As I sit here watching the stars come out, illuminated by nothing but faint moonlight and my own thoughts, I recall an experience I had many years ago.
At the time I was riding a 1974 Norton 850 Interstate. This bike was imported alongside a couple of John Player replica Café Racers, when Norton Villiers Triumph were in their last throws of existence. My Interstate as well as the JP bikes came equipped with different exhaust, and air boxes and filters than the rest of the models at least here in the US. In addition my Interstate came with a steel 7.3 gallon tank and low bars. The bars were similar to those found on an R90S BMW. A bike that also appeared on these shores in 1974. I had originally gone into the local BMW shop looking for an R90S of my own. Only to find they had all been sold. That I would later find out was the beginning of a much larger circle, but is a tale for another time.
Anyway I was commuting to work in a large machine shop from our new apartment near the University of Denver to the northwest side in the suburban sprawl. I was working second or swing shift so leaving work about the time the bars close. Long shifts and cold winters nights would push me off the freeway and onto surface streets looking for less crowned avenues in this older part of Denver, in the dark, on snow.
As I nosed out toward West Evans Avenue off a darkened side street I’d mistakenly gotten on to avoiding an accident backup out on the Valley Highway, I was hailed by a person standing outside a closed bar at the curb.
Dark, not that much light to see, winter and snow and ice-covered roads, I’m definitely cold, but I stop and we talk.
I notice the collar, and realize this is not likely a drunk. We become friends of a sort from that meeting. John a Jesuit Priest asks if I might take him on a motorcycle ride one day. He had not ridden on the back of a motorcycle since some time long ago, in a place far away.
It was an interesting encounter. One that provided a motorcycling experience for one of us and a view into a wider world for me. I learned of missions in faraway places driven only by the faith of a man. I thought it was pretty cool.
When my wife and I moved away I lost track. We once rode into the mountains, taking a small snack for a lunch in my tankbag. We sat by a stream somewhere outside Estes Park.
And that is the thought that winds its way through my mind as I roll into my summer sleeping bag for this night, beginning another ride. One of so many since that winter’s evening when I made a wrong turn, rode across a sidewalk, across the street up onto another sidewalk and down the block only to emerge at that closed bar.