Monday, May 19, 2014

Mile 828: Travels with Rocinante

"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch." Steinbeck starts Travels with Charley with that sentence, but I may as well have written it. His line speaks for many of us who just cannot sit still.

I have never been good at making friends. I have a sometimes harsh and condescending personality. I have tried to soften it over the years, but there is only so much one can do with a heart of stone. You can scrub it, clean it, paint it a pretty a color. But it's still stone.

Maybe that's why reading Steinbeck again is like traveling with a kindred spirit. He strikes me as a harsh person, a restless soul, a wandering spirit. Something deep within many of us demands that we spend our whole lives looking for something we cannot explain. It is no wonder that those of us who love the solitude of the road find it to be a comforting place. And if I have to explain that truth... well... either you understand it or you don't.

It was 1960 when Steinbeck got on the road with his dog Charley in his camper named after Don Quixote's horse.


And fiftysomething years later, channeling Steinbeck, I'm standing here in my garage looking at Don Quixote's horse... at Steinbeck's trailer... now in the form of a black-and-chrome Harley named "Rocinante." Sometimes you ride a bike home after signing on the dotted line and you already know her name. Sometimes you ride a bike home after signing on the dotted line and it takes years of listening before she speaks. Sometimes she has to develop a few scars, get a little rough around the edges. It reminds me of when Cervantes wrote about Don Quixote struggling to name his horse: "...significant of his condition as a hack before he became what he now was, the first and foremost of all the hacks in the world."

My steel-horse-reincarnation of Rocinante now has almost 24,000 miles that are all mine, or probably more importantly, about 400 hours. That is a lot of time to think, a lot of time to listen. Thankfully, many of those hours have been with friends. Some have moved on, and others I have made along the way, and a very select few have been around since the beginning of that journey, and one very select individual had already been riding with me for almost twenty years prior to the opening of this particular journey.

So even if this self-imposed quest for 10,000 truths is being shared with only a small group of friends, I am glad to have you along for the ride. Something must reside deep down within you that either loves the road, loves searching for truth, or perhaps something altogether else. For those of you who actually put up with me, from the bottom of my heart, I do appreciate it. I am not the easiest person to get along with. But then again, on some days, I'm sure you're no picnic either. (See what I mean about being harsh? Sorry.)

Like Don Quixote, it has taken a few years to settle on a name, because what he names his horse is in many ways what he was naming himself. For the name "Rocinante" has to do with being a tired old horse that has been given a new lease on life. He knew what many of us come to realize as we settle deep into adulthood: That no amount of so-called "maturity" can ever calm what is in reality just a simple a passion to live.

And also like Don Quixote and John Steinbeck, I am standing face-to-face with the realization that this black-and-chrome hack that needs more pampering than a baby, is to me the first and foremost of all the hacks in the world.

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