Down shift…Orbits…. by Neale Bayly
Growing up on a damp overcrowded Island in a seaside resort that rarely saw the sun, a ride through the Rocky Mountains under a cloudless, blue sky is still is still a semi mystical experience to me. The vastness of the land, the brute strength of the huge, muscular mountains that dominate the near endless skyline is just such a harsh contrast to England’s green and pleasant. On a recent trip to Colorado I was once again afforded me 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, 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 had introduced us, the result of our conversation some company for my ride to Aspen. Showing the tell tale 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.
It 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. I was riding to the four corners of Europe. A chance meeting as I was leaving Istanbul saw a four o’clock tea appointment at the Le Le Palas in Ankara with Diccon some days later. Here over tea we decided to ride together to the Syrian border, a four-day adventure through the incredibly varied Turkish landscape.
The scenery moved into a new dimension as we crossed Independence Pass before beginning our descent. 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 would remain orbiting together as we shared this short journey. Then we would part, perhaps never to meet again. But it is not important, because for a short time 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 loved ones who orbit with us for a lifetime; inexorably connected, even when great distances keep us apart. Then the friends we spend time with, drift apart, before coming back together, our (planets destined to align at certain moments) lives destined to orbit together at certain times. Some miles later, neatly tended gardens signal our arrival in Aspen where we find 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: