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Thursday night. I am in a small motel in Austin, after riding almost 300 miles in the pressing Texas sun. More than ten days have passed and over 2600 miles are behind me. At this point, the days already have a familiar rhythm of routine, starting with loading and strapping all the gear to the motorcycle and ending with finding a place to stay, unloading, doing the laundry, video-chatting with the kids, and writing. Being in the sun for over six hours each day gave me a deep dark tan, my clothes and boots are starting to wear out, and anyone who sees me now knows that I am on a long journey. I am starting to feel like a nomad, a “big log”.
The solitary experience of riding for hours in the sometimes-monotonous highways of the south is like nothing I have experienced before. Time, as indicated by the hours and minutes on the clock, has stopped being of interest, and the only important indication of the time is the position of the sun. All of my attention, focus, and energy are dedicated to figuring out how much gas I have left in my tank, when would be the best next stop to drink and eat, and finding a place to stop and spend the night. During the day, with all channels of my mind occupied with these immediate issues, there is no room to think about anything else, and therefore no room for worry.
This is a good time to contemplate the experience so far, and check the pulse for changes. The first thing I notice is that my natural pace has become much slower. I walk more slowly, speak more slowly, and probably think more slowly. I don’t know for certain, but I am pretty sure that I also breathe more slowly. I am also surprised to discover that I am much more quiet than usual. I talk with different people during the day (everyone talks to a biker with out-of-state license plate), but when in conversation I am more concise and focused with words.
It seems like I am going through the same Five Steps to Inner Peace that I went through over the past few years in my personal life, only in an accelerated fashion. In less than two weeks I feel that I built a new reserve of inner strength and self-sufficiency, a confidence built from the leap onto the open road. Now, the abundant details of the scenery surfaces in greater detail than usual, and the general feeling is that I am experiencing things, simply put, more fully. This is the second step – Being Present.
On Friday I am visiting the Hindu Temple of Basaba Dham and speaking with Dr. Jamie Pennebaker about his decades of research on writing. Stay tuned for those posts.
For now, good night form Austin, TX.