Ride report – 7/17/08

Thursdays are my regular shift at the Oregon Food Bank.  I showed up at 5:30 on the bike, parked and had a slice of pizza courtesy of the UPS folks who came for the shift (they like to ‘tailgate’ a bit prior to their shift, their own way of farting around, I suppose).  We’re still processing food collected from the Letter Carriers’ food drive.  I love doing food drive stuff because you never know what you’ll come across.

The shift went well, we wrapped everything up and I went outside for a smoke with Robert, the shift leader.  He just scored himself a nice Rebel 450 and is getting back into riding after a twenty year hiatus.  He told me about a close encounter that he had just the other day on his bike and together we reviewed how he might have handled it differently.  Riding a motorcycle offers endless opportunities to ‘hone the edge’ and be a better rider, whether it’s carving turns on some isolated stretch of road, plying loose gravel on a forest service road or navigating one’s way through traffic in town.

We said our goodbyes, I suited up, saddled up and headed off toward home.  The sunset was nothing short of awesome.  Long streaks of thin clouds lit up in my rear view mirrors as the sun was finally consumed by the horizon.  I knew I had to stop and enjoy it.  I thought of running up to Rocky Butte Park to maximize my enjoyment of the show but didn’t think I’d make it there in time to catch the best parts of the sunset.  I headed east on Marine Drive along the Columbia toward where I would normally head south toward my house, but I stopped at a little turnout, maneuvered the bike to a solid parking location and enjoyed the show.

Being on the side of Marine drive means having to hear a steady stream of traffic passing by.  After carefully putting out my cigarette so as not to set fire to the dry grass along the side of the road, I decided to cross over the road and head down toward a little more seclusion along the riverside.  The sound of the traffic was muffled by the elevation of the roadway and, if I turned my head so that the wind didn’t whistle into my ears,  I could hear the lapping of the Columbia River at the riprap along the shore.  An osprey wheeled to my right in search of a bit of food in the last rays of light of the day, then set off to a nest somewhere farther east.

I could have stayed for the end of the show and maybe should have stayed because it was good for the soul and my soul could use a little more good these days (and whose couldn’t).  I contemplated the words of Kurt Vonnegut while standing next to the river and thought to myself about the real purpose of my life and perhaps that I should be more concerned with farting around and less concerned with the checkmarks on my list.  In the end, my mind wandered back to what I thought I needed to do so I crossed the road, donned my helmet and saddled up again, off toward the next checkmark on the list of my life.

I arrived shortly thereafter at the parking lot of the store whose contents would comprise the next check mark on my list.  I locked the handlebars since it’s not exactly the best neighborhood and headed for the front door.  “They’re closed?  Already?” I thought.  It was probably 9:30.  Any self respecting store should remain open until at least 10pm if they’re going to stay open past 5:00.

So I saddled up again and headed off across the parking lot toward home.  As I came to the entrance to the street, a minivan came careening around the corner.  Swinging wide and doing 15mph, fully expecting no one to be there, he hit his brakes as I hit mine and we both stopped, staring at each other like warriors of our own battles surprised to find an opponent for this otherwise insignificant patch of land which neither of us truly wanted and had no interest in battling over.  I waved him in (since his ass was hanging out in traffic, as if he cared) and he apologized politely for almost totally creaming me and forever changing my life with his reckless driving.

Had I stayed for the end of the sunset, surely my path would have been different and perhaps somewhat less dangerous.  Or perhaps I would have found a different opportunity to “hone the edge”.  In the end, no one was hurt, disaster was averted, and each went on their separate ways, hopefully with a lesson learned.  And maybe my list will be a checkmark or two shorter and I’ll spend more of my time “farting around” and appreciating what this life truly has to offer.