The last ride is over. The Goldwing sits in the garage, looking a little dustier than it did the other day. If I wanted to over-imagine, I’d say it’s leaning over a little more than it did, and any expression it might have is a little more sad. But I’m sure that’s just my imagination.
I backed out of the garage today and headed north-east, to Amish Country. There was a leather shop up near Sugarcreek that I wanted to try and get to, but they were closed for Veterans Day. I headed up that way anyway. I knew there would be some hills and curves, and those are always fun on a bike. US 62 is a pretty nice road in that part of Ohio. There are several nice towns and villages, like Utica, Millwood, Danville, Martinsburg, and Brinkhaven. It’s farmland up that way. Ohio grows a lot of soybeans and corn, and some wheat for what’s probably local usage. A few horse farms are up that way too, and plenty of livestock.
I was thinking all sorts of thoughts as I rode Thursday. I started out disappointed that I probably wouldn’t make the leather shop, as I left too late in the day to arrive before closing, even if they had been open. I was depressed about it being the last ride, as well. I really don’t want to give up the bike, but I think I’m holding on to it too hard. Yes, I will be hard-pressed to find another bike like this one. 97 Goldwings are rare enough as it is, and to find one like I had with less than 40,000 miles was nothing short of amazing.
But as I rode further from metro Franklin County, my mood started lifting. As I rounded curves and watched the sun wash hundreds of acres of farm fields, spotted with horses and livestock, I enjoyed the romantic thoughts many of us entertain about farm life. So many people focus on the “relaxed pace of life on a farm,” and long for the quietness of country living. Diana and I had once upon a time considered a hobby farm—perhaps fifteen or twenty acres, raising our own chickens, and raising goats for milk and livestock. We knew it would be hard—much more difficult than most city folks can handle. We opted not to head down that path then.
But as the song says, I was born in a small town. My hometown had less than 15,000 people most years. Small-town politics could be a drag, but really knowing your neighbor and being able to trust that they’ll be there to help you easily outweighed the drawbacks.
But as I grew up, I hated the laid-back pace of life in southeastern Ohio. I pined for life in the big city. Still, as I spent the summer of 1990 working in and around Pittsburgh, I had occasion to visit the Canaan Valley region of West Virginia, and felt a pull that the big city just couldn’t compete with. I didn’t understand it then.
I read a piece over at Chickens in the Road that really caught my attention Thursday and helped me refocus on our adventure. I’m excited about it still. I can’t wait to travel the country. There are dozens of places I’ve read about and wanted to see for years, and there are people I’ve known online for years that I will finally be able to meet in person. But I’m nervous about the risks, and the downsizing exercise we’re going through is painful—more for the resurrected memories than the physical actions involved.
Suzanne McMinn wrote a piece about moving to her first farmhouse, so crooked that her twelve-year-old son announced, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die.” And in that piece, she reminded me of my roots, and what I still love about the place I grew up. She reminded me of what’s important in life, and I realized that even though our family is pretty well grounded in those matters, it won’t be a bad thing for us to focus a little better.
Maybe God will lead us back to Central Ohio in a year or so. Maybe we’ll find a place in Oklahoma, or Colorado, or Texas. Who knows? But I’m a lot calmer about the upcoming adventure, and a little better focused.