In the middle of all the hubbub of the last two months and more still coming daily, a day or two taken for myself, a ride, breaking loose were much needed but became much more. A simple ride to wipe the slate, a ride needed to briefly put the brakes on the insanity that is the launch smoke cloud, rapidly shifted from calming to nearly semisacred in its solemnity. Perhaps because it was so needed that every fine detail was infused a dreamlike sort of vivid, that every minute hung long in the air, the clock hands slowed, and we, greedy, took in mile after mile over every day light moment and a few of the dark hours.
There is nothing especially unusual or momentous to waking in the predawn darkness and loading up, to watching the sunrise in my periphery at sixty plus miles per hour, to unconsciously signaling our own peculiar riding signals to each other, to pulling off for coffee and breakfast at an favorite standby some eighty miles from home yet no less home; every bit of meandering has its own place in the ritual. And while to us those routine details border on barely less than sacrosanct, that morning even those mundane bits were especially rich, the newer aspects of the day even more so.
“Good morning America, how are you?…” sang Willie over warm coffee and waitress conversation and I wasn’t staring at this computer.
“I’m not staring at my computer.”
“That good, huh?”
It began simply enough, the night before when I made myself stop working at a decent hour (the disadvantage to working for yourself is that you can easily slip into a habit of overwork) and sat down to catch up and discuss some semblance of a riding plan for the following day, a day set aside solely for riding. No plans as to where to go, we were meant to toss around the ideas we’d had hanging and pick one. It devolved quickly into a mass of shrugging before:
“Where do you want to go?”
“Draw a number?”
Josh thought he was being funny until I wrote the four places we’d talked about on strips of paper, folded them, and had him pull. It’s truly intricate, the details that go into our ride planning.
And that was it, northbound on 66 to Miami, which sounded simple enough. (That’s Miami, Oklahoma, if you’re confused. Also, it’s pronounced “mahy-am-uh”, not “mahy-am-ee” like the city in Florida.) I’ve been to Miami, on occasion, and I’ve ridden portions of the stretch between it and Tulsa of 66, but never gone straight through nor been on the thirteen miles of route 66 in Kansas, so that became the extended plan. The other side of Tulsa, the flatness of the land becomes more obvious and by Vinita the sky widens, the open land all quiet rolling ranches and forever long railroad track, the clouds appear innumerable in the infinite blue heaven, and how that cross wind cuts, there at the edge of open ocean prairie. The heat rose with the sun in the wide open from fall cool crisp to midday suffocating heat. How sad the land at the border towns, in the unforgiving honesty of sunshine, a few dying main streets and the recently vanished Tar Creek towns, the heartaches of rural middle America all over. But most surprising of all, how silent, how stoic, how churchlike in their peaceful deteriorating sanctity the last of the holdovers from the mother road are there, more so even than the westward trek and the reverence of our day reached its zenith.
Impressive were the Kansas towns of Galena and Baxter Springs, both for building recovery efforts and for small town charm. At the Missouri border, a helmet state and us unprepared, we eyed their state line sign somewhat forlornly as we u-turned, still wanting to push on. Just as well; it was nearing midnight before we made it home. We must’ve taken the long way worshipping on every hallowed shadowy backroad laced with 66 between the border and home.