Head Shake – Time and Distance
It is approximately 666.74 miles between St. Inigoes, Maryland, and Belgrade Lakes, Maine. This is good, I needed those miles.
There are times when you need to think, to figure things out and put things in order. We’ve all heard the metaphors, parables, similes, and whatever about motorcycles being good therapy, largely because it is true. It’s a solo pursuit, just you and a machine, your continued existence on this Earth largely dependent upon what you do. It is concentration which, strangely enough, offers one time to think. And it is satisfying. I needed to do some of that. I needed to think about rather weighty issues like marriage, and the future, and whatnot. I needed perspective.
I once heard, I believe it was Pete Conrad, describe watching Earth rise from his position circling the Moon. That sight, that glance at our little blue spinning marble out there, changed forever how he thought about everything, I needed a little bit of that. There was a small problem though, I couldn’t go to the Moon. I could go to Maine, however, which some days is almost as good.
The initial flight plan called for my best bud Kurtis to go along on his punched out Z-1. He’d never seen Maine, it would be a new experience, he’d have fun, but we had a small problem. We worked at a three-man shop, I had gotten the week off for the trip, but the chances of our manager letting Kurtis off, who was our chief mechanic, were slim to none. So Kurtis resolved to get himself fired through some twisted logic about Maryland’s unemployment compensation law, and he tried, he really applied himself.
In fact he tried so hard that the day before we were to leave he showed up at work with a 12-pack, went down to the shop, elevated his bike stand, drank the 12-pack, and took a nap. Our manager, Mike, asked me, “What’s Kurtis doing?” So I told him.
“He’s taking a nap.”
Mike, our manager and a really good guy, went downstairs, gazed upon a supine Kurtis and an empty 12-pack, and came back upstairs. I asked Mike straight out, “So are you going to fire him?” Mike shook his head, chuckled and told me no. I think he knew what Kurtis was up to, and he also knew he had the best mechanic in town. He wasn’t stupid.
No matter, I was going, I’d fly solo. I could do this trip with my eyes closed, or so I thought. Kurtis broke the news to me that night at Monk’s, a local watering hole near my luxurious single-wide trailer, that he wasn’t going to be able to go. We commiserated, I stayed up way too late, and finally went home.
Dawn came way too early. I had wanted to be on the road before the sun broke the horizon but wasn’t. I snapped the tank bag into place,and took off. Push through, that was my thought, just drive on.
Well, I got to Annapolis, Maryland, just short of the Bay Bridge, and I felt like death on a stick, it was hotter than hell, my back was killing me, a right wrist I had managed to tear up in the Army was none to happy, and I was sitting there chugging a Gatorade wondering at the wisdom of this whole endeavor. It was resolve time, it was time to get the game face on. Get across that Bay Bridge and we have crossed the Rubicon. Off I go, through the pain-in-the-ass, fumble-for-change-with-your gloves-on tollbooth, the relative sanity of US 301 on the Eastern Shore, and eventually on to I-95.
I had a plan, insofar as I had any plan in those days; I’d stop every hundred miles. The bike needed fuel about that time anyway and it would keep me halfway fresh for the trip. After all, that’s only six stops or so. Six stops sounds pretty good. It sounds a lot better than 666.74 miles on one of the busiest traffic corridors in the United States.
The bike had always been a good companion, and she ran great, and having cleared more interminable tool booths to finally get on the Jersey Turnpike and get dialed for New York City, it happened. I started thinking – the road trip meditation therapy started up, the inner voice kicked in.
Where’s your marriage going? What are you doing? What do you care about? What’s important?
I didn’t have answers right away, I never do, that takes time, and space, and distance. The pace on the Jersey Turnpike always increases in direct correlation to your proximity to New York City. My plan had been to divert and head North to the Tappan Zee Bridge and avoid the city altogether. And then I missed the exit, which put me on the George Washington Bridge at lunchtime, which is a living hell, matched only by the Cross-Bronx Expressway, which looks like a scene out of Mad Max; cars on the shoulder sitting on their axles, all window glass missing, and burnt out. We are, as Hunter S. Thompson would aptly describe, in bat country. You do not want to stop here.
That adrenaline rush sustained me until western Connecticut where sheer necessity determined I get fuel. As luck would have it, the Sunoco station owner was also a Husky aficionado and had several nice dirt bikes in one garage bay. We talked for a bit. I was reassured that humans do actually exist in the region, chugged another Gatorade, and got back on the bike and wicked her back up. Next stop the Mass Turnpike and the outer loop of the Boston beltway.
I actually exhaled somewhere around Waltham, Massachusetts. This is when sanity slowly started to set in. Did we make Portland? We get by Augusta? We got this, after another toll booth or two. And every mile the voice was there, I know how this works. Answers don’t come easily. You have to let them simmer.
What and who do you love? Do you love school? Do you want to stay with your wife? Do you want to go back in the Army?
Mile upon mile it was slowly untangling itself, this baitcasting backlash in my brain I was picking through. I had wanted to arrive at Castle Island Camps before dark, but because of my late start, I wasn’t going to make it. I hit the toll booth for the Maine Turnpike after dark. By this point I was well past Portland outside Augusta. You could smell the pine and feel the bite of the cold air. What had started off as a steam bath in Southern Maryland was destined to end as a chilly ride in a clear Maine night.
The road was empty, the state troopers were few, and the Honda loved chilly weather; I let her eat. Hearing that Kerker bark and letting her run just felt good, it was the best I felt all day, and worst-case scenario, the only creatures I could hurt would be myself and maybe an errant moose.
I made it to the island. The proprietor, and my old boss, Horatio Castle, had waited up for me. I thought the world of this guy and respected him. Truth be told, he helped raise me, and I had learned a lot from him. This wasn’t a fishing trip like so many times in the past; this was a thinking trip. I asked Horatio for his advice that week, and I listened to it. I grabbed one of the rental boats and parked it out in the south end of the lake and floated for hours reading. We always had a bookshelf in the main house where meals were served. You could take one, and leave one. I grabbed “God Bless you Mr. Rosewater.” It was somehow right on time.
Despite outward appearances, sometimes we don’t have all the answers. We don’t know which way to go, and the future appears uncertain. For those times? Ride, and watch what happens. Your mind will do the rest.
About the Author: Chris Kallfelz is an orphaned Irish Catholic German Jew from a broken home with distinctly Buddhist tendencies. He hasn’t got the sense God gave seafood. Nice women seem to like him on occasion, for which he is eternally thankful, and he wrecks cars, badly, which is why bikes make sense. He doesn’t wreck bikes, unless they are on a track in closed course competition, and then all bets are off. He can hold a reasonable dinner conversation, eats with his mouth closed, and quotes Blaise Pascal when he’s not trying to high-side something for a five-dollar trophy. He’s been educated everywhere, and can ride bikes, commercial airliners and main battle tanks.