When I woke up at 4:00 am I knew today would be an okay day because I had a good night’s sleep. It is the first thing I ask myself when I wake up and it sets my mood straight away. I spent the next couple of hours listening to music and reading, deciding if I wanted to ride or not. I decided that I did but it was time to shift focus from the motorcycle to the photography. It has been three months since I bought my Vulcan and I have ridden it about 2500 miles. The first blush of excitement I think it is fair to say is over. It couldn’t last forever; if anything, I’m surprised how long it did last. I know this has happened because during my recent rides, most of my reflections have not been about the motorcycle experience. I’ve been thinking more about the camera and where to go and simply falling into a zoned state from time to time. The riding itself has become almost entirely unconscious unless I choose for it not to be. While the motorcycle experience will not be going away by any means, either in me or these posts, It is time to rotate the camera more into the discussion.
I waited until 8:30 am to leave for my ride, making sure I had my camera gear. The temperature had reached 70 degrees so I knew I would not have a freezing repeat of the last ride. I had no idea where I was going when I left, not even by the time I got to the community gate. I decided I should get lost. With a cell phone in your pocket, of course, you can never really get lost, but you can head in a direction and start going down roads and see where it takes you. I pointed my bike south and did just that.
After about 45 minutes of riding and not seeing much of interest, I stopped to look where I was: about ten minutes out of Port Charlotte, a town with a population of 45,000. The first people to call the Port Charlotte area home were the nomadic paleo-indians as they chased big game such as woolly mammoth southward during the last ice age around 10,000 BCE. At the time, the peninsula of Florida was much wider than it is today and much drier. As the ice melted, the sea level rose and Florida assumed its current shape and climate. More recently, Port Charlotte was listed among the ten best places in the United States to retire by U.S. News & World Report. Not a bad little history to have for a small town, don’t you think? And I randomly ended up here. Go figure. (Of course I did not know any of this about Port Charlotte until I retuned home and checked it out at Wikipedia. I almost always do that — look up everything on Wikipedia because I can never learn enough, but even more so because almost every place and every thing has an interesting history if you take the time to find out.)
A quick look at the Port Charlotte area map on my iPhone and I headed toward the coast in hopes of some photographs. I rode down one street of beauty and serenity after another. I could see first hand why it was voted one of the best places to retire. I felt my body relax and I became aware of the warm wind blowing over me. I thought how fortunate I am to be right here right now while so many people are where they probably don’t want to be. It is easy to forget what you have at times and I do not want that to happen to me. It certainly was not happening now.
I then caught a sign, Peace River Wildlife Center, and decided to head there. It was located in a small park right at the water’s edge. I discovered The Peace River Wildlife Center is a small non-profit organization that rehabilitates injured and orphaned native Florida wildlife with the hopes of returning them to the wild (it was not open to the public when I arrived but you can get a facility tour). It warmed my heart to stand nearby, knowing the people inside were taking care of the some of the most innocent Floridians.
Since I was at a park, I thought I’d at least wander around a bit with my camera. It didn’t seem there would be much to photograph but believing that is always a result of impatience or the photographer’s own limitations. I kept walking around, looking and hoping. Shooting, shooting, nothing, nothing. And then I spotted a small pier with some men fishing. I approached and saw one man at the pier’s edge and a small sign nearby. You really can’t plan the irony in photos like this, you just have to hope you see them.
I continued to walk around and then decided it was time to go. I had planned to come back via Manasota Key Road, a beautiful tree canopied road, but I ended up missing the turn and headed straight home. Oh well.
What was this ride about today? When I left I had no idea where I was going and decided the first thing to do was to get lost. That led me to a place where paleo-indians chased woolly mammoth in the depths of human history. Close by in distance but far away in time was a group of incredibly caring people nursing injured wildlife back to health in hopes of retuning them to a normal life. And at the moment I was there in the middle of all this, there was a man fishing right in front of a sign that says NO FISHING.
So, what was this ride about today? It was about making an experience with what was flying by me. It was about finding the tendrils coming out of the things and people around us and helping them embrace each other through knowledge and imagination. It was about collapsing a series of apparently random moments into a unified memory on the edge of poetic meaning, if only we could find the rest of the pieces. This is what this ride — and every ride in life — is about, whether we realize it or not: it was about fishing and you choosing where and when to do it.
May You Always Enjoy The Ride
This post is dedicated to my good friend, Rick Powers, who understands more about fishing than anyone I know.