A Kinship with the Sea

I’m sitting by the ocean in the Caribbean, thinking.

Mrs. Roadrunner is amazing for any number of reasons, but particularly useful to a biker that spends a lot of time in his own head is being easy going. I come and go and all she asks for is that we find ourselves on a beach from time to time. And so, I find myself on a beach in mid June.

I was sailing across deep blue water when I looked down at the side of the ship cutting through the waves, our velocity clearly visible as we quickly left foam and debris behind. Suddenly the blues and greens of the sea were juxtaposed in my vision with black asphalt and white stripes that disappeared one after another. I had never before considered the kinship between the mindful freedom-seekers: some in wooden boats and some on two wheels.

As we packed to get on a plane and head down here, I got grumpy as I always do at the mere thought of air travel. You can’t carry a bottle of water, take off your shoes and belts and prepared to be groped or naked-x-rayed with the full blessing of the government. Herd yourselves like well-dressed and well-behaved cattle through these lines and hope you and your possessions get where you’re going without incident. I never feel this way before heading out on a bike trip. I’m excited to pack, excited to start, and never worried about weather or mishaps. I’m in control: maybe I booked a hotel, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I change my mind and take radically different routes.

This feeling is Freedom.

Freedom comes with the responsibility to act. If I break down, I have the tools to fix minor things or patch a tire. I can sleep in a rest stop if it’s dark and raining and there’s no rooms to be had. I eat whenever, I start and stop whenever, I get where I’m getting.

We know that the romanticized images of Pirates/Buccaneers/Free spirits shown to us by Hollywood are greatly exaggerated in their scope and longevity. Jack Sparrow probably never existed, and the heyday of men like Blackbeard was briefer than the history of the American V-twin. It’s easy for some bikers to understand. These men were outlaws. Many of them, we can imagine, turned to piracy not out of a desire to harm but because they found themselves unable to function in the role the world had for them. Some, like the rum runners and moonshiners that would inherit their mantle in America years later simply found that the “legitimate taxes” extracted at the point of a gun were just too much. Many, no doubt, were simply thieves and murderers unworthy of our adoration.

Back to the freedom. The wind on your face. The sunset on the horizon, racing towards it or away from it as you see fit. Doing only as much as the responsibility to act demands, only as much or as little as your crew agrees to. Spending a lot of time away from “normal” life, and treated suspiciously like gypsies when you hit town. Accepting that a life without luxuries won’t be understood by most, and that doing without those luxuries enriches the spirit. Grateful when you find yourself traveling with a few like-minded folks who understand.  Existing in the moment as the foam disappears behind you, sometimes existing just a little outside the law. Yea, this is something a biker might understand.

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