Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Casey is riding a 1990 BMW K100 and I am riding a 2007 Honda 1300 VTX.
And we are off.
We took our "before" pictures and ignored all thoughts about practicality and responsibility that the parking lot tried to stick to our feet. Packing was still a process that took stares and trial runs, but we had our headbands and sweet shades so there was no turning back. Before I knew it my leg had surprised me and swung over the saddle leaving no time for hesitation. We didn't know it, but we were ready and unprepared, which is the perfect combination for this sort of trip.
I didn't know this at the time, but Casey was sure his death was just around the next turn. And we were headed for the Smokies so he thought about it often.
"Three days. I was sure that was my maximum number of days left on this Earth."
You see, we'd never done this before. Riding motorcycles. Never done it. I had been riding for a highly experienced two weeks, but this was Casey's first launch out onto the open road. Our bikes, affectionately named White Lightning and Black Stallion because of their sheer beauty and imposing nature, roared passed the kids in the back seats of their minivans strapped in to their shallow dreams of flip down TV's and half empty bags of Doritos.
"Just wait, kid. Some day you'll be able to run off and become a real man," was in our swag and our sunglasses-tilting winks. We were bikers. Sure, our cruise control knobs fell off on the highway and we overflowed our gas tanks, but we were doing it and we were surviving to tell the story.
I opened my Road Atlas for the first time in Dahlonega and Casey pulled out his iPhone. This would be the trend for the entirety of the trip, and it would prove to be highly useful.
Old school versus new school. Paper versus electronic. Classical thinking versus modern thinking. Leather journal versus MacBook.
We were going to learn many things about each other and ourselves over the next thirty-eight days, and at the basis of it would be common goals and different methods. There is so much value in the alternate to your natural way of thinking.
As our steeds ate up the road beneath our boots, I began to feel my strings break. Now, there are the strings of love that distance can never sever, but the strings of schedules and patterns and comforts and time start to stretch. By day three they had let me go.
We were aiming for Great Smoky Mountain National Park and as we crossed into North Carolina the mountains grew and retreated from the road. The valleys stayed close and spurred us on. We were rookies that needed their encouragement. After a few miles, the big mountains let us back in and we started weaving. By the end of this trip, these "big mountains" will be modest hills in comparison.
Lauren's voice is soft and kind as we talk before the cell phone service runs out. I know that I will miss feeling that voice in the room. Like Garth says, a phone "just ain't enough to hold." But if I want to come home a better man, then I must keep going.
Dinner was triumphant. We lit our fire with the hundreds of pamphlets at the check in cabin. We cooked pork in a pot and ate asparagus out of a can that was sizzling hot over a wet fire. The trees shot up into the thick fog that made the road slick. All was green and so were we. We laughed at our luck and retreated within the moist tent walls. Our boots were wet but that was a problem for tomorrow.
"Everything is on purpose." I wrote that down as my lesson learned from this first day.