Monday, September 2, 2013

Night Riding.

            The older I get the more I realize that there are very few things in my life that bring me great joy that I can readily rely on. I’m speaking of course of something that is unique and personal. For some, maybe it’s shutting a good book after finishing it, or opening a new book, or it could be a bubble bath, or sipping a fine wine, I’m sure the list is as numerous as the entire population of earth. When I was younger, I had many things I could pour myself into that would bring me joy and a sense of wholeness, now, not so much. My life is hectic on the slowest of days and damn near impossible on regular days, so, when I get the opportunity to immerse myself into one of the few things that do bring me complete and utter happiness, I take it.
            Tonight was such a night.
            After a long, quiet day off and endless hours of television watching, house cleaning, cooking and utter relaxation, I found myself sitting on my porch wanting to write be creative or just watch something mindless on the internet. It didn’t work, my mind was racing and the thoughts that were bouncing off of my cranium were all vying for attention under the guise that each individual thought is the most important thought and should be addressed immediately. I knew then I needed to do something not so drastic but something that would purge my brain of the randomness and insanity inside of it.
            I walked into my living room, announced to my wife and daughter “I’m going for a night ride.” Upon hearing this news, my wife just smiled at me knowingly and my daughter pretty much jumped up, said she was going with me and went upstairs to change out of her pajamas and into some motorcycle clothes. I grabbed my helmet and keys, walked outside and put the passenger pegs down on my bike. I had not originally planned on bringing my daughter along for a night ride but it felt right.
            When she came outside and mounted my bike and wrapped her arms around my waist I immediately knew I had made the right choice. We left our neighborhood and the sultry heat of summer’s last gasp behind us.
            As we rode down the back roads of Hampton Roads feeling the cool breeze in our face and the rainbow shards of light twinkling off the headlights, taillights and windshields of the cars we passed I felt my mind start to clear. My daughter’s arms squeezed me tight as I throttled down and I tilted my head and heard her singing softly. The same cool wind that swept the sweat from my face also made her lyrics and her alto tones disappear behind us at fifty miles an hour. I felt her head tuck itself into my right shoulder blade and I then did something I rarely do when I ride, I smiled.
            I smiled for the love I felt for her and the love she was emanating towards me. I smiled for the freedom of the open road and the zen like waves of purity and wholeness that washed my brain clear and the cleansing purity of knowing I was doing what I was made to do. Not to be a biker, or a workaholic or even a semi-decent provider, I was at that moment in time, being the best I could be. I was the best father, best husband and the best rider in the world.
            I steered my bike towards the Great Dismal Swamp on South US 17 and the smells of the swamp, the inter-coastal waterway and the cooler air that brought goose bumps to my exposed flesh seemed to add to our shared experience of the open road and the freedom of life’s mundane living. That is when I felt my child release her hold on my waist, relax and lean back against the sissy-bar of the motorcycle. I knew then she had not only bonded with me but she was also realizing the magical properties of the open road, two wheels and the magic of being alone at night on an empty country road.
                I turned on my high beam light because inside of me I had this memory of traveling down a lonesome, country road in Wisconsin with my family and a deer, a doe I believe, jumped out in front of our car and my father trying to avoid it but failing. After the initial hit, the doe being stuck so hard in mid-stride flew over the top of our car and over the trunk, landed on its side. I watched the whole thing happen as if in slow motion from the back seat and as my father hit the brakes as the deer jumped out of the woods and in front of the car I turned my head and watched out the rear window of the car and saw it land on its side. The squeal of the brakes did not distract me from turning in my seat and watching the deer land behind the car. I watched as it struggled to stand up, only to fall on its side.  When the car came to a stop, my father got out and told me to come help him, by the time I got out of the car my father was standing by the head of the dying deer. He knelt down, stoked its neck gently and looked me in the eyes, “It’s suffering and we need to get it off the road.”
                I only nodded. He then grabbed the head of the animal, put his foot on the front haunches of the deer and twisted its neck. The night sounds of crickets were drowned out by a sickening crack.  I watched as the light of life disappeared from the eyes of the unfortunate animal. My father stood up pointed to the back legs and said “Help me drag her off the road.” I complied. The whole incident only took a few moments and yet, I still feel as if this all could have happened yesterday.  This memory flooded my cerebral cortex as I shifted into fifth gear, throttled down and sped up. I can’t imagine what sort of damage a deer could do to a motorcycle and its rider but that fear filled me with an ominous foreboding as I traveled down the back roads of Virginia.
                With my left hand, my clutch hand, I reached down and squeezed my daughter’s leg to let her know I love her and that I am thinking of her. She reached down and gave my hand a quick two squeezes with her hand to let she know she loved me and trusted me.  I knew then that my fears were unfounded. The night was perfect, almost all traffic lights were green, traffic was light and there was no way God or any other supernatural being could look upon the bonding of a child and her parent as being bad. We were protected by our faith in each other, our country and the God of the open road.
                It was at that time I realized my daughter’s summer was truly over. She has to report to school in the morning and while her summer has been filled with trips to Busch Gardens, the beach, sleepovers, movies and trips to other states, her and I have not spent a whole lot of time together. Sure, we had a very nice and educational trip to Monticello (See previous blog 2202-2578). The reason for us not spending time together? Simple, I work between 70 and 80 hours a week and by the time I get home from a long day of working, she has to be in bed and I have to decompress. To be truthful, I have seriously thought of checking into one of those plush California, Texas or Florida rehab clinics just to get some rest and to recuperate myself back to a fully functional individual.
                So, time with my daughter, quality time that is, seems to be a rare commodity in my life. To be honest, bloody honest that is, I yearn for moments where I can actually spend time with my child, to be able to share my views, my wisdom, my concern and my outlook for the future with her. But you know, time on two wheels, with the wind screaming in your ears and tears streaming down your cheeks and a cacophony of thoughts being whisked from your mind and the clarity all of that brings to a person doesn’t make you a better person or even a more complete human, then you are wrong.  Even though we don’t share words, we share the longing of the open road and the clarity it brings us.
                My child used to speak of purchasing a car when she turned sixteen, now she speaks of going to the Harley dealership and picking out a small starter bike. Maybe a sportster. She also talks of pulling up to school on two wheels, not four. Of putting her helmet into her locker and going to class wearing boots and not tennis shoes, her outlook on style is changing into one of practicality and purpose versus style and pop-culture. She speaks of having a scooter soon to get her used to the road and the traffic. All of this talk makes me feel as if I’ve actually had some sort of impact on her young life.
                An impact I rarely get to experience firsthand, yet an impact I feel is necessary in the upbringing of a child.
                I want my daughter to be able to drive a stick shift, an automatic and a motorcycle. I want her to see the magic in the open road, the simple things and the amazing, mind clearing magic that two wheels, open road and no stop lights afford.
                I hope I’ve succeeded.
                Have a great week.

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