Being alive and on the road

This morning, got up and it was 36 degrees outside. Had two classes to teach at Lowell CI and the first one was at 0900. My sole source of transportation is a motorcycle. Know full well that 36 degrees on an interstate at highway speeds is nothing but cold and maybe a little colder.

My bike, the Dragon Princess, is an 800 pound V-Star with 1,100 cc’s of energy designed to scream at highway speeds. However, the Dragon Princess has 60,000 miles and in many ways has become very temperamental. On cold mornings she is just not there and has to be coaxed with lots of love. You have to balance the choke and throttle knowing that the small battery will be worn down by the weather and you only get 3 or 4 starts prior to changing it and that can be a lengthy process that turns into a nightmare when the temperatures are in the low 30s.

My second biggest problem is staying warm for a 30 minute ride on the open interstate at 36 degrees.  My solution was to pack everything and put the bike into the driveway. Next is to lay out everything by the door on the couch in the order that I am going to put it on. Then the clock in my mind starts running and I have to move with a sense of urgency as once the dressing starts a person gets warm very quickly even if there is no heat in the house.

The hot shower point sets the baseline. I get it as hot as I can stand it and then towel dry and start dressing as fast as I can without creating any creases in the clothes, make sure the layers do not lump and properly overlap. The last layer is leather boots, chaps and jacket. Make no mistakes, putting on chaps is an exercise designed to test patience and agility. The final piece is a cloth ski mask to protect the lower face, bald head and neck.  However, you can’t cover your nose till the last minute because the moisture from the exhale on your breath will fog your glasses. However, the air rushing past on the highway quickly dissapates the damp exhails and eliminates this problem. It takes me about 17 minutes to get ready.

Take too long or hang around the house when dressed will cause sweating and that just makes for some intense cold when on the open road at low temperatures.

Now, the greatest challenge of all. Figuring out the choke and throttle setting knowing that there are 3 shots at starting. If you are lucky there may be a fourth. The first and most important thing is to pray and pray mightily. Then hit the starter and listen to the Dragon Princess come alive with all the grace and elegance of a 90 year old arthritic women getting out bed on a cold morning.  Today I was in luck. She came alive on the 3d hit.

The second and just as tricky point is getting started. The engine has to be warm and you have to pay close attention to the gas not to flood a relatively cold engine on a tight turn. At the end of the driveway there is a 90 degree turn  on a narrow single land road. There is an immutable law that when 800 pounds of bike stops its forward momentum and it is in a turn or off balance it will drop like a rock. This has happened to me once with the Dragon Princess and it took me about 30 minutes to get out from under when my leg was pinned.

No way do I start the day without hot tea or coffee. Have a nice place to start the day with a paper and bagel. It was cold and could not believe the coeds from UF that come into the coffee shop with shorts and halter tops on near freezing days. God bless them but it is insanity. However, in all fairness those steel cocoons on four wheels are engineered to meet all our creature comforts on short notice. Felt bad for them because they were missing the reality of the universe they live in.

Once on the open road it is amazing. Don’t know what I looked like with facemask and leathered up but it was warm and the sky was as clear as a bell. Pulled into the prison parking lot as the nightshift of correction officers was getting out and headed to their cars. Not a doubt in my mind that they thought I was totally insane as I came flying through the parking lot. That is an impression you can’t buy.

By now, I am fully alive. There is a feeling that cannot be explained when you have traveled through the obstacles nature has put in your path. I arrived fully invigorated and oh so glad to be alive. It was so good to feel the heat coming up from the engine warming my legs when the bike is at a stand still. Again, I had this fantasy of reaching down to embrace the hot tail pipes.

At the sally-port and after I cleared the shake down, found out they had brought a correction officer in on overtime and her week-end off to open the building I was to be the sole occupant with my class on Zen. It occurred to me that my name would have been mud if I had not shown up to teach the class.

Had a chance to sit for a minute while waiting for the inmates to be released for religious services. There was this sensation of just being thankful to be alive and having surmounted all of the challenges of the morning. Then in came the inmates and the class began. Can think of no better way to spend a Saturday morning in north central Florida.

| The Gateless Gate Zen Center is funded solely by generous donation |

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