There are no lines on the roads where I grew up.
It’s a far cry from the six lane freeways of California. Roads seem to flow like rivers off the Interstates. About two weeks ago, my sister and I made a cross country traverse from Oakland, CA to Brooklyn, WI. It’s been about ten years since I did that. Our first stop was the Sierra Hot Springs, North of Lake Tahoe. Sublime.
So, as we made the traverse I was pensive and reflective. We enjoyed the speedo test outside of the Bonneville Salt Flats. Got new tires in Salt Lake City. It was a long road, we hammered it out. Special thanks to iced coffee! I was delighted to get off the interstate for the last few hours of the traverse. US HWY 151 is also called “The Great River Road.” Crossing the Mississippi, into Wisconsin the change is immediate. Red granite bluffs, beautiful rolling land. Wisconsin means water through red rock and it is a glorious sunset road.
Muscle memory kicks in. I honestly don’t even know the names of all the country roads. No painted lines, no lights, no shoulders. Lotsa fields. Lightning bugs floating on the breeze. How many times have we driven those roads ? I don’t even know.
It’s pretty wild driving the back roads in rural Wisconsin after living in Oakland, CA for nearly 10 years. It’s totally a trip to see riders without helmets.
Students riding scooters around Madison, 2 up, no helmets!
Shorts on sport bikes!
Still, I can relate on some level.
All winter it’s frozen. You wait all winter to ride. April through October is the riding season. It’s a badge of honor to make it through each winter! Makes you pretty tough.
That badge of honor comes in many forms.
Perhaps feeling the season of death, ruled by Hades gives some people a blind eye to their own mortality. Persephone dances wildly through the spring, summer, then Hades snatches her away and winter bites autumn’s heals. Or maybe we’re just like crazed, horny animals running wild in summer.
So, here I am pondering those brain bucket-less riders. Life and death, and literally the roads we have traveled. All these musings got me thinking about Memento Mori.
Death is inevitable.
The next ride could be your last.
Death is also rebirth. The butterfly. A star. Winter.
One of my friends has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Another friend is about to get a bone marrow transfusion.
My uncle just had emergency open heart surgery.
Grandma is 92.
For real, no hyperbole here. It hits me that some people may not be there next time. That each moment in the “now” is a treasure.
The truth is, we don’t know the future.
Some people you keep with you forever. Smiles, embraces, shared silence, and energy spanning vast distance. Time is a construct of humans; it ceases among friends. When I sit down with my besties, cousins, aunts back home time and distance melt away. Most of the time it’s really fun!
Still, life has seasons too. It gets slippery, and hazardous. In one of these moments I found myself arm and arm with a woman I have known since the ripe old age of three. The sun was setting over Lake Mendota.
“You’re tough. I fucking hate when people say that to me. It’s not fair that you need to be this tough, still you are!” I say to her. It’s a heavy moment. We are at the mercy of forces beyond our control.
Why do we have to be tough ?
Later, I write to my journal. Then I dissolve into some free form poetry
The truth is love, friends, family are what make you “tough.”
Moments of joy and laughter are stored within our bodies and give us a turbo boost when the road gets rough. Circle back and reflect on your own road...
How far have you come ?
Who got you here ?
Who will come with you on the next stage of your journey ?
Now I’m back home to Cali. We certainly have a lot of roads here! I suit up in my gear, warm up my Kawi, pull on my full face Arai helmet and pause. I always take a few long, slow breaths before getting on my bike. Practicing pranayama helps me get present.
I feel the wind before I shut my face shield.
That wind kiss could be the last!
So, I send love and gratitude to my friends and family before hitting the road.
Then I grin and rip up the next hill!