In winter, southern plains weather changes on a dime, at times shifting some forty or fifty degrees within twenty-four hours. Seventy in the morning, twenty by afternoon is not as unheard of as it should be. It’s a special kind of heaven.
The upswing of that wildly fluctuating weather is that winters don’t pass by without providing ample riding days so that no real “riding season” is discernible outside of the square set of the rider classes. The downside of that same wildly fluctuating weather is the unbelievable wind that accompanies it on days the cold fronts sweep through (and frequently other days as well, for fun) carrying gusts that leave the shoulder it was slamming against in pain so real you seriously debate a trip to the doctor by the second day of not being able to lift it. That isn’t a joke. That happened on the second day of riding.
But really, two days of riding in ideal springlike temperatures in mid January. Worth it, possible permanent shoulder damage be damned. And even in that wind, the nuisance of the gusts faded as we moved lost in the scene. The sun was bright and nearly hot, traffic wasn’t the usual nightmare, and with a dear friend along for the run we wound our way through the City, to parts houses and patio eating and just enough of a taste of local nightlife to whet our whistles without keeping us up past any respectable bedtime. Respectable by someone else’s standard, but nonetheless respectable.
Besides, it was there in the riding; the air was electric warm and details came vivid one after another, the seasonal shift had begun. Into town and at a light, flags flapped sharply, cracking in the gusts, bright colors against the near white blue of afternoon haze sky, so vibrant in spite of being tacky plastic string flags around a car lot gate, they took on an air of lung ta prayer flags. Further on, a street I’ve traversed a dozen times if once without noticing, a BBQ joint long closed, weathered paint on a somehow no less welcoming sign. I bet that was damn fine BBQ. A former barber shop, window busted, the neighborhood bar’s painted sign faded to near mute, the rest of the remaining buildings after boarded up, identity lost.
Pressing on, past the oil pumps neatly in a row before the capitol building with the Guardian watching the horizon beyond them from the rotunda. Everything you need to know about this state is on its center square.
Cutting through high end vehicles and white collars on their cellphones, important to themselves, quick flash of interstate, across the tracks, and into another swathe of the human fabric, none of us enough miles apart for superficial differences to be real. Signs change language intermittently, blue collars shine, buildings flanked in loading docks. At the parts house I watched the garage dog, lazy, and wondered how much longer real parts houses will make it before the corporates finally root them all out. Writ on the door ‘Closed on Monday’, as God intended motorcycle shops to be.
Across the tracks again, amazing street art before open land, still undeveloped since the mass demolishing around downtown with the coming of the interstates. At the immediate fringes of downtown the land is bought, new development is coming, the last of the City’s original buildings are going, for better or worse, new skyscrapers are climbing out of the plains. Between buildings, the working stiffs watched us pass, a variety of expressions, none amused. Riding in any downtown with enough skyscrapers is always an experience, the treacherous rapid shifting periphery in the many window reflections like lethal funhouse mirrors, the split second pace of change in the surroundings, the deafening echo, it is sensory overwhelm and adrenaline rush intoxicating.
No less slow a pace into midtown traffic hour, to lunch, to patio sitting and conversation. And whoever you are young man that passed by with the begoggled golden retriever in the sidecar, you sir have our group vote for pure awesomeness.
Another stop, another visit, and I began to realize I’ve spent so much time on long runs I either have too damn much conversation material on reserve to know where to start or I’ve forgotten how to conversate in my introversion. Surely the later. The sun set outside the tinted windows lighting the smoky room amber and when its glare had been replaced with the glow of neon we were gone again, the lightly cloud laced pallid yellow moonrise playing peekaboo with us between houses older than this state.
A few more stops, a few more neons, pleasant conversation at most, political and generally offended conversation at others that have decidedly slipped off the proper radar of dive and well into the plague of hipster. Between each, that wolf moon, higher and higher and brighter and brighter, ducking clouds and gleaming with newness.
And back again down the long road toward home, past the fringes of downtown, through once neighboring towns now blurred together, then ever widening gaps of rural pastureland from one town to the next until the gaps grow so wide and long between that the wind cut across and slammed into that shoulder. I knew leaning into it to prevent getting wrenched back relentlessly I was risking pain the next day, but it was worth every minute of a meandering ride gone bliss.