I am sitting here in Primm Nevada, Stateline as some of remember it. I am on the final day of this 1600 mile motorcycle journey from Montana to California.
It’s 93F and climbing. I stopped here to procrastinate hydrate before proceeding. This is the last stop in Nevada and once I pull out of here, I will be back in California and the reality and responsibilities it represents.
In Field of Dreams teens, its a bit like rookie Moonlight Graham crossing the gravel and becoming Doc Graham and leaving behind that youthful time to become the more responsible being.
Thanks to all who have been supportive and concerned as I made my journey.
The demands of reality cause us to call that certain cookie a “caramel deLite” when we all know it’s a Samoa. Although it’s an offense to the mind to call a thing “B” when we know it’s “A” we do so because it’s the polite and accepted thing to do. Down below the truth rages and demands to surface.
The TRUTH is that you can print all the maps you want with the words, “Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge”, but it will always be the 59th Street Bridge to us of a certain age. But mortality will make a winner of change an one day only scholars will remember that Istanbul was once called Constantinople.
Just because they call it “free time” does not mean that it is without value.
I remember with great clarity a certain Sunday afternoon in the winter of 1987. I was driving along Sorrow Drive, the curved road which follows the Charles River in Boston . The radio was featuring a song from Hank Williams Junior’s new album, Montana Cafe. The title song rhapsodized about a little Montana diner where the old ways and old music still live on. Now some, 31 plus years later I find myself sitting in a motel in Missoula, Montana on that same Highway 93, just 60 miles directly North of the current incarnation of that quasi-famous restaurant.
My plans for the day involve walking over to Triumph of Missoula and picking up my new motorcycle, riding it four hours across Montana, and then seeing Yellowstone National park before the sun goes down at 9:10pm tonight. Over the next four days, I plan on riding that new bike some 1,600 miles back to Southern California.
If I really wanted to go to the Montana Cafe, it would be a straight shot South down Highway 93. No left turns, no right turns, just a ninety-minute drive down that road just outside my window. Indulging that old want would add another 2 hours to my day; time that would come off the Yellowstone visit. That’s the definition of opportunity cost, right there.
Other things I will not be doing this trip include the following:
Visiting Glacier National Park
Running the Glacier Half Marathon
Visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats in Tooele County in northwestern Utah
Riding through the Valley of Fire
Crusing down the historic Lincoln Highway in Nevada
Riding up Wheeler Peak Nevada, elevation 13,000 ft in White Pine County Nevada
In life, it’s just as important to articulate what we aren’t going to do today as it is to prioritize what we will get done. We have to choose our time and our energy wisely. None of us can do it all but some fools still try. To quote old Hank Williams Jr.,
I’m so glad we reached this point in my life I finally got my priorities right I am way out here on the Idaho Line
There is the death that comes when we lose our independence
or ability to stand
or to reason
There is also the death that happens when they take away our driver’s license.
For today, I still have my license, WITH it’s motorcycle endorsement. And tomorrow, I have this beauty, with only 3 miles on the odometer, waiting for me to pick up and ride it 1,500 miles south across the country through mountains and across deserts.
It’s 7:25am on St. Patrick’s Day, 2019. I am walking 3 miles to the local pub while rocking out to Paul Galbraith’s, “Bach Sonatas and Partitas”.
It’s a dorky life, but it’s mine and I cherish it.
As I passed under the freeway, I was greeted by purple wild flowers. It’s easy to miss their glory driving by, but slowing down helps. The rains have brought great color to Southern California and the challenge becomes how to take as much of it in as possible before it withers away.
Like the wildflowers, we are here but for a short while; I feel the need to make time to cherish as much beauty as I can, be it in the form of music, flowers, art, or people. The dilemma is how to fill the soul also while also meeting the rigors of life’s other obligations.
For today, I am just going to celebrate. Happy Feast of St. Patrick.
After 20 years of downsizing my mother-in-law, I packed the final load of her things she used in this life in my car. I sat quietly on the bumper taking the sadness of the moment in.
An older lady of Hawaiian descent came walking towards the care facility. “Lisa?”, I asked, not really knowing for sure. She didn’t recognize me at all, “Yes, do I know you?”. She remembered me once once I reminded her that we met about 15 hours prior while partnered for tennis. I started walking back inside with her and she asked me if I had family living there. I told her that my mother-in-law was a former resident and had passed two weeks ago. She asked me her name and I told her, “Tyra”.
Lisa was shocked to hear of her passing. It turned out that Tyra and Lisa’s mother sat at the same table for meals. Lisa filled out her mother’s menu and Tyra made sure that Lisa’s mom got what was ordered. Lisa told me stories of how my mother-in-law would greet people at the door and be the social care-taker of the residents.
Lisa’s mother came over and joined us after we walked inside. My wife joined us after she finished checking Tyra out of her room. I explained that I had just met Lisa the evning before and Laura recognized Lisa’s mother. We exchanged stories and pleasantries and then it was time to make our way home.
I have to wonder if that chance meeting was serendipitous or something arranged by Tyra after she left us. It’s the kind of thing she would do, something to bring people together.
It sounds a little too, Anne Tyler/ Accidental Tourist, but International travels is more easily accomplished knowing a few key phrases. Just being able to say thank you goes a long way. In China, that is xiexie, in parts of Switzerland and France, merci and when coming across Romanians working in your hotels in England, mulțumesc will evoke a smile.
SNOw and I landed in Spain this last weekend ahead of meetings and customer visits on Monday. Other than a pleasant conversation with the neighbor’s gardener a few months ago, I hadn’t fully interacted with another person in Spanish since the last time I visited Barcelona about 8 years ago. On this trip, I was able to engage with moderate effectiveness.
SNOw and I were picked up at the airport by a Blacklane and delivered to our hotel in Granollers, a small town, about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona. We dropped our bags in our respective rooms and went to pick up bibs for La Mitja, the local race series. SNOw was signed up for the 10K and I was in for the half-marathon.
We wandered the sleepy streets of Granollers and with help of the hotel map, Google and the very kind locals, found the way to Ruca Humbert where this small town’s version of an expo was held. Our swag bags consisted of two bags of uncooked pasta, some beverage in a box as well as a liter of household cleaner from the company sponsoring the race. I tried to communicate to the volunteers that I didn’t need any of these things (we were at the start of a ten-day journey) but they weren’t hearing any of it, so I took the heavy bag of goodies and figured I would sort it out later.
I picked up my bib and asked, well gestured curiously where the safety pins were to secure the bibs to our race shirts. After a few gesticulations the volunteers told us there were no imperdibles. I had never heard that word before. I asked the lady to write it out for me as I knew I would not retain the word in my jet lagged state. I asked her where I could buy imperdibles and she told me at the “tienda de los Chino”. My mind was blown. “Tienda de los Chinos? The store of the Chinese? Was this some type of human trafficking ring? Why would there be a thing called the Tienda de los Chinos and why would they have imperdibles? The conversation made no sense to me. Eventually, I just asked here where the Tienda de los Chinos was and she told me there were three in the center of town. I decided to move on from this kind and lovely lady at this point as I knew I had gotten all the information I was going to get. As the race was the next morning, I knew we only had a few hours to find the imperdibles or we were going to have to find a creative way to keep our bibs on our persons during SNOw and my respective races.
We found out later in the week that the tienda de los Chinos is where you find anything miscellaneous or random and apparently if they don’t have it, they will have it the next day. I also learned that anything the Chinos don’t have, the tienda de los Paki’s (Pakistanis) will.
On the main street of Grannollers, SNOw and I hit up a few stores that looked like they might have imperdibles, but we kept being told that it would be muy dificil (very difficult) to find them. Eventually, hunger overcame us and we stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants that didn’t shut down at 2pm for siesta. After a very long lunch (as most meals are in Spain) I asked the lady behind the counter where I could find imperdibles. She said, it would be difficil, but to try la tienda de los Chino. It was good to get the same answer from a second source. I asked directions and was taken outside and directed toward the tattoo shop way down the road and then two streets beyond.
About one block up the road, my eye caught a glimpse of two ladies sitting under an easy-up with a table of dried food products. Maybe 4.5 seconds later, the back of my brain completed the translation of the sign which sat in front of them. I gleefully ran back to them while SNOw looked on at me incredulously, with the exact same “WTF is he doing now ” look that my travel companions OFTEN (possibly always) express. I asked the ladies if they were collecting food and they were, for refugees. I gladly handed them by bag of pasta, box of drink and even the liter of cleaner, because refugees must need cleaning supplies, right? The ladies were delighted and I was happy and that problem was done and dusted.
SNOw and I continued our journey up the road to find imperdibles. At the end of the two blocks we weren’t sure which way to go, and I was about to go the wrong direction when I saw a lady walking her dog. Por favor, donde esta la tienda de los chinos? She pointed two shops up and I said gracias.
We walked into the store and just inside the door was a teen-age Chinese girl with blonde (OK, not blonde, really just yellow) hair. I asked her for imperdibles and they were immediately behind her. She was selling them for 70 euro cents and I was happy to pay quadruple. I took the imperdibles to the front desk where the very Chinese mother of the teen was seated. I paid for my imperdibles and the Chinese mother said, gracias. On automatic pilot, standing in a tienda de los Chino in Spain, I looked at her smiled and responded with “xiexie”. All four of us busted up laughing.
Story of my life: I am in the back of a beautiful new Mercedes approaching Dublin airport when a beautiful Puccini piece for two voices comes on the radio. I ask the driver to turn it up. He does and the music and sound system together are amazing. I anticipate the first crescendo of the piece and when it hits it washes through my brain, if you understand that kind of a high.
We pull up to the terminal long before the song is through. The driver realizes I am enjoying the moment and tells me I with a genuine Irish charm that I am welcome to wait in the car until the song is through. I desperately want taking him up on this kind indulgence, but my travel colleague is out the door and behind the trunk awaiting their bags in the rain.
I tighten my scarf, button up my overcoat and step into the storm, leaving that perfect moment behind, bound to cover just a little more ground.