Over the last month, I’ve read a few books that inspire my riding in different ways. Some directly, some less so.
What do any of these have to do with motorcycles? Well, that depends on who you are, I suppose. For me, the what and why of things is a great motivator. When I ride past an old building that screams, “I used to be an old filling station!” knowing what type it was or having a clue to help me look for information, is an interesting pursuit for me.
My eyes are drawn the vestiges of early to mid-20th century Americana. Books like Fill ‘er Up, Hopper’s Places and The Lincoln Highway Companion help me to know, dream, seek, and understand more. They turn my rides into satisfying personal missions that don’t end when the wheels stop turning. Seek, see, question, understand, feel, know, share – those are ways that these types of books help my riding.
With Lois Pryce‘s Revolutionary Ride, the reasoning is more direct. It is a travelogue of her time spent riding as a solo Western woman in Iran in 2013/14. It is a fascinating human story that picks at the scab of long-held perceptions about people. This book is an excellent companion to her other two titles: Red Tape and White Knuckles and Lois on the Loose.
Have you read Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley? In the 50+ years since it’s been published, the spark that sends people off to wander the highways and byways hasn’t changed much. The want to roam around and take in the world with your senses isn’t new. So many people are searching for something – meaning, feeling, information, understanding, escape, camaraderie, beauty, truth…
In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.
I highly recommend Travels with Charley. Not only will you find yourself chuckling out loud but you will also find passages and phrases that resonate deeply.
Over the winter I read a book called The Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam. It is the memoir of a determined boy who grew up in the shadow of a coal mine tipple in Coalwood, West Virginia in the late 50’s – and would go on to become a NASA engineer. It is a testament to the power of a curious mind.
Having enjoyed the book greatly, it was a treat to be able to swing through Coalwood this past April. Riding through the town was like putting a face to a name. Sadly, what remains of what I’d read as a bustling anthill of activity surrounding the mine is merely shadows. It’s quite something to see how a remote town that relied on a single industry is decimated once that industry leaves.
A monument to the Rocket Boys along the wonderfully named Frog Level Road. Homer Hickam and the Rocket Boys are local heroes.
What remains in that old coal town is interesting to see. Especially when compared to historical photos and passages of the book that talk of the local goings-on.
Homer Hickam’s house still stands:
And as a motorcycle rider, you won’t be disappointed by the ride along Route 16 to Coalwood. It’s a lovely wiggler!
Route 66 holds sway over my imagination. I know, it’s just a road. And yet, for me something about it transcends that. I can’t be alone in this thinking because it has evolved in to a cultural icon. Maybe it has something to do with being built on ideas, hope and possibility.
Though I’ve traveled parts of 66 in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma – in many ways I am more sure than ever that so much was unseen. There is a feeling of a secret beyond the veil and a need to look closer, look longer. Coming home from those stretches of road, I am more curious about what I saw than when I left. Now I know there is a story to be told about what I saw versus going in search of answers about a story that I’d already known. It may seem semantic, but to me there is a difference.
A few months ago, I bought a book called The Route 66 Encyclopedia by Jim Hinckley. The book does a great job of intertwining history, photographs, references to old travel guides and materials. It is.. encyclopedic, really. Peppered all throughout the pages are delicious bites of history for the 66-curious.
When I first got the book, I thought it might inspire me to seek out the things in its pages. But when it arrived and I gave it a cursory look-over, I put it aside and there it stayed for a month or so. For some reason, I didn’t want to know about what I was going to be looking at prior to my trip out to Oklahoma.
When I returned home from my road trip, it was only then that I’ve been able to turn my attention back to the book. Now I want to know about what I’ve seen. What was that crumbling facade? What was in that blank space? How did that town spring up in the middle of nowhere? Now those blank spaces have shape, line and form and I can learn about them. If I did it in reverse the ideas would have been too abstract to appreciate. Or maybe too overwhelming. There is so much to feel in a couple thousand miles. Maybe pre-programming myself was subconsciously too much? I dunno. I’m just riding the wave.
While scrolling through my blog’s draft folder, I found a not-so-unusual exchange between my husband Kenny, daughter Chloe and myself. It’s just a little glimpse in to what goes on around here when we’ve been cooped up in the house. This draft was from December 2014 when winter was settling in and I was filling up the daydream folder for 2015.
As 2015 has unfolded, I have managed to visit quite a few of the stops on my wishlist with a few more on deck.
Dream it, do it.
[cue harps for dream sequence]
For the past couple of weeks I’ve jotted down ideas while perusing travel books in the hope that I will visit these places in 2015. One of the books I was reading was Roadside Giants by Brian and Sarah Butko.
Me: Oh, look at that. Did you know there’s another giant coffee pot but on a stick in Winston-Salem? That’s right by the Shell gas station there.
Kenny: What Shell station?
::incredulous glare in unison from both myself and my daughter Chloe::
Chloe: Yea, the big shell-shaped station.
::I told you so glower::
Kenny: What? how am I supposed to know where every single freakin’ teapot and weirdo gas station is?
Me: I only know of one teapot.
Kenny: You just said another teapot on a stick right now!
Me: No, I didn’t. I said coffee pot.
Kenny: Whatever. Same thing.
::unison Chloe and me:: Noooooo, they aren’t.