Texarkana was a rail town, and the past is still evident in the many railroad tracks passing through the old downtown area. As I sit here at my desk thinking about my bike, I can hear train whistles echoing through the ancient buildings. I can also hear the sound of the cars on the tracks. In this canyon of aged bricks and mortar, the sounds echo from the sides of empty buildings that stare with empty eyes of broken glass. While loud, it’s an ethereal sound, seeming to come from another world or time. Somehow the feelings those sounds stir in my soul resonate with the thoughts of my motorcycle.
Those sounds make me want to mount my bike with my wife behind me, and follow the ghostly clacks and whistles to some other place. Riding is far more than simply getting from point A to B. At its best, riding takes you to the place that lonely train whistle comes from. It could be a moonlit desert with the lights of a small town in the distance. It might be a high pass, mists rising from the ditches as it carves its way through a mountain forest. It may be a passage through rolling plains, swept with waving grass as the winds kiss the earth.
It’s not a place you’ll ever actually get to. It’s more like a place you’ll pass through on the way to a dream. It’s a place the stress and troubles of the day have a hard time following you. It’s a place you have to be willing to accept on its own terms.
I enjoy meeting and talking with other motorcyclists. I enjoy going to motorcycle-related events. I’ll even take a short ride with a large group. But the longer I sit in the saddle, the more I find my greatest joy to be those times when it’s just my wife and me. Just the two of us, slowly exploring a lonely winding road. I’ve heard of men who used to ride the rails, not out of financial necessity, but out of spiritual necessity. Men who would take time off from work, hang up the suit and tie, then jump a boxcar. I can understand how that whistle would call to them. It’s an invitation to step out of time and explore the world and yourself. The motorcycle whispers the same siren song. “Let’s go,” it says enticingly. “Leave all of this stuff behind and find freedom and adventure somewhere out there. Or maybe just peace.”
－ Guy Wheatley