Day 2: Forest Grove, OR (588 miles)

“You just keep going

You just keep trying to get

right down to the crux.”

—John Coltrane

I discovered these lines painted on the wall of the Equinox room of the McMenamins Grand Lodge, where I am right now practicing my paper for tomorrow’s meeting of the International Motorcycle Studies Journal Conference. Coltrane is a personal hero, one my father bequeathed to me, and to find a room dedicated to him in this rambling building of antiquities and folk art was surprising.

Coltrane’s sums up why I ride and what I mean in my catchphrase, “Onwards.” If I read him correctly, it’s about struggle with the imagination—with the perfection that lies in personal vision, a perfection more true than any individual sightline. That struggle puts interiority (the personal self who imagines) against exteriority (the artist, the motorcyclist). To many listeners, Coltrane achieved that perfection, but I think he rarely hit what he could imagine. Onwards, onwards in the face of obstacles, in the face of failure, before the very face of perfection.

I rode in the heat of today drained by yesterday’s sun. I rode through Idaho, through the desert of eastern Oregon, through the Gorge’s rainforest, through Portland’s overpasses, through the farmland to the west. When I unpacked, my clothes burned with heat. My body warmed the shower’s water.

Usually I ride with one goal: to get there—wherever there is—and to get home. In this ride I have endeavored to stop and sit with people. Today was with my in-laws, Gary, Su, and their better-behaved Blue Healer, Howdy. They are well: ruddy cheeks, apples growing to overfill the baskets, new outbuildings. They fed me home-baked bread and thick espresso, and we proved close enough to talk politics. Yay chickens!

Even at 1300 miles in two days, it’s a slower pace than I normally ride. Sometimes pushing to the crux involves riding out into terrain that isn’t marked by distance so much as by friendship.


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