Blasting south. Pushing hard…burning miles…making time.
Hot. Sore. Dehydrated…beyond the point of rehydration for the day actually…heading for the danger zone.
Basically, in the tremendous heat and long day I’m losing more fluids than the body can process in the short term…particularly since I only stop for fluids when I stop for gas. Heat exhaustion is inevitable now if I push on much longer without rest.
Recovery time has become mandatory.
I won’t be stopping for an extended rest anytime soon though. I’m within shooting distance of home…just a few hours of hard running. Home. I’ve caught a whiff and there won’t be much besides fuel stops until I reach it.
At least…that’s the plan. I’m just entering the hottest part of the day.
I’ve been straddling this machine and piloting her through waves of heat for eight hours. It’s damn big out here.
Relaxed and alert, but beginning to favor my left leg and back when the road is rough. The back’s never quite been the same since Alaska…and the leg…well…that was probably the ladder thing…or maybe half a hundred other abuses. The long hours in the saddle…two days of hard running…bring back the pain.
The memories too…return without having diminished their power over time. Pain and vivid recollections…complete with intense emotions…flow freely on these runs.
Pain and memory…of the two…it’s hard to decide which is stronger. Sometimes they are indelibly connected. Often they come unbidden…sometimes I dredge them up on my own.
Good memories, bad ones. It’s the experience that drives me. It’s the total that makes me what I am. I would not shed either if I could.
The pain I could do without though.
When I was a young man I’d have called it weakness. Today I call it battle scars. I’ve earned the right.
I’ve earned the memories. I’ve earned the pain.
The big machine’s running lean. I hit reserve twelve miles ago. There’s at least that many miles remaining before the next exit. The nearly empty tank…with the extreme temperatures of the day, the sun, and the heat of the big power-plant thrumming smoothly along underneath it…is hot enough to burn the insides of my thighs, even through my jeans. I eye the odometer and the map again. There would be fuel at that exit…I hoped. With any luck I might even make it that far.
My helmet feels like it’s closing in on me…the heat, the sweat. I’d toss it right now but years of experience in hot weather tell me I’m actually better off with it on. Blast furnace winds wouldn’t help cool my exposed head much. Besides that it holds my earphones in. The music is part of what keeps me going.
Or maybe it’s just the ride. Sometimes I’m not certain.
The toes of my boots are sandblasted half through by thousands of miles in these exact conditions. That says something. I don’t think too much about what. The soles are long gone too…dragged lightly on their edges as the pegs burned off on the roadway through many hard turns. This is my fifteenth pair of riding boots. Already it’s time for pair sixteen. I can’t remember how many sets of pegs though.
Longing for home, yet somehow, dreading the end of the ride. I glance at the instruments and tap the speed up just a bit. Maybe the fuel would hold out.
Yesterday some friends passed me on the highway. We rode together for a bit…until it was time for me to peel off to gas up the big cruiser. We shared the ride but never spoke. Just a wave as our ride…as the road…brought us together and then guided us apart.
I find myself thinking about them now…with their destination and the timing, they are likely out here too…not too far away, yet they may as well be a world apart. Our routes diverge near here. I wonder if they are having a similiar ride. Similiar thoughts. Similiar pains.
Riding is like that. Elements are in common…but how they are combined is intensely individual. In the end, the experience is unique.
The big machine starts running rough. “Hey boss,” she’s saying, “we’re about dry.” The searing hot tank punctuates her remarks.
“I know babe.”
A big green highway sign says the exit is a mile ahead. Heh…we’ll make it. Again.
As I pull to the pump I realize that I’m panting. Still, I fuel the bike first. After, I stick my helmet in the bagged-ice freezer and chug the liter of water I bought from the halter-top clad, 20-something, tanned Oklahoma girl running the station. They grow ’em nice here.
I stare at my hands. Yep, I’m overheated. I stretch a little and try to moderate the shakes. More water, some of it over the head and down the back. I allow myself five minutes and then I retrieve my (now cold) helmet and mount up.
I’ve still got that whiff of home…and the warm and willing woman waiting there for me.
Hot, sore, exhausted, and pushing on. It’s time to fly.
Tomorrow I’ll have to pull the big bike apart…I destroyed the rear tire on the outbound leg…not far from this very spot. Plugging a hole that size…that likely shredded the belts…is only for getting home. Heh…well, home after I ran the three-thousand miles I had already planned for the trip first. Now I need to pull it and see if it can be patched from the inside. Yeah…sure. Already I know I’ll be shelling out the bucks for a new one. Gad.
I hit the road and push the bike to highway speeds…and somewhat more. The blast furnace winds are familiar now…and will make short work of whatever rest that last stop provided.
And I’m smiling.
God help me, I’m ENJOYING this.
Another gas stop and I should be able to make it home. I glance at the map again…hmmm. Maybe not. That’d be stretching it. Perhaps two stops. We’ll see.
The highway sings. The big bike’s lonely wail joins in. The music on my mp3 player enhances, rather than covers, this tune. Suddenly, a symphony, and I find myself singing.
Yeah, I’m enjoying myself. I don’t know why. Frankly I don’t care.
But I do occasionally wonder.
Can you tell me, friends…that it’s not about the pain?