I’ve often said that there is no such thing as four o’clock in the morning. Oh our theories and time measuring devices insist that it actually exists, but it has never really been sited by anything resembling a reliable witness. I mean, who’s going to believe somebody that gets up that early anyway?
I grabbed the keys off the dresser and reflexively stuffed my cell phone in my back pocket. I didn’t bother to turn it on. I’m not even sure why I carry it. The perverse nature of the universe absolutely guarantees that it never works when I might need it for something and there was no chance I would be answering it this morning. The only reason I even possess the thing is that my job occasionally requires it.
Despite my efforts to not disturb my wife her sleepy voice asked, “Hmm? Where are you going?”
I smiled in the dark, moved to the bedside, and gently kissed her on the neck. She was lying on her side with her back to me and my mood and expression turned serious. I pondered the world and the passions that move me as I gently ran a finger up her thigh and over the curve of her hip. I slid onto the bed behind her and fluidly continued the stroking motion into a hug that culminated with our bodies pressed together and my right hand cupping her breast. She was delightfully warm. I gave her another kiss, this time on the ear. She gave a gentle shiver and a quiet moan. In the subdued light coming from the hall I could see she was smiling.
I whispered into her ear, “Going riding babe.” I released her, rolled off the bed, and pulled the covers up over her shoulders.
As I was leaving the room she contentedly mumbled, “Be safe.” and instantly succumbed to sleep.
I had told her the truth…I always do…but the answer was pretty much irrelevant. I could have said anything at all. Mundane or completely outrageous, she wouldn’t remember it anyway. Predawn on a Sunday morning will do that to her. When she wakes up at a more reasonable hour she will remember that I had an errand to attend to at work.
I glanced at the electronic clock as I passed the living room. Its large illuminated digits were casting an odd red glow about the room. The clock read, “3:48” and I chuckled to myself. Yeah, it was early…she wouldn’t remember that. I smiled to myself. My soul was stirring, and I was making a little time for my other love.
It’s less than a 20-minute ride to work for me and I wasn’t due in until nearly 8:00am. That left me nearly four hours. I hoped that was enough…my other love is a bit demanding at times. Four hours usually isn’t sufficient, but I do what I can.
I pushed the button for the garage door and watched as it cranked open to an eerily quiet world. The silence was remarkable simply because it is so unusual here. I stood there a moment just soaking in the peaceful night air, knowing that the city that will not rest was mostly asleep at this extreme hour. Very early Sunday morning is really about the only time it gets like this.
Phenomenal growth over the last three decades has pretty well merged Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as many other smaller area cities into one nearly continuous super-city. Ten million people now reside in a four-county area that held less than two million the year I learned to drive. Growing up here, I have watched the city flow ever outward…merging with other fledgling cities and inevitably surrounding me, burying me ever deeper in its embrace. I like the city but there is a cost, and it’s a steep one. More and more frequently I find I am unwilling to pay it. It is the silence that I miss…and the stars.
Besides quiet, this morning was also dripping wet. Violent thunderstorms from the previous evening had moved on, but a low cloud-deck, limited visibility, and a soaking drizzle had gripped the world. Drawing in deep breaths of the cool, wet air, I reached for my heavy leather jacket, but hesitated, then left it hanging on its hook. I simply was not in the mood to wear it, despite the protection it could offer from the chill or a crash in the slick conditions. I needed to feel the wind, I needed to connect with the world, and I needed to feed my soul.
The tee shirt and jeans would just have to do. The vastly reduced traffic at this unusual hour would more than compensate for other risk factors. It didn’t really matter anyway. I was not rationalizing or calculating factors. Experience, passion, and emotion were in control this morning. For me “safe” has a tenuous definition and is not always required. “Safe” as many others define it is crippling and unachievable. In reality, there is no such thing…until perhaps I reach the very end of my own road. Dead is probably pretty safe…life, most assuredly, is not. I kind of figure I will at least live while I’m alive.
I turned from my contemplation of the very wet world and looked where I knew my other love would be waiting for me. Yeah, she was there, and my pulse quickened as I caught a glimpse of her. We’ve been together a while now, and she still stirs my passions. I guess I’m one lucky guy.
The gleaming black and chrome cruiser sat in her place in the garage and I briefly admired the subtle beauty and fine lines of the Valkyrie. Even sitting still, the big machine radiates sheer power and refined passion. To the experienced eye, she also hints at strength and rock-solid reliability. For me, there is no question. She has repeatedly demonstrated all of these traits.
As the garage door rolled down I roared off into the fog and drizzle. I briefly wondered whether I had enough gas for the trip, then laughed at myself. I had a wallet full of credit cards and even some cash. There would be enough gas. A thought occurred to me and I rapidly tried to suppress it. I was not completely successful and smiled a dangerous smile. The night air called and I wondered if I would actually make it into work. The road leads many other places besides work and home and it constantly tempts me to explore and to experience…perhaps this would be the day I would just keep going.
Despite the wet conditions the freeways were sheer pleasure. Almost completely deserted, sometimes 12 lanes wide, it was obvious they were for me and me alone. Some sections of the highway are recessed as much as 30 feet into the terrain and the concrete canyon walls echoed the soulful moan of my machine back to me. Not unlike a wolf’s howl in the arctic wilderness, the sound elicited primal feelings deep within and quickened my heart rate even more. The feelings are hard to describe…but “horniness” is probably not far off the mark. The speeds climbed and I challenged anyone to come and try and take my roads from me. There were no takers.
The uppermost high-speed bridge and connecting ramp of the “High Five” interchange is over 120 feet in the air. Quite steep, it is banked and plenty wide. This morning it was also enveloped in fog and mist. As I reached very top even the lights of the city were gone. The world consisted of only me, the machine, the road, and the mist. At the pinnacle the gracefully curving bridge turns a little sharper and begins a stomach flipping steep decent to the freeway below. Dropping out of the night into the concrete canyons below at high speed and completely alone is an experience not to be missed. I ran it twice, just because I could. I howled the second time through and noted that the bridge is properly banked for 100 mph.
I grinned as I realized with surprise that the little detour to run the bridge a second time had added nearly eight miles to my commute and whistled softly as the scale of this thing came into focus. It is truly a massive structure, and this morning it was all for me. A colossal jungle gym, my very own playground on an impossible scale. Gotta love those highway engineers.
There are three exits I can take for easy access to work. I was doing ninety when I blew past the last of them without a second thought. My other love was not done with me yet. I still had some time.
Four hours later I was sitting alone at a stoplight with my left blinker on. The orange turn-signal reflected in the fog and seemed to emphasize just how deserted downtown Dallas really was. The mist had thickened enough so that in the last few miles it had begun to condense on the hairs on my arms. Thousands of tiny droplets suspended a fraction of an inch away from my skin. I could feel the mass of the water, but was not chilled. Strange feeling. It looked even stranger, appearing in the subdued morning light as if I was wearing multi-colored, prismatic armor.
The stoplight changed and I waved casually at the gate guard as I pulled into work. I turned off the bike and breathed deeply. I grinned as I noted the odometer. My “20 minute” ride to work…something just over 15 miles…had taken me 245 miles to accomplish. It is a long way around the entire city.
As I entered the building the guy working the back desk waved back, and then did a double-take. “Did you ride in this weather?”
I punched the button for the elevator. “Yep.”
“Man! It’s nasty out there. Where do you live?”
“North,” I nodded vaguely in that direction, “about twenty miles.” There was a strangled ‘ding’ as the elevator arrived.
His faced showed disbelief. “Twenty miles? In this mess?” he waved his arm toward the outer door and the fog and mist beyond. “You’re nuts!”
I just grinned, wondering what his reaction would be if he knew I had come more than ten times that far…and on purpose. On second thought, I was glad he didn’t know. He probably wouldn’t let me in the building.
Mere minutes later, my errand complete; I sat at the stoplight with the big cruiser rumbling beneath me. The mist was a little heavier now, almost a light rain, but it was warming a bit in the morning light.
Choices again. North was the way home…just a few minutes to be warm and dry. South would very quickly take me out of the city and to more choices beyond. I really needed to get home. There were lots of things to do around the house; there were things to fix, bills to pay, a woman to love, and other responsible-adult-type things to accomplish. Home. Yeah. I would head home.
I turned south, gunned the throttle, and headed out of the city. I grinned as I worked the big cruiser through the gears and wondered how many miles my “twenty-minute” ride home would take me this time. Perhaps this would be the day I just kept going.
I’ll see you on the road.