On Tuesday morning I got up and it felt very strange and somewhat sad that I'd finished the ride on the Mother Road. I'd settled into the routine -- stumble down to the breakfast area with the Atlas, figure out the route, load up the bike, swing a leg over and start her up. It was early, and a bit warm and humid as I road about a mile over to the warehouse from where the bike would be shipped home -- with no luggage to load up and no need to plan a route. She was filthy dirty from riding in the rain in downstate Illinois, and I felt a kind of melancholy leaving her in the warehouse, strapped to a pallet for the ride home. I felt almost as if I was leaving my traveling companion -- and I guess I was. The bike had been my constant companion Riding a motorcycle is such an active sport -- the bike indeed becomes almost an extension of the body -- so I felt like I was leaving someone dear to me, even though it was only for a day or so. I walked back to my hotel in a blue funk, and it didn't really change as the day wore on.
In the three days since I finished the trip I've been doing some thinking about this last road adventure as well. I've realized a couple of things about life and about the road and how they are entwined. From the outset, this trip had been somewhat lacking direction and purpose, although I didn't see it at first. I'd thought about going to visit my friends in Austin, TX. I'd looked at a map and made the decision only based on it being somewhere I'd not been on the bike, and there was someone there I could go visit. I hadn't estimated the time or the distance or really thought it through. I'd be able to pass by the Bay Area to visit Dave and Elayne and the kids, and then keep going, but I guess I'd never fully committed to going all the way to Austin.
Once I'd made the first goal -- Dave and Elayne's place -- I was only half-heartedly heading to Austin, and realizing maybe it was a bit much. I'm sure this is why the two days between Dave and Elayne's and Gallup, NM were so difficult for me -- and I wasn't enjoying the trip or the ride. The ride at that point was without a purpose. Leaving Tucson and heading up that windy US 191 towards Gallup had a bit of a purpose -- and so was somewhat more enjoyable, but it wasn't until I'd figured out that I was having fun on Old Route 66 and that I should finish the ride by going all the way to Chicago that the trip became truly enjoyable again. At that point I'd found the purpose for the ride. To finish Route 66 and a dream I'd had for more than a few years.
Then I realized that life is like that as well. And right now my purpose in life is still undefined to me. It's no doubt why I've been sort of aimlessly wandering, and my emotions have been what they are, and it's been hard to get up and get going -- I'm not motivated to do much. A ride must have a purpose -- and life must as well. Otherwise, what's the point? And then neither of them become enjoyable and are difficult to do and you might as well stop.
Finishing the ride in Chicago I remembered a verse to Woody Gutherie's folk classic, "This Land Is Your Land". It goes something like: "As I was walking, I saw a sign, and on the sign, it said 'No Tresspassing'. But on the other side, it didn't say 'nothin' That sign was made for me and you." Right around the corner from the End of the Mother Road, on the next street to the North, since Jackson Street is a one-way street East, is Adams St. It's a one-way West, and on that corner is a sign that says "Begin Route 66". Had Jackson been two way, it would have been across the street -- or on the reverse of the sign. And just like in Woody's song, the end becomes the beginning. Something that stops can also be seen as something that starts. In every end, there is a new beginning. The end of a ride, is just the beginning of the next ride. The end of a chapter in a book is the start of the next chapter. The end of the book is the start of another book. And so maybe what I learned is somewhat obvious -- but it's easy to forget about it and lose sight of. A ride -- and life -- must have a purpose to be enjoyed. And when something ends, it also signifies a start of something new. In that I find both direction, and comfort. I'm not all that sure what my purpose is -- but I know once I figure it out I'll be much more happy. And I know that as things in my life end -- it's really just the beginning of something new. And it only took 4170 miles to figure it out.