking that’s all it takes to keep them here, only to have them hatch the same escape plan we had when it’s time to leave the nest. Some leave the small town life and come back while others leave and never look back. There are those that never leave but always wish they had and there are a few that are completely content to living their life on gravel. There is a reason the end of the rainbow is always off in the distance. That elusive pot of gold which lies at the other end is actually our family and friends who have had the courage to move away. But remember, there are always two ends to a rainbow, even though you may not always see it. Does that mean there are two pots of gold?
So whether you are running from your past, chasing fame and fortune or love, one thing is for sure – you will either be leaving the comfort of your hometown in your pursuits or you will be coming back to a porch light left on. The direction you travel is dependent upon where your grass was planted or where this rainbow ends.
On occasion, from the seat of my high-mileage motorcycle, I will sift through the many wins and losses in my life. As we all know it’s not about keeping score, but the score can indirectly determine how we end up in this world. The more losses, the stronger and harder we play, and the more wins – well, I hope we still play strong and hard. The true test is how we handle the set-backs and how gracious we are when things actually go our way.
As distant roads call me by my first name, I have to admit I’m ready to go somewhere. Anywhere. It’s almost like a confessional for me as I ride down the road on my bike. Admitting to myself my shortcomings, where I went wrong in the past, accepting the outcomes from decisions I’ve made, and where I could have played harder and stronger to get more of what I want out my short time on earth. How can I spend so much time looking within when there is a whole world in front of me to see? By looking internally I can change the way I perceive the world, and there it is – full circle. My view of the world is based on my life and the choices I’ve made, and by understanding this I can look at the wonders in front of me and see the true beauty - in people, places and everything surrounding it. The fact that I do this from the seat of my motorcycle is just to make the story interesting.
We do what makes us happy and with happiness comes contentment. It’s important to recognize those happy moments for what they are and when things aren’t going your way it’s equally important to know it’s only temporary. Can you force yourself to be happy? No, but you are the determining factor of how good or bad you feel in any given situation. Looking at the brighter side or seeing the glass half full doesn’t hurt, but convincing yourself that it can always be worse is a step in the right direction.
We all have those uphill days and I know many times it’s easier to swim with the current instead of fighting for what you want or believe in. It helps me to understand all the intricate pieces to my puzzle when I can have a few miles to look at it from a broader scale. Instead of focusing on each puzzle piece individually, I can see the greater picture. Some of those pieces are infinitely optimistic, while others have to be forced into place with your thumb and convinced to fit. Like the glass being half full, it’s an “almost fit.” Eventually, all pieces will go together. I guarantee it.
I sure spend a lot of time thinking when perched upon my motorcycle. It is within these elements that I find a certain frame of mind that allows me to come to some sort of conclusion to my little world. It gives me clarity and hope that those wins and losses have truly defined who I am. I wonder what the tie breaker will be?
There is a reason you can only carry so much on a motorcycle. When we get on our bikes we are supposed to leave our baggage by the side of the road and put as many miles between us and all those things that pile up in the corners of our mind. We all know that riding gives us the freedom to let the weight of the world disappear (at least for a few miles), and if only for a little while we know things will be okay. So what do we do with all that stuff?
If you live by the rules of the road where “you can’t take it with you,” then what do you do with it? When I’m rolling down the highway on my motorcycle, I use this time to sort through what is really important and file it away by priority. I let my mind wander and I give myself permission to think about what I want to think about. The few things I have weighing on my mind that suddenly seem less important simply fall off the back of the bike. The ride is my way of working out the kinks and clearing off my desk, otherwise, it just keeps piling up and nothing gets done. But I’m lucky as I can do this while riding to and from work.
There are rides where we have a hard time leaving all of that stuff behind. We get out and twist the throttle only to come back and find our saddle bags are still full with all the frustrations and stress we started out with. Maybe the ride wasn’t long enough or we headed in the wrong direction only adding to the load that we so wanted to lose. Not for a lack of trying, but more of the wrong frame of mind. Just as one meditates or seeks therapy, results may vary depending upon your attitude. Just like taking the family on vacation, loading the car before the trip is easy – it’s when you get home and the car is a mess and you have more packed in the trunk than when you left. You forgot about the great time you just had because now it’s over and the real world is sitting in your driveway waiting for you to pull up to the house to welcome you back.
Let’s be real here. You don’t have to have your bike loaded to the mirrors to feel the weight of what’s pulling you down. It can be something as small as that cell phone you carry your entire life in. Of course you should take it with you if the ride is going to be of any length, but put it on silent or turn it off. Having it vibrate in your pocket is only going to mess with your head until you pull over and check it out. It can wait. You can wait.
Take the time to unpack before the ride, you will enjoy it that much more.
My, what you can see from the seat of your motorcycle. There is the obvious; people on cell phones and what appears to be cars veering out of control with the intent of doing you harm, or an occasional wild animal coming up on the road to get a better look at you, and then – the wonder of this beautiful world around you. Have you ever wondered where that jet in the sky is going? I’ve looked up and counted the jet trails crossing above me only to think of all those people in the plane looking down, also in amazement of this place we call home. For the last few years when I see the path of a jetliner it always takes my thoughts to a particular place.
Just as you settle in on a ride, you slowly open your eyes to the scenery that surrounds you. It begins with a deep breath as you find your rhythm and everything seems to fall into place. This never gets old. Sunrise, sunsets, valleys and hills. The feel of the wind as it pushes you around and you just know that your are really only along for this ride. I’m only a spot on the landscape in a much bigger picture, so with all this going on around me, where do I fit in?
When I’m on my bike I become a participant in a spectator sport. I am moving within the environment that I find so beautiful. As quick as I can appreciate the simplicity of big round bales of hay lining a fence row, I ride into a valley that was created over many lifetimes. A man-made road that leads me past beauty created by the Man Himself. How can I complain about anything when reality says to take it all in. You are here, you’re breathing in and out and life is good – everything else can go in a worry pot.
The motorcycle is my front row seat to the world before me. You may choose to see it from a boat or on the deck by a fire pit and I’m good with that. We’re all different in many ways but also similar in how we process beauty. We see things and translate them in our own language, but the end result is how it makes us feel. Like the feeling I get when I see a jet crossing the sky or the sun coming up, it affects me the same way – it puts me in a place to appreciate what it all represents.
At times it can seem like a desperate situation, one minute you’re a hero and the next a total zero. It’s hard to make up for those times when expectations are high and then reality beats you down. Some days it’s just not worth all the hassle. On the other hand, determination will take over and you feel like no matter the odds, you can – and will overcome. We ride. Sometimes we don’t ride. Sometimes we need to ride regardless of the weather. This morning it is freezing drizzle. Today, I’m looking for a particular Ground Hog.
I know it’s not his fault. Just like our local weatherman, both are just messengers of truth, or rather speculation, on what we motorcyclists consider the key ingredient to our particular mode of transportation. Good weather is our gasoline and right now for some motorcyclists the gas station is closed. Toying with our emotions is never advised and we put such high hopes in all you represent. How long will you keep us off our motorcycles? Maybe the greater question is CAN you keep us off our motorcycles?
So today I ride. I ride in search of you my friend – to show you that it is not my desperation to ride, but rather my passion to ride! Alas, I do not blame you. It’s your job to be the bearer of news, good or bad. And I will lift you to shoulder height when the news of an early spring comes, but not today. So hide in your stump, Phil. Look away from me and know that for the next few weeks we are not friends. Our relationship will always have its moments, but for now you are dead to me.
We can choose to be fair-weather riders and have our riding habits dictated by fury animals and “weather in motion”. But if the garage walls appear to be closing in, it’s time to get out - and ride. I prefer to ride!