Slipping through Our Fingers

This post is in: Motorcycle Riding

Like sand through the hourglass . . . I know that line although I never watched the soap opera; must have been one of Mom’s favorites because it sure stuck in my memory. Yes, the days of our lives do slip away. Actually, they seem to rush pass like an express train as you stand at a local stop. That is, if you let them. The world has accelerated, change has shifted gears, and while we may recover from the slipstream blast of time, the world we awaken to will be a different place indeed.

So while you still can, please take a ride to the edge of town. Any town, down the road just past the strip malls, to the other side of the tracks. From your saddle, what do you see? Does it looks like the set of some Mad Max, post-apocalypse world or a real cheesy zombie movie? Can you find an abandoned, dilapidated Motor Court? Do you remember them? Those single-story motels, three sides of a square surrounding a pool or a swing set for the kids, with the open side facing the street with welcoming arms, offering rest for the weary traveler. Directly opposite was Ruby’s Place or some similarly named eatery with the owner proud to have her name plastered outside in neon. She too welcomed the traveler, offering a repast for road-induced hunger while also slinging hash and eggs to the locals. You can almost hear Ruby asking: “Heat that coffee up for you, honey? Would you like a slice of pie?”

Ride a little further, squint, and you might just see the old world through the fog of time. Up the road was the plant where they made things—sometimes big industrial things, often just stuff. Stuff that people needed. Maybe some of the things you could buy at Pop’s Grocery and General Store. You remember Pop’s, don’t you? The one you rode past last night after you bought gas at Johnny’s Service Station. You must remember Johnny, he was the young fellow that told you about the Sleepy Hollow Motor Court and Ruby’s Place last night. Nice kid, that Johnny—while admiring your bike, he noticed your rear tire looked a little low, and he brought the air hose and gauge to you at the pump. He sure was right about the homemade apple pie at Ruby’s; it was the perfect finish to yesterday’s ride. This morning you could smell them baking fresh pies every time Ruby bumped her way through the swinging kitchen doors as you ate your hash and farm-fresh eggs.

A good night’s sleep behind you with the flavors of breakfast still lingering, you are ready to ride. As you saddle up for home, you watch the traffic flowing back and forth, mostly working folks from the plant. Business must be booming since the plant is running three shifts, even on Sunday. The spring air is crisp, the blue sky only interrupted by the trail of white smoke from the plant’s chimney. Might want to stop at Pop’s on your way back though town—that hash was a bit spicy and you will probably need some Rolaids later. Merging into traffic, you return the wave of the motel owner and wick up the throttle. Already getting lost in your thoughts as you ride, thinking: this little town is a nice place, kind of place worth coming back to. It is a long ride from home, but the roads were nice and that was the best pie you have had in years. The plant whistle abruptly snaps you from your thoughts and brings the traffic sharply into focus. Wake up, Rip Van Winkle, that was no plant whistle; it was the air horn on the big-box-store truck behind you. You can’t hold up traffic these days, sitting at the light, daydreaming of what’s gone by: got to roll or get rolled over by progress.

Ah, progress. The plant is long closed, the stuff they once made is on that truck, coming from a far-off land. Cookie-cutter hotels with free breakfasts have replaced motor courts. Gasoline and heartburn cures are now found at a convenience stop where Ruby’s daughter works. It is a brave new world, but if you are lucky, you remember small-town America. It was always worth riding to.

As you head home from your brief visit to places destined for the bulldozer and next new shopping plaza, don’t give it all up as lost. The rumors of Main Street’s demise are not entirely true: out there beyond the freeway exchanges there is a bright future. It is just waiting for us, the people, to make it happen. So start up those bikes and ride to that future before it slips through your fingers!

Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2015.


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