Pins On A Map

by bj max

Several years ago, my son gave me a map of the United States for my birthday, a big wall map. He had it framed, and his intention was to give me something to record all the places his Mom and I have ridden on our motorcycle. During the Thanksgiving holidays, my granddaughter, Stacey, and others were in here doing something on the computer. As they began filing out, Stacey stopped and looked at my map for a minute then asked, “Grandpa, have you and Grandmother ridden to all these places marked on this map?” “Yes, we have,” I replied proudly “and probably more. I haven’t updated it lately.”

She looked the map over, then pointed to an arrow with the word “serenade” penned in. “What does that mean?” she asked. “Oh, that was the night we were guests at the Flying W Ranch in Manitou Springs, Colorado.” Why restaurants insist on calling you a guest when you pay out the nose for your supper has always baffled me, but they do… “We ate beef and beans from a tin plate and drank coffee from a tin cup served under the stars; just like the cowboys of yesteryear. The lady serving beverages asked me if I wanted coffee or lemonade. I said, ‘coffee, please,’ and she poured my cup full of this boiling hot mixture of genuine camp coffee, then looked me dead in the eye and informed me that I had about ten seconds before the heat reached my finger. She wasn’t lying, either, and before I could locate my table, I had to un-finger that red hot cup, and was forced to plop it down in the middle of my bean pile.”

“It was a chilly, but beautiful, evening,” I went on. “The Colorado sky was crystal-clear and it seemed like a zillion stars shined down on us. The Flying W band played and sang a lot of old favorites and they sang them well. Now these weren’t country songs, mind you, but cowboy songs. There is a difference, you know, and it was pointed out to us that night. Country music is about gettin’ drunk and fallin’ off bar stools while cowboy music is about sleeping under the stars and listening to the coyotes howl. I like cowboy music best.”

As I sit here looking at my map, a thousand more memories are triggered: places we’ve been and the sights we’ve seen. Places we would have never took the trouble and time to go to in a car. For instance, there’s a pin stuck in the map near the Canadian River breaks just north of Amarillo where we were nearly beaten to death in a hail storm last year. Thank God for Joe Rocket jackets and helmets! Another pin marks the rest area in New Mexico where the bathrooms had a “Beware of Snakes” sign posted on the door. The ladies refused to go in until we cleared the area. Travelers found it a bit disturbing to see a group of armed motorcyclist storming the ladies room, like narcs raiding a crack house. There were no snakes in residence, and thankfully, no crack addicts either.

And this pin here, the one that’s flagged the Desert Rose Inn? Well, that was one of the nicest hotels we had ever come across and it was in the middle of nowhere. At least to us it was. Bluff, Utah, population 320, sits on the fringes of Monument Valley and has no visible industry. It’s seemed to exist just for us. The Desert Rose had a long front porch with several rocking chairs and after supper we sat and rocked the twilight away. Pretty soon we were joined by a little black-and-white terrier begging for food. He was friendly as could be, but he was also independent and kept his distance. David tried to tempt the little feller’ with a Vienna sausage, but he was too sly to get trapped. He eventually got the sausage anyway as he probably figured he would. It gets cold in the desert after the sun goes down and during the night the little terrier coaxed White Fang, a dappled sheep skin seat cover, from its perch on David’s motorcycle, into the desert sand. When we got up the next morning, there was the little terrier curled up in a ball with ol’ White Fang, warm as toast.

“And there?” Stacy pointed to a flagged pin on the Gulf Coast marked Fresh Fish. “Ah. That points to Julia Mae’s seafood restaurant,” I explained, “One of the best. Your Grandmother and I read about it in a magazine and decided to ride the eight hundred miles and have dinner. Julia Mae’s sat within a few feet of the Gulf of Mexico and the shrimp boats would call her via ship-to-shore radio, and tell her what the catch was. She would place her order, and the boats would glide right up to the restaurant’s private dock straight from the fishing grounds. Talk about fresh seafood…”

After Stacey left, I sat looking at my map and thought about what she had said. She saw a map filled with pins and markers, while I, on the other hand, saw a map with vast quantities of unexplored territory. I only get a couple weeks’ vacation a year and I guess, if you take that into consideration, we’ve toured a fair amount of the good ol’ USA. But there are so many roads we haven’t ridden, and so many places we haven’t been. We just haven’t had the time. But that’s all going to change.

I make my living driving a semi and I’ve racked up a couple million miles over the last thirty years, but I’m calling it quits this fall. Yep, I’m hanging up the ol’ chain drive billfold. My brother remarked that with only six-and-a-half months to go, I was almost there. Almost. All I gotta’ do is drive around the world two more times and I can call it quits. What am I going to do with all that spare time? I’m just gonna’ let myself go. And go and go and go…

As I sit here now looking at my map, I am reminded of all the good times, exploits and hair-raising adventures. Some are reduced to memories; just pins in a map if you will. But then isn’t that what life is? Think about it. The gap between the future and the past is infinitesimal. So narrow that it probably doesn’t even exist. There is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow. There is only “now” and the contents of your memory. Coach George Allen said, “The future is now.” And I think I know what he meant. Life is a collection of memories and with retirement looming, my future is now…

Where’s my helmet and gloves?


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