“I won’t take the easy road. The easy road, the easy road. I try to Keep on keeping on.”
Those were the song lyrics running through my helmet October 1st. My personal jukebox was stuck on those few words for awhile. Stuck on repeat while the scratched CD refused to allow the rest of the song to move forward.
I’ve decided that I’m going to start my own personal playlist on this here blog. I’m going to post the videos that go with the songs my mind keeps playing. It is an interesting mix, and one of the things I miss most being on this adventure is my music. I am without a radio, and this dinky cellphone screen I’m typing on houses a very slow computer chip which makes music listening almost painful. So there it is I’m going to be your online DJ for the time being, it’s settled.
I was actually hosted by a radio engineer and his lovely history buff wife the other night. They are from Minnesota (surprise surprise) and know Northern Community Radio, my station (the one I DJ on), very well. In Wyoming they have a pretty good public radio station as well and that was the soundtrack to yesterday morning, eating breakfast at their table. It reminded me of the thing I feel I ‘miss’ most about home; music.
Music and trees.
Anyway, back to the skipping CD, the soundtrack to October 1st before I met up with my lovely hosts. One might ask what caused the scratch that stopped my song from progressing. Well, if they were to ask I would respond “snow.”
And then one might say, “Oh, snow. Whatever could you mean my dear Diamond? I mean after all, you are in the mountains of Wyoming on the first day of October. What has you speaking of snow?”
When the question is put that way I actually feel a little less open about telling the rest of the story, however I feel I should anyhow. I never claimed to be genius. Well, not recently anyways.
I was riding out of Colorado and back into Wyoming. I was slightly vexed to see that the roads on the northwest side of Colorado were in fact blocked with snow. This meant getting out of the state before seeing the mountains, but because I’m a genius.. wait, wait, I can’t use that word. Because I’m intelligent I knew that a motorcycle and snow don’t actually go well together. So off I rode, north, into Wyoming and straight into Cheyenne. What I noticed as I got closer to the border were rain clouds. What had started off as a gorgeous, blue, Coloradan day was turning into an overcast Wyoming day the more North I went.
It was funny because the rain didn’t officially start until I was a few miles across the Wyoming border. I had my rain pants on, but I had forgot to toss on my rubber gloves over my leather ones. Gloves I had bought just for this purpose; cold heavy rain. I decided I would put them on when I got to Cheyenne and kept on riding. However upon my arrival to Cheyenne my leather gloves were soaked and I was frozen. 40° and rain is not anything I wish on anybody riding a motorcycle.
I stopped at a gas station, did my typical layering up of clothing. I had to be careful when pulling my sack of clothes out of my waterproof duffle because I didn’t want to get everything else in it wet, so I parked under the gas station awning/roof (whatever that big damn thing over the pumps is called) got the sack out and set it near a garbage can. I was impressed by my genius. Wait, no! Gah, I can’t use that word. I thought I was clever.
I parked the bike, went back to fetch the DRY clothing sack and went into the gas station to don more warmth. After a brief warm up break I was back on the road.
“I try to keep on keeping on.”
I had been warned about riding around Laramie in October, however I had new found friends there who I was determined to meet that evening. So I precariously steered through the pounding rain along I-80; Little Wing and I the lone motorcycle and rider amongst a sea of fast driving semis and four wheel drive trucks. The downpour of precipitation around us making the figurative sea a literal one as well.
When I should of stopped I kept riding. When semis passed at high speeds and then cut in front of me ridiculously close I screamed. I screamed and sang “I won’t take the easy road..”
It helped. For some reason singing while being blinded by the back splatter off an eighteen wheeler is actually quite effective. Or maybe it’s the screaming, I don’t know.
I kept riding. An hours worth of rain ahead of me, I just kept thinking of the only thing that would keep me focused; the mile ahead of me. Often times (in fact pretty much all of the time) one should only consider what they can see in front of them while riding. To focus on anything more only seems to make the ride unbearable, especially if one is cold or in a bad place.
Anyway, so there I was being passed by semis and big trucks, screaming, and singing “I try to keep on keeping on.” One of the semis passed me and did that thing where he passed to close, and the blinding screen of rain stuck to my helmet. I reached up to wipe it with my rubber gloved hand (I had remembered to put the gloves on when I was in Cheyenne. I had just layered the rubber gloves over my soaked leather gloves which was a terribly cold idea) and white stuff crunched off my glove and made more crunching sounds as it flew back, knocking my helmet.
Right there, in between Cheyenne and Laramie Wyoming on the first day of October, I encountered snow. One of the reasons I decided to take off on Little Wing this year was to avoid the terrible winter that Minnesota provided us with last year. I wanted to get away from the cold and snow and instead experience adventure and welcoming temperatures. Well, yesterday it was a nice welcoming blanket of white. Going fifty-five on a slushy interstate on a two wheeled vehicle is not the best and most genius way to go about adventure. I had no other option but to keep riding and singing “I won’t take the easy road…”
The thing I would find out later that evening, is that the stretch of I-80 in between Cheyenne and Laramie is actually home to the highest peak on that particular interstate. The peak is at an elevation of 8640 feet and is known as Sherman Hill Summit. However, this was knowledge obtained after the fact. All I knew during the ride through this summit is that it was snowing, and I was frozen.
I couldn’t see very far in front of my face. I was unsure of whether that was because of my helmet face shield being fogged up or if it was truly a white out blizzard. Regardless, my breathing inside my helmet was fogging up my face shield so I did have to crack it a little bit. This prevented the fogging from the interior, but allowed the snow to come in and pelt my face and glasses. On I went, singing. The soundtrack still skipping. Semis still passing unreasonably close. My fingers frozen, my toes numb, but nothing I could do about it. All I could do was direct Little Wing forward one mile at a time.
The snow started slow and got bad quickly. It quit in the same fashion being intelligent (not a genius) I put two and two together and realized that Laramie was on the downhill slope. So even when I considered pulling off at an exit to warm up and slow my shivering, I did not, knowing that the closer I got to Laramie the farther away from snow I was.
My soundtrack changed a little bit. The shivering made the CD move a little bit and my new song on repeat went something like “I won’t take the easy road. Warmwarmwarm. The easy road. Warmwarm. The easy road.” My new official song set on repeat.
I took the first exit into Laramie. A slow semi in front of me had the same idea. Being a semi he started slowing down 300 feet before the ramp. Little Wing and I can slow down a lot faster than that and my frozen limbs did not respond well to this meticulous drivers method of exiting. I was so pissed off that the first slow going semi in the last hour and a half was blocking me and my warmth. In my half-hypothermic state I remember interrupting my skipping CD to yell at the tail end of the twenty-five mile per hour driving semi “why are you doing this to me?”
It sounded much more whiny and tragic than I can portray through this tiny screen. Let us just say that by this time I was a tortured soul.
Once I finally got off the exit I looked for the nearest pleasant smelling fast food joint. My iced over feet slipped off the icy shifter as I downshifted into a Wendy’s parking lot.
I climbed off the bike slowly. Grabbed my soaked tank bag and sheepskin and at this point noticed the inch of slush/ice buildup that remained on Little Wings windshield. As fast as my frozen legs could bolt, they did. I bolted for the door. Dropped my bag, my sheepskin, my helmet, and my gloves at a table and rushed for the bathroom where I put my hands under the hot faucet. I looked in the mirror and that is when my tragic straight face cracked and I sobbed. It was like a deep wounded sob that only comes to me after a shear panic. The kind of sob I have only ever done a handful of times.
In my lifetime I have found that I am great at handling stress when it really comes down to it. I have found I can put all emotion aside and just deal, but when the dealing is done it all comes out.
My deep heavy sobs filled my throat as my fingers started to regain sensation. I calmed my breathing, and took my hands to the hand dryer and stuck them under the heat. Once I could feel all my fingers again I ripped off my coat, my rain pants and my boots. That is the moment that I realized my waterproof leather boots were in fact not impermeable to pelting snow and down pouring rain. My toes were frozen because my wool socks were soaked. The soundtrack continued as before, “I won’t take the easy road. The easy road, the easy road. Keep on keeping on.”
However at this point, as I was leaving the bathroom the skipping again altered. As I looked out the Wendy’s window and saw a Starbucks across the way my soundtrack adjusted at the thought of hot tea and a reclining chair.
“Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on. Show me my silver lining.”
I gathered all my belongings and hiked it across the road where I drank hot tea and thought about the crazy thing I had just done. First Aid Kit’s song Silver Lining was the only apt description that I could find for the insanity of the dangerously dumb thing I had just taken Little Wing through.
After two cups of hot tea I meandered back to Little Wing. The sun had come out while I sat in Starbucks, and all the slushy snow was gone from Little Wings extremities. We were both back to our pre-summit state. I got on, idled up, and took off for my goal; my new found friends in Laramie, WY.
As I got onto the main drag something felt wrong. I looked down and saw that my sheep skin was missing. My woolly warm companion was not overhanging on my saddle.
I turned around, pulled back into the Wendy’s parking lot, this time warmer. I bolted for the door, went back to my original table and saw nothing. I went to the counter and asked them. There was some confusion that came with the description of “animal skin. It still has it’s white fur on it. Slightly tan. It was wet from snow.”
I was met with blank stares, but as more servers stepped up, curious about this young girl going on about an animal skin, one spoke up “is that what Art found? You know, the thing that he didn’t what it was.”
Some discussion ensued and it was determined that Art had thrown it in the trash. “Can I get it back please?” I asked.
“If you want to go dig in the dumpster.” The woman told me.
I didn’t like her.
I went out to the dumpster, my panic was back and so was the soundtrack. There were two dumpsters, two TALL dumpsters. I had to climb into them to look.
There was no sheepskin. Old fries and fat. Full, uneaten, burgers and salads. Napkins cups and wet colorful liquid everywhere, but no sheepskin. After fifteen minutes I went back inside. I asked “Could whoever threw it away tell me which dumpster they threw it in?”
A different lady came over to me and informed me they had actually just got a call from a guy who had picked it up. She said he had thought it looked cool, but realized it might belong to somebody and decided to call about it. He would be back in ten to fifteen minutes to drop it off.
I went outside, sat on a rock, and waited.
“Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road. Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road. I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong I try to keep on keeping on.”
The soundtrack to my day was utterly perfect. I got my sheep skin back from a sheepish guy with two kids in the back of his suburban. He refused to make eye contact despite my exuberant gratitude. I got back on Little Wing, idled up, and took off for my goal; my new found friends in Laramie, WY.
Today is October 3rd. I have been a month out on the road. It has been amazing. I have learned so much, I have lived so much. My adventure has just begun though, because I hear Minnesota is getting 1-3 inches of snow this weekend. I have many months before Little Wing and I can make it home to trees and music.
Home is where the heart is they say, so I guess I am home. My heart is here, on the road, with Little Wing.
One month, seven states.
“Be it for reason, be it for love. I won’t take the easy road.”