Those people who circle in and out of our lives, enriching us along the way.
Having grown up in a seaside resort on a damp, overcrowded island that rarely saw the sun, a ride through the Rocky Mountains under a cloudless, blue sky is still a semi-mystical experience for me. The vastness of the land and the brute might of the huge, muscular mountains dominating the near endless skyline is a harsh contrast to England’s green and pleasant landscape. On a trip to Colorado some years back, I was once again afforded this pleasure as I rode up over Independence Pass en route to Aspen. With a light, maneuverable motorcycle beneath me, I found my internal dialogue turning to mountains and memoirs and not dodging errant four wheelers for a change.
In my mirror, a fellow sojourner was also enjoying the alpine-fresh air and soul warming sunshine as we unhurriedly made our ascent. A chance coffee stop in the mining town of Leadville earlier in the morning had introduced us, and the result of our conversation was some company for my ride to Aspen. Showing the telltale sunglass lines and wind burned cheeks of the road, my new friend Dave had been heading in the opposite direction when we met. His journey was nearing its end but he had no desire to stop riding, so it was a natural decision for him to change direction and join me.
This has happened to me before, and this thought took me back to a ride across Turkey with a gentleman by the name of Diccon Martin. He was riding a Royal Enfield to England from India and I was riding to the four corners of Europe. As I was leaving Istanbul, a chance meeting in a quiet back street resulted in a four o’clock tea appointment with Diccon at the Le Palas Hotel in Ankara some days later. While Diccon visited Istanbul, I rode south for the Roman ruins and thermal pools at Pamukkale and then rode out across Turkey for our tea in the crazy city of Ankara. Over tea we decided to ride out to the Syrian border together, a four-day adventure through the incredibly varied Turkish landscape after which Diccon headed to meet his mother in Jordan.
The Colorado scenery suddenly moved into a new dimension as we crossed Independence Pass. Tumbling, falling, twisting and turning, the road plunged down the mountains as a river finds its way to the ocean. Progressing cautiously, Dave was close enough for me to see his smile in my mirrors and I thought back on our meeting. Like planets in orbit, we were making our way through the solar systems of our lives when we aligned, and for the next couple of hours we orbited together and shared this short journey. We would part, perhaps never to meet again. But that’s not important, because for a short time we had shared the road and traveled together.
We had shared the road and traveled together.
The road flattened out a little and we passed through forests lit golden by the sun’s searching rays and I thought of the loved ones who orbit with us for a lifetime, inexorably connected, even when great distances keep us apart. I thought of the friends we spend time with, then drift apart from, before coming back together; our planets destined to align at certain times. Some miles later, neatly tended gardens signaled our arrival in Aspen where we found an outdoor café to eat lunch and watch the world go by. My thoughts head back to the ride with Diccon, this ride with Dave, and the many other kindred souls I have spent time in alignment with on the road. And, as always, it comes back to the same common denominator — motorcycles.
There is an unspoken language among true riders, that immediate common bond that allows strangers to embark on a journey as friends. Later, riding back up towards Independence Pass, I was truly thankful to once more enjoy a perfect day in these majestic mountains under the cloudless blue sky, aligned with my new friend, Dave, even if for just the briefest of moments.
*photos by Jasper Colt, USA Today