My husband and I just got home from our first motorcycle ride for this summer of 2020. Like a lot of things this year, our ride had to wait. Knee replacement surgery for him in mid-May meant several weeks of rehabilitation before attempting the bike. I confess we were back on it much sooner than I ever anticipated, and I am very thankful for that. It was a short ride by our standards but a ride non-the-less and not less enjoyed due to its brevity.
While we were out the reason that I love the bike so much became clear (or perhaps it is fairer to say clearer) to me. It is the singularity of thought that I experience. I imagine that this experience is not unlike that of people who enjoy riding a bicycle, kayaking, fishing or any other activity in which you are fully engaged. When I am on the bike, I have a million thoughts the vast majority of which I will never remember once I am home. I have written great stories, composed songs, envisioned businesses, resolved conflicts, implored God for his advice and made plans to be a better me on the back of that bike. It’s daydreaming at its finest and the luxury of it is that you cannot actually do anything in response to your thoughts. There are no notepads to write down your ideas. There is non “to do list” to add to. There are also no chores or responsibilities to distract me from thinking about well, let’s face it, me and what interests me.
In our early years of riding, I use to try to do more on the back of the bike. I took a lot of pictures. There are not too many barns in Michigan that lie along our usual routes that I do not have a photo of stored on my computer. I do not do that as much anymore. Taking pictures takes times away from enjoying the view and interrupts my thoughts. It is distracting to keep track of the camera and not drop it on the pavement (did that last year….) and when your phone is your hand so are your social media and communication options like email and instant messaging. So now, my phone is generally in the saddlebag. I also use to keep a small notebook with me where I jotted down thoughts and memories of the journey to add to my ride journal. I am glad that I did that. We have several old ride journals and sometimes in the winter, my husband lets me read them to him and we remember together the journeys we have taken. I don’t do that anymore either. I am content now to let it all fly by me. I am content with the thoughts that ramble through my brain and the scenery that I am most immediately seeing.
My sister-in-law and I have a saying “helmet on, world out” and that’s never been more true for me. Sometimes on rides with other people I will try to make a note of something I want to bring up at our next stop about a cow or a car or a building but then we get to the stop and I find it has all mysteriously gone. I saw stuff. I know I saw stuff. I know I was impressed by some stuff, but it’s gone and all that is left is this satisfied feeling that it was a nice road, I had a nice ride and I am happy.
In his book, Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor relates a story about his early days as a writer. According to his retelling of events he wrote two great stories which he was planning to sell to the New Yorker Magazine. On an ill-fated train trip from Minnesota to the west coast he left the briefcase containing the stories in a bathroom and never saw them again. He said of one of them, “the lost story shone so brilliantly in dim memory that every new attempt at it looked pale and impoverished….”. I have felt that way. I know some of the greatest thoughts I have ever thought in my life have been lost to me during these wind therapy sessions. That doesn’t bother me anymore either. I’m at peace thinking thoughts that will never again resurface. At this point in life, it’s all about the present moment and I am okay with that.