Where Thought and Riding Meet

There's a weird, strange thrill riding in the sticks that's hard to describe. Part visual, part physical, part spiritual. The ride is important, an anthem to living, a meditation on feeling blood and breath course through the body. Problems, opportunities, secrets and answers unfold on the road. Those discoveries fuel my ride.

Levofloxacin Dreams

Steve Williams near Linden Hall, Pennsylvania“You have pneumonia”.

It’s not what I expected to hear during a second visit to a doctor in a week.  The first was a feverish trek to an urgent care center on a Sunday evening when a cold or flu turned towards infection.  Being on an immune system crushing drug for ankylosing spondylitits you learn to pay attention to persistent fever lest you’re body enter a competition with a bacterial interloper that it’s just not prepared to fight. A horse pill of levofloxacin is the antibiotic ringer in my corner.

Several days later the fever was gone along with all other symptoms save a nasty, choking cough.  A visit to get a cough syrup prescription grew larger with a diagnosis of pneumonia.  The persistent state of feeling old, tired, exhausted started to make sense.

Into my sixth decade I’ve become keenly aware that my body has changed but it’s subtle, a little less strength, a little less endurance, a little less desire.  But add a serious cold to the picture and suddenly I’m imagining life at a more advanced age.  It left me asking questions about what I’m doing with my days, what I want to do, and what I need to do.

I’ve not been on the Vespa in weeks until this evening — a short ride to test what I’m able to do and how quickly energy seeps away.  For the past year I’ve been thinking about growing older and this latest illness just turned up the heat. I keep thinking I’ve entered a levofloxacin dream.

Vespa GTS scooter on rural road at duskThe Vespa still feels familiar.  The evening air was cool and I could feel it flow over the place in my chest that can flame into a ragged cough.  Riding with the visor down and making sure to keep any physical exertion to a minimum there were no problems.

Still, I got tired quickly just from pushing the scooter onto the centerstand and taking a few pictures.

Vespa GTS scooter and Mount Nittany near Penn StateThe short ride this evening was a simple, physical test.  Still not ready for a long ride but will probably be able to commute to work.  Despite fatigue, it was a thrill to see the sun fading beyond Mt. Nittany. There are many mountains I want to see by Vespa before I can’t.

Thinking about health and growing old may chew away at plans and ideas — dreams really that fuel a lot of creative activity.  I’m reminded of something novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez said about growing old:

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Illness put a temporary blindfold over my dreams.  Best take the blindfold off…

An Even Keel

View of Buddha in store windowAfter a couple weeks of riding silence I found myself again floating over the road with the familiar, remarkable feeling that nothing mattered except the pavement unrolling ahead.  Later in town I was presented with an iconic symbol of quietness.  For an instant I thought I could understand.  Riding through the world I felt as if the Vespa was part of some heavy existential keel stabilizing mind, body and spirit.

An even keel, another unlooked for result of a simple ride.

Vespa parked along the street at duskAt dusk after a short ride I felt in the center of the world.  Strange to feel as if nothing but this moment matters.  Fleeting, but instructive as I rushed off on foot to meet friends.

Vespa and motorcycles parked in heavy rainAn hour later I’m pounded by rain under the wet glare of night.  The earlier feeling of connection surrendered to the more immediate concern of navigating safely home.  Several times the dazzling light of oncoming traffic made it seem impossible to see the road and I found myself accepting with faith that no holes or concrete blocks were in my path.

Lily the Hammer

11 week old Belgian Sheepdog puppy

Haven’t posted much lately.  Illness, work and this little dog are responsible.  Meet Lily the Hammer, an 11 week old Belgian Sheepdog puppy, niece of Junior, and newest member of the family.  Lily hails from Bartonville, Illinois and arrived here at the end of a 1400 mile journey.

So while things sort out on the home front the Vespa will probably sit idle.  And it’s been so warm…

Winter is in the Rear View Mirror

Vespa GTS scooter with fading snow

Winter is in the rear view mirror despite the 29F thermometer reading this morning.  Winter is behind us, the snow is melting and the salt, shovels and scrapers can be put away.  Plows can be removed from trucks and winter tires can be removed.  Winter is definitely, absolutely, positively in the damn rear view mirror.

The winding ride into town this morning confirmed these sacred riding beliefs as the sun beat down on the earth and the little voice in my head whispered, “Winter is finally over.”

Vespa GTS scooter on narrow winding roadLong shadows from the rising sun under a clear sky make it easier to believe the cold is in retreat despite passing frozen ponds and snow still piled against snow fences.  A close eye on the ambient temperature display on the Vespa’s instrument cluster confirmed the obvious when it changed from 29F to 30F — it’s getting warmer!

Vespa GTS scooter parked in State College, PennsylvaniaNo sign of snow anywhere in town.  Or at least I did not allow myself to see any.  No students in shorts and t-shirts either but I told myself they were still asleep after a rough Saturday night.

Hot tea at Saint's CafeIf there was anything that indicated a crack in the armor of denial it was the steam rising from my Earl Grey tea at Saint’s Cafe.  If I really thought winter was in the rear view mirror I would be drinking ice tea right?

On the ride home and through the day I continued to believe that winter is gone, forced into a hasty retreat by planetary motion and force of will.  Before you know it we’ll all be looking for shade to roll our machines into so we can apply a nice coat of summer wax…