Tag Archives: Life Reimagined

Day 26: Homecoming

There are various reasons why I delayed writing about this last leg of my ride. Sure, returning to “real life” meant less time to write, but it also appeared to mean more time for Netflix binges and staring at screens. Perhaps, I wanted to prolong the journey and relish in the suspense. But, really, it was a simple act of avoidance.

I realized I sort of dreaded this day. The day I had to sum it all up. Try to make it tidy. Offer up my final wisdoms from the road. Tell you something profound.

I mentally chewed on my homecoming regularly for the last three months. What comes up is neither tidy nor wise nor profound. It is none of these and all of these. It’s a mash of lumps in my throat and tears in my eyes and feels in my gut. It’s grief and joy and sadness and smiles and endings and beginnings. It’s all of this all at once while also being just a 26-day motorcycle ride over 5000 miles with little adventure at all.

Part of me feels like the action and drama along the road was merely embellishment. There was awesomeness and quirks and fun. But, the ride was generally safe and uneventful. On the other hand, part of me knows my mental shifts were siesmic and intense.

I guess this last day of 2017 is as good as any day to button this all up.

I wasn’t meeting my lunch date until noon and the cool autumn weather meant I was afforded the opportunity to relish in the luxury of a king bed until close to 9am. Coffee, bagels and cream cheese fueled me as rode away from West Hartford on the last day of my ride across America. I was headed toward Charlie’s Diner in Spencer, Massachusetts.

Exactly thirteen weeks earlier, I left Massachusetts on an airplane. Although I had no return ticket, I did have a crazy plan to return on two wheels. At that time, I did not know the circumstances of my return. For those of you following along with my journey, you know my marriage, my livelihood and whether I would stay in Massachusetts only long enough to pack up and move on were all in question. And, if you followed along, you know the cliff hanger about my marriage was on it’s way to being resolved…er reunited, as the case may be.

Somehow, in the span of 5000 miles, we found a way to heal ourselves, overcome the hurt between us and return to each other.

We parted with enough respect, love and hope between us to makes things salvageable later, but it wasn’t the 5000 miles, it was the thirteen weeks that mattered. I don’t know exactly how this happened, but I doubt it would have if we remained in the same house during those thirteen weeks. And thirteen weeks is a blink compared to the 42 years of mental plaque I needed to sort through. I can’t speak for what he did in that time, it doesn’t matter.

As I wound my way through the New England countryside, only a tiny speck of this philosophical reflection was on my mind. New England was sparkling and the air was crisp. I was taking in the moment and relishing in this last day on the open road. I meandered through Windsor, crossed the Shenipsit State Forest and skirted around Stafford before breaking northward toward the Massachusetts border.

Since the day I rode back to Massachusetts, I’ve had time to sort through some of this. On this last day of 2017, through this post, I am able to only put some of it in context and out to the world in a way I feel okay with.

Four years ago my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The end was predictable; the journey and time to get there was not. My anger at her illness unearthed things in me I thought I had long ago shed. Twenty-four years ago, I walked away from my abusive father with little more than my wits and raw determination. The anger and self-loathing I buried beneath my hard, prickly exterior sizzled to the surface in eruptive and unpredictable ways and grief intensified it.

Thirteen weeks before I found myself closing in on the Massachusetts border, I left Massachusetts to escape my failing marriage, my failing midlife crisis, and my seemingly failing life, but mostly, I left to escape myself. Being alone with myself is a funny way to escape myself. No, it wasn’t a reprieve. It was only a way to deal with myself and nothing but myself.

So, as I pulled into Charlie’s Diner in Spencer, Massachusetts, it was an uneventful moment. The perfect riding weather, the nondescript diner, the “last day of a 26-day, 5000-mile ride” was all just another day like the last 26. Uneventful, yet profoundly different than the day I boarded a plane thirteen weeks earlier.

Happy cooking and happy New Year.

Day 18: Telico Plains to Asheville – Cherohala Skyway

When you are riding the long swooping curves of the Cherohala Skyway it feels like floating through an endless 360. They are interminably graceful spirals that are just tight enough to keep you engaged, taut and on high alert. On any other day, this ride is an exhilarating thrill, but today, I was riding it after two days playing in the Tennessee mountains and on the Tail of the Dragon. Those big ol’ curves felt lighter and easier than they would have three days ago. They were just lazy enough to allow me take in the big sweeping views and to let my mind into relax into a feeling akin to flying.

Despite a mega-hurricane turned tropical storm working it’s way northwesterly toward Tennessee, the morning promised a day of perfect riding weather. We rolled out of the Farmhouse Inn in crisp cool air that left condensation overnight. It was a great day for a ride.

Tellico Plains, Tennessee, which served the best fried chicken I had in Tennessee at the Tellicafe, anchors the of the highway and Robbinsville, North Carolina is at the other end. After 90-minutes of swishing through the mountains, entering Robbinsville is a bit of a shock to the senses. Unfortunately, my senses didn’t respond this morning. My husband finds it impossible to take verbal directions from Google maps (don’t get me started), so we missed the turn onto Junaluka Road.

As soon as I looked along the detour on Morphew Road, I knew I was in trouble. If you recall, I have problems stopping on a steep inclined with my bike fully loaded.

Well, Morphew was a narrow road with a temporary speed bump in the middle – probably meant to discourage the detouring cars and riders from speeding along. It was capped with a steep ramp that ended abruptly onto the tee-ed into the busier roadway where I needed to turn left. It wasn’t a big hill, or a ridiculously steep one. In fact, most people wouldn’t consider it all that tough. But for those who’ve driven a clutch with some play, you know the delicate balance of brake, throttle, clutch and catch to get forward momentum from a stop on a hill. Not to mention, the rear end was loaded up leaving little traction in this inclined position under the front wheel.

I would have liked to gun it, stop sign be damned, and launch myself into the cross street hoping for a nicely times break in traffic as I took a left into the roadway.. Good thing my brain’s self-preservation instinct didn’t quit. My husband was ahead of me and was able to land his front wheel on the intersection shoulder giving him view of road and a bit of positional advantage.

Me? I stopped mid-hill behind him. Not a great view of the road and not a great position for traction. Before I knew it, I was stranded in the incline, engine stalled, all the luggage making my bike ass heavy and my brain stuck in an “Oh shit” stutter.

Right hand does what? Oh shit. Left hand, huh? Oh shit. Is the engine on? Oh shit. What gear? Oh shit. Brake? Oh shit. Other brake? Oh shit. Foot, no, other foot. Oh shit. Fuck. Oh shit. Fuck it. Oh Shit. I am abandoning ship. Oh shit…leg…hand…oh shit…foot…oh shit…oh shit…oh shit….Help.

Yes, my inner dialog cusses that much…maybe more…likely more. I probably show some restraint out loud than my inner dialog.

That brain chatter roughly translated into my husband watching me spasm through some motions, cursing into the intercom and then slowly, sadly, laying the bike down with my leg stuck on my luggage mid swing in ejecting. Unfortunately, this graceful spasm did not go unwitnessed. Fortunately, the two fine residents of Robbinsville knew this scene well. I was not the first motorcycle to miss the turn and I was not the only one of them to drop a bike there and, thankfully, I was not one of those who ran it into the ditch, or hit the barrier or actually launched into the street and traffic. Four of us pushed the bike across the street to a safely flat spot.

After some deep yogic belly breaths and mental mantras, we were on our way again. I am glad I am writing this down and remembering how awesome the Cherahala Highway was since it sorta got lost in my memory of the drop. Despite my luggage being the culprit for bringing me down on hills, it also keeps my bike from damage when I go down. Chicken or egg?

After the Cherohala Highway, there’s a slight reprieve from those dreamy, swooping swirls to fill the gap before reaching the Cherokee, NC, the gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our quick lunch in Cherokee, NC found us among Hurricane Irma refugees from Florida.

We had no time and no desire to contemplate the fast we we’re riding into the aftermath of Irma ourselves. The ride ahead was too promising and the rain ahead of us was ahead of us and there was no point in worrying about what’s a day or more ahead when the Blue Ridge was there, now, today. So, we headed to Asheville, NC via the a roadway that was only slightly less amazing than our morning ride. Or maybe it’s more amazing. No, matter, it was all amazing.

Yeah, it was a tough day of riding across two of the most scenic and fun roadways in the country.

Happy cooking and happy amazing!