I love maps. I love looking at them, pondering them, studying them, and imagining where all those lines go. I've collected old gas station maps from the 40s and 50s when there were no Interstates that make me wish I was living in that time. I even take them in the bathroom with me sometimes instead of magazines. I especially love maps however because they are a visual manifestation that can show me where I've been, and I can look at them and point to a particular spot and say "I was there" and remember what happened to get me there and why it was special. I also look at them and see a town or a road and think of my friends or family that are there at that moment in time, and although I'm not there with them I can feel connected to them. And sometimes I look at them and feel sad, remembering that I used to go there as a kid, or this is where my late Father was born, or looking at towns and missing the old friends who lived there and for some reason are no longer in my life.
Saturday I was in the garage cleaning up after some yard work and getting ready to lead a ride for the Harley Owners Group that afternoon, and I started experiencing a flood of emotions when I looked at the big wall map in the garage. After the Corner To Corner trip I bought a huge 4x6 foot map of the USA and mounted and framed it for the garage near the motorcycles so I could highlight all the big trips on it and stand back and just look at it and remember. It's big enough to see the entire USA at once, and one can feel almost like God looking down from heaven at His creation as I look at it and contemplate where I've been -- but more importantly, where I might yet go.
I traced out the big Corner to Corner ride, my solo ride from earlier this year, and the 2006 Chorus Ride and 2007 New England rides Tony and I did. And I realized that it was a month ago to the day that we were three days into the big ride and were traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. I saw the town where we had a wonderful lunch at a small cafe deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains where the waitress, when I asked her if anything came with my burger, replied in the deepest of southern accents, "a smile". And I still have that smile -- every time I remember that day. That "smile" was the best side to a burger one could ever get, and seeing that spot on the map brought it all back.
So as I sat on my Black Dyna, the bike I rode on all those trips and contemplating the big map, I glanced down at Key West. I marveled that a month ago, this bike and I were sitting at the furthest southeast point in the US. That I and THIS VERY BIKE that I was sitting on in the garage in Seattle at that precise moment in time, were but a month and two days before sitting on that tiny little speck of an island way out in the Gulf of Mexico. I got a bit misty eyed as I realized that she and I had ridden that big long squiggly pink line that I'd traced on the map all the way up through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, over the Mackinaw Strait, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington. I realized what exactly what it is we'd accomplished, the old girl and I. And she was still just as ready to hit the road again as I was. All I had to do was throw a leg over her seat and hit the starter button and she'd roar to life and down the road we'd go.
I go to the Harley Dealership often, and I see several bikes I'd like to buy, but it would most likely involve trading in one of the ones I have -- there just isn't room in the garage for any more. But I can't. It's like parents who want more kids, but don't have the room or the means -- and with kids you can't trade one in on a new model. I can't get rid of any of my bikes - and particularly this bike. We've grown up together, and we've seen the world together, I have nearly 30,000 miles in her saddle, and I know we'll keep doing it as long as we both hold out.