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June Quick Throttle Column

So here is my column for June. As my publisher said: "A bit political and there were times you really moonwalked that line, but its still very good. You're saying what many are thinking even Trump supporters. I may hear a few gripes, but I'll hear more about how you are spot on." " Given the news lately I think this is even more relevant, and I'm feeling it more than ever. Enjoy.
A reader responded to last month’s column asking if biker lives were worth less than other lives telling me “gosh thanks for the downer read, I don’t wanna think about that when I’m out riding.” And I get it. We ride to escape from such stuff don’t we?  Maybe he’s right too – I shouldn’t be writing about such downer stuff, but sometimes you just can’t help it these days it seems.

It’s partly because I’m a “news junkie”. I read several newspapers (on line these days) each morning and more often than not I’ll have CNN on the TV in my office while I’m working, or pretending to work -- being that I’m mostly retired. It’s a holdover from my days as a lobbyist and political consultant and needing to know what was going on. But it’s getting increasingly difficult for me to do that. Reading the paper and watching the news is both depressing and aggravating these days, what with this tweeting President and his minions along with the twerps in Congress who can’t seem to find their way out of a paper bag. I dread turning on the TV or opening my iPad to read the paper. You’d think living in the sun and relaxing around my pool would keep my blood pressure low but I’ve had to go back on BP meds!

I’m worried. I’m concerned. I’m irritated. I’m worried about my health insurance. I’m worried if I can afford my taxes. I’m worried that the idiot running North Korea will do something stupid and send a missile to the west coast. (I’d be more worried if I were back in Seattle now since it’s a more strategic target than the desert here – sand and palm trees and swimming pools aren’t that much of a target, but I doubt they are very good at aiming anyway.) I worry that the rest of the world, that looks to the United States as a beacon of hope and light and intelligence, no longer will. I worry that I won’t be able to make it to the Sonic Drive In for a milk shake to calm my evening ice cream addiction before they close. But I worry more than anything that the country is becoming more divided and we aren’t talking with each other – but rather yelling at each other. Yes, I worry a lot.

And when the worrying gets to be too much, I do what probably all of you do as well. I go for a ride. But these days it’s also getting to be “too much” almost all of the time. As much as I’d love to live on the bike, I can’t. I can’t just take off and run away every day all day, tempting as it may be. I know it’s getting to be riding season in the Northwest. It’s always riding season here in the desert, unlike Seattle which has, from what I’ve heard from friends and seen in the paper, been suffering from the wettest year on record. As the Seattle HOG chapter’s motto says “Rain, what rain? Let’s ride!” If you are gonna ride in the northwest you are gonna get wet.  Here in the desert, we just worry about burning to a crisp. But even still I can’t ride away every day.
On a nice long ride, I can blank my mind and let it drift, and I’m only thinking about the ride. I don’t think about what the President is tweeting; what Congress is going to do to screw up my health insurance; whether or not the stock market is down and my IRA is running short. Out there on the bike, fists in the wind and an open road out in front of me, I don’t have to think about it and I can forget what’s going on. On a ride, all I need to do is think about what’s around the next curve ahead and which direction I’ll go at the next intersection, and if there’s someplace at the end I can get a good burger and beer at – and the answer to the latter is almost always “yes”.

We are lucky my friends. Lucky, we have the ability to escape – to go out and get some “throttle therapy” as it were. Take advantage of it when you can. Yeah we’ll have to face life when we get back – reality is always there waiting in the wings. But in the short term, we can let it go, and maybe, in a “zen” sort of way, it can teach us to “let it go” in the long run too. But I do have to ask, should we “let it go?” Do we risk becoming complacent with the overload of events and news and the perpetual state of angst we all seem to be in, regardless of what “side” one is on. How do we fix this?   How do we stop talking AT each other and start listening and talking WITH each other? I don’t know – maybe I’ll think about it on my next ride.

I do have faith in the basic goodness of this country and its institutions. I worked in it for so many years I know how resilient it is, and how the very nature of this country will prevent it from going off the cliff, even as we appear to be headed directly for it like Thelma and Louise in their convertible.  Yes, I do generally have faith in the American people and in the system. But it does sometimes takes longer than we like for things to resolve but goodness generally prevails in the end. Usually. Especially if we help nudge it along. So, take some time to listen – really listen – when you inevitably discus something with someone you don’t agree with. Don’t dismiss it, or them, just because you disagree. Talk about it, try to find common ground. It’s what will save our country. Now, time to go for a ride.

Gary can be reached at roadsigns@comcast.net and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com 

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