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Beginning at the End

Wyoming Wildfire July 4, 2012

I have written many blog posts over the last three weeks as I have Harleyed along on my grand journey. I could have written 100 posts a day, except of course I was busy enjoying the events as life unfolded before me. One might think that because I had so much “head time” that I would be positively dripping with stories to tell and sage life lessons. I am; however, starting that process is of course the chore. Time to sit and think, ruminate, absorb, reflect is essential to really putting the essence of the experience into words that will share the lessons I learned. and that issue about work, sometimes it just gets in the way!

So, I will begin at the end of the journey, landing at home. After a 12.5 hour day on the Harley, we pulled into the garage. I looked at my Iron Steed of 3 weeks, covered in bug carcasses (probably the 20th layer of them) and spattered in road grime. I looked at the two loaded travel bags clinging to the back and covered by two old ponchos probably each about about 20 years old. The outer poncho was a day-glo orange so that we were visible from long distances. Three bungee cargo nets covered those. Rain gear and a bag of water topped the pile. There was nothing on that bike that I needed for the night. The first time in 21 days that I didn’t need to uncloak the Harley, and re-cloak her for the night.

I removed my helmet, also bug-spattered, goggles, head rag, neck bandana and gloves. I shed my vented jacket, every pocket full of essential tools and equipment, my leather chaps with a newly broken snap and so big on me now that they didn’t always keep the heat of the road and bike from my skin unless carefully adjusted as I sped along. I was glad to get my feet out of the boots that desperately needed new soles that would NOT slip on the pavement as I pushed the Iron Steed up to tollbooths, out of parking spots, or any other number of reasons one must “walk the bike.” I will have to weigh all the gear and see how much I actually wore on a daily basis because I always felt like I might drift away when I took off the gear. Tomorrow, I thought, I can wear shorts!

When getting ready for bed, I emptied the pockets of my jeans. Pockets for me are an absolute necessity, whether motorcycling across this amazing country or going to work, they serve an important function that I could not ever do without! I pulled out the small black pouch that held two sets of earphones. I had continually held out hope that I could listen to music as I motored my way through 6500 miles. Unfortunately, the wind rushing over my helmeted head prevented any of the three earphone possibilities from working effectively. So, I resorted to foam earplugs to prevent damage to my hearing and balance. The next thing that came out of a back pocket was a piece of paper with directions written down. It was one that I had taped to my fuel tank at some point along the way because I didn’t have enough fingers upon which to write every step. A well used bandana (they have millions of uses) came last from that one rear pocket.

In the next rear pocket, a collection of paper towels and napkins was pulled. The need to clean my visor, especially in the late afternoons and early evenings when the bugs are the worst, is ever-present. Not all places I might stop have wet squeegees to help me with that visor or paper towels to wet it down and dry it. I also stop along the way to have a snack of peanut butter, crackers and dried fruit. I need to clean my Leatherman knife before putting it back in my jacket. Hence, as I have access to them, I collect a few here and there. A business card provided by a friend to pass along to one of my daughters, a ferry ticket, and a hotel receipt all had been carefully stowed in that rear pocket.

In one front pocket I pulled out a caribeaner with a whistle attached, just in case my nasty-mean-black-leather-covered-self wasn’t scary enough, I could blow the whistle for help! An assortment of rocks came out: one I had pulled from the side of the road when I was stuck waiting for a tow due to a jammed throttle. It reminds me of Sheriff Brenda who helped me find a mechanic in the wilds of Wisconsin, of Ben who drove 2 hours to provide me a tow and was so careful with my Harley, of Joe who fixed the throttle in 10 minutes and charged me $20, and of Michelle from Florida on a trip with her 86 year-old mother to visit family, who helped me right my bike. One stone came from a campsite and it was just an odd enough stone that it caught my attention. Four stones were collected at Lake MacDonald after surviving a challenging yet glorious ride through Glacier National Park. Four sister stones are packed away in a baggie for my rock collecting soul sister, Mary Jo. Two pieces of Colorado turquoise come out, bought in Nederland, Colorado on a jaunt with my youngest daughter, who along with her oldest sister, has another. Six gas receipts with the amount of fuel purchased and the number of miles traveled since the previous gassing carefully written in order to figure mileage at my next overnight stop. In the final pocket, I find a few coins, some gum wrappers, and Chapstick.

What does this collection say? Not much and yet everything. It provides a glimpse into the working mind of one long-distance biker. It gives me a few moments of trip reflection as I rifle through the collection of “stuff” mostly gathered as I have traveled, some carried for all 6500 miles. It reminds me that I truly was able to live one thousand lifetimes each day. That at each juncture, I learned new things because I so often chose to be present in each moment. Floods of memories washed over me when I examined each piece I pulled from my jeans. The fresh scent of sweetgrass, sage, flowers, and freshly mown hay wafts through my olfactory memory. Cool air and hot sunshine caress my cheeks and exposed fingers in half-gloves. Feeling my cheeks dancing as the stress and tension of the previous year melted away. The flight of a hawk flashes through my mind, as it twists and turns its body to steer through the updrafts in sheer joy at flying. The camouflaged face and body of a lovely coyote next to the road watching me tool through Yellowstone after a particularly harrowing event, a doe with twin fawns grazing beside the road, the brilliant flash of a Western Bluebird, the billowing smoke from a Wyoming wildfire painted evermore crimson in the sunset all bulldozed me as I set out my pocket treasures.

We all have pockets, both real and figurative. What I keep in my pants pockets tip my mind pockets which spill essential essences of living life into my present moment so that they anchor me with roots yet let me soar with my wings, and live another 1000 lifetimes in a day.

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2 Comments

  1. Dear Peg,
    I was about to leave my office and go home to my Puppy Millie, and I noticed an e-mail from you re this post. I was curious because it arrived late at night in Boston, about 10:30 PM. When I opened it, i must confess I could not put it aside for tomorrow’s readings. It needed to be read tonight. If there was no tommorow for me, and I had not read your post, I would have missed a truly wonderful vicarious experience of traveling with you on your amazing bike journey. Congratulations to you Peg for taking time ot of your very busy and rewarding life as a parent and educator, to “smell the flowers” (and maybe even eat a few bugs!). Life is so brief, and you have chosen to enjoy some of it with a 21-day bike ride on your Harley, and experience “a 1000 lifetimes in a day”. Thanks for a great post:) EdC

    • Truly appreciate your feedback both in writing and “in voice!” I am pleased that you found the piece enjoyable. I am humbled at your words! Thank you Ed, your encouragement is wonderful.
      Peg

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