A few times a year I get to visit with a California couple that is in the midst of the retirement process. Both are business savvy and have invested in their futures but have suddenly realized that their saving was not as aggressive at it should have been in order to insure the freedom they’d hoped for in their golden years. Their goal was to rent out their paid-off home and travel the states once he closes up his business and she steps down from her position at the family run construction company. They both enjoy my road stories and she often comments on how brave I am for the life I’ve chosen, which always kind of surprises me as she outlines all the things she’s afraid of. Personally, fear never enters my mind as I load up the Beast for the next destination. I check the maps, plan a route and check out the weather predictions. Besides fuel, oil and tire pressure I make a mental note of my own reserves and make sure I’ve eaten recently then hit the road. Beyond that, there’s really not much to worry about. For Gracie, she shared that her morning ritual for the 20-minute commute includes an hour’s worth of traffic reports, the morning news and another half hour of fretting over the weather before she can fill her thermos and heads to the office where her second-story desk job is sapping the life out of her 61-year-old body. Since her teens, she’s never held any other job.
For her husband Ray, his business as an independent mechanic for the local police force means more freedom since he can set his own hours, but is a lot of responsibility since he is contracted by the city. His commute is a short one but involves going into the city over a bridge and traffic can be nasty so he’s looking forward to the day when he no longer has to start his day with a big case of ass puckering since he often rides his bike and shares tales of the idiots who try to take him out on a daily basis. His bigger concerns are more about money and how he will be able to afford the bills for the new cars they each drive, the toy hauler and big truck, fuel and all the rest that goes with the dreams they each entertain for their next stage of life. They fret out loud as they try to imagine what letting go of the familiar and embracing a world less controlled will be like.
Ray considers a scaled-down version of their traveling plans, just living off the bike for a while at first and asks things like how much I spend on gas a month, and how much for maintenance. How often do I camp and how much is spent on motels rooms? Gracie isn’t thrilled with that idea and asks where I find healthy food on the road and don’t I ever get lonely? And she asks if I ever get scared. I laugh and tell her I’m afraid of vampires; she lowers her voice and informs me that she’s serious. I point out that, in a way, so am I. I’m afraid of anything that wants to suck the life out of me, be it real or imagined. One’s own insecurities can do that just as surely as someone who wants to steal your joy, or your stuff, can. I try to be intelligent about my travels and don’t set myself up for drama. I avoid high-crime areas, don’t leave the Beast out of my sight for long and I don’t let my guard down. Basically, I don’t make myself vulnerable. I tend to keep to myself on the road and answer most inquiries with one or two words. Questions from truck
Basically, I don’t make myself vulnerable. I tend to keep to myself on the road and answer most inquiries with one or two words. Questions from truck stops like, “Where is your next stop?” or “Are you alone?” are answered with vagueness. “North,” or “I’m meeting friends,” is about as much as I share since there’s a lot of meanness in the world and you never know what evil lurks in the minds of others. I try to be settled in by nightfall and usually let someone know where I am each day. I have several friends who ride like I do, but they are all men and I travel differently than they do.
Recently I did experience a childhood fear of the dark come to the surface and caught myself looking under the bed for the boogieman in a creaky motel room along the highway. So I wonder, what are you afraid of? Me, it’s the thought of a daily commute to spend a day in a cubicle with vampires.