Two o’clock on a Friday afternoon. It’s a warm drowsy fall day, the streets near my house are quiet. In the hush between the lunch rush and late afternoon rush hour, I escaped the city for a day or two on the road. Pearl purred beneath me, freshly serviced, happy, approaching 36,000 miles and then out of factory warranty. We reached it in two years, not three. Who cared? I didn’t buy this bike to let her sit in the garage.
It was 95° and I was dressed appropriately. I knew as soon as I got to the Rim I was going to freeze my butt off, but until then I wasn’t going to worry. Riding the Beeline out of town after we met up in Fountain Hills, my riding partner and I felt the good comfortable feeling of being on the road. Every turn was good, even as traffic increased.
Predictably, by the time I got through Payson and turned east onto the 260, I was getting colder by the minute. The air temperature reading went down into the 80s, then the 70s, and finally the 60s, dipping briefly into the high 50s. It grew overcast and dull, and near Christopher Creek the road was damp from recent rain. It was a sullen gray fall sky, almost a winter snow-sky. I pulled over to put on more layers, and even with my heated grips turned on, I was still shivering slightly.
We got off the road early, and now I sit in an anonymous little town, in a generic hotel, the gypsy blood coursing strong through my body as I care little for where I am, just that I am on the road and momentarily free.
Tomorrow, the annual “tour de fall” begins as we ride AZ 191 and explore the glory of all its sinuous turns, lined, we hope, by golden aspens and dark emerald pines.
I sleep, I dream, the insides of my eyelids painted with the flash of yellow lines as the road speeds by beneath my wheels. It waits for me out there.