Descending the Rockies northwest of Denver and headed south it feels like falling. 50 mph snakes, a cliff shadows the river on my right, passing cars divide my bike and I from the climbing mountain heights on my left. Daredevils try passing one another in full James Dean, blind corner moves and frequent signs threaten to send fast moving elk from behind every tree or stationary cattle walls around any new bend. The sky screams bluebird but the sun has already tuckered out for the Fall season here, and after living a desert nomad’s life for the past year, the sting of cold is an almost pleasant reminder that my face is still very much alive.
Every small town, sparsely dotted along highways like silver hairs on a young soldier and free of the clutter of strip mall America, is a welcome break from full throttle climbs and wheel wobbling downhills. Walmart, Subway, Days Inn, McDonalds, gas stations that take credit cards; these are invisible to me now, the mountain people won’t tolerate them and the desert is too empty to support them.
Long mullets fly from passing Harleys, crotch rocketeers whiz by like spacemen and the vast majority of bikers these days, the retired couple, all extending hands to signal a unity of two wheeled respect. I’m no speed demon and the baby blue wrapped around this 150cc engine neither screams trouble nor tough, but the tent and pack on my rack signal my long haul, that this is no joy ride to the lake, but an adventure, and as epic, solo and free as I’ve ever undertaken.
My stomach is satisfied on one meal a day, I drink only water and smoke countless cigarettes that can never kill me. Evenings outside of the clutchy grip of cell towers leave me reading paper books, sewing patched holes in my clothes and studying this atlas until there’s nothing left to do but situps to pass the remaining midnight hours.
There is nothing between me and heaven but a helmet and my thoughts, ample hours of the day to work through what is and what might have been, how I’ll live outside of time and all the weights of land ownership, fiscal responsibility and the trappings of politics, religion and small talk about the unstoppable weather. My eyes are filled with canyon vistas, countless antique cars trashed in personal junkyards and the olive green brush of desert flats. They dart from pothole to mirrors to treeline, cautious of split second danger, wide eyed in the wind to suck in all of the exhilaration of motorized movement sans the big protective boxes of cars and rigs and RVs.
On these back roads all the locals, rare a stranger do they see, wave or nod, touring bicyclists pant heavy up hills and barking dogs defend their homelands. The tank runs dry, I reserve tank it to the next station, barely making it. Three Mexican fellows, each twenty years older than the next, ask me about speed, distance, clutch works, miles per gallon, smile at all my replies and intermittently exchange Spanish with one another.
There is no disappointment on this road, nothing begging for attention, no criticism. The mountains don’t cry out, look at me!, anymore than they deserve to be, the valleys don’t cast blame for feeling so low. GPS and cable television, police officers, and the weight of satisfying the society around me are all irrelevant.
I head home, laughing at the idea. THIS is my home, wherever I am and though our transient life gave way to sedentary, desperately clutching at a place to fill the soil with roots, I can’t deny that only in the uncertainty of unhindered, uncompromised motion do I truly feel like a human being. Not merely a person, as we as people seem to be puzzle pieces seeking out our correct place in the bigger picture, rubix cubes looking to shuffle all around until we match up our sides, all too often shuffled again by another color wanting to do the same. No, I feel the “being” in human being. These 80 short years or so we have to make every ounce count, to show the universe thanks for making us as close to gods as they come in this solar system, until we’re devoured again back into the big cycle to become trees and soil and worm food, just as we were before.
My hotel morning room is smokey, my pack nearly empty, and the sun is beating out its desert welcome cry. Today is my most desolate of stretches and the chances of that golden oldie of a sun being my only companion for 150 miles is good, and well and good with me.