Ride to Live, Live to Ride

Posted on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 in Stories

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” — Harley-Davidson saying

Way out west on a stretch of varicose concrete two-lane, stained from the vermilion earth of surrounding wheat fields, a man clad in supple leathers and faded denim slips outside and welcomes the Oklahoma morning. Faint tracks of night stars wither and vanish and a hint of breeze stirs the weeds along a wire fence. Filled with stout coffee and plenty of courage, the man sees in a heartbeat that it is a postcard-perfect day — tailor-made for a ramble on a motorcycle. A smile buds on his lips. All is right with the world.

Mindful that a motorcycle is not just another vehicle but a distinct lifestyle, the man considers himself doubly blessed. For he will not be riding just any cycle — he owns a Harley. This fellow is a true believer. He fears no evil; lives life full bore, and holds to the opinion that on the eighth day God created Harley-Davidson.

Leather skullcap, gauntlets, and goggles in place, the man secures the straps on the saddlebags, swings a booted leg over the seat, and mounts his gleaming machine — a Heritage Softail Classic. Just a turn of the ignition key, a push on the starter button, a gentle twist of the throttle, and the brawny Harley engine rumbles to life.

As he glides off in the direction of his dreams, the rider experiences what many others can only fantasize. The process of unfettered travel takes over. All thoughts disappear of the kid’s college tuition, a volatile stock market, and the favorite football team’s losing season. Every one of his senses is heightened and at full alert. For the next several hours, man and machine blend into a sweet concoction and dance through time and space.

Convinced that life begins at the off-ramp, the biker and his Harley stick to roads less traveled. No need for maps, turnpike change, or reservations. The possibility of pure adventure waits around every curve and bend. The ride is all that matters. Time becomes meaningless. Only the aroma of succulent ribs wafting from a roadside pit reminds the rider to pause for a late lunch.

The road beckons. With each passing mile, the man astride the metal-and-chrome pony is transformed into a Chisholm Trail drover, an escaping desperado, and a Kiowa scout. He becomes a young Brando, the Lone Ranger, Easy Rider incarnate. He is nineteen once again, en route to a Jimi Hendrix concert. Images of Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey dance in his head.

Through sunshine and buffeting wind and beneath the shadows and light of heaven, the rider cruises the open roads of Oklahoma all day long. Bound only by his own imagination, he does not turn the Harley around and head for home until long after the moon rises.