I stopped at a quickie mart for a coffee refill, and a county sheriff paused across from me. Then he really paused. … and made eye contact.
“I like your Burgman”. (Think fast : how’d he know it was mine? Oh, the red safety jacket, the day-glo yellow vest, the dripping wet helmet on my head).
Yeah, I’m on vacation.
I see you have Florida tags (Think fast: are they expired? No, I renewed them)
Yeah, I’m from Clearwater. Been riding since Memorial Day.
That’s the, uh, 650? Executive, right? (Think fast: title, insurance current, in glove box). Yeah, an ’09. I bought it used, I’ve put 7000 miles on her this trip … so far.
I see you have the custom exhaust (Now you’ve got my attention).
I ride a BMW 750, he said. We bought my wife a bergie a couple years ago. But she dropped it and now she won’t ride anymore. … I’m nearing retirement, and I want to do what your doing (and here it comes … the wistful grin, the thousand mile stare). I’ve got just a few years to go and…. etc etc … and I start to sip my coffee, right there at the cream and sugar bar, and now I feel my own grin growing.
“My brothers and my cousins, they all ride Harley’s …” I interrupt him: “I’m not a Harley guy, I love how quiet my Burgman runs”.
He cut me off. “The times I rode hers, the motor would just hum and the loudest sound was the wind in my helmet. When I ride, I don’t want to announce to people that I’m coming. …” and we both paused … and smiled.
We talked about wheelbase and stability, GPS and music, our shared goal of riding the Canadian Maritimes, and of doing it when retired so there is no rush. “I like to ride by myself”, he was compelled to tell me, “so that if I see something, I just pull off and look”.
And I finished his story because I’ve heard it now, dozens of times from dozens of other solo riders. “No ‘kickstands up’, sleep in if your tired, stay an extra day if it’s raining. Nobody in charge, no worry if someone’s falling behind, no gas stops for a dozen bikes”. I paused. “… but you have to know, it’s hours and hours alone in your head with your own thoughts.”
He smiled and said “… yeah”
Is my trip really that special? How is it that this summer, now just a couple weeks from ending, is so precious that total strangers want to come tell me that by seeing ME live MY adventure it has made them happy, and it refocuses them on their dreams and purpose?
I always start talking stupidly; by talking about it like an engineer, accountant and travel agent. Always miles per day, types of accommodations, equipment upgrades, and the make or break accessories. My compatriots always cut me off. They talk about it in terms of adventure, horizons, relationships, and time in your head alone with your own soul. I watch their eyes, and the edges of their smile. And for the life of me, I never know where they will pop up.
After a summer of practice, I actually sensed it was time to wish him well and let him go. We each said our good byes …
I forget how special this summer has been to me. How lucky I’ve been for the things that came together to send me on this journey. For Adam and Gary pushing me to upgrade tiny Harvey, my little yellow 125. Then for urging me to just try “a weekend trip” on big red. And for my 10 years flying every week at Oracle, now fearless of missed connections and ready to adjust plans on the run without a net.
And to the crazy fates that aligned my stars this spring and said simply “Dave, you need to go away and not come back for awhile”.
On mornings like today, I just wanted a cup of coffee, but I got a reminder of how lucky I am. And for that gift I am sincerely grateful.