The Charlie Bravo Story

The Pilgrim

Dad here; when Charlie and I first met, I knew from day one that we were destined to travel. Scratch that, because it’s not entirely true; the truth of the matter is that we weren’t sure that she was going to survive that first night. But when we could finally exhale a sigh of relief, the plan began to form: build a sidecar and travel the southwest. We had no idea why, because at that time Charlie hadn’t even started posting yet, so what do you do? Just “ride around”?

Then we began to find our voice; up to that time, I had never written a word for the sheer enjoyment of it, unless you count the love letters to Jo Ann over thirty years ago. But now the words starting coming out, and there was no stopping them.

But while the words have been easy, the actions have not. The book, the products, the calendars, etc, have never “taken off”. The sidecar project was a wash, then we came up with the hare-brained scheme to load Charlie up on a motorcycle and head off into the west, and the last five years have been the experience of a lifetime.

But life always seems to get in the way. Some people are destined to travel around the world(see Notiers Frontiers), but I now know we’re not. Aging parents, church responsibilities, jobs that suck the life right out of your soul, the best we could hope for was mad dashes to the west, soak up as much soul as we could in the short time we were on the road, then scurry back home.

But always dreaming of the next trip before we had even returned from the one we were currently on.

It’s is said that when a baby bird refuses to learn to fly, the parents will start removing the down and feathers which exposes the sharp twigs that make up the interior of the nest. As the hatchling becomes the fledgling, it becomes time to take the leap of faith.

My nest had been becoming increasingly uncomfortable for some time; while we could fit everywhere, we belonged nowhere, leading a quasi-nomadic lifestyle between worlds that often seemed to be at war with each other. Church life became increasingly oppressive and divisive, my dad’s sanity and self-confidence began to fade, the pressure of producing in admitably well-paying sales market where the quality of the product did NOT equal the amount of busy work involved, the down was getting pulled from my nest.

But the door to my crate was opening to a scary, unfamiliar world, previously thought to be inhabited by hobos, hippies, and dare I say it, pilgrims.

Then dad died, the religious ditch became a Grand Canyon, and the lucrative job became a bad memory. But all of these things worked together to allow me the trip of a lifetime with Charlie, Arkansas to California, then up the coast to Washington. From there the Cascades across to the Idaho Sawtooths, down into Nevada and then the salt flats and red rock of Utah, into the Colorado Rockies, down into the promised land of New Mexico. A dog and a man that would have once been appalled to be considered “middle-aged” but now facing the prospect of just “getting old”, riding a motorcycle across the country, stopping where we could find a place to sleep for a bit, and eventually back home to the Casa and reality.

Then the crazy things started happening: the broken leg on another trip to New Mexico. The broken collarbone and ribs within weeks of getting back on the bike. The guilt of sitting home on my expanding fanny, recuperating while mom worked. And worked. And the realization that time waits on no one, even Charlie; her desire to go on long trips on two wheels seemed to be diminished, while mine has not.

Yesterday it became obvious; we rode in a short Christmas parade as a fund raiser for Special Olympics. While it was a great honor for us to be invited by the organizers, Crye Leike Realty, the walking speed pace took its toll on the bike; she wanted to GO, as did the Charles. Clutches are made to accelerate or decelerate between gears, and the constant slipping of the lever was not what the bike had in mind. But even after this short ride, Charlie was ready to call it a day, and I realized the dream of our cross country trips via motorcycle was probably over.

Then, last night mom and I went to see The Pilgrim; Marty Stuart, a living legend and a visionary whose lyrics speak directly to my soul. At one point during the show, he was explaining the origins of the song that he was about to perform. He said that it had been inspired by seeing a crow sitting on a powerline in northern New Mexico; the theatre was dead quiet, but at the mention of New Mexico, I blurted out an involuntary “YEAH”. He shaded his eyes towards the crowd as if to find the originator of such rudeness, and said , “oh, you’ve been there, have ya?”

If he only knew.

After the show, we had a chance to share some words with The Pilgrim, and we spoke briefly about traveling the west, especially northern New Mexico, and how even a short man can stand a little taller out there. How his song “Time Don’t Wait” was now my song, as it was while I was listening to this song out west, I knew my dad was rapidly fading back home. It was then that I realized that maybe the dream isn’t over, that it might just be evolving and transforming into a different dream.

Can you have a dream without knowing what the dream actually is? Can a dream be an inexorable pull, not towards a particular destination but just in a direction? Because now I have a grandson on the way, and I have many things I want to show him. Things not based around a particular ideology, but being grounded in yourself while at the same time realizing that there is an ultimate Higher Power. That it’s not necessarily bad to fit everywhere but belong nowhere, if that is his calling.

The siren call of the road continues to pull, while my roots are in the green, green grass of home. It’s the Yin and Yang, the opposing poles that keep the current flowing and the universe grounded.

See you on the road.

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