During my ride to work I was thinking about destinations, places I might like to visit on the Vespa. Aside from coffee shops and quiet places to write in my journal, I was coming up empty. There are no dreams of riding to the top of Pike’s Peak, Daytona Beach, the Tail of the Dragon or any of the other places that riders like to visit.
Perhaps it’s because I like to ride but hate arriving.
This morning was chilly with the temperature at 38F when I departed. The remaining snow and ice was almost gone leaving anything not paved or heavily graveled a soft, muddy mess. Strolling around for a few minutes while photographing the Vespa scooter with Mount Nittany I sensed a little of why I am not destination focused. I love the experience of travel and the exploration of the space I’m in, the continual revelation of things to look at. I don’t want to rush to get somewhere and not take time to investigate everything on the way. A destination focus hampers getting to know a place by demanding schedules and expectations.
I want to wander as a child.
I ache when I look at this picture of myself with my mother and father. They’re just kids. And now they’re gone. All chances to know them better have disappeared. The further I travel away from them, the more I realize how much they have given me — she a curiosity with the world, and he the even temperament to accept whatever I discover.
I’m a long way from home.
Sunlight on a winter day warms the spirit. And the ground. An attempt to cross a pasture was thwarted by the scooter instantly bogging down in the mud that lurked beneath the grass. Without knobby tires the scooter was going nowhere in that mess. Still, it’s a quiet time on the way to work. A few minutes to appreciate the air I’m breathing, the world I’m beholding.
One of the things I love about a ride are the little discoveries — mud I can’t traverse, the sound of boots squishing through soggy turf, the dramatic sky framing a photo. There’s no destination or place (save getting to work) that is driving me.
I learned from my mother how to travel. I learned from my wife how to savor the trip.
About a year after this photograph was taken I made my first trip to Germany — a vague recollection of a long flight on a Pan Am Clipper followed by mountains. My mother loved the Alps. She was an explorer and I learned to appreciate everything from reading a map to how to navigate strange places. Always on the go, it seemed we never were sure how a day trip would unfold. It’s much the same on the Vespa — in motion and few plans on where to be and when.
From Kim, I’ve learned to be somewhere, stop, and absorb the place without agenda or itinerary. Our stays in Ogunquit, Maine at the Beachmere Inn, weeks in one place, with nothing to do but walk out the door and see what the world was doing. It’s like that with the Vespa too — get on the scooter and absorb what the road reveals. It’s out there, just waiting.
Who cares where they’re going.
The Vespa has taken a beating and has the earthly patina usually associated with BMW adventure bikes. It’s an indication of the road less traveled — at least for most scooters. If I was focused on destinations instead of “wonder where this trail lead…” I’d miss the opportunity to dirty up the scooter and a chance to explore what’s right in front of me.
Dad and his boy. I don’t recall him ever referring to me by any name other than “Boy”. He’s been gone now for 10 years and I can still hear his voice.
I have to confess a there is a place I want to ride — to the cemetery where he’s buried. I’ve not been there since he died. It’s time to visit and say hello. I had a trip planned in November but some things came up and had to cancel.
Home after a second trip to Germany. During or after each trip dad had something special prepared for me. I was craving potato chips during the first trip so he shipped a big bag by airmail delivery which had to cost a fortune. I still love potato chips though circumstance has changed how much or how often I can enjoy them.
A wooden push car built on the chassis of a little kid’s fire engine was the surprise in 1959. The pack of kids living on our street pushed that thing around all over the neighborhood. Three years later I arrived home to find that he built me a clubhouse in the backyard.
Not everyone has good memories of their father for lots of reasons. I’m grateful for mine but regret we didn’t talk more. I never asked him the big questions. It’s too late now.
Every ride is a journey if only to the grocery store for milk, bread and eggs. I ride over the same roads and see the same places but somehow there’s always new things to see. During a video interview I did while in graduate school with photographer Stephen Shore, he shared the challenge of photographing the landscape when he moved to Montana. Shore told me it took him several years there before he could see anything.
I understand now what he meant. And why a race to a destination for a quick photo or two and then on to the next doesn’t leave much room to experience a place.
So I’ll continue my destination-less riding and see where I end up.