Homecoming

August 18, 2014 : Rosemount, Minnesota : [ Day 83 ]

Sorry for the lack of timely updates over the last couple of weeks. It’s been a whirlwind of endless miles, the making of memories, taking in the moments selfishly rather than worrying about f-stops and framing. I guess that’s part of how I knew this ride was over, or rather that I was ready for it to be over. It reminded me of something I wrote close to eight years ago, about returning from a week of solitude in the Minnesota northwoods:

 

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Almost 1,000 lonely miles later, here I am.

Once again I have experienced the thrill of life in the wilderness; and once again I am piloting this strange four-wheeled machine along some faded highway, back to some faded town where I live with my cat and two friends from high school.

The sun has burned me, the trail has beaten me, the water has frozen me and the insects have eaten a considerable amount of my flesh. I am entranced, and I am more alive than I can ever remember being.

Soon, it will all start over again, that ridiculous cycle of stress and near insanity; until the day comes where I will pack my things and again drive to some far-away place, where some restful solitude can at last be found.

Life consists of too many numbers, too many abstract and complicated practices, and within that great sea of lies and confusion, it is easy to lose control. Soon, the wounds will heal, and the thrill of accomplishment will drown in spiteful ineptitude…

…but not yet.

The sun is setting, and the sky is glowing a spectacular shade of pink and crimson; slowly giving way to flat blue and grey around the edges. The towering forest is fading away into the rolling patchwork of northland farms, and the little Japanese engine is pulling me along at a smooth and steady sixty-five miles an hour. Aside from the infrequent sight of some other solitary traveler flying along this asphalt jetway in the other direction, I am alone.

The signs of prairie civilization are slowly becoming more abundant, but there’s no need yet to ease off of the cruise control. My hand resumes its perch on the outside of the open window, and my fingertips are occupied with the sensation of rushing wind and smooth paint on steel.

The radio has been off for the entirety of the day, and my thoughts wander like little tufts of dandelion seed drifting along with the late-summer breeze. I find myself wondering what lies beyond the visible horizons of each tiny dirt road I pass, and I find comfort in reminding myself that I am a man of free will; and if I wanted to, I could keep on driving until I saw the rolling prairies turn back into mountains.

The possibilities are endless. So are the difficulties.

But these moments, these last few miles… they are mine.

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At first glance, it almost seems like less has changed over the years than I thought before I left. But I know this journey was different. It wasn’t just a weekend, it wasn’t just a temporary escape – it was a fight to the death with my old self, with my old demons and fears, a desperate grasp toward the last tattered shreds of the dreams I thought I’d lost forever.

The waters have calmed, and this is indeed a greener valley.

But really, it’s been there the whole time – the world is the same, people are the same, and nothing is really all that different. It just took letting go of everything to finally be able to see it for what it is. For me, going for a ride is what worked, and I was lucky to be in a position to do it.

I’ve learned that what counts is the day-to-day. The small stuff. The world we live in really is just the running sum of our decisions, small and large, so we should make one decision every day that makes our story more interesting.

Life itself is our grand adventure.

I made it back “home” this afternoon, or at least back to where I started from. For the stats people, it’s been 83 days on the road, covering some 15,000+ miles, with my wheels touching 30 different states (some of which I returned to several times). Melissa and I parted ways this morning in Council Bluffs, Iowa – and it was harder this time than it was when we left Muscle Shoals. Much harder. I can’t wait to move closer to her.

So that’s it I guess, this ride is “officially” over. But don’t worry, I do have one last installment of photos to share with you!

PryorsFrom Red Lodge, we headed southeast-ish, into Wyoming. Past the Pryors and into what I call the Martian lands. The desert out there has always felt alien to me.

BighornsBut the Bighorns are something else entirely. Alternate Highway 14 is an amazing ride. Unfortunately, we were pushing hard, and didn’t have enough time to make the scenic detour up Highway 37, just east of Lovell. The Devil’s Canyon overlook is worth the stop if you are ever in the area.

Upturned seabedAncient seabed, upturned and exposed at the western front of the Bighorns.

All smiles in WyomingAll smiles in Wyoming 🙂

Black Hills

We went to see Devil’s Tower, and rode south to Nebraska through the Black Hills. I didn’t get many shots that turned out, but of course we rode the Needles Highway through Custer State Park. I hadn’t been out that way since I was a kid, and Melissa has never been. It was a good day.

We rode across the sandhills to Omaha, where we crashed with an old friend of mine and his wife. Amazing people. The heat about killed us – we had to stop every 50-80 miles to find shade and douse ourselves with water. Nebraska was some of the hardest riding of the entire summer for me. Heat exhaustion and crosswinds are a bitch.

Final tracksBut anyways, here’s the damage in total. It was a hell of a ride – not the globe-trotting super-tour I envisioned when I started, but it was exactly what I needed. Now begins the hard part: Rejoining society. Coming down from the “road high” and starting the often infuriating task of hunting for a job. I’m sure these next couple of weeks are going to be a rollercoaster of emotions; some good, some bad.

I left the bike mostly packed, just in case…

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