The Long Way

It’s Thursday. I’m in the office, working through my list, looking over my calendar, and I realize that my last meeting for the day is at our other office in the next town up the freeway. A little gleam opens up in my mind’s eye.

I hop in the car, run the few blocks to my house and park in the driveway. I grab my keys, go around the side door, and click the deadbolt open. Swinging the door open to the dark garage, a thrill runs through me as a distinctive whiff of rubber and oil hits my brain, and vague shapes appear in the gloom to my un-adjusted eye. I squint my way in and fumble with the rollup door. The room is suddenly flooded with sunlight.

And there it is. High tail, low bars, perched aggressively on track stands, fat rear tire with the perfect profile, metal and plastic and gold chain gleaming, it’s an art piece. It catches my breath.

But it’s incomplete, waiting there alone with grips just right to hold and a saddle asking for a leg to be thrown over. It’s asking to be awakened.

I get busy, don’t want to be late. Shoes off. Pants on. Boots, jacket, earplugs, helmet. I roll the bike out into the sun and flick the starter. The motor cracks into life with a bursting, urgent growl, and I feel the sound in my chest like music.

For a moment I’m twelve years old with my BMX bicycle, and I can go anywhere. With my friend Paul down the road we found the hill by the park with the trail to fly down, found the huge dirt jumps behind the grocery store to terrify ourselves, found the cool air down by the creek where pebbles are skipped, talk of girls abounds, cigarettes coughed over and adventures are recounted. Freedom, wide open, ready for anything.

I sit astride the motorcycle and slip my gloves on. They’re familiar and supple. Check the basics: Brakes, sidestand, clutch in, then my toe clicks the transmission into gear. The bars are right where they need to be. The bike fits just like the gloves. With a twist of the throttle I’m off: The rear end wiggles loose in the gravel and a grin pushes against my cheekpads.

Out on the streets the bike feels great. I feel engaged with it, and with the world. Brap up the street, a quick bump to second then chop the throttle and listen to the revs burble down as I approach the stop sign. Left turn, right turn, and in a few moments I’m accelerating hard onto the long freeway ramp, thrust to speed in a split second as though there was a jet engine under me. The front end waggles as I click through a couple of gears and then I let off to slow and ease into the flow of traffic. The warm air feels cooler at it soaks into my leather jacket and I make myself comfortable for the ride up the highway, the smell of grass and cars is in my nose and my knees are only vaguely aware of how high the footpegs are. Life is good.

I park the bike at my destination, allowing myself a look back at it before I walk inside. That’s the measure isn’t it? Just like we did with that beloved BMX as a kid, just like we do with a lover. If you can’t help but steal a backwards look at her, you know you’re on to something special.

Focus now – what’s the meeting about? Oh yeah, widgets and resources and timelines, oh my. Nailed it, done. Now back to the parking lot, I gear up again. Same thrill as I fire up the bike. Now for the fun part. I can go anywhere.

Instead of heading toward the highway, I head west out of town, pointed toward the coast and the “Long Way” home. Country roads lead me through vineyards, orchards, then creekside forests. My mind wanders, reflecting on the day, ruminating on the project, thinking of my wife, turning to my kid and my parenting struggles, all while noticing the changing colors of the trees and the fresh feeling of passing through pockets of cooler air. The smell of the ocean reaches me long before I see it.

And then the dance is on! Clear road, perfect smooth blacktop, sublime twists and turns over seaside bluffs and down into quick canyon hairpins before rising out through the coastal fields with crashing surf beyond. Braking, downshifting with a blip of throttle, carving on sticky rubber through the corners then pouring power down into the pavement as the bike stands up out of the turn and leaps forward. There is no rumination, no room for absent thought, there is only focus. Legs and core muscles working, fingers brushing levers, eyes clear, ears full of fiery engine, a siren song like nothing else on earth.

This is mindfulness. The subconscious is free to charge up, to file, to defrag and repair things unmolested while the bike is moving and the entire conscious world is just this moment right now, this upshift, this curve. This is my meditation. Healing.

I arrive in my driveway and thumb the kill switch. Climbing off the bike I push it into the garage and pop it up on the stands while the exhaust ticks absently as it cools. I begin the regular ritual, hanging up my gear, wiping the bugs off the headlight, squirting a little lube on the chain while I spin the rear wheel. The pungent smell fills the garage and I love it.

As I leave I can’t help but again glance back at the bike as I close the garage door behind me. Walking into the house I’m hit by a cacophony of excited dogs barking. I embrace the noise and bustle. Furry greetings, kid hugs and wife kisses, I’m back… and I’m ready for anything.

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There are 2 replies to “The Long Way

  1. momma

    You paint a perfect picture of all of the elements that make up your passion for slicing through the world on your motorcycle.

  2. Big T

    OK Seb, that’s it – the cover is going to come off the TR6 despite the summer heat here. There are good early morning hours to escape for a bit on our twisty roads.


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