Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Sunset.  Thanks to Dick Ward, this is about a Sunrise.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two things of substance occurred during my day yesterday.  The first and most obvious was the length of my ride.  Starting at exactly 0400, I left Junction, Texas and terminated at the VOQ at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona at 1800.  Seven hundred and ninety eight miles.  Just a little road weary but the distance was a fluke and was not intended.  It just happened.

Second, and far more interesting, was my observation of a most spectacular sunrise and moon set in the high deserts of West Texas.  There are some preparatory observations to set the stage. It is 39 degrees at departure.  It did not get above 52 until 1000.

The temperature is a non-issue because I wear heated gear when the temperature gets below 45 degrees as a high for the day.   Some, perhaps most, will say that if it is that cold you do not need to ride that day. Without finding fault with this position, my own philosophy differs significantly,  It is my opinion that we all are on the clock.  When the clock is going to stop, is a universal mystery.  To squeeze all that I can from whatever it is I have left, seems not only reasonable but necessary.  There are no promises that we will survive the night.

We must fulfill the promises of the next day in a way commensurate with our skills, desires and resources. So I preach Carpe Diem. 

In this case, the cold brings two related weather phenomenon together.  The first is low humidity.  This is a desert that receives scant rain and retains even less.  The second is high altitude.  The low humidity means few clouds or hazes close to the ground and because we are at a moderate altitude, the thickness of the light refracting layer is reduced which adds to clarity.  The result is a full moon at its highest point in this fall sky and almost directly over head. There are little if any pollutants borne by this air.  The air has an aroma and a texture that add to its wonder.  The aroma is not so much an identifiable odor as it is an absence of all odors.  It is clean!  If my wife, Margaret, were to describe this air, she would hold up her hand and gently scrub her finger tips across her palm and whisper the word “soft”.

So it is a “soft” cold air that rolls around the black fairing of the Gold Wing while the vortexes seek every opening in your clothing to put a chill on your skin.  But these openings are few and most of the air finds it way around the fiberglass bags to join the atmosphere it left for just a moment.  With these feelings of the early morning air, the solitude of an almost empty road, a full moon in my view with the glory of the sun soon to follow in my mirrors, I am at peace.

This moon…this moon is not a moon to bay at!  This is not a moon to spoon by!  This is not a moon for men to land on, this is a moon of dreamers.  This moon is the color white only glimpsed during the first few seconds of a thermonuclear explosion.  A white without shades of gray or any other visual detractor.  It is as clear and sharp as the 10 mega pixel photo you edit in Photo Shop.  This very special moon was hung over my head by the math of gravity and the physics of gravitational pull.  This moon is a warm up band for the Charlie Daniels main show which is about to begin.  Only the Mary Jane is missing.

I clear the small town of Junction, Texas and the minimal amount of lights it had burning at 0400.  After about 14 minutes, my eyes become, more or less, accustomed to the darkness and it awakens an old and justifiable fear in the very essence of my soul.

 I fear the sudden appearance of a deer that comes into my vision too late for me to make any move to avoid its deadly mass.  It is an overpowering feeling of helplessness.

The un-mowed summer grass along the side of the road is waist high and dead from the drought and is a perfect hiding place for the big eyed Bambies.

This is, at once, a visceral fear for my physical survival and a cognitive fear of the darkness.  The darkness looks soft and friendly, but hides the demons who call for the demise of riders who ignore the signs of danger.  

These ruminations bring to a halt my musings about poetry and prose and, instead, focus on survival.  I begin to think of ways for me to overcome this scenario.

What I need is a pulling guard to get in front of me to take the initial shock of impact and let me escape with little or no injury.

I can do this.  I slow down to 55 and wait. I wait for a pickup truck doing the speed I am interested in employing.  Sure enough, here he comes.  He goes by me like I had good sense.  I throttle up the Wing and I am soon ensconced in his protective shadow of iron and an additional 200 feet of road shoulder illumination by his head lights.  Once I have his speed mastered, I can relax a little.  I keep this up until my pulling guard gives me a head fake and exits into the diminishing dark probably happy to be rid of my constant pressure behind him.  With the guy in front of me gone, the grass on the shoulders now just recently mowed, and a moon, beaming rays of white light over the desert, I pick up my study of the setting of the moon and the opposite rising of the sun.  As I drive through the dark, it is easy to follow the moon from its apogee over the earth to its ultimate demise in the waters of the Pacific .

The sport is not just to view these two events, but to join the wonder that our creator has made available to us if we will just look.  Since I was wearing a balaclava type head dressing, no one would have been able to see me smile in complete delight as I witness this once a day event from a very special vantage point.

Thus, at first look, the moon is directly overhead and very hard to see and ride the bike simultaneously.  Once I get a good look at the moon, I check my mirrors for signs of sunrise behind me.  As time goes by, I continue to look at the moon which is now below 60 degrees above the horizon and there is no change in its countenance, nor any sign of light from the horizon behind me. I am looking about every five minutes and then with a blind motion, I point my camera over my shoulder in the general direction of the horizon behind me, without looking, and get the following:

Just a few minutes later, here is another view through my right mirror.

What is missing, of course, is a description of the colors changing.  My view is constantly changing because of the wash board affects of the wadis that cross the road and by doing so, changes the hues because it changed the relationship of the atmosphere to the object being viewed.  Too much detail you say and you may be right.

The moon is in a black sky with the sun shattering the atmosphere with burnt oranges and sprays of powerful reds and atomic yellows just hours behind it.  I check the moon and its sky has lightened just ever so much but there are no colors.  I check out the road for critters, come inside and check the gages then back out to the heavens and my mirrors that mark the progress of moon and sun.  Its been another five minutes since I looked at the moon. It is now suspended about 15 degrees above the horizon in a gentle gender pink belt holding it above a boyish but sturdy cloud of blue that falls like a drapery behind the west Texas mountains.  Above the pink belt is a portion of the firmament whose is reluctantly giving in to the stronger forces of the sunrise and its milky white is soon refracting the suns rays creating the now all familiar blue sky.

Here is the view with a full sun behind me and the moon losing its dominance over the sky:  The moon appears very small in this pic. Look just above the intersection of the windshield and the ridge top and you will see the pale planet.

When the sun has one half of its orb visible, I reach a valley whose floor is marked with one wadi after another.  This means the bike climbs and descends these wadiis and I am blessed with seeing this sun rise four times before it is complete.  Interestingly enough, the temperature went up and down from 39 to 52 and back again repetitively over a period of one hour.  I spent the rest of the day passing and being passed by vehicles that were, for the most part, well behaved drivers as we ground out the miles at 81 MPH.

I regret that you could not have been with me to share this experience.