I was westbound, with a north component…and moving way too fast. Outbound...away from the city. The Valkyrie screaming in ecstasy, the road and wind noise finally drowning out my thoughts, making the powerful machine and I one. Connected. The whole so much greater than the sum. Apart we are incomplete, together we are The Dragon.
But why was I here?
Texas summer. The storms will come in the afternoon, form up in a line and move rapidly from northwest to southeast. This is normal, expected…our typical weather pattern. Hail, intense lightning, violent winds, heavy rain, and tornados are frequently a part of these events. I am frequently a part of these events too. I just have to find them.
Sometimes they find me...
The only real question is where they will form. After they fire up, they are short lived and move rapidly, their very essence consumed by their intense violence.
I have an affinity for storms. I know them and they know me. It is really a hunter-prey relationship, grudgingly aware of and stalking each other for years. Even after all this time the unanswered question remains: Which of us is the hunter and which is the prey?
Sometimes I know the answer, occasionally I am reminded that maybe I do not.
Storms captivate me. I find intense beauty, tremendous energy, and renewal in their power and their form. Often I find answers and release too, screaming my defiance into the chaos and finding enlightenment in the breath-taking flash of a close lightning strike, the bone-thumping crack of thunder, and the numbing lashing of the wind and rain. Over time, where they form, where they are going, and their patterns have become clear to me. Over time, they have become aware of my patterns too. I know that the storms influence me. Sometimes I know that I influence them. Some would call that arrogance, others would call it impossible. They have not ridden with me.
Today was different. Yesterday my life had been shaken, my world rocked. Mars and Venus, male and female. Probably typical, but misunderstandings and unfulfilled needs on both sides of the equation had welled up and shaken everything I believed.
The Dark Side of the Man, that part of us that is always on the surface and barely kept in check—the lust, the passion, the focus, the drive, the man himself, the core…all the roles other than meek provider—was exposed, prodded, angered, tempted, released…played…dismissed.
Ignored, wished away by the one I love. No faith, no belief, in the only thing I have to give that is worthy of faith and deserving of belief. My single greatest strength, reserved for and freely given to the one that makes me most vulnerable, diminished by flippant dismissal. Discarded as not important.
But it is not so easy as that.
The Dark Side of the Man cannot be excised without destroying the rest. It is what has made me what I am, guides what I can become. Painful and not completely understood events were altering my perception. Was this the death of The Dragon? Was this the end of the magic?
I had sought answers in the storm of that day, but it had ignored me and vanished without enlightenment.
As I watched it fade, I viewed the lightning and wondered aloud, "Cannot such beautiful things last forever?" The thunder seemed to reply but, for the first time in my life, I could not understand the answer.
Deep hurt, and no answers found, I felt betrayed, ignored. The indifference of the storm seemed to mark the loss of a confidant…the absence of a…friend? Now maybe I am being arrogant. Maybe.
I cannot lose The Dragon. It is the only role I value, the only role that is real.
I cry into the night, "The only thing that is ME!" The storm fades. The wind is talking, but not to me…
So today I sat astride the precision and powerful machine, unsure where to go and staring down the road while the beast idled grumblingly. Awaiting some sign. Some intuition. Some hope. The machine fully fueled and checked, the man clad in full leathers despite the heat. Terrified beyond words that no sign would come. Somehow that would mark the end of the magic. The surrender of what is unique. The end of myself. Could I bear this loss too?
The storms form in this weather pattern…always…but where? They are huge, and cover massive amounts of area rapidly, but Texas is vast. I might never know where they are. This time I knew that I must find them. I must connect. The sense of loss was almost overwhelming.
I closed my eyes against the intense Texas sun and leaned my head back, breathing deeply in the heat and awaiting the evening. That is when the storms usually come out. That is when the hunt begins.
Suddenly I was alert, though I displayed no outward sign. Something had brushed my consciousness. It was so faint and far away I thought perhaps I had imagined it, but at least it was something to go on, something to grasp, something to fill the void. It was time to ride.
I straightened up and put on my helmet. I was going to need it; speed was to be a factor. I asked the machine as I slapped her on the tank, "Are you ready for this?" Really I was asking both of us. Asking The Dragon.
No answer was forthcoming. I sighed. More regrets. I am unused to not having the answers. Then I smiled a grim smile. I guess we would just have to go and find out.
So westbound and a bit north it was, and fast. It turns out that on the fuel she carries, The Dragon will go precisely 63 miles at 140mph. She is a thirsty beast when pushed that hard. Half her normal range, but twice her usual speed. I can "splash and go" fuel her at a credit card pump in under two minutes. Five of these stops were needed today.
Apparently the Texas revenue enforcement squads were not out or were not alert, as they never made their presence known. I was not watching for them and was beyond caring if they were watching for me. The Dark Side of the Man was in control. My speed was dictated by the turmoil in my soul. Out here in the western wastes, 140mph is a safe and reasonable speed anyway.
A turn here, a change of direction there. Soon I was in new territory for me. Texas is big, and even after 20+ years of riding it, I have not yet begun to see it all.
As I topped a rise between two hills that limited my view of the horizon I discovered that my faint intuition had been correct. I also discovered to my great surprise and nearly to my undoing, that between The Dragon and the storm, which one of us was really the hunter today.
I was into some overcast, but was that heat haze ahead of me…or something else? There is not a lot of time to decide at 140mph. Instinctively I let off the throttle.
Ambush! A sudden and intense crosswind combined with sudden heavy blinding rain readily took me off the pavement and turned The Dragon into an off road machine. At over half a ton of man and machine, it is not easy to blow The Dragon off the road. I would have bet that it could not be done. At over a half a ton of man and machine, The Dragon is not the ideal dirt bike.
Before I could correct, I found myself sliding in the gravel at over 130mph. I could hear it pinging off the undercarriage and fenders, feel it hitting my boots and lower legs, and see it scattering great distances in my peripheral vision. I had already let off the throttle, but the back end fishtailed and I felt the rear tire begin to slide around. The bike began to gyrate violently as the back tire alternately lost and then regained traction. I mashed the back brake, locking the tire up fully, restoring some measure of control, and hopefully avoiding a high-side or a violent unseating if the tire grabbed again and whipped the bike around.
After an eternity I slid to a stop. It was difficult to hold the heavy cruiser up against the powerful winds, even with both feet on the ground. I looked back in the direction I had come and saw that the storm was moving fast and had closed in behind me too. The skid mark was impressive, starkly visable in the lightning flashes, several hundred feet long, and disappearing over the horizon. It was already full of water and the heavy rain was rapidly obliterating it.
My heart was pounding and my breathing was rapid, but I was elated. This game I knew, this was something I understood. This was a question asked, and an answer given.
And it was the answer I had hoped for.
"Almost had me didn't you!" I yelled into the chaos. "Ha!" My hand gesture was probably inappropriate, but immensely satisfying.
In answer, lightning hit the road a few hundred feet from me. I felt the shockwave through the ground before the blast of the thunder impacted me with physical force. The rain intensified. Thunderclaps began to keep time with the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood. The answers to questions unvoiced. I smiled gratefully. Things in my life may change, maybe beyond my understanding and outside my desires, but The Dragon would continue. What makes me…ME…cannot be undone.
And that is all I need to know.
Lightning struck again. Closer this time. I was showered with debris, small rocks and asphalt displaced by the blast. The thunderclap was painful. I laughed out loud. It was time to ride again.
I screamed my defiance into the storm. I screamed other things too. I violently twisted the throttle, throwing gravel as I guided the heavy cruiser back onto the pavement. Yes, The Dragon would endure, and all the answers would come. This was a game I knew. I was singing as I roared off down the road. Life is messy, life can be a pain, and life does not always go as planned…but life is magic. We get out of it what we are looking for.
And I know what I am looking for.
I grinned, The Dragon roared, and we were gone.