5:00 AM // Choke on, engaging clutch, twisting throttle, STALL. Start back up, engaging clutch, twisting throttle, STALL.
The supreme discouragement of this moment could not have been easily matched. I had ridden motorcycles all my life, yet for some painfully infuriating reason, I couldn't make it ten feet without stalling. My father rolled up next to me. "Are you nervous?", he asked. This was the first five minutes of a 750 mile trip from St. Petersburg, FL, to Nashville, TN, and my Dad was passing down his old Harley to me. After a quick bike swap, he realized that something was genuinely wrong. He did some fiddling, and we were able to make our way to his shop. After a few minutes of tracing wires, he found one that was completely disconnected. Eureka; This was the culprit! The adventure had begun.
My dwindling self confidence now restored to its normal level, we were finally on the open road, with my ear-to-ear smile indicating the unrelenting excitement. If you've ever ridden a motorcycle, you've likely experienced the profound liberation that goes along with it. There are no distractions. You are all alone, yet you somehow feel as though the bike, the road, and yourself are a single entity. It's a sublime feeling, being on two wheels; A healthy dose of soothing adrenaline.
The first leg of the trip was a chance for me to dust off my riding skills. I had only ridden Joan (the bike; named after Joan Jett) once before, around the block, and that was five years ago. Aside from some dangerously wide turns and stalling at a stoplight, I think I did just fine. An hour or so into the trip, we stopped at a gas station off the highway. We were meeting my Grandfather. Look in any dictionary and you're sure to see a photo of him grinning next to the word party-time (it's in there). From the first to last mile, I'd look back in my mirror and see him smiling, singing along to music, and having the time of his life. I hope that when I'm his age, I can hold on to that same perpetual exuberance. The trip wouldn't have been complete without him.
750 or so miles later: Aside from some localized sunburn, puffy red eyes (thanks a lot sunglasses), and a wonderful ringing in my ears, I came out of this adventure unscathed. With my father's old bike sitting in the garage, I can't help but feel grateful, excited, and most of all, proud to be carrying on the legacy. I truly hope that all people, at some point in their lives, get to experience some type of multi-generational journey. This trip was one of the most important moments of my life, and it is something that I will reminisce on until the day that I die. Here's to the next one.