Nothing quite beats getting up early to go on a ride. It didn’t matter that it was 38 degrees that Sunday. Nor did it matter that I was running on less than six hours of sleep. When I was in my 20s, I could consistently function on four, or fewer, hours. But not anymore.
Taking the bike out in the cold sure helped me shrug off the fatigue.
I stopped at Walmart before meeting my riding buddy to find some decent headphones, some cheap cigars, and a balaclava. I know it’s not exactly nice to make assumptions about Walmart employees, but I asked the Walmart employee if they had any “ski-mask-like beanies.” I felt certain she wouldn’t have known what a balaclava was. Maybe I need to reexamine my beliefs about Walmart’s workforce. Another round of contemplation for another day, I suppose.
I met my buddy, Geoffrey, at Labonte Park at 9 a.m. to begin the ride to Pearsall. Luckily, he knew what a balaclava was, and had an extra. He jokingly asked me why my beard wasn’t enough to keep out the cold. I didn’t have a witty, or remotely smart-astic reply, so I said that I didn’t know.
Besides the 75 mph-plus speed making the 38-degree weather feel like 13 degrees, it was a nice ride. There were no clouds in the sky, traffic was light, I got to listen to some of my Amazon playlist.
It got fun on the way between Three Rivers and Tilden. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say potholes can make riding…uncomfortable. Especially when they’re about 10 feet apart. And especially when you don’t see them until you’re right up on them. My voice must have sounded an octave higher when we stopped.
Don’t ignore your instincts
I saw on my display that I had two bars, or a quarter-tank, of gas when we rode through Three Rivers. I thought, surely, there’d be a gas station before we got to Pearsall.
I was wrong. I mean, props to my bike for running on fumes for as long as it did. Daphne really wanted to go further, but she quit on me about 15 miles outside of Pearsall. Geoffrey rode ahead to get me some gas. I pulled out a Backwoods and puffed away, contemplating my lack of foresight.
Geoff got back about half an hour later, two 20 oz. bottles of gas in his saddlebags. Just as he pulled up, a “good ol’ boy” driving the opposite way stopped to see if we needed help. Now, I don’t really believe that old saying that everything happens for a reason. But, y’all, that Sunday really tested that belief. The man was pulling an empty trailer and he had a ramp.
We told him we would be fine, but the man insisted on following us to ensure we made it to town. My pride was a bit wounded, but I told him “thank you” and took off as soon as I poured the gas in my tank. I got up to 90 on that shitty, oilfield road; trying to get to the nearest gas station before I ran out again. Sure enough, Daphne started sputtering again.
So I pulled over, again, grateful that I didn’t let my pride refuse this man’s generosity. We pushed my bike up on his trailer, secured it, and set off.
The guy’s name was Glenn. Helluva nice guy. He told me about how Pearsall used to be “a good town, until the drugs.” He had some kind of Christian religious book in Spanish on his dash (I know it wasn’t a Bible) and a likeness of St. What’s-his-name hanging from his rear view mirror. I hope you’ll forgive this heathen for not knowing the names of the saints.
He dropped us off at the Ace in Pearsall so I could get gas. I thanked him several times. Offered to buy him a soda, or whatever he wanted. He politely refused and said he was glad to help. He said the only thing he would like in return is for me to pay it forward.
God, or a reasonable facsimile
Let me stop for a second here. You see, so often we see some celebrity or big company donating all kinds of money, and we hope they don’t do it for the recognition. But, they get it. And we find ourselves thinking one of several things:
1. This company/celebrity fucked up and is doing this “stunt” for good publicity.
2. This company/celebrity is genuinely as nice company/celebrity.
3. Something else entirely. Whatever you find yourself thinking when you see these things on Facebook or the news.
This man stopped because he wanted to. He followed us and let me use his trailer because he wanted to. This is the nature of generosity. And to say, “No thank you. Just pay it forward” to any type of reward offered is beyond admirable to me. He’ll probably never know either way if I do pay it forward. But he knew that, in this case, his generosity helped someone who needed it.
It’s in those moments, my friends, where we see divinity at work. Call it what you want. God’s will. A plan for our lives. Whatever. I believe it’s a force that is beyond a single human being that quietly whispers to us when another one of us is in need. That quiet nudging is very easy to ignore. But it doesn’t give up.
So I filled my tank up, bought me and Geoff a couple of sodas and we figured out our plan. The delays had put a wrench in our timeline and Geoff had to head back because of work. I shook his hand and thanked him for sharing in yet another adventure as he went on his way.
Paying my respect
It was around lunchtime, but I didn’t feel very hungry. So I decided to make my way to the cemetery before grabbing lunch. I entered through the main entrance (mainly because I didn’t want to tip my bike on myself, like I nearly did the last time I rode up there in 2016 and took the side entrance).
Finding grandpa’s gravesite was pretty easy. I spent half an hour searching for it last time and my memory served me well this time.
Before the trip, I had thought about bringing a sheet of paper to write something to leave at his grave. Or maybe I’d write something and burn it. I did neither of those. I just stood there, staring at the Ol’ 300 marker on his headstone, talking to him as if he was there.
When I visit cemeteries (which isn’t often), I like to look at the dates that people were born and died and speculate on the dash between them. If they could talk, would the people who were buried there think they made the most of their lives? Did they have regrets? Did they leave this world better than they found it? If they are looking down at us (and I’m not certain they are), do they approve of the world they see?
These are the things I wondered aloud at grandpa’s gravesite. The only certainties I have to convey to grandpa, if I could do so, would be to assure him that he left this world better than how he found it. His legacy, one of love, acceptance, compassion, humor and generosity, lives on through his descendants. I don’t know most of my extended family very well, but I think we all learned from grandpa’s example and apply it to our lives. I try to apply it to my life daily.
So I talked for awhile, smiling at some of the memories I recalled, choking up when I recalled others. I don’t want to go into too much detail because my conversation (if you want to call it such) was between me and him.
I will tell you that I said, “I love you, grandpa. Your legacy is safe with me.” And, with that, I said that I’d hopefully see him again. Later as opposed to sooner (he’d understand why).
I got on my bike, put in my headphones, strapped on my helmet, and headed out.
I think I made it about 10 miles outside of Pearsall, going the speed limit, when I heard an odd sound. I was still rolling on the throttle, but I wasn’t getting any power. Daphne wanted to keep going, but the transmission disengaged.
Shit, I thought. What do I do now?
I ran through the list of options, given that I was several miles away from Pearsall and the next town. I had 4G data speed, with maybe two bars. Sometimes I think those bars on our phones are just there for decoration.
I called Lacey and told her what happened. I asked her to call my brother and rent a trailer from UHAUL. I had at least two hours to kill, on the side of the road. I decided to hoof it to Charlotte (it was about four miles out).
Again, generosity came in the form of a guy with a pickup. He offered me a lift to town. The guy looked to be about 90 years old and he coughed like he was taking his last breaths. If I knew him better, I would have asked him if he needed help from me. Like maybe to drive him to the hospital. He took me to the Valero store; I thanked him as I got out of the pickup.
There’s always a lesson to learn
I waited at the Valero for about three hours as Lacey secured the trailer and sent my brother up to get me. With immediate family, you find you’re obligated to bail them out of seemingly shitty situations. Like if they’re in jail. Or stranded on the side of the road, two motherlovin’ hours away.
My brother arrived in Charlotte with no more than five minutes of daylight left. He thought we should get the bike first, then come back to Valero for gas. I look at the gauge and said, “No, we’ll get gas now. You’re on fumes, bro.” See? The day could have taken an even more…interesting…turn.
Now, I could have been bummed, or even angry, that my day took the twists and turns it did. Just as there’s always something to be grateful for, there’s always something to complain about. I should file a copyright on that. I chose to be grateful for the things that happened that day that wouldn’t have happened otherwise:
• I got to see, firsthand, many occasions of generosity from people I never met and would likely never see again.
• I got to have a nice conversation with my brother as we drove back to Calallen. We don’t have those as often as we used to.
• I still got to pay my respects to grandpa.
• I also got to go on a ride with one of my buddies. Let the record show that he cannot tell the future, and therefore didn’t abandon me in Pearsall because he didn’t know my bike was gonna crap out on the side of the road. He texted me saying he was sorry and he should have stayed.
It was a great day, all told. Sure, I’m bummed that my bike is out of commission for the foreseeable future. But I chose to be grateful instead of complaining.
I think grandpa would have loved that.