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

18 thoughts on “Freedom”

  1. I loved this prose poetry. It took me on a journey along with you all. It appeared as if I was a part of it. The unfolding scenes…the fredom..

    Glad I stumbled upon you via Sunday Scribblings.

    I will link you my blog if you don’t mind.


  2. Thank you Gautami for the very kind words.

    The motorcycle trip, from which that scene was related, proved to have lasting memories for me. It was the most carefree year of my youth, perhaps of my life.

    I am so thankful I had that adventure with, at the time, my three best friends.

    I am pleased you were able to feel a little of what we felt.

    You are most welcome to link. I will come visit your site as well.

    I am just getting acquainted with Sunday Scribblings.

    Thank you for stopping by!

    –and so it goes–

  3. Rob~
    This is so powerful…

    Etched on my Memory is:

    “We glide between alternating shadow and light…”

    Captivating! – Breathtaking! indeed(!) ;P

    Peace, Sir Kistner, and thank you for sharing this Artful and Fluid Prose 😉

  4. Thank you Rae. I am glad you enjoyed this piece. That trip is an experience I carry with me to this date.

    –and so it goes–

  5. Very cool! It instantly put me in mind of Easy Rider, a movie I could watch all day. The open rode, the unbridled freedom to explore and take in nature. Powerful stuff!

    You have a equally wonderful way with prose, as you do with poetry.

  6. Herb

    The memory of this year-long adventure is still imprinted deeply in my 60-year-old soul. I will never experience a sense of freedom quite so pure as that time. I had no responsibilities on the planet — other than to myself, and my 3 riding mates. Truly — totally awesome!!

    Thank you for the kind compliment!

    This one is so indelibly etched, it wrote itself. I’ve got many more episodes from that amazing journey, some I’ve just begun to draft into short stories.

    The next one I’m going to finish recounts our arrival in Santa Fe, and the long-haired blond artist from San Francisco who was set up in the square there. She asked to sketch me, and then she invited me up to her commune in Taos for the night. I stayed 10 days.

    I am conflicted regarding a full telling of the story as it happened, and my wife finally reading it after all these years. Oh well, Kathy and I didn’t know each other then… 😉

  7. oh rob,

    this was so crushing for me to read.. i know that was not your intention.. i am just very aware at this moment in time, that youth does not spring eternal, and i too have crossed over into a foreign land, that of age and accountability.. and oh, how i long to go “home”…..
    absolutely beautiful piece…..


  8. Jodi (paisley)

    First, thank you for your gracious kind words!

    We can never go back, and that is OK with me, most of the time… except when a wild impulse overtakes me and my mind and spirit starts writing scripts my body can no longer act out. But — so be it!

    Through writing, I can still revisit, rather profoundly, the essence of past glory — but there is some truth to the statement: “It’s a shame that youth is wasted on the young”. I never understood that colloquialism, until recent years… 😉

  9. This would have worked for last week’s “goosebumps” Scribble. At least it gave me goosebumps.

    I read it to the tune of Steppenwolf”s Born to be Wild.

  10. Colleen

    I am pleased you liked it!

    “Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure, and whatever comes our way”… 😉

  11. Rob,
    What a magnificent story recalling those years of endless opportunity and the freedom of youth. I’m reminded of Michener’s “The Drifters.” Not for motorcycling, but for the freewheeling sense of abandon.
    One weekend when I was in Korea, a friend and I journeyed afoot up a mountain beside a languid stream with a religious retreat at the sumit. I recall similar feelings to those you’ve described here. We weren’t going to the retreat, it just happened to be there coincidentally. But the sense of freedom and the oneness with our surrounding was so freeing.

  12. Rel

    Nice to have you visit again, and thank you very much — my friend!

    That Korean mountain trek sounds as though it was deeply enriching.

    I have tried, many times in my life, to recapture the ‘complete’ sense of freedom that was my on-the-road year. I get close at times, but it does not sustain. The responsibilities that now surround me creep it and break the spell.

    However, my brief ‘retreats’ into lightness of being are very satisfying — and I still live with a sense of wonder… that is enriching for me!

  13. Rob, Your wonderful story inspired both visions of Easy Rider and my own “ass over backpack” falls during a mid-college jaunt through Europe. Add to that the fact that I’m now humming Steppenwolf and this has now been a picture perfect experience.

  14. Robin

    Thank you for your kind words! 😉

    I was on my way to Europe shortly after the motorcycle trip I recounted. Marriage got in the way. Someday perhaps…

  15. What a wonderful read…I could feel your exhilaration about this trip. These are the best memories…the ones where you can look back and feel your heart swell with joy every time you reminisce about it. My husband would’ve been in heaven on this trip…he loves his motorcycle so much and relishes his rides. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Fledgling Poet

    Thank you! 😉

    Rich memories are often what sustain us in difficult times.

    Sounds as though your husband would have been a good road mate — loving to ride was at the heart of the matter…

  17. Rob~
    Wow! That was great! I felt like I was riding over your shoulder. I really wish that I was a child of that era. Even though I had freedom, and I have my own tales of careless travels, it wasn’t the same for my generation. You were able to truly be “gone”, to devote your heart to a cause as beautiful as sharing the love. My generation was, mostly, just looking to kick back for the summer. Some of us were truly free, even if just for a moment.

    Too funny that you compared it to Wild Hogs. Great movie, actually.

  18. Megan

    Thank you!

    I am very pleased you were drawn in and enjoyed this! 😉

    Each generation is different, but I feel blessed to have been born to the times of such important change.

    Nothin’ wrong with kickin’ back sometimes…

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