It doesn’t take a degree in meteorology to understand that blue dot was in the middle of trouble. There was a storm for miles, no real way out and the only road through was through…Sometimes you’re the blue dot.
Riding motorcycles and even the bikes themselves have a way of being the greatest metaphor for life. Zen and the Art, the real cycle we are working on is ourselves. No rear view mirrors. Pay attention to where you are going not where you’ve been. Fast is fun. Slow is hard. Wave to people and they wave back. Pack light, bring what you need, but always bring an extra pair of socks. Take time to smell the freshly cut sweetgrass fields. Don’t forget to breathe. Chin up. Chin up, hold on, and enjoy the ride.
Riding motorcycles saved me.
But sometimes you’re the blue dot.
My bikes have forged in me a confidence I never, ever had before. I had been riding around town and feeling like an occasional badass every once in a while. I even took Max up dirt roads and over mountain passes. But that’s not what did it for me, that’s not what saved me. It was the ride back from Kansas on Tank years ago…through a different storm than the one above, but most assuredly an unexpected storm.
It was the ride home from Kansas after celebrating the college graduation of the kid born to teen parents from Albuquerque. Yeah, proud doesn’t even come close. As if that wasn’t an accomplishment enough to fill my soul for decades, this would be the ride that made me know a few things about myself that were probably always there hidden under layers upon layers and years of listening to the Bitch voice that said I couldn’t. But I can, now.
We left a little late, at about 9am from just outside Topeka. It was sprinkling a bit, no big deal. It was kinda cold but we thought it would get warmer. We put on the rain gear, and headed out. As soon as we hit the open road, it started to really rain. A ride that should’ve taken about nine hours turned into about forever.
I could write a ride report about the trip with all of the details, but the lesson isn’t in the details. This time, the lesson was that the highlights are actually lowlights, that in hindsight are the highlights. Funny how life sometimes works like that when you let it.
It never got warmer, just colder, like 42 degrees was the high that trip. It got dark, storm clouds blocking out the sun and then the sun went down dark. It never stopped raining, it rained the whole ride home. My jacket zipper broke. My tinted visor was for day riding only. I didn’t have even slightly water resistant gloves. Water resistant is not the same as waterproof and waterproof isn’t meant for that much water so I learned, from my boots. My fingers and toes turned blue, I didn’t know it was possible to shiver so hard.
Nicodemus, Kansas. Population like, zero. No really, I don’t think anyone actually lives there. There is no gas station, not even a stop light. Nothing there but a tiny little schoolhouse, actually now a museum in the middle of nowhere Kansas. Nicodemus was one of the first towns set up for Freedmen post Civil War and fell on rough times after the rail roads took a slightly different route and the town ended up pretty much abandoned. I got to learn a little more history that day.
I would never have stopped there, there would be no reason. But sometimes, you’re the blue dot. By this point I’m already soaked and shivering and its…maybe noon. I had to stop to regain composure. (“Oh, a storm is threat’ning My very life today If I don’t get some shelter Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away…”) I was so grateful to see the light on in that little building, and the lonely park ranger inside. The elderly park ranger in the Nicodemus Kansas museum that I would have never known existed, turned on the heater for me to defrost and dry off just a bit. Highlight: The kindness of strangers and a bit of shelter from the storm in the most unexpected place.
Colby, Kansas. Soaked straight through the gear. Stop at The Oasis. (Yep, it is one to me now, another magical half way place.) Strip down to our skivvies, get a dry shirt on and throw our dripping wet gear in the dryer at the Oasis truck stop. Chat with a few of the truckers doing their laundry too. Buy giant black gloves meant for concrete mixing (at least they are actually waterproof). Now I have Mickey Mouse hands and can hear Pink Floyd…my hands felt just like two balloons…I have become comfortably numb from the cold. Only half way there. Highlight: People are really friendly when you share a common storm.
It gets darker. It gets colder. Several stops along the way to drink cheap gas station coffee, stand under a hand dryer in the bathroom and defrost a bit. Fellow customers tell us we are crazy. Buy a Superbowl coffee mug as a souvenir.
Near Limon, Colorado. Remembering that cold feet make you colder, I take off my boots and pour them out. Pour. The. Water. Out. I grab a couple of sandwich bags from the Subway to put over my bare feet before a new pair of socks. Hoping for the best and maybe at least dry cold toes with a few hours to go. Highlight: Remembering how to be resourceful in a storm.
Headset batteries run out so I can’t hear his voice to guide me. It’s dark. I had no choice but to ride closer than I usually would behind the hubs because I couldn’t see, still raining too hard so I couldn’t lift my darkly tinted visor without being pelted by rain bullets. It’s important to be able to get close during a storm. Every time a semi speeds by, the back splash feels like jumping in a pool sideways. Road gleaming from the rain, shining like ice, reflecting everything but the path itself, reminding me that we can see ourselves in anything if we look. I wasn’t sure I would make it through that storm. Second guessing myself. Ride through it. Second guessing. Chin up, ride through it.
Sometimes you are just the blue dot.
Frozen to the core. Soaked. Shaking more than shivering. Arrive home around midnight. Off the bikes to a life affirming bear hug, a shared moment where you know you made it through some shit together, that there will be a good story… and you feel like you can do anything.
That was the ride that made me a rider, and in many ways made… me. That ride in the pouring cold rain washed away layers upon layers and years and years of not believing in myself. My shivering cold body cracked open my shell and a new me emerged.
Sometimes you’re the blue dot.
That storm in the picture above we were the blue dot again, on the road back from GenCon with my heart full of Nerd Herd love. This was the worst storm I had ever been in, let alone on a bike. But because of that Kansas ride, because I have been the blue dot before, I knew I would make it through the storm and I could still enjoy the ride.
Hydroplaning on a bike is scary and probably pretty dangerous too. Thunder so loud it actually shakes you on your bike makes you feel very tiny and vulnerable. Wind that cuts right through and moves you whether you want to or not reminds you that some things are out of your control, and sometimes it’s best to lean in and hold on. Lightning striking close enough to make the hair on your arms stand up makes you understand there is power everywhere. Rain coming down so hard and so fast there’s just no visibility to go anywhere even if you wanted to reminds you that sometimes a storm gets to win a round or two.
When you are the blue dot, you hide under a bridge or a maybe a tiny schoolhouse in the middle of nowhere for a just a bit. Wait for a moment for the rain to ease up or warm up just enough to ride to the next bit of shelter. Slow and steady with a little patience. Hopefully laughing at the absurdity of it all along the way. Knowing that this too shall pass because sometimes you’re just the blue dot. Keep on riding, believing that the wind of the ride will dry you off eventually and you just have to wring out your socks.
The storm will pass. Clouds will clear when you least expect it. They always do.
Enjoy the ride. You’ll make it.
You aren’t always the blue dot.
P.S. I had to wring out those Wonder Woman socks.