Saturday afternoon, I packed some gear and made a plan with some friends to meet up at the dirt drags an hour or so away, and camp out for the night.
I was on my own for the trip down, on a 20 something year old spray painted black Harley Davidson. The ride was nice, the weather was perfect, and the smells of springtime along the James river as I motored east, were good company for the sound of loud exhaust, and the haunting memories, brought on by the anniversary of a dear friend who had passed. Motoring through old plantations, swamps, fields, moving water, small towns, with the uncertainty of a poorly planned out trip, I had conversations with myself in my head. Are the tires still any good on this bike? When was the last time I checked the transmission fluid? What was that pinging sound? I hadn’t traveled further than across town in quite some time…
Once I got to the campsite, I was joined by about 30 or so like minded, two wheeled screwball friends of mine, in the midst of another 100 or so people, camping families that were setting up for the season opener at the drag races.
First things first, make sure the burn barrel has a makeshift launch ramp in front of it, make sure you forgot to bring a tent, and double check the perimeter for ticks, so you know who you’ll be sharing the ground with when you fall asleep. As soon as that is set, get on a motorbike, and wander the trails around the camp area, with no clue about the 3 foot deep puddles, or where the path might lead you. Thats what we did.
The noisy generator constantly running in the neighboring camp was offset by the generosity of a family who shared moonshine mixed with pink lemonade, and asked all of us for pills and marijuana. Their accents were so thick, southern, and drunk, I couldn’t understand a word they said, but I could catch their drift.
Sitting around the camp fire, we all shared stories, beers, and food with each other. Some stories were still being written as I stared at a near full moon above the flames, and sparks, while I took inventory of what I was a part of. It was all in stock, all the good stuff, mischievous grins, the laughs, the razzing, the 3rd track from Ride the Lightning playing on the radio. The smiles of people with crooked and chipped teeth from living near the fringe. The most genuine smiles.
I woke up in the back of a pick up truck, to the sounds of a strung out shouting lunatic, souped up motors, and the pulse of a decent headache, with the sun peaking through the newly budding trees.
I was somewhere between hungover, and in the somber shade of a weird date on the calendar, amidst the absurdity of early morning moto-sport revelers, and surrounded by friends. It was the anniversary of one who had passed, and the birthday for another.
Everything for the past 21 hours were both casual and weirdly intense, and I thought about Maurice Sendak saying “Live your life, live your life, live your life…”
The ride home was windy and warm, up the 10, over the James, west on the 5, a sunday at speed, hungover and about shook loose from a loud rumbling Harley, I was stoked.