Sometimes the universe does not go your way.
Sometimes it does, though.
There are times when, no matter what reality throws in my direction, a ride on my motorcycle, wheels spinning beneath me and wind rushing around my body, is enough to restore me, to set me right.
It doesn’t take an epic ride — no laps of Lake Superior, no runs to Santa Monica for a cup of coffee. On a perfect central Maryland sunny day, half an hour that most people might waste on a take-out sandwich is enough time to banish all the chaos and noise and distraction of the rest of the world, and restore balance, restore peace to my soul.
That this is true, and that it works that way, is a deeply personal thing.
Folks that understand the meditative, spiritual place that the ride is for me are pretty thin on the ground, although if you’re here reading this, my chances improve pretty dramatically.
I’ve been working way too hard lately, and the emotional and karmic tank was well into Reserve.
And, in keeping with the patented Shamieh luck — where I could fling myself at the ground and miss –when I most needed a break, I got one.
A large group of people with whom I been working to complete a project were suddenly rendered collectively unavailable, suddenly wiping my schedule for a few hours. Having not been across the threshold of my house for several days, some sunshine and fresh air were absolutely in order.
I wandered into the sunroom of our house, where Sweet Doris from Baltimore was working on finishing one of her paintings, and youngest son, new rider and aspiring Architect Finn was stylishly draped with a book across our black leather Mies Van der Rohe loveseat.
“I’m going for a little ride.”
Some people need to speak to communicate.
Finn, in this case, did not.
Fans of Spongebob Squarepants would recognize Finn’s expression — unworldly large, shining eyes combined with a subtle smile that asked the unspoken question — “Can I come, too?”
My ressurective rides have always been a solo act.
Looks like that’s changing.
After getting some boots and gearing up Finn and I rolled our bikes — his Buell and my Toaster — to the bottom of the driveway.
“Sweet day, Dude. I’ll lead. You follow. Going to do some teeny tiny one laners. Be sharp. Questions? Good.”
The Toaster is the ideal bike for riding with Finn. Its light, has a low end-biased power delivery — thanks to its boosted displacement and stock heads — and doesn’t have enough top end power to easily shake off the Buell’s 500 cc single. This way, its fun for both of us, and keeps us together on the road.
We ran up Old Middletown Road, and Finn was clearly comfortable and in command out on the road. My initial anxiety of having him out there learning was — after multiple training sessions and lots of solo miles — all but gone.
What replaced it was the joy of riding with my son, and being able to share with him this thing that is so central to my experience of life and the world.
It was a good day for crossing ‘The Bottoms’ — those one lane farm roads that lead into the center of the Middletown Valley, and that used to serve as elongated driveways for the larger farms hereabouts.
So cross them we did, spending more going back and forth across the farms and streambeds than heading for anyplace in particular. It was one of those classic rides where we never got more than 5 miles from home but spent 27 miles doing it.
We made a left down Bussard Road, which has great hills and corners, and ran it down to Roy Shaefer Road. I love riding Roy Shaefer, as it runs in the shade in the woods, and holds Catoctin Creek close by the right side of the roadside for several good miles.
From there it was Paul Rudy Road, across open farmland, and back to a left at Sumantown…which clears a large farm — which is now for sale, if you have the hankering — and then runs a long downhill straight that takes us back to the backbone of the valley, and Old Middletown Road.
A quick left right dogleg has us running Cherry Lane, which is notable for a lovely set of Left Right Nineties that allow one to work on line and lean well over. After two quick rights at the Stop sign at Holter, we were out in open pasture on Poole Road.
I’ve written before about Poole Road. Its one of those nearly untouched magic places where the land is just and still the land. In early spring before the corn has grown in the sightlines are better, and the whole Poole experience is much less claustrophobic.
Still, the topography is tricky to read, with an uphill corner that almost completely obscures any line to the apex.
As I got the Toaster stood up again on the exit, I got a good look at Finn attacking the day’s trickiest piece of pavement.
He was attacking the corner — not getting behind and chasing his tail. His posture was good, with just a little forward lean — his shoulders were pointed right and he was looking through the corner and gassing the Buell toward the exit.
Finn looked more comfortable and in command after nine weeks of saddletime than I’d probably looked after nine months.
I fully appreciate what a gift, a hard won prize it is to demonstrate mastery of the ride.
I am a man who seldom experiences, and more seldom expresses, pride.
You can all cut me some slack if I take strong and quiet pleasure in this shared gift.
If you can cross The Valley three times, you are likely not to feel any shame about going for four.
Two lefts at Old Middletown put us back on Richard Remsburg Road — an old one lane farm road, with hedgerows and challenging corners and whoops.
We hit the stopsign at Holter and Finn pulled up alongside.
I turned to face him and shot him a Thumbs Up and a Question Mark.
He didn’t even take his hands off the bars.
For the second time in a short while, the expression in that helmet’s eyeport said all he needed to say.