For years I’ve felt like there was something else “out there” just waiting to be discovered; prison ministry, Special Olympics, Trevor, Charlie Bravo, some big cause that would allow to go charging like Don Quixote towards a windmill.
And those somethings have never failed to materialize, and have never went away, the stories even becoming interconnected to the point where I have difficulty determining where one storyline blurs into the next. While it’s obvious that there is a visceral connection between these causes, what’s the greater mission? What am I chasing? What result is all this meant to produce?
Then, on this last trip with Charlie, Arkansas to Washington state by way of southern California, 3700 miles in a Uhaul, followed by 3900 miles on a bike across WA, ID, MT, NV, UT, CO. NM, TX. OK, something told me; “quit chasing it; relax, and let it come to you”. Not an easy task when you feel, likes sands in the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
One large fear on this trip was how was I going to solo unload a 1000# sidecar from the elevated back of a Uhaul truck that took eight people to load. On the way to Washington, I made phone call after phone call to Bellingham, looking for loading docks, manpower, anything that would help me get the behemoth on the ground without flipping it over on top myself. Little did I know that the answer was already there, a firefighter in town that “just happened” to have the ramps and expertise to complete the job, and the rest is history.
And on the way home; two thirds of the way across the country with a dog on the back of the Honda, no itinerary, no knowledge of distance between gas stops. Many times the exits where I had thought to stop for gas bore the dreaded “NO SERVICES”, forcing me to slow from a exuberant 80+ to a 60-, many times coasting into a solitary gas station on what I was sure was the dregs of bad gas swirling in the bottom of my tank, leftovers from my LAST panic attack 150 miles ago.
But, between a little planning, more dumb luck, and a lot of Divine Providence, we always made it. When we found the Bonneville Salt Flats, I actually had the destination set in my GPS as the Great Salt Lake in SLC, UT, hundreds of miles to the south. It was because the bike was sucking fumes when I coasted into Wendover, NV that I noticed the sign “Bonneville Raceway”, and I was able to experience one of the greatest locations in motorcycling history.
But even as I pulled out onto the salt, the doubts arose: would I get arrested? Would the surface be too wet to ride, leaving me stranded many miles out on the flats? Sure, I walked out a good ways to check the conditions, but sooner or later, you just have to leave caution at the edge of the asphalt and roll hard on the throttle.
But what would have happened if I had stuck to my pre-conceived destination? Or let conventional wisdom override the desire to experience something that had “just appeared” in my path? The answer is:
I would have eventually ended up back at home, not even realizing what I had missed in the first place. And that is the greatest tragedy of all, that we pass so many life-changing experiences in the pursuit of what we enter into our own personal GPS’s, waypoints programmed by what society deems “acceptable”, “safe”, and “normal”. I’ve got news for you: I’m not normal, and neither are you. Our respective journeys are not normal, full of weird twists and turns but the best roads usually are.
The actual name of the interstate highway system is the Interstate Highway and Defense System, designed and named after World War II to better transport munitions across the country in a timely fashion. And I hate them. Although they are a necessary evil when you have to cover big miles in a hurry, they are a soulless wasteland cutting across the heart of a country. I often think that the word “defense” in their name refers more to what we are insulating ourselves from as we travel in our mobile extensions of our electronic cocoons back home. “I’ll just take some of my stuff from over here, and move it over there, but will keep my interaction with actual people to a bare minimum”.
Get up. Get out. Go. Vaya. Don’t be afraid to outside and play in the mud that is everyone else’s life, including your own. Don’t worry, as if your motives are pure, only what minerals you need will stick to you, and what you don’t will wash off when you stop to shower at that cheap hotel owned by the Punjabi woman, the lobby smelling of the curry from her kitchen just on the other side of that door, whose parking lot is filled with buses ferrying Mexican migrant workers.
Then you can relax and let whatever you are meant to receive come to you, until it’s time to get up and do it again.
See you on the road.