Not sure if there’s a point to this post. It was a beautiful day to ride, a small ride in the magical autumn light of long shadows and mild, fragrant air that lulls the spirit into a relaxed state before the jarring blow of cold weather. The light and shadows of late afternoon.
Dazzling light and crisp mornings are a perfect way to start a ride. With the air temperature hovering in the low 40s (Fahrenheit), my friend Paul and I set out to find breakfast. Him on his 2016 BMW R1200 RT and me on the Vespa — an odd pairing only if you’re concerned with the optics or the BMW rider wants to greatly exceed the speed limit. I suspect there are other things that would suggest a problem.
We departed Boalsburg, Pennsylvania with a goal in mind — breakfast at the Spruce Creek Bakery in Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania. Downhill a dizzying 344 feet in elevation. I made a note to be on the lookout for altitude sickness on the way home. And for Marine One in case President Trump, like Jimmy Carter before him, decided to visit Spruce Creek to fish for trout.
It’s a serious ride.Continue Reading
Not everything here is about riding. It’s a means to an end. I’m never sure what I’ll discover on the road.
A dozen personal journals found their way to the landfill. Years of thought and complaint vomited on the page. Memories suspended in ink on hundreds of pages of paper. Free now of the weight of their presence.
Riding the Vespa scooter earlier in the day after an appointment with my cardiologist; wandering in mind and body and thinking of the past.
Wondering about the future.
The cool, autumn air keeps me bright and awake as it seeps across my skin. A sure sign of sloppy preparation and attention to detail — typical of early cold season riding.
The doctor swept the past aside as we talked about the future — medication, exercise, diet and lifestyle, the magic mix that increases the odds for healthy years ahead. Only my own thoughts keep me oppressed by the past. In this case — a heart attack.
Those discarded journals had their own power to oppress just as beliefs and assumptions and physical possessions can. It’s easy to become chained and weighed down without even realizing the ponderous load being dragged along. Slowly I’m working to free myself so I can experience more fully what’s right in front of me.
Riding the scooter through the woods is an exercise in simplicity. It expects nothing from me save for the basic skills required to safely operate. In that simple act is the space to observe chains and baggage, and hear the seductive song that softly winds through them. It’s the rare ride where I return home with no education.Continue Reading
From deep inside I feel the coming of winter. That time of magnificent transition in the northeast part of America is autumn. It has a unique scent and color palette; the feel of the air on skin is prickles a ripple of events in the body that resonate with some ancient, primal programming that whispers of endings and decay. And with it, for me at least, comes a rush of melancholy swirling around all those things that I’ve lost in this short life.
Walking through the woods I can feel it. As the cycle of the season rolls on we head to the quiet death of winter.
Modern life has certainly masked those whispers making it possible to be deaf to them completely. Ample food, shelter and clothes challenge even the most bitter weather. I confess my own guilt and reliance on technology to blunt the lessons programmed by DNA for survival — triggered by the coming of autumn.Continue Reading
Too Old to Ride?
I’ve been asking myself a lot lately whether I’ve reached a point where I can’t reliably ride anymore. Whether some future motorcycle to be named later or the Vespa GTS scooter that I’ve been riding for the past decade.
It’s a crappy conversation to have with yourself if you really enjoy riding. My father-in-law was talking about the same conversation he’s been having about bicycles. But he’s almost twenty years further down the road than I am.
It’s been three months waiting for my lower back to heal. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way. Only the first where things haven’t gotten better. The lingering, gnawing pain and sudden, startling bursts of electric weakness provide ample pause when deciding to ride. Putting on gear and boots is an adventure in itself that can leave me cringing and panting from the task.
I suppose I should be surprised at the mental conversations.
In my dreams I’m riding well into my eighties. My granddaughter has her own motorcycle and lectures me on some aspect of life as she comes into her own. Two weeks ago I was riding through the local forests to enjoy the sights and fragrances of a changing autumn world. Each stop to push the scooter onto the center stand was a breath-holding event as I was never sure if the movement involved would impinge an already irritated nerve.
There are a few things I consider when thinking about the big riding stop sign:
- Am I strong enough to manage the weight involved?
- Is my mind clear?
- Are my reactions reliable?
- Am I afraid to be on the road?
- Can I see?
Five simple questions. And so far, with only momentary and somewhat predictable situations, only the first question is relevant. All the rest receive a positive response.
I love riding through the near endless forest roads here in central Pennsylvania. While the Vespa scooter may not be the first choice for this terrain it’s capable enough for any rider not bent on break-neck speeds and tricks. My own recent wandering in Rothrock State Forest to absorb the flaming foliage has been satisfying if not at times jarring along rough stretches of road.
The light is different this time of year. The sun remains lower in the sky and I swear it paints far better cloud drawings than any other time of the year. I know I look up more this time of year to look, and to think. Like whether I’m too old to ride.
Perhaps the past week was just a bad stretch of body encounters on top of some bouncing riding that caused me to grit my teeth. Another chiropractor appointment that doesn’t seem to help. A rheumatologist who doesn’t think my auto-immune arthritis has worsened but perhaps a physical therapist could help. Add a colonoscopy to the mix and perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised I’m asking whether I’m too old to ride.
And it’s cold. That early, cold-season riding desire crushing cold. It was 27F this morning.
Am I too old to ride? No. Can I ride as I wish? No. Are things going to change? Don’t know. Just a sample of the questions I have been experiencing lately as my riding has changed to accommodate my aching back.
A few days ago I hopped on the scooter to ride to a local eatery to pick up dinner and stopped along the way to drink in the sunset. These small journeys are the norm these days. The occasional 150 mile weekend jaunts are growing more rare as I make decisions to not stress the healing I imagine taking place in my lower back. And those decisions work into the personal conversations I have with myself about growing older and myriad decisions including whether I’m too old to ride.
When I talk with other riders I seldom hear anything personal aside from bragging about riding accomplishments or the mechanical nuances of their motorcycle or scooter. Conversations about personal challenges, misgivings or concerns seem off limits. Personal story telling seems a difficult challenge.
It’s why I write. Putting words on a page is easier than talking. For me at least.
I’m not too old to ride. I am currently struggling with some physical hurdles to riding but am still confident that work and focus will allow me to get over them.
It will be just above the freezing mark in the morning. And I want to go for a ride. The desire is still there…