Here I am nearing the end of my vacation. Not unlike the vacations of the past few years. Most of them don’t turn out the way that I have them envisioned. However, I did enjoy some much needed relaxation and rest.
This is the time of year that I get to sit down and enjoy some special time with a few of the folks near and dear to my heart. One of the only times of the year that I ever get the sense that I am a part of a family. Having a pretty little freckle face girl call me Uncle Ron fills me with joy. Hearing the laughter at comments I make while letting a fine meal settle reminds me of the Thanksgiving times of my youth. Memories of some of my favorite gatherings.
I hope in some small way I’ve been a part in making memories for these young ones too. Something they can hold to long after I’m gone. These special times along with time spent with my adopted older brother are what keeps me going. Those early morning laughter filled phone calls light up my heart much like the rising sun.
There are yet other family members that I have. They have fur and four legs. Sitting on a rock in the middle of a patch of woods today brought me much joy. The little dog that accompanied me brings me great comfort. The vision of watching her working her nose. The potential that she has bred into her. Now to unlock that potential.
My other furry four legged friend was happy to see us upon our return. A dog is always grateful to see you. Period. They give you unconditional love. There is truth to the phrase that they are man’s best friend.
Time spent alone in nature is never wasted. Opening my mind to all those hounds of my past. The memories that thirty-six year old shotgun bring. The lessons learned through the decades of wandering the hills, hollows, bottomland and riverbanks of Tennessee are priceless. Each step is filled with memories and lessons yet to learn.
As much as the interactions I’ve had with others over the years have moulded me. These times spent alone in nature are responsible for making me the way I am.
Crisp bluebird skies gave the impression of springtime. One short breath of the frigid air reminded me of the reality of late fall. The season in which I feel most alive. Oddly enough I was headed to the cemetery. Somehow feeling alive urges me to visit the grave of my Daddy. He lives on in memories that I hold to dearly. The site of his burial is down the hill from a spot he spent much of his time during the 50’s and 60’s.
Every visit I make to his grave puts my mind into overdrive. Days like yesterday are pleasing to me. Days when I don’t have to be anywhere. Days in which I have time to wander and wonder. Driving down roads that are filled with memories. Passing through time as if they recently occurred. These journeys are often painful. Yet it’s that pain that keeps me company. The ever-present reminder.
Wandering aimlessly I found myself nearing the workplace of someone near and dear to me. After a phone conversation I learned that they had company in from out of town. These people are family. They love me unconditionally as such. They are in the tiny elite group that I depend on. I worked my way to their house and spent the rest of me evening there.
I’m fairly certain that it has been a couple years since I’ve seen their daughter. She lovingly refers to me as the big brother she never wanted. We pick and pester one another like siblings do. She fusses at her mother. Her mother sets her straight. Her two beautiful daughters keep us entertained. Picking and laughing and fussing. It was a fun filled night. A night I will cherish. A night of feeling like and truly being family.
Later today I will experience this yet again. I am fortunate enough to spend the evening with a lifelong friend. Someone that knows both good and bad about me. I am amazed daily that we survived our sixteenth year on this earth. Man did we have fun. I get to be immersed in the love of family here too. His beautiful wife and wonderful children are precious gifts that I have been blessed with. The visiting. The food. The stories. The catching up. The smiles of that pretty little freckle face girl. My heart will be running over with happiness.
Also today I’ll be thinking of some folks who don’t live close by. People who are extremely important and special to me. People in other states. People I don’t see near enough. People that have opened their home to me as a refuge. Someone I call my brother. Someone I respect and love along with his wonderful girlfriend. Good people that mean more than they’ll ever know.
I think of another couple today. A couple that moved a short distance away. They mean the world to me as well. Showing me that they cared. Sticking beside me through some of the darkest times of my life. People that I am forevermore indebted to. People that accept me without question.
Finally I think of someone who has been a part of my life since junior high school. Someone that I could never replace. Someone who I don’t spend near enough time with. Simply knowing they are there is the most comforting of all. Knowing that I’m here for her no matter what. Being the on to get that phone call. Hearing the tears or the laughter. Filling me with love.
I’m truly blessed to have this small group. They each are a part of my life for a reason. They happened into my life and left their permanent mark upon me. These people may not be blood kin, but they are more closely connected to me than almost anyone else upon this planet. They are my compass and map. They are my dousing rod. They are my whipping post. They keep my together when I can’t do it myself.
Today is Thanksgiving Day here in America. A day to be thankful. I’ve been abundantly blessed in oh so many ways throughout my life. The most valuable of blessings are these people.
I love getting lost in a ride. I mean that both figuratively and literally. As I wander around I let my mind wonder as well. This ride was no different. I had just realized I was truly happy for the first time in a very long time. I was soaking in the sights and smells of the beauty of nature that surrounded me. The smell of cornfields. The smell of water. The coolness of the shade.
Soon I would realize that the water was from the Ohio river. This was good to know seeing as I was needing to cross the river over into Indiana. Although I didn’t know exactly where I was, I knew I was near where I needed to be.
As I rode along smiling and enjoying my view, something caught my eye. It was a stately old home. Wait! Could it be? Yes! I knew this home. It was the Holt House. Just like the first time I remember seeing this house, it was a very hot day. That first visit was back in 2008. I remember the date because it was the same day that a good friend passed away. September 1, 2008 will forevermore be etched into my memory.Another memory from that fateful day in 08 is what we saw in this house. You see the house was empty. At that time it was before the restoration had begun. Yet there was someone or something looking out of the upstairs window down at us. I’m not the only one who saw something that day. Several, if not all of us on the ride saw it. Could it be the ghost of Joseph Holt?
Since that day I’ve heard of other people having experiences around this old house. I’ve heard of people having car accidents near this house because of strange things in the roadway. Someone also said that she’s heard of an old tunnel from the house over to the riverbank. That the house possibly was used as a stop on the underground railroad. Who knows for sure? I certainly don’t.Joseph Holt held several prominent positions in our Federal Government. Serving as Commissioner of Patents, Postmaster General and Secretary of War under President James Buchanan. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Holt as the first Judge Advocate General of the United States of America. Holt presided over the trial of the conspirators who assassinated President Lincoln. I challenge you to search out more information on this historic old house. Places such as this are falling to the wayside far too often. I believe that it is important that they be preserved to not only tell the story of our great country, but also help us understand and appreciate the cost of making this country. Nowadays we sit in our modern air-conditioned homes seeing things on our computers. Although a wealth of knowledge and important, the internet can’t compare to touching history. Get out and feel with your own fingertips the stones and bricks and mortar or these places. Standing in the yard puts you in place to somewhat understand what life was like in the past. Just like this rusting old piece of farm equipment, these places won’t last forever unless they are preserved. The time to see them is now. Get out and find the history that right outside your door. Get off the interstate and ride the backroads of this great land. Open your eyes and you will be able to see and touch historical places of our forefathers.
I always enjoy getting out on my scooter wandering and wondering. Something about being completely exposed to the elements and all that is around is somewhat freeing. There is no hiding from the people either. However, that exposure brings me solace. A sort of being hid in plain sight type of thing.
Most of the roads I took I had been on many times. I was deciding my route as I went. I normally have a general idea of where I’m going. I just don’t know exactly how I’ll get there. One stop on this journey involved delivering a cast iron skillet. Don’t ask! Long story. I’ve been toting that damn skillet around for months. But I gave my word that I would hand deliver it and that’s exactly what I did.
Once I made the delivery I just rode. I didn’t really think about where I was headed. I had just gassed up and knew I was good for a good 250 miles or more. All at once it just hit me. I didn’t want to be going the way I was headed. I don’t know why. I just had to take another route. I started taking roads. I wound through a neighborhood. Suddenly I popped out and was stopped dead in my tracks. Places like this are why I love riding the backroads of our wonderful land. Here it was. A weathered old silo. An old store. The railroad that helped send goods to and fro across this land. The flags of our beloved America. Flags representing a state. Flags representing communities. Flags honoring those gone before. This old grain elevator has undoubtedly seen it’s share of rail cars. I wonder how many generations of men have worked there. I wonder how many thousands or cars have been loaded there. It’s important that we see glimpses of our past so that we can have a guide for our future.
I left this place a ball of emotions. I was happy to have found it. I was sad for the sacrifices of the people the town memorialized. I was hot from the sun’s heat bearing down on me. I took a couple sips from the water bottle full of hot liquid to keep me hydrated. Off I rode down some unknown trail.
Somewhere riding among those corn fields and old barns I noticed something on my face. It took me a minute to figure out that I had tears rolling down my cheeks. But why? Then it became clear as to why. I was happy. I was free. I was completely lost somewhere in the middle of no place special. Nobody knew where I was. Not even me. My soul was drinking in the fuel that is my very existence.
Along the way I had found my happiness.
Yesterday was one of those days that I’ll look back upon happily for years to come. It wasn’t anything particularly special, yet very special at the same time. It was the kind of day I enjoy. A day to fly by the seat of my pants. Nothing really laid out in stone.
I was fortunate enough to enjoy a leisurely dinner with a beautiful dear friend. It’s nice to catch up sometimes. Especially when you aren’t in a rush. Being able to take the time to enjoy your meal and the lost art of conversation. Soon it was time for my friend to head back to work. That meant it was time for me to head out.
I wasn’t sure where I would go or even where I would end up come nightfall. I was letting the spirit move me. Unfortunately it had been quite some time since I had practiced this magical art form. I was a bit rusty. I couldn’t seem to get my mojo going.
I found myself being drawn westward. Perhaps it was that nagging desire to visit Ft. Pillow that continues to haunt me. I was prepared to spend a day or two on the road if need be. I had a few things on the bike to sustain me that long. Some beef jerky. A bottle of water. A tooth-brush. Some deodorant. A change of socks, drawers and T-shirt. Hell, I was good to go.
Reaching Dover, I decided it was time for a break. Not having any one destination calling to me, I decided to just work my way back towards home. I knew that winding little road that skirts the edge of lake Barkley would be shaded and cool. That is what seemed right to me. That’s what I did. Soon I found myself at a cross roads. One familiar to me. Although it dawned on me I had never taken the road leading north. North it was.
I stumbled across this little encampment. It was the sight of a re-enactment of a battle. I love finding these jewels. When you can see and touch sites such as this it helps put things into perspective.I believe that the soldiers of the War of Northern Aggression also drew deeply from luck as well as the Lord. Taking this photograph had my skin tingling.I have no idea what these talons represent. Very interesting though.
One of the many things that I love about Tennessee is that you never know what sort of interesting and educational treats that you will find. So many important places and people of our country can be found in the greenest state in the land of the free. Ride Safe,
How many times have you seen a photograph of a campsite and thought I’d like to do that? Why don’t you? It’s a great way to travel. You can learn so much about what you can do without too. Don’t let the thought of sleeping on the ground deter you. It’s all in the gear you use.
In fact you don’t even have to own any camping gear. Stores like REI rent camping gear. What better way to see if you like something. Basically you need a tent, air mattress and sleeping bag. But you can improvise. Depending on the time of year and temperatures, you can make do with a blanket. If you’re really rustic you can sleep on the ground.
Keep things simple and compact. A small one or two person tent is all you need. Some folks use a tarp and just use that to sleep under. Hell, for that matter you can sleep under the stars. Now that’s a great way to sleep. Nothing like looking up into the heavens and seeing the twinkling up above.
Think you won’t be able to make it through the night? Here’s a simple solution. Camp in your yard. That’s right. Just set up everything outside where you live. That way if you just don’t like it all you have to do is go inside.
Okay, let’s recap what we need. First a tent. Keep it simple and small. You don’t need to be able to stand up. If you’re looking for the first time, think backpacking. Basically camping off a bike is the same as backpacking. My tent is a two person tent. Plenty of room for my 6’2″ frame and another person. It rolls up compactly and is easily carried in a saddle bag or my SAC Bag.
Next I absolutely love my Therm-O-Rest self inflating air mattresses. I have three of them. Once again I use the backpacking air mattress when camping off the scooter. In years past I’ve even carried both the other air mattresses and tent camped while riding two up.
The bulkiest piece of equipment by far is your bedding. Using compression sacks helps with this tremendously. I’ve carried my zero degree bag in one of my saddlebags. Most of the time now I get everything packed into my SAC Bag. These will compress nicely. Just keep stuffing them until they fit where you want them.
For cooking I carry along a compact backpacking cook set. Everything fits inside the largest pot/skillet combo. I even have a small kettle that I use to boil water for hot tea or chocolate. My backpacking stove is huge compared to most. It’s a Coleman dual fuel. Usually I’ll fill it full of fuel before I leave and that will last a weekend.
Find an outdoor store such as REI or Gander Mountain and check out their backpacking supplies. Better yet find a small mom and pop store. They will love to help you decide what you need. Give scooter camping a try.
Lately it seems every time I visit with my Mother that she has something rather deep and meaningful to say to me. Perhaps I’m noticing it more these days. When you’ve lived for eighty-nine years you can’t help but gather tremendous knowledge. Being able to share that knowledge is a gift. Those of us on the receiving end need to realize that gift and cherish it.
It’s no secret that I’m the lone caregiver to both my Mother and my Aunt. I’m happy to be able to do for them. Granted at times it can get overwhelming. I press on. I do what I can. Sometimes there will be someone come into my life that I trust enough to try to let them help. Unfortunately that’s about the same time that they turn away. Just the nature of people I suppose.
Happenings such as this, among other things, are why I don’t depend on anyone else. I’ve learned through the years to try not to expect anything from anyone. Granted there are a rare few people who have always been there no matter what. For the most part though when someone says they will always be there for you, that’s not what they mean. Always has very different definitions for most folks.
This past weekend while doing some things for my Mother, she said something that hit close to home. She told me that I was paying my debt to the devil. That taking care of two old women and the troubled relationships from my past are what’s paying that debt. I’ve never thought of it as paying a debt. In fact I’ve never thought of not taking care of them.
I made a promise to my Daddy many years ago that I would always take care of them. I’m a man of my word. People may hate me for many reasons. One thing is certain. I do what I say. In those rare instances that I can’t do what I say, I will give a reason why. One of my many faults is being brutally honest. People don’t like honesty. They want you to tell them what they want to hear.
For now I’ll keep right on paying my debt to the devil. Someday it may even be paid in full.
Sometimes I have to just ride. No place in particular. Just ride. Go down roads. Turn down other roads. Ride until I’m lost. Ride until I’m found. Ride until I forget. Ride to remember. Ride ride ride. Just ride.
Those are the best rides. No time frame. No place to be. Finding new things to see. New places to eat. Running across places from your past. Finally stopping at that spot you’ve been meaning to check out.
This happens to be one of those places I’ve been meaning to stop at. I finally did. Unfortunately for me the live band was packing up. I was a tad bit late. In fact it was damn near closing time. I may have missed the music but the food sure struck a chord. Yum yum!
Oh the goodness that lies within this building. Definitely will be on a return when possible basis for me. Loved the food, the atmosphere and certainly I’ll love the live music too. I mean come on, when the food is so good that an alligator has to lay down on the bench out front. You know it has to be good.There is even a nice courtyard beside the building. How could you not enjoy a dining experience here? We’ve all heard of the Big Easy. Well this little piece of culinary heaven has a distinction as well. It’s posted right here on this sign for all to see. They even have a bank right next door. Something tells me that the money from this particular bank may be a tad bit dusty. Doesn’t look like they’ve had many transactions lately. Word has it that the bank can be used for private functions. What sort of interesting places have you eaten lately? What is your favorite jewel that you’ve discovered on a ride? If you’re in the Nashville area you owe it to yourself to check out Richard’s Cafe at the corner of Old Hickory Blvd and Whites Creek Pike.
Soon the “Little Woman” will be a year old. My how that time period has changed things. I sit and think about what destinations I have in mind for the coming year and I can’t help but reflect over the rides of the past year. I enjoyed a short ride with my good friend the “Love Buzzard”. This was an impromptu little journey but it represented some very major strides.
This shot was taken over in the Ozarks. Some of the best roads to ride anywhere. If you haven’t been you really need to go.
The trip to Cumberland Falls was certainly humid and hot. It was still good to spend a couple of days exploring the back roads of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Then I think of a ride to a site so that I could reflect on a wonderful friend that has left this world. To see the paint left on the guard rail to remind you how everything can change in an instant. Rickey always helped others. It was after the accident that happened here while he was helping the other people that he had a heart attack and left us.
Although it doesn’t look it in this photo, it was a cool fall day. Granted it wasn’t as cold as the night before. Especially after the sun went down. I won’t ever forget the damn White Squirrel Festival. Maybe I’ll ride over into North Carolina just to visit that damn festival. It caused a trip down to South Carolina to find a place to hole up for the night.
I suppose all in all it wasn’t a bad year of riding. Granted I didn’t ride the miles of years past. But a decent amount nonetheless. In another year’s time it will be interesting to look back through the photographs and remember the places I traveled to. I think the thing I enjoy the most is finding America. Taking the time to see the oft forgotten back roads. Seeing the remnants of times past. The history of what made this country great.
The coming months will be more of the Ronman rides of old. More unplanned adventures. More just heading out with no particular point in mind. Just seeing where the journey takes me. I hope you’ll stop by to see where I’ve been.