Warm covers. Cold face. Damp. Eyes still closed. Get up? No. Move? Turn over. Look up. The sun is young. Close eyes again. Fall back asleep. Swishing nylon. Zipping tent door. Casey up and moving. Readjust pillow. It smells foggy. I feel foggy. Tent too small to stretch. Sore bones. Old breath. Oh yeah, we're under a gazebo. Casey singing. Annoying on purpose. Smile. Turn back over. Coffee. Warmth. Steaming coffee. I don't want to pack. "Get up." No answer. "Get up." "I'm up." Unzip bag. Cold seeps in. Cold legs. Pants? There. Dress sitting down. Feet out of tent first. Pull on boots.
The fog is still burning off and our bikes are covered in dew. I flip my collar up high on my neck and survey the land that the light reveals. That huge cabin down by the lake is surprising. I rub my eyes to life as I walk down to the dock to wash off the sleep. It's too cold for a dip so I just wash my face and brush my teeth before walking back to finish packing.
I wish I remember what I prayed that morning. I remember feeling good about it.
A man emptying the trash at the McDonald's told us of his motorcycle travels over a cup of joe. After he finished flipping through his worn out pictures, Casey and I routed out the day. I've never loved breakfast as much in my life as I did on this trip. It always sank down into our bones.
The lines shot by below my feet. Yellow, yellow, yellow. The wind picked up later in the day and pushed us in bursts so we leaned into the invisible. Woomph! At times it blew so hard it whipped my head and hurt my ears. My fingernails turned blue because of the cold temperature and my death grip as we buzzed underneath the big white turbines that looked like origami. Those windy, flat plains of Indiana never got old like the other travelers said they would.
This brings me to a big point. Back roads are the key to traveling. They take longer and make you focus on the journey and not just the arrival. You see things. You see country stores and "liars benches." You see the colors of the cities on the map. America lives in the back roads. They hold all of our culture and nature. These interstates have killed our connection to each other. They have made us faster, busier, and more ignorant. Instead of seeing each other, we see the hunks of shiny metal plowing down the road. Interstates make the entire country look the same. The green signs and off ramps are under every skyline and big sky. We wanted to see America and we quickly realized that the interstates were going to cause us to skip it.
85 mph felt smooth on those roads. The fields looked like quilts and we zoomed along the stitched patches. We were heading toward Casey's family's place in Illinois. Tomorrow was Easter so we had a Mass to make. And if you miss Easter Vigil you go to hell, or miss the free beer, or something terrible. Catholics drink Bud Light in the fellowship hall, by the way. They love to party.
Casey's family welcomed us with cold drinks, sausage, and cabbage. They unloaded our bikes and sent us out to the back porch. I want to welcome people well like those great storytellers did. They made me a part of the family for the holiday. Casey and I took our unloaded bikes for a joy ride after Mass. We felt light and fast. We stood up and leaned into the wind. We told stories until 2:30 in the morning with the uncles after we returned from our night ride. As we sat by the work bench in the garage on our lawn chairs, I heard tale after tale of family memories. I want to be well-rounded like Uncle Joe. He has an enviable mustache and a light heart. We laughed until our bellies ached and our cigars burned out. That was how it should be. Men being men.
"The kingdom of God is in the midst of you." I know this is true. I was there. I was in it. This was one of the thoughts I scribbled in my journal at a gas station in Indiana.