Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Perspective on the Way Home

On the morning I was to leave Georgia after a week-long visit with my cousin, I awoke to the sound of rain on my tent. I was besieged with the same feelings I usually have when awaking to a rainy motorcycle trip. My mood was as heavy and dark as the storm clouds above. This was in contrast to the previous few days where I had gained a sense of harmony while camping in the woods.  As I turned off the land and rode toward the highway, I was afraid that I’d get so tired by my ride home that I’d lose the peaceful feelings from the weekend. 

I decided to take a direct route home via I-75 with an overnight stop in Cincinnati. I reviewed my maps to determine some intermediate stops and give myself smaller goals to work toward.  I set my sights on Knoxville where I’d enjoy a hot meal and refuel. Despite the rain coming down at a steady drizzle, I rode on.

The same tactic I use in riding is useful for writing; I go toward one goal at a time. In my efforts toward freelance writing I’ve explored what magazines I want to write for and reviewed their editorial guidelines. I’ve researched how to write query letters and come up with a few ideas for articles for motorcycle magazines. One of my stories was published for their blog so I thought I’d try my hand at their print publication. I write and rewrite, sending samples to my writer’s group for suggestions and then I revise. I’ve gotten discouraged by the work but I’m also heartened; I’m doing what I want to do, I’m writing what I want to write.

After a few hours in the rain, and a stop for breakfast, I continued north on the expressway bound for Cincinnati.  My ride-break-ride strategy gave me the freedom to take a step back from my feelings to examine them. This is the second long-distance trip in which I’d found myself riding in the rain. While I wanted to hole myself up in a motel bed and watch movies, my tight schedule demanded I continue. I normally don’t mind the rain, but this time I felt as though I was being punished. Even while I was having these thoughts, I was surprised by them.  It felt like I was gripped by a false sense of reality.

My writing life has been like this, too.  There is incredible freedom in having the time to write, in exploring new themes and finding publications I feel good about supporting. Yet I’m also worried- there is a lot of pressure to write well, to get published and to earn a living. It’s the ideas around writing that have come to the forefront.  The question of “when can I write” has been replaced with a new question: “how do I write?” The worry about writing gripped me just as my feelings about being stuck in the rain did.

My feelings of overwhelm increased as the drizzle turned into such a forceful downpour that cars were pulling to the side of the road. I couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead. Semi’s became weapons as their tires shot walls of water that completely covered me when I passed them. And thus my feelings from earlier in the day were confirmed - I was stuck in a blinding downpour so fierce that I couldn’t see a safe way through it. I rode on, though, marching through the wet, determined to break free.

After many miles and a stop to refuel, I found myself looking up to clear skies, with the warm sun driving me to daydream. The worry I’d known in the rain was replaced with a reassuring calm. I recognized the dreaming as fatigue and turned off at the next exit, a remote road, for a nap. A sparse row of houses lined one side and an abandoned development lay on the other.  I pulled my bike into the short dirt entrance, removed my rain gear and settled down on a small hill in the field.  A few minutes later I was fast asleep.

I woke up to repeated cries from a police woman who’d been called to investigate. It was an alarming way to wake up but she treated the situation as a routine stop and I was soon on my way again riding toward the Ohio River basin.

A view of Cincinnati with the Brent Spence Bridge in the foreground
 The city of Cincinnati greeted me with the biggest welcome possible- the Brent Spence Bridge- a double-decker cantilever truss structure that spans 830 feet and affords a spectacular view of the city and the Ohio River.  I turned onto 50 East which follows along the edge of the river before it meanders further north.  I met my friend Chris who lives there. After the 430 mile trip, I was glad to share dinner and conversation with him. Back at his place, I borrowed a bed and settled in for the night.

In the morning I made my final push north to Grand Rapids by continuing along I-75 accompanied by music from my iphone. I let the music lead my thoughts as I considered this leg of the journey. The day before had begun with some fierce emotions as I braved the clouds and battled the rain. But that mood lifted without effort as the clouds cleared.  If I keep moving, the difficulty passes and the path ahead is visible. 

The following day, I was slated to meet with RIDE Motorcycle founders Dick and Jerry to interview them for an article I planned to write for Rider Magazine. The meeting was a milestone. When I joined RIDE, I had just purchased my first bike and was a novice. Nearly eight years later, I was returning from an 1,800 mile solo trip on my second bike, looking for a second career. With the club I’ve learned about the freedom that both riding and writing give me. One informs the other.  I wanted to write an article that would describe RIDE, all the things I’ve come to love about it, and all I’ve learned because of it. I wanted my words to show Dick and Jerry how thankful I am they started the club. It seemed like a big scope for one article though, and I didn’t know where to begin.

I found myself riding amid a sea of wind turbines on Ohio’s 30 near Van Wert . The turbines reached upward, their blades spinning against a blue sky filled with clouds. I’ve heard it said that we can only see what our minds can comprehend. Looking up at these enormous structures that idea was brought to life. I had no concept for understanding these giants- their size, the shape, the way they moved. I was mesmerized. I stopped at a rest area that sits among the turbines so I could get a closer look. 

The base of one turbine with a house and truck nearby for perspective

Standing at the foot of the nearest, I had to crane my neck to look up into its whirling blades. The miniature house and even tinier truck at its base hinted at its true size. It was like the RIDE article ahead of me – the scope of it seemed so big, I couldn’t find a starting place.  But with some perspective I could see it.  It was then I knew I’d talk with Dick and Jerry about what lead them to start the club. I wanted to hear about how they decided to focus the club on safety, education and camaraderie. I knew once I heard them talk, I'd be able to funnel their enthusiasm and nostalgia into a story. As I climbed back on the bike toward home, I felt buoyed up as though the windmills had lifted me into the heavens.

1 comment:

  1. I like reading your story/post. I was factually looking for a motorcycle camping tips but your post is really nice!Life on two wheels indeed!