Author’s note: This is a lyrical short story, with a poetic essence. This is a retelling of a scene from a cross-country motorcycle journey I took in 1970 with my three best friends. It was prompted by my travel diary, kept during this trip. Ironically this adventure began in Cincinnati, Ohio, as did the recent movie “Wild Hogs”.
Dedicated fondly to Wally Bolduc and Bill Sutphin, and in loving memory of Tom Sutphin
we were the fantastic four
Leaning comfortably into the turns, breeze streaming through our long hair, we wind our way into the mountains, into the evening, alive with the two-wheeled freedom of the open road, not counting days, not keeping track, just being – free!
We glide between alternating shadow and light, as the sun reveals itself, from time to time, warming us from between the peaks, as it begins to settle behind the western slope of the Rockies.
Four friends, four adventurers — we’d thrown off the structured mantle of life, to venture into the random, the unknown, and embrace the magnificent perfection of living in, and for, the moment.
Discarding all identity and baggage associated with our previous realities, we had re-christened ourselves in the spirit of this grand escapade.
Tom became WiseMan; Wally, SturdyMan; Tom’s brother Bill appropriately became PartyMan; and me, DirectorMan, toting the maps, setting the course, and trying my damnedest to keep this wild show on the road. Each named by the others, with uncanny foresight, as life would later testify.
While hardly true superheroes, we did possess the audacity of brazen youth essential to breathe life into our new “secret” persona – known to this date, only to each other.
Tom in his red/white/blue riding suede’s, Wally in his cool rust-colored Buckskin fringe, Bill with his ever-present rosewood Martin guitar, and me in my seam-embroidered denim jacket with peace-sign back patch – we were boldly on the road, a rolling carnival of curiosity.
Four newly-anointed superheroes, fresh on the heels of the “Summer of Love”, dedicated to a critical mission; spread the peace, share the love, save our sanity, and above all else — keep the party rolling!
Up out of Boulder and down into Dream Canyon we scramble, each rider alternately surging to the front of the pack, setting the pace, then drifting to the back — enjoying the thrill of the throttle! This is as close to flying as it gets, without actually being airborne!
Down into the canyon we sail, twisting along the asphalt as it snakes its way, hugging the most beautiful mountain stream I’ve ever seen. Upcoming curves are often hidden from view, as they disappear behind the rise of a slope. Mountain peaks soar, brushed and enfolded by powerful clouds, moving with majestic purpose through a brilliant blue sky.
We charge onward, awash in the kaleidoscopic wonders surrounding us, filled with an exhilarating sense of danger to season the excitement of discovery. Awesome feeling!
Gradually, a long, lazy right-hand sweep carries us round and through a summit pass. Then a sudden crisp rise, a snap-quick left dip, and BAM – a gorgeous vista of rolling green and shimmering gold explodes before us as our cycles straighten upright. Captivating! Breathtaking!
And there, just ahead, next to the stream, by that stand of vibrant aspens bordering the southern edge of this high-mountain meadow, lay our evening’s destination.
Slowing, we turn carefully off the road, coasting gently to a stop on the smooth, cushioned canyon floor. Here we’ll camp.
One by one we glide to a perfectly parallel pause, boots down, straddling our dual-wheeled rockets, a precision squadron of festooned free spirits.
First Wally, then I, then Tom; and last, as often happens, comes Bill. We first three, mesmerized in the moment, suddenly remember! Turning in a unified, but futile shout, drowned by the drone of internal combustion, we frantically exhort Bill to “Be careful! Get your feet down!”
Bill, god love him, for some strange reason, occasionally forgets to put his feet down after an extended period of riding.
Too late! With a tilt and a tumble, Bill goes over. A huge smile is beaming from his face, visible in flashes as he cartwheels, ass over backpack, to a cluttered crash landing.
Dropping our kickstands to balance our ‘rides’; the man of wisdom, the man of strength, and the man with the plan stumble laughingly to help the man of mirth right his wheels and collect himself.
Here we circle, nudging, slapping, laughing – handsome in youthful friendship, hysterically perplexed by Bill’s absent mindedness, intoxicated by the awesome beauty of the natural world around us, and totally exhilarated by another day spent as truly free men!
The spell interrupted, we adjourn, each man separately to his bike, turning to the detailed but pleasant task of settling in – our souls satisfied by the serenity of the moment.
Smiling, shaking my head in sweet wonder, I muse, “Bill’s just got to remember to put his feet down!”
It’s nearly four decades since those days of freedom. Memories have cooled, grown hazy. I take license in their recall, grateful they remain at all. I’m blessed by their refrain, no matter how faint.
My days are not so light now. I’m rooted in responsibility, balancing the blessings and the burdens of life – sometimes bent by the yoke of worry, made heavy by the weight of loss.
Yet, occasionally, I still feel the gentle breeze of freedom stir, as I stand, feet firmly planted, braced against the changing winds of time and fate.
Adrift in the eternal now, awash in recollection, I chuckle silently to myself, struck by the image of Bill struggling to get those damned feet down.
Falling deeper in reverie’s embrace, I can almost feel that wind on my face, tossing once more my youthful mane. I whisper a promise to my awakened spirit, “Someday, before it is too late, I will again lift my feet up”.
rob kistner © 2007