The sound of tires hissing over drenched pavement and the aggressive rumble of the engine beneath me inspire my first grin in quite some time. Muscle and steel…man and machine…a day like today will test us to both our limits.
A test is exactly what I need.
I easily avoid a careless cage driver despite the slippery conditions, twist the throttle, and head for the far left lane ramming her though the gears as I go. The Dragon responds with unbridled enthusiasm. This is what the big machine was made for.
It’s time to fly.
The last few days have been cold and dreary. Below freezing, or a steady cold rain have been the prevailing conditions. Completely and utterly depressing. A hazard of the season…and not the first encountered this week.
Summer nights hold a fascination for me…riding them is a amazing experience not to be missed…summer nights in Texas especially so. Not all summer nights make the cut…some are merely ordinary…temperature, humidity, the moon and stars, other, unseen things…even things that have to be believed to be seen…influence them heavily.
Some are just pure magic. Rides and experiences that simply make my soul fly. Those times I’ve been known to call “the bright nights.”
But eventually summer turns to winter and I can only watch…and endure.
Always, in nature, there strives to be a balance…a kind of cruel symmetry. Summer. Winter. Good. Evil. Life. Death. Happiness. Sadness. Pay the piper and all that rot.
To balance my cherished summer “Bright nights”, are “the dark days”…days like the last few. Days where the weather, work, the news, and other events combine to dampen my spirit…conspire to drag me down into the mire. Fear. Pettiness. Depression. Excuses. Hate. All these poisons inhabit the dark days. They are the mire.
The “Dark days” are supposed to be inevitable…that balance thing again…the mire is supposed to be an accepted part of life.
I’ve never believed it.
I am a rider. I am other things as well…but I am a rider to the core. There is a truth that long days alone on the highways can teach…a truth that we all must learn…rider or not…in order to do more than simply survive.
It’s a simple truth…so simple many will never believe it. Essentially, “The Dark Days”…”The Mire”…can be influenced by sheer will. They are a choice. Some people spend their entire lives there…never understanding that. Never escaping. Never living.
I learned that truth the hard way…on the heels of pain and death and tragedy so long ago that the details fade from my memories.
But it can be hard sometimes. Those forces are simple, primal, and powerful. As humans, in order to be anything other than ordinary, we must tap our darkside…our passion…our animal…and use that energy and insight (or instinct) to drive us onward.
The passion! The drive! If we can’t taste them we aren’t living to even a fraction of our potential.
But the mire and the darkside of the man can sometimes be hard to distinguish.
Roaring down the freeway, fog swirling around me. Mist and small rain droplets collect on the hairs of my arms, only to be stirred and ultimately dislodged by the winds of the big machine’s slipstream.
The unique sensation sends chills down my spine…
Running high-speed in the rain and mist without a jacket and dressed in a tee-shirt, jeans, and summer weight gloves may not be the wisest choice today. It’s on the edge of too cold.
I eye the traffic, dodge another cage, bump the speed up another couple notches, and decide it’s undoubtedly on the edge of safe too.
But “safe” is not always the goal.
The crappy weather, unrepentant commercialism of the holidays, and the quiet chaos that is work have done their share to drag me down. Economic pressures and a feeling that I’m not getting enough done also contributed.
It was the hit from left-field that pushed me over the edge though. I tend to surround myself with friends, family, and people that understand about the mire…and the choice…and a petty, selfish act by somebody I normally respect…an act to prove a point that didn’t need proven…to a person that wouldn’t see it that way anyway…soured my insides. Somebody’s going to be hurt, wondering what they did wrong, and somebody is going to be expecting a result that will never come, and probably be clueless as to why.
I want to slap the crap out of one and apologize to the other…but it’s not my place…and would only turn me into the bad guy.
Games. Often easier than communication.
Games. I hate ’em. But that’s the mire too.
Another seasonal hazard.
I snap sharply back to reality as small bits of ice “ping” off the bike and pelt me on the arms.
Yet another seasonal hazard…this one strictly physical…rears its ugly head.
The big winter storms…north and to the east of us, struggle to extend their influence here. It seems almost personal…that reach…that effort to effect me. Heh…I’ve seen that effort before, but that’s another story.
It’s the trucks…the big rigs. They are finally able to move out of the frigid and storm racked zones and some have made overnight runs to our area. This may be the first time they’ve been out of freezing conditions in many days and hundreds or thousands of miles. Many of the rigs…especially the trailers, are covered with massive sheets of ice. Slabs coating the sides. Hardened snow on the tops. Dirty brown ice clumped underneath. Pointed icicles spinning in the wheels.
Temperatures are in the 50’s here, with stiff south winds, rain, and mist. Eventually the ice imported on the big rigs begins to melt.
Ahead of me a massive sheet of ice peels off the side of a big rig and crashes to the highway. That’s the least of the hazards…as unless it hits me as it’s falling, it explodes on the highway and simply ends up as small shards bouncing down the road.
I dodge the first one easily…with only a couple solid “thumps” on my legs and the bike.
It is sufficient warning though for me to watch for the real hazard…that dirty brown solid ice underneath the rigs…when IT breaks off it tends to do so in large chunks…as large as a hundred pounds or more, and they tend to stay intact as they bounce, roll, and slide down the highway.
Like other seasonal hazards, they can be hard to dodge in the slick conditions.
Like other seasonal hazards, just one hit out of left field can bring me down.
It’s an act of sheer will…piloting that machine. Together we are precision and speed. Apart we are neither. Slowly, the challenge…the test…the ride…clears my mind of the mire. Slowly the passion…unpolluted by the poisons of the Dark Days…rises to the top.
Slowly, I remember who…and what…I am.
Racing down the highway…meeting the challenges head on and with a smile.
I’m doing more than surviving. I’m living.
And suddenly it’s the Bright Nights again.