Driving the other night in a car full of conditioned air I took the back way home. I drove through the bottom and crossed the Lassiter Mill bridge at Crabtree Creek. With the windows down I noticed the change in temperature and humidity as I crossed the water. Cool and damp smells of loamy earth, brown waters, and kudzu slipped in the window. Olfactory memory kicked in and my senses took me back to my college years, during the tail end of the Cold War, back when Top Gun was the hot movie and back when Tom Cruise was still cool. It was the summer of 1987, and I bought a motorcycle.
That was thirty years ago. I was 19 and thought I knew everything. For four years that motorcycle was my sole means of transportation, year round. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall I rode in sun, rain, and snow. I carried my text books, my laundry, and my girlfriends on the back of that bike. It wasn’t just any motorcycle, mind you, it was a sport touring machine; a crotch rocket back before they were even called such things. She was 570 lbs of pure exhilaration: She carried 6 gallons of gas for a 250 mile roaming range, but rarely did that 1098cc engine take me that far; 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds was way too fun for fuel economy. I never saw the 146 mph top speed, but I wasn’t too far from it on a long country straightaway under a full moon long ago. Taming those 125 horses almost made up for the extreme heat and cold I endured through all those seasons.
Back then I would tour around town in the wee hours after a bartending shift at Steak & Ale or Snookers Billards or the Big Bad Wolf club. Heat from the sun-baked streets pushed me downtown where the longing for cooler climes had me climbing ladders at the sailboat dealer on Capital Boulevard. From the heights of those boats on stilts I set aside fear of toppling to the pavement to sit on their decks under the night sky. I braced my feet athwartship and stared at the stars and dreamed of open hearts, blue skies, and wide waters, of salt spray and dolphin-play along the bow waves of great sea-borne adventures.
As I drove that big air-conditioned box the other night, I remembered those motorcycle days of constant connection to the world around me, to the seasons and weather and stars, to the days when I thought I was young, and wild, and free. Back then anything was possible, in that time before I spent 20 years working for “the man” to fulfill someone else’s goals and standards on someone else’s schedule at the expense of my own dear hopes and dreams. And you know what? Those dreams didn’t die, and that connection to the world is still there when I carve out time to find it. Those dreams are still there for you, too.
I coined a new term for that condition that comes to some as they age. It's the condition that keeps some of us in small towns with small minds, in dead-end jobs without challenge or reward, in lackluster relationships too tiring to terminate. I call it FOTOR: Fear Of The Open Road. Some days I hear its siren song, but most days I’d rather hear the the tires turn than the clock tick. The wind on my skin still feels grand and the desire for travel is alive and well in this one, dear friends! There's plenty of open road ahead. Will you join me on some grand adventure?
Greg Whitt facilitates workshops and retreats designed to connect people to one another and to the world around them. Greg studied holistic lifestyle practices in graduate school at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. His studies focused on indigenous wisdom traditions to benefit modern society and these support his work leading interactive and experiential education programs in corporations, congregations, communities, and classrooms.
Previously published on LinkedIn