No Moral to this Story: 1973 BMW; Peregrini; Celtic Christianity; Thin Places; Ireland and the Patron Saint of Motorcyclists.

There’s No Moral to this Story
Yesterday, even though the sky was cloudy gray, the temperature climbed into the 60’s (over 15 degrees Celsius) and I had to see if I could crank up and ride the old 1973 BMW. I hadn’t ridden her in a few months. With a little tickling of the carburetors, and a holding back on the throttle, she cranked right up. The clutch had tightened so a few times she accelerated very slowly but I knew she’d loosen up and she did. I pulled up the speedometer app on my phone and tucked it into the top of my tank bag. The speedometer had stopped working a few years ago. Through the clear plastic on the tank bag I could check on my speed as I rode. I rode her for about 20 miles and up to speeds of 75mph (120kps) while I enjoyed the feelings of gratitude and the sense of flying.
I announced at the beginning of this year that I was going to retire from teaching at the end of the academic year (May). We’ve just finished this semester, so I have one more to go. The students and my colleagues have been great; it’s just time to go and time to ride. Where, I do not know. I plan to engage in, as the writer Walker Percy once described, The pilgrim’s search outside himself, rather than the guru’s search within. It’s what the old Celtic Christians called engaging in peregrinatio; to become a peregrine, literally a wanderer, an exile. One of the great church fathers, Saint Augustine of Hippo, wrote that all Christians should live a life of peregrinatio. But the task usually fell to the monks. The Irish, Saint Columbanus of Bobbio – the patron saint of motorcyclists – who I have written about in this blog, was a peregrini! They were individuals who travelled to wild and “thin” places in search of the sacred. “Thin places,” also a Celtic expression, are special locations where the veil, the separation between this world and the eternal world is “thin”. A Celtic saying goes that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in “thin” places the difference is even smaller. They are places where you can feel the presence of the sacred. My biker name is Monk, so it all makes sense I should ride and try to find them.

So those are my plans as of now. And, as my ex wife (who was born and raised in Ireland) used to say: “So there you are and where are you?”
I have no clue. But for now, I’m thinking, planning, praying and riding my old BMW, whenever it’s warm enough. My best wishes to you for safe travels, and in this holy season, may you find your own sacred, “thin” places.

 

Cross USA Motorcycle Trip – Reentry Problems in Rome, Georgia; 1973 BMW r60/5 and a 2004 Harley Road King Classic. The Rally That Wasn’t; A Car Driver’s Awful Confession.

You get used to things on the road and when you get home it can be disorienting. For days after I returned from my 5700 mile trip I would come downstairs where I live expecting a hot breakfast, or at least a poor continental one. That didn’t go over very well. Some days I found myself trying to figure out the motel check out time. Or I’d awaken in the middle of the night and run to the window wanting to make sure my bike was safe.

It would have been easier if I’d had some life to jettison back into but I’m a teacher and I don’t work in the summer. (And I don’t get paid.) So, it has been a struggle and everyday since I’ve wanted to hop back onto the bike and go somewhere. And on most days, I have.

Since I returned from my 20 day trip, I decided to give, Big Red, the Harley a break for a while and instead I’m riding my old 1973 BMW. I call her Rocinante – named after Don Quixote’s horse.  Being 46 years old she has, rightfully, a few complaints, but she tends to keep quiet about them. Her speedometer is broken, as is the rpm gauge but the odometer works just fine. So, most of the time I’m riding around not knowing how fast I’m going, unless I use my phone app, which is a hassle. Her stand’s a bit wonky and tends to sink into the hot asphalt. The neutral light doesn’t come on and so I have to guess when the bike’s in neutral, which I’ve mostly gotten used to. She doesn’t have a self-cancelling turn signal, so the blinking lights stay on until you notice them and turn them off. When I’m not looking, she’ll sometimes leak gas (petrol) out of one of her Mikuni carburetors. I have to turn off the petcocks before I set her on her wonky stand to avoid that. But she runs beautifully, is nimble and at stop lights you can barely hear her putt, putt, putt. I can say that the little thumper has great torque, four speeds and can get up to 100 mph but we won’t say how quickly. I can’t say, however, that I’m not waiting for something new to happen to the bike. The other day on a trip over to Alabama I hit some railroad tracks hard and the headlight popped out and was dangling by a few wires. That was easily fixed. I think. She also doesn’t have much storage ability – just a small tank bag. Still, I love riding her. She weighs around 450 pounds (around 210 kg) as opposed to the Harley’s 750 lbs. and because her engine sticks out, is horizontally opposed, it has a low center of gravity, which makes for better, easier handling. On the bright side she gets over 50 mpg, whereas the Harley struggles with 35-40. Here’s the two of them:

Two days ago, I got up early to head over to be a part of a charity ride for cancer patients. I was right on time, but no one was there. Then I figured it out that it was the following weekend. To not waste the time I awarded myself: Best Looking Bike and Most Handsome Rider awards. Anyway, I decided it was a great day for a ride and so I took the route the ride usually takes. (140 – 411 to Cartersville, Ga. )I stopped at the Harley dealer and looked at vests to replace the one I’d lost. Sitting outside in front of the shop a man’s shadow came close to me. I looked up and it was Carl, the mechanic I always ask to work on my bike. He was scanning the parking area and said: “I was confused because I don’t see Big Red.” I laughed and explained, but it may not be such a great thing that the repair staff there know me and Big Red so well.

On the way home I took highway 411 and then 293 which is twistier and prettier. I had hoped that the old man who sells boiled peanuts might be selling them in the parking lot of an auto parts store. He was!

I stop there a few times a year and buy a bag and listen to his stories. This time he was telling me that he was now 75 years old and the heat was getting to him. (It was 99 degrees). He could hardly breathe sometimes though he’d had surgery to try and fix that. We talked further and then I walked over to get on the bike. He came over to me and said, roughly:

“I hit one not long ago.”

“Hit what?”

“I biker.

“Really, that must have been awful.”

“Never had an accident I caused in my life and I just didn’t see him. Saw the white car in front.” His face reddened. “I have nightmares about it.”

“Is he all right?”

“Had to get a rod put in his leg – bone was sticking out – I was crying and apologizing to him and he was apologizing to me. Imagine that.” He glanced away. “He’ll be in rehab soon down here. I’m toying with going to see him. What do you think?”

“I think that would be good.”

He turned and started to walk back to his truck and then turned back to look at me. “Every once in a while, I just have to tell someone.”

“I’m glad you did. I’m so sorry.” I hesitated. “God bless you.”

He stared at me: “God bless you too. Be careful.”

I nodded.

Senior, Bachelor Gentleman, Biker Blues

My 1973 BMW R60/5 is parked right now at a Panera Restaurant and I am lamenting the fact that it’s raining outside, and I forgot to bring my rain jacket. Forgetfulness is a common characteristic of the senior biker. Mindfulness helps. Before I leave, I say to myself: “Okay, what am I missing?” However, along with my raincoat, I forgot mindfulness too this morning.

I was married for 23 years before we divorced. Suddenly, I was thrown out into the dating world (seven years ago now) and it was a shock. I really didn’t know how to do it. The rules I had used years earlier, which weren’t that good even then, were clearly outdated. Still, in the last few I managed to meet and date a few women who I somehow inexplicably charmed even with my anachronistic ways. Maybe it was pity for me. I’m not too proud. I can take pity.

Being a teacher, I don’t work in the summer, and given that my children live in distant places I tend to travel, especially on my motorcycle. My daughter lives in LA and I live in Georgia, so I like to take cross country trips on my motorcycle to see her. I’m getting excited because she is due to have her first child in a little over a month. I’m planning on riding out there.

Since my divorce, two of the women I dated dumped me because of travel and distance. One, for some reason, didn’t like it when I announced that I was heading out on the bike for a couple of months. We discussed it but I still got a text from her breaking it off, at a Love’s Travel Stop somewhere west of Santa Claus, Illinois. Another woman, who contacted me through Facebook, I met four times after I just happened to be driving by Peoria, Illinois. After all, it’s only 650 miles from here.  (Okay, I admit it – nobody just happens to be driving by Peoria). Our relationship played out well there but didn’t when we tried to take it on the road. After a few months she cancelled any further performances. So, I’ve been wary since.

I’ve met a few lovely women since, and I enjoy their friendship immensely. But I always know that at some point I’m going to hit the road once more and I don’t want to go through all that heartache again, riding and obsessing over whether I have another text waiting for me, maybe this time outside Eureka, Nevada on US Route 50. I’ve been down that road before.

Such are some of the laments of the senior, gentleman bachelor, biker.

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Announcing!!! My Latest Novel: Hope: The Adventures of Sid, the Buddhist, Ninja Detective; Motorcycles included.

Now available on an Amazon site nearest you. Ebook too!

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Adventures-Buddhist-Ninja-Detective/dp/1090295529/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1553443881&refinements=p_27%3AGene+Powers&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Gene+Powers

 

In Georgia’s sultry Savannah, under the canopy of live oak trees and swaying Spanish moss, there’s been a bizarre murder in an historic square. Sid, the Buddhist, Ninja detective has been called in to help solve the crime. While some murders have no leads; this one has too many – a broken romance, a victim who worked for a mysterious international art gallery, even the death of a former prostitute twenty years earlier. Sid needs the help of retired, former detective, Rory Connor, but first, he must track him down, which won’t be easy. Last time anyone saw Connor he was hightailing it south on his motorcycle named Rocinante, on a quest to resurrect the Laws of Chivalry in this callous, modern world. Somebody’s got to do it. Find love, murder, hope and redemption amidst the blooming camellias, azaleas and resurrection ferns of Savannah. Ride along with Sid on the cobblestone streets and help him solve the mystery before someone else is killed. Let’s face it; he’s going to need all the help he can get.

Here’s a link to my other novels:

https://www.genepowers.org/