To Ride The Blue Ridge

In early dawn we leave our home,
And travel down the road alone.
Just man, machine and earth and sky;
Not knowing where new treasures lie.

Toward distant mountains now we fly,
To find what lies beyond the sky.
Rushing on through morning air;
To find what thrills await us there.

O’er gentle foothills now we ride,
Toward peaks that in the clouds do hide.
At last we reach the mountain slopes;
Ascend them now with building hopes.

Adventures in the coming days,
Of sights and pleasures to amaze.
The wondrous colors of the trees;
And joyous smells upon the breeze.

In roadside glen, by splashing creek,
Natures faces ’round rocks peek.
Furry faces, eyes so clear;
The Bear, the Bobcat and the Deer.

We envy their simplistic life,
Existing only in this moment’s strife.
No worries of the coming days;
Oh! Nature’s wonders we now praise!

“O’er two thousand feet”, we cry,
Ever upward toward the sky.
Up gentle hills, and twisting routes;
Renewed by each of nature’s fruits.

And as we ride the mountains’ top,
We tarry where we may; and stop;
To gaze upon the valley floor;
And wonder, “Could there yet be more?”.

And Lo! ‘Round every sweeping curve,
We find new wonders to observe.
Mountain waters o’er smooth rocks;
Or distant sounds of crowing cocks.

Four thousand feet we now descry,
Renewed with wonder as we fly.
Through red and green, and brown and gold;
Each passing vision, bright and bold!

Oh! The mystery of it all,
Of nature’s colors in the fall.
Displayed for us to revel in;
And touch the soul that lies within.

We pause and sit on ancient stone,
Like dwarfen kings on rock hewn thrones.
Again we gaze on valley floor;
And wonder yet, “Could there be more?”.

Past timeless rock walls we traverse,
Implanting in our mind this verse.
Inspires us, implants the seed;
In simple words describes our deeds.

Six thousand feet we now descry,
Ever upward to the sky.
Up mountain passes, cut long before,
‘Twere ever passed by man of yore.

We sense the presence all around,
Of things that soar, or dig in ground.
That bask in sun, or live by night;
Yet skirt the edges of our sight.

We rest on grassy slopes, and then,
Continue on our quest again.
To find the solitude we seek;
In rock and river, stone and creek.

We pause, reflect on all we see,
Could such beauty really be?
(Or is it just a joyous dream
reflections in some hidden stream?)

In highland towns we spend each night,
Then rise to travel at first light.
To ride through mist and morning haze;
To be reborn through all our days.

Through shade and sun we travel on,
We ride the wind, we chase the dawn.
To find the truth that’s buried deep;
Within these mountains, fast asleep.

(And still we ride) The mountains hold,
A timeless story to be told.
Of forest creatures, great and small;
That fly and walk, and slide and crawl.

We ride for days through oaks and pines,
Through cuts of rock, past ancient mines.
Past mountain homes, past splashing streams;
That fill our soul, our mind, our dreams.

All this we see and more, forsuth,
This then is our greatest truth.
And so in rhyming words we tell;
Of all the wonders we beheld.

In tunnels bored through mountain bones,
We ride the darkness all alone.
Emerging back into the day;
The mountain’s heart within us stays.

New friendships made, and old renew,
The common bond that binds us through.
The endless pleasures that we find;
In motoring through ancient pine.

And sadly yet the day arrives,
To turn our vision from these skies.
To head for home and all it’s chores,
To write these words and to implore;

Our mind to never shut the door;
To hold within for ever more;
These memories that are so dear;
And Hope they will remain so clear!

And thou we physically return,
Our soul retains all that we learned;
In quiet forests in the air;
Forever will our heart be there.

And this one thing we know is true,
(each passing day relearned anew);
Some day we will no longer roam;
And never leave our mountain home.

And when our time of flesh is done,
We’ll ride out gladly to the sun;
On wheels of mist, spun from our will;
To ever ride these mystic hills!

Author’s note:

To celebrate my 50th birthday in September of 2000 I decided I would spend the last nine days of the month on an extended motorcycle ride, just myself,  the machine and the open road.  I took off with only a semi-formed idea of where I was heading and wound up traveling through parts of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. I spent the last 5 days crossing over the Smoky Mountains, and then rode the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.  These two roads run from the NC side of the Smokes, starting in the town of Cherokee, NC., north to Front Royal, VA. together they total over 500 miles with an average elevation of between 3500 and 2800 feet as they follow the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The last day of my ride took me from Front Royal up to Sheapardstown, WV. that sits on the banks of the Potomac River. I had made a reservation at a Bed and Breakfast located on the main street of town before leaving on my trip. This was, in fact, the only reservation I made before departing as I had no clearly formed itinerary other than visiting several friends along the way, and ending the trip in Sheapardstown to stay at the Inn. This Inn is a restored town house dating back several hundred years that I had wanted to stay at for some time. Besides the three upstairs bedrooms done in period furnishings there is an Irish Pub  on the main floor, along with a lovely walled in garden and sun room. I couldn’t envision a better way to end my trip than to stay at the Inn and be able to “have a few” without having to worry about riding anywhere as my room was literally a stairs crawl away!

The next morning I had the entire downstairs, pub, sun room and private garden, all to myself as I was the only one staying overnight the Inn that weekend. I made myself some coffee and let out the pub cat, that let me know in no uncertain terms that he would not leave me alone until I had given him a good ear scratching and let him out into the garden. I then sat on the front stoop of the Inn and watched the town slowly come to life on a lazy fall Sunday morning. As I sat there and thought about all that I had seen, the places I had stayed and people I had met on my journey, a poem started to form itself in my mind. I went upstairs to my room and collected a pad and pen and returned to my perch on the stoop. Over the next several hours I wrote as the words just poured forth, almost to quickly to capture on paper. As I wrote, I wandered about the Inn, sometimes sitting on the front stoop, sometimes in the sun room and at times writing in the garden as the sun rose in the sky and warmed the morning into mid-day. By the end of that flurry of activity I had completed the vast majority of the poem, only later adding about 4 stanzas, and polishing it up over the next several weeks.

This then is the result of that effort to describe the thoughts and impressions that the whole experience and especially those last 5 days of solitary  riding through the mountains on a mostly deserted road left with me. The writing of this poem also marked the reawakening of my poetry after a much to long hiatus.

I personally am very please with the work and think it is one of my better efforts. In it I tried to capture the essence of the ride, the effect of being immersed in nature for 5 days, (since I was traveling the parkway during the week days I encountered very little traffic) and my love of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In it I also tried to capture the majestic vistas of valleys and distant mountain ranges that constantly emerged through the trees and at the many roadside overlooks along the parkway as it winds it’s way along the slopes and peaks of the Blue Ridge. I firmly believe that there is so much more to the experience of traveling when done on a motorcycle as opposed to in a cage (car).   Being in the open as you are on a bike, you become a part of the whole experience, not just a casual observer watching it “through a frame”[1] as you would in an enclosed vehicle. This then is what I tried to capture in the poem, something that is so hard to capture in prose or simple conversation.


1. From the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”