The forth of October marked the first biting overnight low in the temperature for us so what should we do but decide to ride out before the sunrise and really take full advantage. No coffee can wake a body like that freezing wind numbing your fingers and flushing your face. By sunrise however, the cold became easier to ignore watching the sky light with flesh toned peach and dusty pink and the palest yellow. The clouds made the most amazing pattern, like God was inspired that morning by Miro, all scratches and lines, bold color and angles with bizarre intersecting circles, and a great rolling cluster of cirrocumulus all ridges and smooth like the pattern left in the sand by receding waves on a gravelly shore. Just as the overly bright white cold morning sun was starting to create a semi-permanent feeling of flash blindness, we pulled off for cocoa, not as much to drink as to hold in our hands so as to get the feeling back in our fingers. Tapping the tank had completely stopped working and the ability to grip was fading fast.
While I sat outside the gas station writing about the sunrise, I was surprised to hear other bikes pull up. When they parked next to us, we exchanged brief pleasantries to mask the “what the hell are you thinking riding in this weather?” expressions on our faces. I laughed thinking back to the last conversation Josh and I had that morning before we left: “Hon, you know that poor bastard we see on early mornings when we’re warm in the truck with coffee making the trek across the turnpike and he’s hunched down on his bike, obviously freezing?”
“You know we are those poor bastards this morning right? And voluntarily?”
But it didn’t matter, because in a few short hours we were curving and winding through the Ozarks, back to my home, where I was a little girl, the woods and highways I know like the back of my hand, my hillbilly roots, where my kinfolk are, and off to visit one of my favorite towns, Eureka Springs, for the final coordinating of upcoming festivities and just a generally good excuse to take a beautiful ride.
I’m amazed sometimes that it took such a long time with the surge in motorcycle interest for people to catch up with the rest of us on the Ozarks as a popular riding destination, but to be fair most of those highways are not for amateurs or even your average cruise rider. They couldn’t possibly be more fun for the rest of us though.
But having grown up riding those roads, it is less about riding for me and more about being back in my hills, in heady scent of mineral springs and damp forest floor, ferns and heavy moss, the place where the thick fog looms and the hills light up like a fiery patchwork in the autumn, deeply perfumed with honeysuckle in the summer and dotted with snowy dogwood in the spring. The place where the passing lakes and rivers are cobalt or deep beach glass green and clear all the way down, something I miss very much where I live now.
After a full day of riding around Eureka and out in the neighboring hills, snapping photos and making arrangements, we pulled into our hotel invigorated and ready for more riding the next day. From the balcony, an older gentleman and his wife asked what on earth we were doing riding in the cold night, insisting they couldn’t stand getting on his bike once the temperature dropped below seventy. We laughed because compared to the morning ride, the weather had shifted to a perfect fifty degrees, crisp and comfortable. Besides, once I’m back in the hills and the emerald green and the autumn hues and tall trees I don’t care what the temperature is anymore. I’m home.
* I realize how far behind the blog is currently. We got married this weekend and, understandably, that has thrown everything a bit behind. Within the next few weeks the blog should go back to its usual two to three day delay.