Since I began this journey, I’ve tried to share as many experiences as I could along the way. I feel as though many of you who have been longtime bikers would appreciate the perspective of a “new” rider and it would take you back to your beginnings. But better than that, if offers me the opportunity to learn from you. Your experience is invaluable to me and others here.
Selfishly though, I share these stories for me. I needed this journey to wash over me and cleanse me of my past. To leave it where it belongs. Sort of like a good hot shower, but with PIPES!
I recently went on a group ride to Columbia, Tennessee. It was an unseasonably warm day, which was a welcome relief from the past several months. The purpose of the trip was to visit the James K. Polk home and museum.
Columbia, Tennessee is where I went to high school. Columbia Military Academy. Let me give you the back story:
I grew up as a military brat. We left Clarksville Tennessee, for Europe in 1964. Lived in Orleans, France until 1967. When France pulled out of NATO, all Americans had to leave the country.
Our next destination was Okinawa. So I basically spent the sixties “out of country.” I really didn’t think much about it because my family and I were on this “grand” adventure. Seeing the world. It was awesome.
I was fourteen when we hit the Island. The Beatles were the thing. Music was MY thing. I had two VERY good friends. We were teenagers. All we had was each other, our music and all the things teenagers do.
We were close.
Then, as usual, one friend left for the States. Then the other. I was alone.
I HATED it.
Suddenly I was tired of this “adventure” and wanted to go home. My two “besties” had come home to attend military academies, and they LOVED it. So I started searching for military academies in Tennessee. I wasn’t even sure my parents could afford it, much less, let me go.
They could, and I did.
I landed in Tennessee in 1969, and finished my final two years of high school at CMA. The military regimen, strict academic protocol, sports and discipline were a welcome standard for me. It helped me become a better student, a better athlete, and a better person. While there WERE kids there who NEEDED that environment, it was a choice that I made.
I was tired of the world travels. The “adventure” had lost its luster.
Leaving home at 16 was a HUGE deal for me, but I never realized it until I had children of my own. I don’t think I would have been able to turn one of my kids loose at that age. I realize now how tough it was on my parents. I can only imagine the tears my mother must have shed when my plane took off.
I would never be home again.
I made good friends at CMA. I did well in school. I learned to take care of myself. To be on my own. To solve problems. It was a good thing. And while I wanted a career in the military, I didn’t have the knees for it, so it was on to plan “B.”
I had no plan B….yet.
Fast forward to yesterday.
I’ve successfully retired, my kids are grown and gone, and I find myself on this incredible journey, in a place I NEVER expected to be. Traveling the country on a motorcycle. Where each and every mile conjures up memories of my life.
Yesterday’s ride down memory lane was emotional. I stood there and gazed around the campus, looking at all the buildings that still stand after all these years. I could hear “revele.” I could see all the “troops” standing in formation before breakfast. I could see all the cadets walking around campus.
I stared at my old dormitory and remembered all the “shenanigans” we got away with. I could hear Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, all blaring from the windows of the dorm, where cadets would sit their stereo speakers, turned up to 10, blaring the music of a generation all over campus.
Was it really that long ago? Yes it was.
Seems like yesterday.
Time flies. Life is short. There’s no going back. Memories are all we have. The buildings were still standing. The cadets were gone, but I was there. Gazing at the campus. Reliving it all.
So I marched back to my motorcycle, mounted up, and took a quick spin around campus. It was glorious. There was a memory on every corner.
On the ride home, as always, with the sweet roar of my bike in the background, I couldn’t help but feel so grateful and blessed that I was able
to have this day. To be able to “refresh the browser” of my life and take stock in just how lucky I’ve been.
High school is one of the best times of our lives and today I was able to ride a motorcycle through it.
It was a good day.