My best friend was going insane. One day he started talking about moving to California, with an alarming level of conviction in his tone. Why would my longtime roommate – I’ll call him Mark, because that’s his name – want to leave our idyllic setting? We had a modern rental in the suburbs of St. Cloud, Minnesota, with a sweet ping-pong table in the basement for the long winters and a kick-ass stereo upstairs stacked with AC/DC, Van Halen and, of course, plenty of Zep (goes without saying). Enough vinyl to cover a lot full of Buicks. Our 19-inch TV had a full six channels and even a color picture, more than enough to cheer on our beloved Vikings from our duct-taped loungers. What more could anyone ask for?
The neighbors didn’t even seem to mind our dirt bike “tuning” sessions on the local streets and construction sites. And boy howdy, we loved us our dirt bikes. Now in our mid-20s, we had been riding and racing motorcycles for many years. We were both employed at various times and with different degrees of success at several of the dealerships around town. Right next to the stereo and TV were piles of motorcycle magazines threatening to collapse on the cat. The only real friends we had were also riders. The garage was not for cars, but for our scoots. Motorcycles were our reason for being.
I guess that was the underlying source of Mark’s building dementia. When it came to motorcycles, Jed Clampett put it best: “Californy is the place you ought to be.” The whole industry – the manufacturers, the publishers, the big accessory distributors, the most famous riding areas, the best riders, lots of dealerships – had somehow turned the Golden State – specifically SoCal – into motorcycle Mecca.
Then Mark started throwing out dates, and I don’t mean his girlfriends. That would come later. He was actually looking at pages yet to be revealed in the calendar, planning his departure from the frozen tundra. This was obviously the real deal, what would be a significant turn to a new chapter of life. I reacted predictably (selfishly) and tried not so much to talk him down, but to make him take at least one step back from the ledge. Where will you stay? What about a job? How am I going to get another roommate?
He just shrugged it all off and pointed out that he had nothing tying him down, and he was ready for a change. Something about the only difference between a rut and a grave being the length of the hole. His mind was made up.
Then the oddest thing happened: I started considering what a move like that would be for me. I was comfortable but hey, maybe things were getting just a little too routine for me, too. Was this really my future? Scraping Suzuki GS750 head gasket surfaces and shoveling snow? I had raced at every track in Minnesota enough times to do it with my helmet on backwards, and other than family, there was no anchor on my stern, either. My boss would not be happy with me, but it wouldn’t be the first time. The more I thought about it, the more tired I became of the status quo. Yeah, we could do this together. If we were to fail, we would not be alone.
You cannot imagine the blank stare and silence when I informed my parents, employer and friends of this improbable decision.
But a decision it was, and plans came together in a questionably short amount of time. It wasn’t long before we had pulled up roots, piled as much Pink Floyd as we could into my well-worn ’75 Dodge van and trailer and were off on the adventure of a lifetime. Just. Like. That.
More to come…