I wrote this June 2013, before John and I were married. John’s passion for motorcycling has become one of my own. He also supports and participates in my passion for writing. Combined, we make a good team.
I really needed a distraction. My daughter was getting married and I was not invited, so the heartache was like a vise around my neck, choking my breath and my voice, and making it difficult to whisper or even breathe.
John and I were hanging out at our usual place on Friday night while the nuptials were apparently taking place. I had my phone with me, and like running my tongue over an aching tooth, I kept picking it up and looking on Facebook to see if there were any posts about the celebration by my daughter, her brother, or her friends. I would see a picture or post every now and then and it felt as if the blade sank deeper into my heart.
As we listened to the music and enjoyed our drinks, John would occasionally put his hand on my back or leg to comfort me, or tell a joke, whichever brought a smile to my face.
He’s really good at that.
He received a text from our friend, Dennis, to ask if we wanted to go for a long bike ride the next day. John looked at me expectantly and my answer was, without hesitation, “Well, yeah!”
On Saturday morning we woke early, tired as usual, and packed up our gear for a long day on the road. We met Dennis at a local eating establishment and filled our stomachs, then hit the open road to fill our souls.
Our route took us out of Chattanooga towards the edge of Cleveland through McDonnell, Tennessee and up past Ocoee, on US Highway 64, all the way to Murphy, North Carolina. I cannot tell you all the names of the highways and back roads we took from there, but we traveled to Fontana Dam, then back towards Deals Gap and stopped at the Motorcycle Resort, and proceeded back home via the Cherohala Skyway and down through Tellico Plains.
For those who do not know what the skyway is, it is named so for two National Forests, the Nantahala National Forest and the Cherokee National Forest. The skyway took nearly forty years to complete, but it was worth the wait. The views from a top the skyway, and at its highest point of 5400 feet, will literally take your breath away. No picture can do justice to actually being there, especially when you are experiencing it from the back of a Harley Street Glide.
As I was riding on the back of the motorcycle, my arms wrapped tightly around my sweetheart and best friend John, I took in the beautiful views of Tennessee and North Carolina. Sometimes I had to wipe a few tears from my eyes while I did it, but as our trip progressed, the tears fell less and the smiles came more often, and with them an indescribable peace in my heart.
Unless you’ve ever done it, you cannot fathom the kind of peace and freedom you feel on a motorcycle. Whether you’re the one with your hands on the handle bars or riding on the back, a ride out on an open road, down an unbeaten path, with the wind in your face and hair, the sun (and sometimes the rain) on your skin, the sound of the motor…just to ride…there is nothing like it in the world. It brings you to a place in your soul where you find your center, your peace and harmony, and sometimes even your sanity.
Dennis rode along with us and I had fun taking pictures of him on his bike, of the scenery, and of all of us when we stopped for breaks now and then. We cut up together. All three of us, having traveled our own broken roads to this moment in time, were laughing and smiling and taking in this thing called life and saying to it, “You may have tried to break us, but here we are on top of the mountain, stronger than ever.”
Going solo or in a group, a ride can take you to more places than just the physical realm. A ride can take you to yourself, giving you the ability to fly, defy the odds, and take all of your pain and heartache, throwing it upon the wind as you go down the road, up that steep mountain and around those hairpin turns, across a bridge and over open water, and through a canopy of trees so thick you think you’ve gone inside the earth.
Nothing in this world is perfect. We can often find ourselves standing in the middle of nowhere wondering where we are and how we got there. We lose people we love. Our children step on our hearts. That perfect job never comes through or we lose it. Our dreams get dashed over and over and over. However, no matter where our choices and mistakes take us, we can reclaim ourselves with our passions.
With John and our Crew, one of the ways we do this is to fill up that gas tank and….ride on.
June 23, 2013