Sunday, February 28

"Asphalt Therapy" and my stolen bike of yore...

"Asphalt Therapy." I owe this blog title to a dear friend, who identified in an email message to me precisely what the doctor ordered. He should know; he needs some asphalt therapy too. Lucas is a highly skilled motorcyclist who rides a gorgeous--and tall--Kawasaki Versys, a bike I contend is a close relative of the Suzuki SV650! But I digress...

I needed a fix.

Each winter I reluctantly have stored my bikes, first Queenie (the wonderful Suzuki SV650) and now Jesse Owens (the sweet mile gobbler, BMW F800ST). This winter, the shop where I store my bike even offered, with a day or so notice, to allow me to reclaim my bike over the winter sans charge if and when the withdrawal became unbearable and a ride was the only panacea to save me, the patient.

Well, I've got the heebee-geebees something awful! I'm also exhausted and short of everything, including time. If my bike were in my garage, I could stumble my way out to sit on the bike, start it up and ride, if possible.

'Cause there's a monkey on my back . The incessant itch of withdrawal will surely leave visible scars...Something has to give soon.

I'm lucky that I have several outlets that can work in a pinch: reading, photography, bicycling, rollerblading, and mapping. But two wheel whizzing quells my soul like no other; perhaps, because it combines the best of my activities. On a weekend of bicycling I can go only so far--and only at a comparatively snail's pace. No matter how hard I peddle I can't get to Amherstburg, Ontario and back in a weekend and have energy left to call it fun. Inline skating, a activity that sports the most wheels, restricts me the most too. I am confined to a small geographic area unless I ride my bicycle or motorcycle to my skating destination. I can do long distance inline skating--many former runners, like myself, have turned this into a distance sport-- but I can skate all day and never get close to leaving Illinois. Reading and photography--I can do both for endless hours and each is good for my replenishing my spirit.

Still, something about getting on my motocycle that blends the "feel good" activities and offers the best therapy I can access without a prescription. Riding requires continuous reading of words and behavior (my own and everyone around me--in and out of vehicles!). Wanting to "shoot" something I've read about that is tucked inside a small town is reason enough to go for a ride.

Motorcycling is so much like my wanderings on my Schwinn bicycle with the "S" on the seat that I told everyone really stood for Sharon. I went everywhere, fast, on that entirely manual bike even though I was told, no warned, to remain within a tightly circumscribed, microscopic area near my home. My family told me about the evil that lurks and awaits those who stray too far from home. The Boogeyman was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. In addition to not straying far, always, always take someone with you.

Yet, ninety-nine percent of the places I ventured back then, I did so alone. My family also told me that "God takes care of children and fools" so I figured I was covered--and I always tried to remember to say a prayer before I went off into supposedly dangerous neighborhood. Sure, I'd ride around with my neighborhood friends whom I was always itching to ditch so I could explore the places that their fear kept them from sampling.

It was on one of those forbidden voyages that my beloved Schwinn with the "S" on the seat was stolen. Right from in front of the Walker Branch Public library no less, which is where I spent a huge chunk of my childhood. On that fateful day, I learned what it meant to "cry a river." I cried myself dry! The worst part was I had to do all that crying before I got home where I knew my childish behavior and stolen bike would be seen as justice for disobedience. I cried all that summer when alone whenever my mind wandered to another girl, somewhere, riding my bike with my initial on the seat.

In my family, you don't bite off more than you can chew, which can lead to hesitancy and tentativeness I found stifling to a traveler at heart. I received little sympathy about my bicycle. I asked for a new one often and heard variations of this whenever I did: "Yes, you can get another bike," [LONG pause, long enough to get my hopes up and my heart beating with joyous anticipation] "...just as soon as you buy one for yourself."} I thought, "How could I be related to these heartless people?! "

In reality, they were not heartless. They were folks who felt that when you don't listen, the best sense, is bought sense! Not only did I disobey, I foolishly left my bike unprotected--and that wasn't the first time. I went through serious two wheel withdrawal that summer and the entire next summer too. I did eventually get another bike, a five speed, oddly name bike from Montgomery Wards that my parents bought. It had no "S" on the seat. It lacked the smoothness and quality of my Schwinn. Regardless, I was thrilled to be on two wheels once again.

The next Schwinn I owned came many years later. And I did buy it myself--a ten speed that came with a killer racing seat that not big enough for an "S" or most butts! I rode it everywhere. It is now over 30 years old, still in my possession and somewhere in the recesses of a garden shed. Days of riding it from the southside of Chicago to downtown or to Harvey, IL to my college job at the YMCA, remain fresh in my memories.

Two-wheel riding for the adult soul

Motorcycling makes get aways easy and fun. I can experience great distances from home in car-time. Without sweating, I can travel joyously from home to Amherstburg, Ontario and back in a weekend and still show up for work on Monday refreshed and relaxed. I lunch in Indianapolis and am back home before dark. Motorcycling combines all that I enjoy: strategy, skills, athleticism, fitness, planning/goal-setting, travel, photography, solitude and plenty of Zen moments to reconnect with others. And most of all, just plain fun. It's an update to the Schwinn in all the best ways.

So, it makes perfect sense that since my last ride on a cold December day, the need for asphalt therapy is acute. "Doctor, we're losing the patient!... Wait, I think I'm getting a pulse."

"She has pulled through yet again..".

This weekend I agreed to get away with Dave who will be basically home bound for a few weeks following surgery on Tuesday. We didn't venture far and it was via four wheels. But the distance was enough to reap the benefits from the flow of endorphins that travel promises.

Despite unequivocal evidence everywhere one looks of dwelling in the depths of winter, we answered the screams of the beach and wound up at Illinois Beach State Park, spending good, cold time hiking. The pictures here are some of the cold wintry scenes I'll remember.

Not quite asphalt therapy.

But a nice second.