Some of the neatest things in life happen due to fortuity. I've heard people say that being in the right place at the right time is the key. There's more to it than that, really. At least I firmly believe so. A person needs to, not only be there, but be open to the opportunity. I know I'm seriously exposing my Redneck heritage here, but let me give you a quick example from last Christmas season. We'll get back to motorcycles, I promise, just bear with me. It sets the tone for later.
Katie and I do a lot of our shopping at the local Fred Meyer store. My preference is to do business with Mom and Pop type places but they're becoming ever more extinct. Freddie's, as we call it, has most of what we need. It's a chain but it was started locally by a man named Fred Meyer. Fancy that. Anyway, we were walking the aisles and happened along to the sporting goods department. Above a refrigerator filled with fishing bait was mounted a mechanical deer head. What made this one unique is that it would sing songs when you pushed a button on the base. Not being shy, I pushed the button. From then on, Katie and I were entertained whenever we visited the store. Simple pleasures and some laughs. Sometimes you just got to let go, you know? No, I didn't sing along. Letting go doesn't mean falling over the edge!
Even more entertaining was the reaction of our fellow shoppers. Very few people would acknowledge or look at the deer. Hardly anybody looked up at the thing and smiled. They were so wrapped up in their own little world that I'm sure most didn't even notice. Those that did were afraid they'd somehow appear "undignified" if they looked or laughed. Pity.
Ok, so a singing fake deer head isn't a major joyous event. Just how many of those do we get in life, anyway? Not very many. If I waited for those type of events to happen so I could find joy in life; well, you get the idea. Most of the pleasure and enchantment we get in life is a sum total of a lot of little things. I'd prefer a smaller boost here and there to having to wait for bigger shots spaced a lot farther apart, anyway.
On the plus side there's a lot of those smaller events swirling around us. There's a catch, though. People have to be open to them. The minus side comes in because most of us aren't really that open. Oh, it's not all our fault. We don't live like a "Scrooge", seeing negative in everything. Rather, we can easily let circumstances weigh us down so that our focus becomes very narrow. That works for lasers but not for humans! We're forced to become slaves to earning enough money to take care of our families. Speaking of families, they require a huge investment of our time. It's right to focus on the family. It's proper to provide for ourselves. What seems to happen in the process is that we spend a lot of time solving "problems" which leaves little time for "living", as it were.
Motorcycling has always helped me find those "magic" moments. You see, I told you we'd get back here, didn't I? I know a lot of "Dad's" who gave up riding while the kids were growing up. A lot of guys in our classes are coming back after a couple of decades not riding. Now the kids are gone and the bug to ride is returning. Or maybe it never went away in the first place. I chose to keep riding. This post isn't about sharing those reasons, though. It's about how riding isn't only practical transportation. Riding, especially commuting, helps keep the channel to unexpected pleasures open. Every day brings new chances to find small joys. When I experience them, I can share them with family and friends.
That's the situation I found myself in last night. I had a meeting in Salem last night. The meeting was at 7 PM and was made up of select instructors from our program. It's a leadership council kind of thing. I had to go as I'm Chairman. Katie had supper ready early and I took a long, very enjoyable, route up. Thirty miles ended up being more like sixty. We adjourned a little after 9 PM and found ourselves in the parking lot gearing up around 9:30. By "we" I mean Ray and Kyle who rode up from Corvallis, and I. All three of us were headed South and figured to ride together. It had been a long day, I'd had a nice back road ride up, it was dark, and I had to be up early this morning. I was going to head down the Super-Slab and call it a day. Ray, however, was in the mood to play.
We discussed possible routes. I have to say, though, that my contributions were more like a consultant's. I was giving them ideas but was still planning on the direct route. In order to understand what happened, you need to know a little bit about Ray. He's about 42 if I remember correctly. Have you ever seen the movie Toy Story? Ray looks exactly like Woody. It's uncanny. The other thing about Ray is that he never grew up. Usually when I say that, there's a hint of disapproval behind it. With Ray I mean it as a compliment. Ray is the Training Manager of our program. He's one of the best riders I've seen in a long time. Ray's also deadly serious about his riding, his work, and his responsibilities. Yet, he's never lost that boyish sense of play and adventure. I think that's what makes him such a good rider. His dedication to excellence makes him strive to be the best but his boyishness lowers his inhibitions. Ray's kept the best of both worlds. Now Ray's trying to convince me to ride with him and Kyle.
Imagine a puppy who wants you to play with it. The pup will keep bouncing in front of you, enticing you to join it. It's like the pup's saying
"Come on, you know you want to!"
Pretty soon you have to laugh and play with the puppy. I'm a hard core rider with a great sense of adventure. Ray was right, most of me "wanted to". I relented and I swear Ray literally wriggled his tail. Although, if he made a mess in the parking lot I was going to vow I never knew him!
And so I went from "I really don't want to do this" to "Oh my God, this is awesome!"
I took point on Sophie. Kyle fell in behind me on his FJR1300. Kyle's a newer rider and a great kid. He's going to college with the idea of becoming an officer in the Coast Guard. Kyle wants to become a helicopter pilot. Ray brought up the rear on his ST1300. We had Kyle safely snuggled in between us. I led us through the busy Capitol City and out West. I chose a road with a lot of curves but nothing too technical due to the dark. Traffic got lighter and lighter. Then the "magic" happened.
All city related light fell behind us. A large Harvest Moon was shining on the landscape. If you didn't know, a Harvest Moon is the first full moon after the Autumn Equinox. There were no clouds to obscure it's pale light. Put yourself there with us.
I'm in front. Sophie's headlight is projecting a rectangular light beam in front of me. When I lean her side to side, the horizontal light stream lifts on either side. On both sides it's punctuated by the amber front running lights on the front side of her mirror pods. As I swiftly sweep through the curves the light gracefully rotates in time with the bike's movements. The air is the perfect temperature. Just chilly enough to be refreshing as it streams in under the cracked open visor. Right now we're under a heavy tree canopy. Cottonwoods abound along the river bank. Evergreens line the road away from the river.
The only light is from the three bikes. Looking back I see headlights with amber accents following me. They're doing their own mesmerizing dance. Kyle may be a newer rider but his lines are getting good. He and Ray have spaced themselves out to minimize headlight glare in the mirrors of the rider in front of them. It's just enough distance to magnify the effect of the moving bikes. Like a long, colorful, Chinese Dragon, the ripple seems to extend over quite a distance. I talked to Ray on the phone this morning. He said it was so cool to see from the back of the pack. In any given corner we were within inches of each other in our lines.
The three of us danced our way through the darkness for miles and miles. I was setting a pace as brisk as was prudent for the conditions. Kyle's skill level isn't quite what mine and Ray's are and he was smart enough to ride his own ride. When I saw him fall back I'd slow down a little. Coming in to corners, I'd set a line early, light the brake light a little longer than normal, and do other things to give Kyle a clue what was coming up. This wasn't about individual ego's. It was three good friends sharing an experience.
No matter the distance, these kinds of rides go by way too quickly. Soon we crossed the river and found ourselves just South of the small town of Independence. Turning left put us onto Old Corvallis Highway. Where before we'd been on a curving river road under the trees, now we were in open farm country. With nothing between us the full moon was shining brightly upon the bikes and riders. Still no traffic to speak of and no town lighting. Just the three bikes and the Harvest Moon. Moonlight bathes the world in its own special way. Silvery light both illuminates and obscures at the same time. We saw shadows and light with very little detail. Things like barns and trees made their presence felt by their dark bulks. In contrast, the sky got lighter and lighter as you lifted your eyes toward the Moon. Our headlights created a little envelope of brigher light that travelled with us. Kind of like a spotlight on a dark, but not black, stage.
It was our own special world to enjoy. And bask in it we did. We had it all to ourselves, three riders in a place made just for us. I wish I'd brought my camera and yet I know I wouldn't have stopped for pictures. It would have ruined the magic of the ride to halt the flow. Eventually it was time for us to go our separate ways. I slowed and exchanged waves and horn beeps with my companions. They continued on towards Corvallis while I peeled off on Palestine Road. My father is buried at the top of Palestine Hill. I stopped to pay my respects then continued down the other side of the hill. At the bottom I stopped at the stop sign. You can't go straight here. It's either right or left. If you insist on going through the barricade you'll drop twenty feet onto my mother's property. She's been widowed for over a year, now. I've become so much closer to her as I've looked after her. She hates my riding because she worries but she understands the need I feel and the fulfillment I get.
The place was dark save for a light in the dining room window. I decided not to stop since it was so late. Instead, I whispered a quiet 'good night" and headed towards town and Katie. Arriving home, I kissed my bride. The world was right. It's a place full of wonder if we're open to it. Thank you, Sophie!
Miles and smiles,