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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Ride Versus the Destination*

*Pittsburgh, PA Post-Gazette
October 14, 2010
as "Pittsburgh Rides: Traveling or a Journey?"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Years ago, I was bitten by the motorcycle bug and over time, it has grown into a passion. My wife has ridden her own bike in the past, but her view is far more practical. It’s transportation, nothing more. She tolerates my fervent single-mindedness about the bike and the ride, instinctively understanding how fundamental it is to my enjoyment of life.

I’m all about the journey. When I go on a joyride, it’s almost never with a specific destination in mind. She, on the other hand, is driven by destinations. If we go for a ride, we must stop someplace and do something, otherwise, why go?. Lately, I’ve tried to anticipate that requirement, but rarely successfully.

One Saturday, a glorious early fall afternoon, we rolled out of Somerset bound for my favorite destination, “Who-Knows-Whereburgh.” I went south, heading in a vague way towards Western Maryland. As the tree-lined road flashed past, the idea crystallized in my brain to go to Deep Creek Lake.

My wife was quiescent during these ruminations, occupied with her romance novel. Yes. She reads while we ride, which is better than falling asleep, which she used to do with disturbing regularity. When I felt the hard thump of her helmet between my shoulder blades, I put one hand on the bike, the other on her.

I missed some turns, entering West Virginia at one point I didn’t mind the backtracks; after all, I wasn’t really going anywhere. But she began to ask with increasing asperity, “Where are you going?” I told her where, and that seemed to satisfy her. After all, we now had a destination.

I stopped at a vegetable stand north of Friendsville. It was a marvelous little place with tables covered with the colorful harvest bounty. Corn, flawless golden pumpkins, gourds of every conceivable shape and color, fat red tomatoes and apples. It was a fall cornucopia that would’ve inspired Norman Rockwell.

We picked out a half-dozen ears of corn and a tomato. As we paid, the lady working the stand enthusiastically said, “Great day for a ride!”

My wife, obviously looking for some female unity said, “Yeah, but it would be even better if he would stop once in awhile.”

She nodded her head in agreement. “I ride with my husband, too, but he never stops. He just goes and goes and goes…” They both looked at me. I shrugged

Loading our purchases into the saddlebags, we rode on. Eventually, we passed through McHenry, Maryland and arrived at Deep Creek Lake. It could hardly have been lovelier. The sky, a perfect dome of blue was serene above hillsides showing autumn colors. The lake itself was a deep, dark blue, occasionally streaked with the brilliant white of a boat’s wake. It was the kind of afternoon that lives forever in memory.

We stopped at Lakeside Creamery for some ice cream, and then started back. The sun was low in the sky, and the chill of evening was in the air. The sunlight slanted through the trees, the leaves lighting up the hillsides. Suddenly, she put her arms around me. In that moment, in the beauty of a fall sunset, my world was made perfect.

After looping through the hills around Meyersdale and Berlin, we finally arrived back home. I was feeling smug, sure that I had fulfilled her wishes. But when I got inside, she grumbled, “Why didn’t you stop at the yard sales?”

Yard sales?

Alas, I had missed once again.

But in the beauty of a fall evening, I had experienced the two great loves of my life:

Autumn, and the girl of my dreams.
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