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Flying. Today I went flying. Flying, like a bird only me and the wind and my motorcycle gliding through air. It is comfortable, like a second skin. It is man and machine morphing into one entity.

I am relaxed and loose. My thoughts dont exist. There is total absence of thought. Feel takes over. Snippets of images waft in and out, but no plans, no grabbing on to an idea, no holding on tight for fear of forgetting, no fear of anything.

Pat Reinhardt with her Sportster.

Someone once asked me how is it possible to relax on a motorcycle when you have to be super-vigilant at all times. I suppose its knowing how vulnerable you are; you can be careful, you can drive defensively, you can always plan an escape route, you can use and hone your skill, you can do all the things you learned in motorcycle safety course and a deer may dart out or a pickup truck cross the center line. Could happen, so why tense up against the could-happens? You accept that you cant foresee and avoid every eventuality and you decide to enjoy the experience. You believe everything will be all right, you settle back and relax and smile and ride.

It feels good to pull the clutch and ease into each new gear, to accelerate sometimes lazily, sometimes as fast as you can throttle up hearing it growl and roar and zoom through the air, tires barely kissing pavement. You slow to a stop, enjoying the ease and smoothness of your motions; for a second the bike pauses, still, upright, perfectly balanced and then you put your feet down. It feels just right. You take off again as gently as you stopped.

The morning fog on an already hot sticky day feels marvelously cool like a bolt of silk fabric flowing over the skin of my forearms. Farm machinery at work wafts the fragrance of corn shucks that take me back 40 years to the cannery where I first eyeballed that noisy, angry, bursting with life and energy fellow 16-year-old who would, through serendipity, become my life partner, the one who is riding ahead of me just now. Now sweet honeysuckle, now pungent cow manure, now the blast furnace heat of hot sun on black asphalt, now a canopy of trees brings a chilling cool. Over the river I breathe in a marshy damp coolness that I can taste on my tongue.

Pat with her husband and their Harleys.

My engine drones its contented purr, I turn my head and the rushing wind, rather the still air Im moving through, changes pitch, quality, timbre, it begins a song that plays in my head for however long it chooses to stay. This universe of sensory experience is missing in the climate controlled confinement of cars. I have it all in this moment. I play a game with the shadow of overhead electric wires making their long loopy scallops on the roadway, precisely touching my wheels to their patterning, trying to ride on their prescribed line. My bike leans and corners and swoops in time to their regular predictable pattern. The car behind me is he amused, annoyed, envious? He stays well back and doesnt crowd me, and I nearly miss the curve, Im that intent on following the shadow. I abandon that game and focus on riding.

The sunset to my left is beautiful, all of them are, and I steal glances at the shadow of myself to the right, riding along with me, bouncing through the tall grass on the ditchs far bank, a beautiful, graceful silhouette.

The woods close by on either side remind me to watch out for deer. I remember the stats that 82 percent of motorcycle/deer collisions result in fatality for the driver, but the knowledge does not scare me. I have no money-back guarantee to live into ripe old age. Nothing is owed me. Every moment is a gift. Every moment may be my last. The knowledge frees me. There is nothing I fear. There is only amazement at the beauty patiently waiting for someone to notice. That someone may as well be me. I ride. I am alive!

Still alert for deer, a squirrel darts out instead. I head straight for him, knowing that in the next one and a half seconds hell zigzag half a dozen times and there is no rhyme or reason to his survival or demise at my wheels. The evening road is a benevolent serpent twisting and turning. It is my duty to straighten it out. I lean easily, effortlessly, fluidly, sinuously into each bend and curve. I leave it smooth as a ribbon, unkinked, flowing endlessly behind me. If not for me, the world would be full of bendy twisty windy roads. I have done my job for today. I have travelled through these woods lovely dark and deep. Tomorrow I may try a road less traveled. Tomorrow will bring what it will.

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Editors Note: Pat Reinhardt passed away in March 2010 from cancer. You can read more about this in my blog.

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