The Connection Keeps Us Going

I had my one and only mental meltdown in an Erie, Pennsylvania gas station parking lot. I’ll get into the details of that later, but the short version is that I wanted to just lie down on the pavement and not get up. Ever. But as we know, I am not still lying prone in a corner of a gas station. Though it took over two hours to muster it up, I did finally stand up, pull on my gloves, and pull on my helmet.

I stood, straddling the Vespa, letting it run stationary beneath me. I focused my mind away from the way I was feeling, away from the loneliness, away from the frustrations. I forced myself to focus on the noise and commotion surrounding me, to focus back on the ride. And as my attention focused on everything going on around me, everything going on inside of me began to recede.

I maneuvered slowly through the parking lot and pulled out into the road. I leaned into the left turn and my connection with the Vespa took hold. I felt the revolutions of the engine build, the gears shift. This is what endures.


When The Going Gets Tough

The roads I had chosen from Geneva to Buffalo looked on the map to follow the edge of Lake Erie, but they do not. They are slightly inland. They cut through strip malls and suburban sprawl. The immediate surroundings are ugly and characterless, but the route is close enough to the lake to receive the cold, damp air that sweeps in from across it. It is colder here on this straight, semi-urban thoroughfare - or cold in a worse way - than it had been in the Jackson fog or the Montana rain. This is an insidious chill, it is subtle and more painful, the way it whispers itself into me and seeps through my core.

Road construction makes this ride a frustration. Orange diamond signs mark each stretch: Road Work, Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution. The noise from jackhammers and earthmovers and heavy machinery is penetrating - insolent noise that I cannot escape. Huge sections of pavement have been removed, sliced away to create a sharp ledge that drops three inches to the base layer - graded cement raked in an undulating wave pattern of ridges and grooves, haphazardly dusted with gravel and sand. On two wheels, tires can get trapped in these grooves; gravel and sand corrupt ones ability to maneuver. It’s rough riding, and my collarbone is sore and pulses - an old break that never healed properly, it throbs when jarred consistently. After traversing each missing stretch, I must jump the Vespa up the ledge of pavement back onto smooth road.

Over and over again, the pattern repeats - the orange diamond signs appear, broadcasting their warning; the sharp smells of construction filter in to reinforce them; the pavement ends; the Vespa lowers with two blunt jolts as each wheel takes the drop; forearms tense to burn as I slowly navigate a wavering course; my body hardens and there is no enjoyment.