County Road #7

County Road #7
Published in American Iron Magazine
December 1996

I live in a part of the United States where eagles soar; a place where wolves roam the nearby forests and winter covers the earth with ice and snow; no mere a decoration on some distant mountain. Although this sounds as if I dwell in the midst of the Yukon, rest assured that civilization is close at hand. My hometown lies on the shore of the largest fresh water lake in the world. It’s a city of contrasts; we have a sea port that serves both domestic and foreign vessels and yet is a short distance to state and national forests. Our weather patterns are too complex to describe in detail, but we have nice enough times to keep a good number of bikers happy. Then winter sets in and we usually see -30 degrees Fahrenheit at least once during the season. Our motorcycles spend several months under sheets in cozy garages while we scour magazines and parts books, planning for their futures.
Before all of this we are often blessed with a time in autumn called Indian Summer when the days are warm and sunny. The leaves are falling and the air is fresh and clear. It was during a time like that when I had a day to myself. My wife was attending a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course and I had no projects to do or errands to run, so it was a good opportunity to hop on Scarlett (O’Harley) and follow my nose. I hadn’t done that for a long time. There were roads I hadn’t been on in years; some I had never shared with Scarlett, my Heritage Classic.
The old county road that parallels still used railroad tracks was about as I had remembered, although its surface had deteriorated over the years and at least one small town along its path had disappeared. It wasn’t much, just an old general store. I remembered hearing that it had burned down and was a little sad for it. But the scenery was interesting. Old barns and houses, rusted farm equipment, trucks and cars; some of them actually quite nice. But most things appeared to have been decaying for a long time. You don’t see this part of the country from a freeway. The area was desolate. I was the traffic on that county road. I went a little further until I got to a convenience store that seemed strangely out of place and turned east towards Cloquet Valley State Forest, which I decided would make an interesting route home. I wasn’t exactly sure what road would take me to the forest highway but knew the general direction to head. Because of my inexact navigational methods, I was able to see some encouraging signs of human life. I’m talking houses with mowed lawns and cars with wheels on them. When close to the forest, I saw an eagle soaring. As I approached, the eagle dropped a bit as if to check me out. Perhaps it was intrigued with the sound of Scarlett’s voice. It was a Bald Eagle and it tailed us for awhile, and then was gone. The remainder of my ride on the forest road was pleasant and tranquil with only the sound of Scarlett’s exhaust and my own thoughts to keep me company. 
The next day, I found out that our motorcycle club (H.O.G.) had a big turnout for a run to the Antler Lodge while I was on my solitary excursion. I’d forgotten the last big ride of the year, but my initial disappointment faded when I thought about my own adventure. We motorcycle riders sometimes like to travel in a social pack, as the wolves do. It’s fun. But I realized there are also times when a person needs space to soar, like a lone eagle.