Bittersweet

Aug 24, 2013 View Comments by

BittersweetThis blog could be about one of our favorite late fall activities; riding the rural southern Ohio roads in search of bittersweet for seasonal decorating, but it’s not. It’s about the frame of mind a ride from last year put me in. I’ve been debating on whether to write it or not, seeing as it’s perhaps a bit more personal than usual, but I think that it might connect with some readers, so here it is.

I found myself traveling north on Route 555, heading home from a Saturday loop on some of Ohio’s best pavement. Route 555 has statewide “rock star” status among sport riders, and probably has some national recognition as well. The section I was on has long been familiar to me, initially for reasons other than riding, and my ride soon turned into a session of quiet introspection as I noted one familiar landmark after another.

I first passed the side road that leads to Wayne’s Pond, a distant relative’s farm pond where I spent many hours with my father and grandfather fishing for largemouth bass and bluegills. We’d visit with Wayne and his wife Fern after fishing for a few hours, and there was something magical about the serenity of the farm as we stood in front of the aging farmhouse and talked. The sound of crickets, an oil or gas well chuffing in the distance, the lowing of cattle, and the smell of fresh cut hay all combined to form memories that will last a lifetime.

Memories flowed freely as the miles rolled by; like the time I stopped on the way home from a fishing trip to free a large snapping turtle from the trunk of my ’68 Mustang. There’d been a misunderstanding between my grandfather and myself about the turtle’s final destination, me thinking that he was going to give it to his neighbor for turtle soup, and him thinking I wanted it for myself. The brakes came on as soon as he asked, “what are you going to do with your turtle?”

I was really on a roll down memory lane as I headed into Zanesville, passing the corner location where a small homemade ice cream store once stood. It was replaced by a gas station decades ago, but I still remember eating raspberry ice cream under the glow of yellow fluorescent lamps outside the front of the store with my grandparents. The shop was located, incidentally, at the same intersection where a car pulled out in front of me in 1981 while I was riding my new Honda CB900F. The black and red bike was totaled (probably due to the holes in the engine cases) while I was lucky enough to walk away with only minor scuffs.

It was nice to re-live all of those memories, but they came with a price, as perhaps anyone in similar circumstances can attest to. Thirty or forty year old sepia-toned memories make one realize just how much sand has flowed through the hourglass. I’ve spent nearly my entire life in my hometown, and while the familiarity is comforting, I often wonder what I’ve given up to be here.

One thing is certain: the common thread that ties my life together, from my childhood and hopefully far into the future, is motorcycling. Life is experienced at a deeper and richer level while on a bike, and if some of those memories are tinged with a bittersweet aftertaste, so be it. Someday I might tell you about the time the sheriff’s equestrian division tried to stop us from riding dirt bikes at a local abandoned strip mine. Great fun for all! Well, maybe not for the horses.

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