Monday, October 8, 2012

1971 Schwinn Stingray in Orange

schwinn stingray
With as much excitement coursing through my veins as there was fear, it was really just the happiness of knowing that I would finally free myself of the training wheels.

"Don't let go!" I shouted to my Dad, as he held on to the back of my Schwinn Stingray, running with me as I pedaled nervously.

"OK, I gotcha!" he said.

Maybe it was the tall handle bars with the streamers hanging out of the grips, or maybe it was the banana seat with the sparkling flakes, or maybe it was because all the other kids were riding Stingrays, I just felt a sense that I had graduated from a little boy to a big boy, with my dad behind me helping me along.

Pedaling faster the more comfortable I became, the neighborhood seemed bigger. It was like discovering new streets. I turned down a different street, and then turned down another, riding past houses I had only been able to do from the backseat seat of our family car.

I made another turn, and another, exploring new areas.

There was no end to where I could go, the feeling of freedom and a boy filled with adventure.

"Are you still there?" I shouted to my dad.

He didn't answer.

my mom and dadI turned my head around, and he was gone. He had let go somewhere along the way. I couldn't even see him. I figured I had pedaled so fast, he couldn't keep up. But the truth is that I was doing fine on my own, and I only needed him to hold on for a short bit.

Even though I was just six years old, I somehow felt confident I could ride back home by myself. There was still some nervousness, But I still knew I could do it.

And when I got back home, I found him putting the training wheels away.

The Navy has a way of separating little boys from their fathers. The words, "War is Hell", has more than just one meaning.

Just a year later, my father and mother divorced, and I saw less and less of him. He wanted to start a new life, and a few years later, married a new wife who gave him a new son. And despite me pulling on his arm to stay, he had to let go.

It was just a year ago my wife and I filed for divorce. While moving out of the house, I dusted off some of the old books my father bought me when I was 3 or 4 years old. I found old photos of him and me with my toys. I found a tennis trophy he won, and a plaque thanking him for his service in Vietnam.

In my adult years, I had tried to reestablish that father-son relationship I knew from my childhood, but as it turned out, I wasn't a child anymore.

Life was never meant to be fair. Those who complain will never move on, and those who never move on will always be left behind. That's the lesson I learned.

But he was there in my life just long enough to leave a mark on me.

I was able to build a successful career for myself. I was able to start my own business and travel the country on my motorcycle. He was able to fill me with the spirit of adventure, a feeling of freedom, and a sense of wonder. He filled me with his spirit, the same essence that had made him want to join the Navy, to discover new worlds and experience new things.

heritage navy poster
When I got the word he had passed away last night, I couldn't really cry. Over the past several months, I had already grieved for him. I had already experienced cancer with my father-in-law, and saw all the familiar signs.

But I realize now that my father's death is the start of a new relationship with him. He's no more farther away than my voice or my thoughts. I believe he understands me clearly now, and knows that I never really said goodbye. I now have a direct, unfiltered line of communication to him.

I never did learn of what he did with those training wheels. Maybe, they never really existed.

As it turned out, he only needed to hold on to me for a short distance.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Las Vegas, NV: The Yin and the Yang

grooves in the freeway
Putting the key into the ignition and engaging the clutch, the ST comes to life once again. With fuel flowing through its lines, and air breathing into its chambers, mixing together and injecting into its cylinders, it pushes off like a race horse leaving the gates. The tread grips the road and I can feel all 1,267 cubic centimeters of displacement pulling beneath me, whisking me away, far, far away.

With a sharp twist of the throttle and a few quick shifts into third gear, my eyes open up and I take in a deep breath of air. Instantly, my heart pumps and I spring to life, eager to leave this place behind.

Slab is what slab is, and while I've traveled up and down this stretch many times before, often there just isn't a feasible way around it. The I-15 between Southern California and Las Vegas is a reality that you simply must face.

Like a Tale of Two Cities, it's a story of uprising, of downtrodden masses defying the odds for a chance at a better life, and the limestone walls of aristocracy slowly eroding away under the current.

I make the same pilgrimage, it seems, a couple times a year, but not so much to win money, but to pour myself over the masses and allow them to carry me wherever they choose to carry me. I don't care to think much in these conditions; I don't want to influence the outcome, I just want to see what cards I'm dealt.

There's a sense of truth in taking whatever comes your way and dealing with it. Whether the result is positive or negative, it's still a truth, and it's up to you to make something of the knowledge gained.

paris las vegas
I often struggle to figure out if I'm in control of the ST or if it's in control of me. I may be twisting the throttle and turning the handlebars, but it doesn't necessarily make me the master. I'm ever so dependent on the ST to remain operational. With miles and miles of blazing of hot desert, it could simply fail to run and bring about my demise in a rather quick way.

Master is only as capable as its slave, and its slave only as existent as its master.

Who is in charge of whom is not always clear.

The motorcycle would never come to life without my turn of the key, and without the motorcycle, I might never come alive. Somehow, we're two halves who need each other to become whole, neither having an advantage over the other.

I leave Las Vegas not any more richer or poorer. I don't really gamble much aside for the opportunity to get a free drink. I'm just there for the convergence of energy, the cumulative hopes and dreams of millions who pour in. I'm just there to haunt the place, soaking up the excitement and sorrows, riding the humanity like a tsunami flooding down Las Vegas Blvd.

One thing's clear, Vegas wouldn't exist without these people, and these people wouldn't have hope if not for Vegas. The two are so intricately tied with the I-15 connecting the two. It's a symbiosis of organs feeding each other via arterial lines.

And I just throw myself at it like a leaf on the river, tossed in between the Yin and the Yang, wondering where I'll end up, and what I can make out of it.

jeremy's tire shop newberry springs


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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)