Go West Young Man! part 8

Posted: December 17, 2020 in Life and Memories, Motorcycles, My view of the world, travel

part 8

Once again, the sun was bright on the eastern horizon as we awaken this Thursday morning and I remained pleasantly surprised and thankful that we had not had to ride through rain this trip. As the water for the coffee was heating up, I started my morning inspection of the bike. While we were riding through Kansas the day before I began noticing an oily spot on top of my left boot. BMW motorcycle engines were a twin cylinder design, with the cylinders laid out horizontally instead of vertically. On top of that, the cylinders, instead of being aligned forward and back within the frame of the bikes, stuck out sideways like giant ears. There were a lot of reasons for doing this but one of the primary reasons was so the moving pistons and cylinders would catch the airflow, thus allowing the engines to run much cooler than the conventionally designed motorcycles. This also meant that my feet were situated below the cylinders, so when I discovered oil on my left boot it meant that something around the left cylinder of the engine had started leaking. A cursory look at the bike on the side of the road revealed nothing and as I did my daily morning inspection before packing the equipment back onto to the bike before we left, I still couldn’t find the source of this small leak, so I decided it wasn’t bad enough to be concerned about. Even though the leak continued the rest of the trip, I never discovered the source and it was slight enough to not have any ill effect on the engine. I also noticed during this inspection that the rubber hairs on the right angle of both tires had worn off from the steady wind from the south we experienced riding easterly through Kansas, balancing out the lost rubber hairs that had worn off when we were riding west several days before.

At this point we had been on our trip seven day and the long hours in the saddle on our inexperienced bodies were continuing to take its toll as I felt an increasing physical weariness before I had even climbed onto the bike and started out for the day. As much as we loved the friendliness and beauty of America’s populace that lived along its back roads, as we spoke over coffee we decided to head toward I-40 and make a bee line for home. Bidding our camping area around the lake adieu, we started for home and once again entered the life of high speed travelers when we merged into the interstate traffic at Sallisaw heading east. As we rode I watched truckers droning along in groups and solo, acting out their immensely important part in keeping America eating and living along these arteries of commerce. I saw businessmen, laborers and people escaping from something while other were driving toward new beginnings. I saw parents with kids staring out the windows of vehicles full of luggage as they passed by hopefully anticipating arriving at their vacation spots.

However for me I was surprised by a realization, where just a few days earlier while traveling along these rhythmic concrete lanes with the excitement of exploring new miles, this time I understood that America’s high speed arteries are only tools for getting from point A to point B, whereas the two lane back roads of America are where her secrets and joys lie, waiting to be discovered in every small town that tells a different tale and experience of the passage of life, grief and happiness and history to be shared with those that choose to exit the mindless sameness of the interstates and instead take in this wonderful patchwork of thousands upon thousand of communities at a slower and much more relaxed pace.

About 10pm we tiredly pulled into a state park in West Tennessee and ended up spending a miserable hot, humid almost sleepless night in the tent at a camp site full of lumpy roots, drunken noisy neighbors and mosquitoes in a state park in West Tennessee. The next morning I gladly packed up to get away from the misery and to get back on the bike for this very thankful final leg of the journey. By mid afternoon, I directed my faithful bike into the garage at home and dragged my weary bones into the house and collapsed onto the suddenly exquisitely comfortable couch while thinking to myself…”I’m more tired than I have been in a long time, my back aches from my neck to my butt, but that trip was awesome and I can’t wait to hop on the bike and take another one!”.

That decision several months earlier to hop on our bike and head out into the unknown was a turning point for me, for in some ways, the rest of my life was framed around the desire to explore the country by bike. For the next couple of decades I would pick the first two weeks in September as vacation time and Earl and I would take off into the wild blue yonder. As we continued to mature as travelers and to learn from past experience and adapt, for the next couple of years we still hopped onto interstate system and would ride until we reached the hopping off destination we would choose…one year it was Tucumcari, the next it was Abilene, Texas, but then, for the most part, we stopped using the interstate arteries and started traveling US east-west two lane routes as far as they would take us, or until we would run out of time and have to turn around and head home along different two lane highway and back roads. Traveling by motorcycle taught me to appreciate the vastness of this wonderful country that I am blessed to live in and to appreciate the vastly different cultures and flavor of people that come together to make up America. If it wasn’t for the desire to get out there and experience it all riding in the wind and rain and heat and cold, to discover the new vistas and landscapes not only by sight, but also by smell as we pass fields and meadows of flowers, deserts of sand and scrub, lakes and shores, fresh rains and dusty winds, they all combine to create the memories of awe and appreciation of God’s green earth and I am forever thankful I have had, and continue to have the ability to take it in, absorb it and to love it all.

Jim

12-17-20

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