The truck, a Nissan Patrol, was cruising through the Iranian night at a casual pace and the world was filled with stars, clouds, and tree tops rushing past my eyes. My 8 year old eyes hadn’t seen the world just yet, but the sky was always the limit and it was clearly visible that night. An unbroken gaze with it would reveal more stars with the lack of light pollution in my periphery.
The motorcycle, a Ducati Multistrada packed with camping gear, was cruising through the mist laden narrow road, cutting through the Cascades. My 37 year old eyes had seen the world, and in the wet road ahead things cleared up, one mile at a time. Miles, a Navy vet who I work with, led the way at a safely brisk pace on his Multistrada. There is something soothing about the symphonic melody of the Italian built L-twin motor and, if you’re not careful, it can put you into a trance.
The Nissan Patrol hummed along the highway and my father would, from time to time, look back into the truck bed to see me blissfully star gazing. Creedence Clearwater Revival was barely audible over the noise of the inline-6 work truck engine. There were no bills to be paid, or deadlines to be met. There were fleeting thoughts of what the future might bring, easily distracted by the Milky Way’s appearance across the night sky. I bundled up, more, in my make-shift bed of comforters and pillows that my dad had arranged in the back of the Patrol.
The rain wouldn’t let up nor be agitating enough to complain about and our rain proof gear was doing a good job keeping us warm and dry in the cool early June Oregon morning. The freedom of coming to peace with a situation is empowering. Miles pushed along and missed the turn-off for Rte 242, McKenzie Pass. I laughed in my helmet because I knew just the sort of zone he was in, looking forward and through the trees that lined the very green Cascades. Two gears down and I passed him and motioned for a U-turn. He let me lead us through the pass, but I had to stop. The Douglas Firs were like green and brown giants, towering over these two small and seemingly insignificant mortals. Miles understood the zone I was in, in full admiration of what’s above.
The ghost of my past isn’t an angry apparition brimmed with war filled rage, as it should be. It’s a wraith, warm with memories of blankets and pillows in the back of pickup trucks, classic rock’n’roll and the crisp voice of my dad, telling me stories of riding motorcycles in the open roads of pre-Khomeini era Iran with a pretty girl on the back. The pretty girl who I dreamt about, nightly, as a distant memory of a mother’s embrace.
At the top of McKenzie Pass, the scenery shocked our senses and took the shape of what I imagine the moon would look like, if I somehow managed to ride Archie, the Multistrada, through its rocky terrain. Miles and I, tried desperately, to communicate through wild gesticulations and gestures that there’s a sight to behold ahead. The Dee Wright Observatory, a seemingly medieval guard tower on top of the moon, stuck out above the fog and mist and we had to dismount to discover. The waterproof motorcycle gear proved a sanctuary of warmth while the wind and fog blew around us, undeterred and impervious to its nagging.
The cab of the truck cut through the wind and kept me oblivious to the highway wind. Snuggled, as a kid shamelessly does, in my fort of pillows and blankets I wondered about my dream girl, angel of American toys, and motherly beauty. I worried about atomic bombs and schools that were ruled by stick and ruler wielding nuns, who’d hit you if you didn’t eat your meat and veggies. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat? Pink Floyd wasn’t a name to me. Just a sound that felt good in my ears.
Down McKenzie Pass we went, the pace picking up as the tight switch-backs gave way to lazy turns, best enjoyed in accelerated motions, and the fog and rain slowly gave way to warmth and sunshine. Welcome to Sisters, Oregon, full of trinket laden store fronts being browsed by trailer dragging, SUV driving retirees. The sensation of dryness, and the lazy comfort it brought, led us to an instantaneous desire for sustenance. Pizza and soda is a great way to celebrate sunshine and tourists. On the other side of my phone was the sweet voice of my Valentine, Ann. She was glad that we were safely eating pizza in a town she’s never been to, but promised to see it all with me. That’s the sort of promise I can get behind.
The Nissan Patrol came to a squeaky-brake stop and I woke up to the sound of my dad. The trip was over and it was time to go to bed. The sweet warmth of my truck bed camp-out was so good that I remember not wanting to leave, but got up and went to bed. Or I was carried. The next day, I woke up and immediately missed being on the road. The stars are so much brighter on a dark road in the middle of nowhere.
Miles and I worked our way through the sunshine of central Oregon high desert, looking to pitch a tent near a body of water. The destination was Cove Palisades State Park. On the map, it looked like two bodies of water that converged together making it look like someone drew an upside down peace sign hand gesture. In the middle of the desert, any shaped water feature seems like a good idea. Greeted by the sight of the grandly carved canyon filled with the green-turquoise waters made us audibly laugh in our helmets. My old friend, the Milky Way, showed its face that night and I forgot about my bills, my deadlines or responsibilities for a few hours.
Wanderlust – noun: A strong desire to travel. And maybe see more stars, in the sky, than I possibly could in crowded cities of lights, horns and loud music. Thanks for the truck rides, dad. They fill my dreams with memories of the wind, the hum of an engine and miles of stars.