6.24.2006,10:29 PM
Decompression Day

Times have been tough, testing, tenacious and unrelenting lately. Having your funding pulled five months early and losing your job is always a test. Lady Bad Luck has been piling more on top of that on a daily basis.

Today was Decompression Day.

After some early morning work outside and a clean up, it was time to ride. Needing gas, the first two station stops were strike-outs. All the pumps at the first station were out of service. Several of the high octane pumps were out at the second station. I had to wait behind a line of weekend warriors in cages for my turn. I squeezed in between two SUVs to access a lone pump in their middle. Then nearly missed a collision from a woman and her minivan not paying attention. Like Dr. Strangelove, I restrained my middle finger from springing up in the air, uttering a low growl in my helmet instead.

Descending the ramp onto the freeway, I opened the throttle and set myself up for a long ride in the muggy cloudy Saturday morning traffic. Tasting the coolness in the air, Red and I ventured out of the slow lane, twisted that throttle open and jetted forward with the wind. Pushing Red up to 70 mph is making her work hard. She’s a dog, but a good dog. Today she was a slightly arthritic greyhound racing after a rabbit. I, bent over the tank, sang Joe Satriani’s ‘Ride’ at the top of my lungs inside my helmet. I proffered a maniacal grin at passersby. The chorus of my voice and Red’s tightly wound engine sailed us along that highway just fine.

Having my Hillbilly GPS in the map case of my tank bag I thought I knew where I was going. Morgan emailed me the address of Flip’s restaurant early morning and I printed my destination from MapQuest. Riding slowly along the frontage road in Grapevine, searching for the elusive restaurant, I heard the loud low growl of a cruiser behind me. Seeing the silver and black mesh jacket of the rider, I was glad Morgan found me. Again, my Hillbilly GPS let me down.

Morgan and I found and rode into the parking lot, soon joined by several other riders on cruisers and sport bikes. It was a good mix of folks and bikes. The food and company were good, with a larger turnout than last Saturday’s gathering. Unanimously we decided to make this a routine gathering. Morgan delegated me ‘secretary’ for which he will dearly pay for some day.

We all departed on our separate ways in various directions, Red and I venturing south. I headed over to Full Boar for a visit. One of the parts boys graced me with a present for my helmet: a mohawk. As you can see, it matches my jacket and bike quite well. I gave it a thumbs-up.

After stopping for another iced tea at Starbucks and an ice cream, Red and I went exploring. I had in mind an area not far from my home that has pulled on me every time I pass. Today we explored.

Greeting me as I turned down the road was a covered bridge. As the name of the road, Covered Bridge Canyon, implied a series of quaint covered bridges spanned several creeks. Passing through the first bridge opened meandering ribbons of tarmac up and down hills, weaving this way and that.

I was magically transported to the famous hill country surrounding the Austin area: the limestone jutting from the road sides, the twisted dwarf oaks, smatterings of vividly colored wildflowers, and the occasional canopied stretches of road, gently curving ribbons of road like waves riding the hills. Indicative of human encroachment were also the opulent and sometimes behemoth houses with irrigated manicured lawns. Deeper into the hills were older homesteads spaced further apart and dotted with horses and goats. The views were wonderful and I felt right at home here.

The area was like a gold mine for me. Having lived in the hill country or close to it for nearly four years, I miss it. Each time I visit I am washed with a sense of flight and fury, as if I was a hawk waiting to spring up from the ground. Something about the limestone hills there remind me of the Oregon coastline minus the tall firs. If you have a keen sense of smell, you can catch the occasional whiff of Gulf coast air blowing north. On those occasions I am transfixed in between the juxtapositions of Texas hills and Oregon coastline. My nose flares and I breathe in as much as I can to fill me up and make me smile.

Retracing my ride back to the highway I was greeted with a panoramic view of the green plains below. My humble little expanse of five acres was lost down there like a pebble on a beach. Parking the bike on the side of the road in front of a stop sign, I sat and absorbed the view for awhile. It felt good. I felt some peace return into my core and I smiled.

I rode home with a fresh appreciation of my country road. Passing the new subdivision, I enter a narrow quiet tunnel of road crossing a creek and covered by tall trees. The light filtering through the leaves paints the tarmac and sides of the road with sharply angled shadows. Smells are accentuated by the cooler air as they linger near the surface rather than dissipating in the sun. Again pulling over to the side of the road, I spent a few moments enjoying the playful shadows on the road and sniffing the nearby smells.

Rounding the corner heading home and leaving the canopied tunnel, I was greeted by the expanse of blue sky and an artistry of white clouds. The myriad smaller shapes and pastel colors in the billowing clouds captured my vision, the contrasting colors exhilarating. Such a juxtaposition leaving the tunnel of green trees and into the mouth of the open sky!

Yes, I’m home. And decompressed.

posted by Macrobe
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