Saturday, May 2, 2009

Riding with everything but rilke

a few years ago my friend and colleague ted bishop published a great book called riding with rilke. the book is about a lot of things, especially reading and writing, but at its centre is a solo motorcycle ride from edmonton alberta to austin texas. ted's been on my mind today because we're driving some of the same roads, some of my favorite in the world, and i'm powerfully reminded of his descriptions of two-lane blacktop, esso diners and the freedom of the road.

i am amazed how powerful that idea is -- the freedom of the road -- given the reality. okay, maybe in ted's case there's something to it: the wind in your face, the bugs on your faring, a single pair of jeans. he did the trip in something like a week, as i recall, in two saddlebags. he brought a map, a blank journal, a rainsuit and a credit card.

we, on the other hand, are not traveling quite so light. what gives it away, i wonder: the 6-cylinder jeep or the 2000-pound trailer behind it? each of us has a giant plastic bin for our clothes, not including shoes. 7 pairs. (each.) we are also carrying a big box of food, 4 iPods and the donut player, heather's iphone, mo's smartphone, a solar charging unit, 2 laptops, 2 bikes and associated paraphernalia, an extra memory-foam mattress for the king-sized trailer bed, a portable powerpack, several gallons of water, assorted coffee rigs and a pound of beans (you know we're roughing it 'cause the beans are ground), our new yorker backlog, two lawnchairs complete with sunshades, a range of camera options, and at least 22 books: our own books on utah, my parents' books on utah, dianne and katherine's books on utah, novels for heather, novels for mo, the audubon bird book, the trailer journal, hikes in the canadian rockies (oops), the rand mcnally atlas, the national geographic atlas, and bed gadd. don't even ask what's in the actual trailer.

now consider: synthroid for mo, a topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory cream for heather, a giant bottle of advil for the both of us, in consideration of a week of cycling, pepto bismol, cal-mag supplements, glucosamine chondroitin, surgical tubing so i can keep up on my physio, waterproof sunscreen for heather, PABA-free sunscreen for mo, the clinique three-part face-cleansing system, intensive eye serum, regular glasses, reading glasses, prescription sunglasses, nonprescription sunglasses and contact lenses, and it's less rebel without a cause than stop that bus!.

i swear to god, though: you crank the tunes, haul the liberty into 5th, and it's all freedom all the time.