I can still hear the laughter from my friends as we hung out on main street in White City. Standing in front of the pool hall watching the same cars pass by, as we talked about what we should be doing or where we should be going. Back and forth, cruising the four blocks of that red brick street, making endless U-turns and unconscious waves to the cars we passed in opposite directions. That was our independence. The football field lights still shining bright after a home game and everyone is uptown hanging out, happy for a win, or bummed from a loss. We all knew each other, and growing up together in a small town was what you did. Voices still echo from those sidewalks as cars pass by, heading nowhere, waiting for the clock on the City building to let me know I was going to be late getting her home.
Those years can be looked upon as ”the good times” and even though they were good times, we had no idea that the best years of our lives were yet to come. You could see all four blocks of that street and you knew that a U-turn was going to bring you right back. Those that had the courage to not turn around at the locker plant knew how it felt to return on those special occasions to find the front yard beneath their feet was still there, reassuring them they were home. Walking past the boot scraper, up those concrete steps and into the kitchen, remembering the smells that somehow still linger as the door opens to rooms full of memories. Photos are taken, hugs are given and small talk is made, then it’s back to the world that pulled them away.
I still hear the laughter of those friends, but now it’s through the words they type in texts or emails - I swear I can hear their voice in the words I read. Their smiles are the same and their laughs haven’t changed at all. Even though kids don’t turn around on the main drag in town anymore, it doesn’t mean the world stopped turning around. Friends that left still come back for graduations, weddings, reunions and funerals, so we get a quick word, a handshake or hug and then it’s goodbye…for now, only to return another day.
There are a lot of miles on that old main street, and there are a lot of miles between old friends and home. I miss those days when we were close enough to say it in person, even if it was just a two finger wave from your hand on the steering wheel. Maybe someday I’ll know what it’s like to not turn around at the locker plant.
Never give up. Easy to say, but oh, so hard to do. The path of least resistance can become quite the habit for many, but for a few they will settle for nothing but the best. But what about an average guy like me? I can dream, can’t I? Sometimes it takes goals (lofty goals at that) for them to be reached. Why is that? Goals are the easy part, it’s the doing that takes the effort. And of course, never giving up.
It’s easy to say “maybe someday,” but to actually find yourself achieving a goal you put forth - goes to show you if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen. How bad did I want this? Not as bad as you think. It seemed so far-fetched that it was more of a dream than an actual goal. This isn’t something I’ve been thinking about since I was a child, but only recently did I have the urge to put my thoughts into words. I think from a deeper sense, it was all the years of reading motorcycle publications over and over that put me in this spot. If it’s true “you are what you eat,” then surely you are what you read. And as luck would have it, I’m always hungry.
I could go all philosophical here and say it’s destiny - or that all things happen for a reason; and although I do believe in destiny and the whole ” happen for a reason” thing, I also believe you can make your own opportunities as you plug away through life. Slow and steady might get your there, but it has a lot to do with timing. Just the idea this could happen to a small town guy twenty-five years ago seems improbable without the help of the internet. As for my location, it isn’t in the heart of the motorcycle industry. The world is a much smaller place to me as an adult, but seemingly too big for a teenager with other things on his mind, to make the most of it. I’m not sure Mrs. Lawrenz in freshman typing class or Mr. Sweeney in English were convinced I was capable of putting my thoughts into words in 1977, but they should see me now - spelling my words all good (more better?) and using most of my fingers. They believed in me I’m sure, but I knew me as a freshman and, well… But that is exactly the point I’m trying to make here. You aren’t limited by the invisible boundaries we place around ourselves; we’re only limited to the boundaries of our dreams. The last time I checked, my dreams can be way out there.
I still have bigger goals I want to achieve, but even those seem like dreams at this point. Will I achieve them? To say “no” would undermine my own success, so I will plug away as I always do to make them a reality. It’s still a matter of timing and making your own opportunities, and it always helps if you have a dream to chase – and the support of friends, family and of course teachers!
You might say it can happen just about anywhere. Sitting on a hillside watching the sun lay its head down after a long day, the quiet surrounding you tighter and tighter as it grows dark, or sitting on a rock at water’s edge as the waves come in to greet you. Peace. Center. This is what it’s all about it, as you struggle through the days feeling pulled in all directions - and for what? To have a few moments like this, where we find what we’re looking for within ourselves. It takes the beginning or the end of something to put it all into perspective. The constant motion of water, the sun coming up in the morning to start the day or the sunset to put an exclamation point at the end of another day in our lives. We seek these few precious seconds out of a day that has only so many to choose from. But we find them – they’re just mixed in with all the rest.
Even the clear sky, lit from a full moon, can give us pause. We often feel the need to see something bigger than ourselves to jar our senses and rattle our being. I find a lot of these necessary fragments of time from behind the handlebars of my motorcycle. It’s a combination of direction, smells, sights and sounds that put me in my place. Life is so much bigger than the road I’m on. I’ve seen the power of a storm as I’m heading right into it – and the rainbow that follows. It’s only water, right? I often talk of the sun coming up in my mirror as I head West, or the sun setting as I roll down the highway, but mere words can’t do it justice. It’s an attitude of humility that surfaces and suddenly it’s me who becomes those precious few seconds in time. I’ve been on this planet for fifty-plus years, but to this planet my life is the equivalent to the blink of an eye.
I need these “larger than my life” moments to set me straight, but it isn’t always nature that causes it. The faces of my grandchildren can bring even the most difficult day to its knees and it makes me realize that those few precious seconds we have are just that - few and precious. So whether it’s from the seat of your motorcycle, hands and knees dirty from the garden or standing perfectly still as the evening comes; take it all in as it’s only a blink of an eye.
Every year when we roll the clocks back an hour I always have two thoughts. One is by rolling the clock back one hour does that mean for 60 minutes I will experience Deja vu? And the other is how can we roll back the clock years, instead of minutes. I know what you’re thinking; why would you want to roll back time in such a large amount? For me it’s all about a simpler time of life. You know, where you cooked stuff on the stove, hung clothes out on the line and where your windows were open and the screen door had the “hook” you put through the “eye” to lock it. Remember when cars were less technical and you actually had to put out an effort to roll the window down? And shopping carts would be the one receiving damage if they rolled into your fender in the parking lot. Wait, that didn’t happen because someone from the store would carry your groceries out to your car for you, and shopping carts didn’t have to be corralled. Good times.
Back in those days you had one radio station and it was AM, while at night you could pick up stations from all over the place. It took a long time for someone to come up with the idea to play records in your car – and when they did they called them compact discs. The only vinyl you had in the car was your seats. Picture a hot day, windows rolled up, and your car in the grocery store’s parking lot – you come out with the store manager carrying your groceries while you unlock one door at a time with the “other” key (not the ignition key) and then you unlock the trunk. The heat would roll out of the car while he loaded the groceries in the back, and then you slide in…literally. The sweat between you and the seat acted like a lubricant to help you in and out. Turn on the air conditioning? If you had it. Even if you had it, we were so unfamiliar with it, you might even leave it off because you believed it used to much gas, or something crazy like that. You knew when someone just got out of their car in the summertime by the sweat-soaked shirt in the shape of the car seat on their back. So sweat we did.
How about someone coming out and pumping your gas and checking your oil while you waited? Sitting in the car as a kid and watching the service station attendant washing your windshield was cool but I was more concerned how driving over a black rubber hose could possibly ring a bell inside the gas station. Oh, technology in those days…
But I don’t have a problem with that at all. We rode our bicycles, got a suntan and waved when someone drove by. As the dust billowed up behind their car and followed them into town, we breathed it in all the while that dirt stuck to us in places even we didn’t know dust could go. We wiped our forehead on our shirtsleeve when it needed it, and we didn’t care what was left behind – and neither did anyone else – because their sleeve looked the same. When did we become so self-conscious? Maybe air conditioning is to blame.
We have so many more things to worry about than we did back then. We do more now in the same amount of daylight as we had back then, so how do we get it all done? We ask ourselves “where does the time go?” when in reality we are just too busy to see time flying by. Yes, I’m sure there are things from the “good old days” that we don’t miss at all, but I challenge you to name a few. Well, vinyl seats might be one.
Why do we always need a place to go and is it possible to not pick a direction? When it comes to riding our motorcycles, we need to start somewhere, just anywhere to get this ride underway. Our desire is to go places we’ve never been, but it takes traveling down roads we’ve already ridden on to find them. A little known feature built into all motorcycles is a GPS. It doesn’t matter how old your bike is, or what kind of bike you ride, it is mounted right behind your headlight. This system of navigation has been around since the early days of motorcycling, it’s easy to use and a very effective way of either finding yourself or getting lost. You choose.
This form of GPS is also known as a Good Place to Start – you have to start somewhere, and this is as good a place as any. It doesn’t matter if you are a new rider on an entry-level bike or a seasoned rider plagued with miles of experience, you have to hit the starter button and go. Every ride begins exactly where you are, so what are you waiting for? Once underway, you’ll find it easy to follow your headlight wherever it leads you. Don’t put a lot of thought into it and stop fighting the urge to turn the other way – your headlight is never wrong. Sometimes it’s the pressure we put on ourselves to make the ride amazing we forget to ”just ride.”
When you are so focused on “where” to go, keep reminding yourself to “just” go. Relax and take it all in even if the road is so familiar you can tell where you are just by the feel of the surface as you ride over it. I can’t remember regretting a ride, but I can remember regretting to not ride at all. Do not let the opportunity pass you by because of indecision on where to go, as every ride should be based on why you go, and instead of a gadget determining your global position, you should determine where you are and where you are going in this world.
We have to remind ourselves that it’s the simplicity of the motorcycle that draws us in. We ride for various reasons, with the most important of those reasons being the motorcycle’s ability of taking us anywhere. It can take us to any destination imaginable, and it’s capable of getting us lost at the same time. This is a Good Place to Start.
Once in a while my mood will change. My head gets foggy and I lose focus, and the usual daily routine doesn’t help the situation. Is it a full moon, or what? The ebb and flow of life in general can pull you into a funk that creeps in and takes over, but right now the tide must be in. I’m usually a happy-go-lucky guy and very little gets to me – but the last few days have been a struggle. Even the ride to work and home again isn’t enough to blow the frustrations off of me. Whenever I ride my motorcycle, it only takes a couple of minutes before the knot in my head is gone, but for the last week or so, even Houdini can’t seem to untie the rope behind my sunglasses.
So what does a biker do when he gets in a mood like this? Most casual riders use the escape of hopping on their bike to clear their head. They take advantage of the solitude of riding to sort out their problems of the day and their motorcycle is the escape they need to outrun the madness. So when this cloudy frustration envelopes me, what do I do? I ride almost every day now, so when this mood comes over me it would seem the logical thing is to ride even more? You would think. When you get a headache, you medicate – but when that doesn’t work, you wouldn’t dare over-medicate.
Yesterday, after logging about 200 miles on a particulary beautiful fall day, I still couldn’t get the fog in my head to clear. I found my thoughts bouncing around to so many different things that it was hard to find any clarity, which is very unusual for me. I don’t over analyze, but when I need to sort some things out, it doesn’t take me very long. This time appears different and without any explanation as to why, I can only say a longer ride didn’t help. Did I just say that? Maybe it’s not the miles ridden, but the attitude in which they are ridden. Either way, I won’t complain about the ride, just the results.
This mood will pass just as the countless miles roll beneath the wheels of my bike. At some random mile marker the knot in my head will miraculously become undone and all will be right for the time being. In the meantime the fog remains and my thoughts aren’t as clear as I would like them - time is all it takes. Anyone got an aspirin?