Sometimes you just gotta go slow.
I don’t know about you, but I do anyway.
My oldest offspring, Devin, is a ‘different drummer’ dude.
Anyway, Devin showed up one day with a green rubber turtle on the dashboard of his Corolla.
“What’s up with the turtle?” I asked.
“People got all kinds of bad attitudes out on the highway, man.
I want to BE the turtle. I’m not in a hurry, man.”
My boy may live a long life or a short one, but I know he won’t go by hitting somebody else with his car.
So now every time I reach for the throttle or punch a pedal in what might be anger, I try to BE the turtle.
The turtle has changed my life.
Its been unspeakably hot and unbearably humid the last little while, in that wonderful way for which the Baltimore-DC area is justifiably famous.
Walk to the mailbox come back soaking wet, what the hell is this New Orleans or somethin’ stinking hot.
Its been spooky quiet too, ’cause every other citizen of Maryland ‘cept me is is in Ocean City on vacation spooky.
Saturday, I mowed half my lawn, cause it was too damn hot to mow it all.
After getting myself thoroughly heated up, there’s one way to cool down that works better than anything else.
Air moving all over my body dries me out much better than heading inside an air conditioned room.
So I powered up my boxer motor powered ventilation pal, and headed for the coolest, shadiest place I know.
My old Toaster Tank /5 is my only naked, unfaired motorcycle. For hot weather duty its really the only choice.
It also has the original 750 cc small valve heads, grafted on to the top of a 900 cc bottom end, so it has remarkable — winning rally slow races riding two up tractoring along with my hand off the throttle — low speed manners.
So I rolled down Harley Road, then headed for Bennies Hill.
In BEING the turtle, I somehow felt inspired to be IN my environment, instead of trying to sonic boom shatter my way through it.
My field of vision widened. I was seeing things I usually would not see.
I suspect that lots of folks that cover distance offroad get into this meditative space — seeing all of the path ahead stretched to a full 360 view.
The universe presented me with a sign.
I found this funny. In my wider view the road was indeed narrowing.
Then the universe had another sign.
The turtle found the 5 mph warning even funnier. Maybe the turtle was a little loopy from dehydration.
How many of you have 5 mph warnings on the roads you ride?
I telescoped my view back out to the wide angle, drinking in the warning in the middle of that beautiful ridgeline.
I dropped across the bridge and down onto the unpaved section that runs along the creek.
I came upon three road bicyclists — which was kinda unusual because drop bar and slick tire pedaling types would usually avoid this kind of surface — who all passed by on the single laner close enough to exchange pleasantries.
I announced myself, sticking to the same courtesy I try to promote when I’m on the C&O Canal towpath on my bicycle.
“Thanks for announcing yourself — didn’t hear your bike…”
I pulled off from the wheelpersons, and got zoned out in the sticky greenness of it all. I turtled back to Siegler Road, where I tractored down into the stream and out the other side, enjoying the breezy slowness of it all.
As I rolled back on to good pavement I stayed down a gear and down a lot of throttle from my normal approach to these secondary highways. I was just really cooling off from my exertion and so resolved to take the long way home — turning down towards the Potomac instead of back the draw towards Jefferson.
I couldn’t get over the post-apocalyptic emptiness of the roads. In rush hour these rural roads are sometimes congested, but today I was by myself, which was another reason to slow down and be here now.
The hills leading down to the Potomac are thankfully still forested.
The view of the dark shaded ribbon of double yellow-striped tar macadam dropping down the deep green forested hillside was mesmerizing.
My turtlevision went full widescreen. Time slowed to a stop.
And that’s probably why I saw the bear.
Black bears hereabouts are not unknown.
But this was the first time I seen one in Maryland while I was on the road.
He was a rangy teen-ager — all legs flailing and skinny — and he appeared running through the woods well off to my left.
Seeing no cars ahead of me and no cars behind me, I just rolled off the throttle and enjoyed the unexpected show.
Bear boy had a destination in mind. His uneven lope carried him down the hill through the woods — if he’d been an engine, he’d have been a triple — across the road in front of me — paying me no heed whatsoever — and back up the hill on the other side, through the trees and right out of sight.
I gave a LooneyTunes cartoon shake of amazement — with appropriate mental sound effects — of my helmeted head.
I turned the toaster for home. For a hot slow afternoon, I’d have a story to tell.