Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lessons Learned from Sand and Sagebrush

The distance from Lake Havasu City to Palm Desert where we are staying for the night was not a long one, less than 200 miles, even with a jaunt into Joshua Tree National Park. But it was soul-scorchingly hot, making it seem much longer. With several stops (fearing a repeat of the ‘out-of-gas’ sagas), and even with the mostly straight, virtually deserted highway, it took 5 hours, enough time to ponder the significance of the desert.
With my head wedged within the confines of my full-face helmet, I traveled today almost entirely through deserts populated by sand and sagebrush. The paradox was obvious: watching wide-open wasteland from inside the small space of the "bubble" around my head. It all seemed surreal, as if I were exploring a moonscape from inside a space suit. In fact, the three of us probably looked like lost astronauts dressed from head-to-toe in black protective gear terribly ill-suited to the 110 F temperatures.
Anyone who rides a motorcycle for any distance recognizes that there is an abundance of what I have labeled, "helmet time". That is, when straight roads and traffic conditions allow, one is left alone with one's own thoughts. These thoughts can either pester you, like an incessant itching that cannot be scratched, or spark random ideas that ricochet meaninglessly around in your head and ultimately lead nowhere. At my best, I have learned to cherish these times as if sacred. At my worst I have strangled the experience, as it can be both frighteningly freeing and cruelly convicting. There are no artificial constraints to limit my mental/emotional processes. I am forced to come face-to-face with myself as I really am. Occupied only by the white noise of wind rushing past my visor, I am usually tempted to fill the space with music or distraction of any kind. Today was one of those times, but there were no nearby radio stations and I had not set up my IPod. It became a time to learn lessons from the sand and sagebrush that surrounded me mile after mile.
Deserts represent extraordinary potential. They are missing one thing; water. Water could come from a variety of sources: the nearby Colorado River; precipitation or from under the ground. But it is a part of land that has, in fact, been deserted. We are all like a desert. We have unrealized potential, but we are missing one thing. What it is may differ for each of us, but we must humbly rely on sources outside ourselves to supply the “water”.
Riding with some great friends over the past 8 days I have realized that they have been water to me, quenching my thirst from time-to-time when I needed it most. As of tomorrow, Sunday, after riding more than 5000 kms (3200 miles), Ralph will fly back to Toronto and our group will shrink to two for the next 8 days. Jim and I will be sad to see him go, but there have been some tremendous oasis experiences already, with more to follow I am sure.  At least there was water to wash our bikes.
The adventuresome journey of the Knights of the Open Road will continue, with more mountains, canyons, forests and even deserts to come. We get to ride on, at least for awhile.

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