Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mile 526: Just Another Road

So I'm rocking along a little backroad that hugs the Gulf Coast when suddenly I have to pee. And I am in the middle of the middle of nowhere. Just open fields and a lonesome road somewhere between Austwell and a tumbling tumbleweed. Miles from a gas station or fast food place.

To the right, on a long stretch of flat, bumpy pavement I see a barn up ahead. I turn on my signal, slow the bike, stop, throw down the kickstand, and run to the barn hoping that some redneck with a shotgun does not assume I'm a motorcycle zombie. Just a man in a desperate situation in need of some "relief."

All's well that ends well.

I left out of Houston earlier that day running down Highway 288. That little road is like a house full of memories for me. I think about my friend Stacey's grandmother. I think about my club riding to Surfside, and a ride with my brother Justin when we got caught in a typical summer cloudburst that lasted just long enough to drench us.

As I chased that highway all alone on a Friday afternoon, so many things were on my mind. Expectations about what the weekend would bring on my ride down to Corpus Christi.

Expectations are funny things. You go in to almost everything with an idea of how something is going to look or how it will turn out. But rarely does it go according to our expectations. It's not that it's bad or good or anything. Usually it's just... well... different.

That little truth came to light many times in a little over 24 hours and almost 500 miles.

Other than the emergency stop to pee, the ride down was about as close to perfect as it could be. Long stretches of highway encourage quiet reflection. Soon I would see friends, people I love to be around.

Just before I arrived I stopped and parked next to an off-white brick building. I needed to make a phone call, check some email before putting my little communication device away for the night, and just stretch my legs. Across the parking lot was a state trooper searching a car while the woman stood there with her baby. They put her in handcuffs as they searched her Mercedes. I thought about how many stories are out there every day that we just do not know. We make assumptions about people. We fill in blanks to the parts of the stories we do not know. But the truth is that I witnessed something and then moved on. I don't know what brought them to that point, or what came after. But in many ways, that's life.

The park where we camped for the night was a beautiful collection of trees on some of the sandiest ground in South Texas. The more friends showed up, and the darker the sky grew, the happier people were to see each other. We talked about motorcycles and our upcoming Mandatory run. We talked about friends and family who were sick and in need of support and love. But most of all we were together, which I continue to believe is the most important thing of all.

On Saturday morning, we all emerged from our tents in search of coffee. A few groups of us made our way up the road to a typical South-Texas-mom-and-pop-Mexican place for breakfast. I sat with three good friends and ate good food and had good conversation, especially about our upcoming trip to South Dakota.

But like most Saturday mornings after breakfast, the road just would not let me sit still. I had to ride.

I decided to take a long way home by another route. I thought it might be fun to run the length of Port Aransas and ride along the ocean. Remember when I said expectations are usually different than reality? This was one case where your expectations set up an image that turned out to be a huge letdown.

I rode the ferry across to Port Aransas. One of the workers on the ferry came over to me and said, "Where you from?" I replied, "Houston." She nodded her head in firm affirmation. "Well welcome to South Texas," she said, and then continued, "I know a lot of Gypsys. I'm a musician, and a bunch of them come in to bars where I play. One of 'em yells, 'What time is it?' and all others yell, 'Party time!' And then when they yell it again later, everybody in the place yells along with them." To which I said, "Yep. We like to carry on."

I maneuvered my bike off the ferry, and began my journey down Port Aransas. The first few miles down, I could not see the ocean. The view was obscured by huge sandy/grassy dunes. I thought that I would just keep riding, eventually the view would open up, and I would ride along the coast with the pounding waves.

But it never happened. The length of Port Aransas is nothing like the seawall in Galveston. Sure, the water was bluer, and the ocean was a little clearer. But I was sad that I rode the length of the pretty water without getting to take it all in. Other than one access point where I stopped to listen to the waves and breathe in the air, it was just another road.

But the truth is, depending upon how you look at life, they're all "just another road."

The beauty of all these rides is not dependent upon what the scenery has to offer me; it's what I choose to see. Can I see the beauty in sandy dunes? Can I enjoy what's right in front of me without having to worry about what I'm not seeing?

So I rode back into Corpus Christi surrounded by lots of water that makes up the Intercoastal Waterway. Rode over a ridiculously tall bridge that just about took my breath away, especially coming down it where to my right was an enormous aircraft carrier covered with jets. Way cool.

And as I made my way out of Corpus into the flat mesquite fields around Taft and Sinton, I saw next to nothing. But it was everything. Every giant, white, three-propped windmill... every car... every truck... every gas station. They all have stories. They all have meaning. I may not know what brought them there, and I may not know where they will go. But they all have value if we just have eyes to see.

A couple of hours from home, I stopped at a rest area to just walk around a bit. The miles and the sun were making me tired, and I just felt like stopping for a while. So I stopped. Simple as that.

Shade was hard to come by in the parking lot, but I managed to find a tiny patch just big enough to suit my needs. I stood there and drank a bottle of water thinking about the stories of the people in the cars that flew by. And I thought about the people I encountered. And all their stories. 

And I don't dare call it "just another road."

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