The 751

In the spring of 1998 I stopped at a gas-mart to get a cup of coffee. The rain was cold, it was early in the morning and I was on my way to work; when I stepped out of the car and saw a dollar bill on the ground I felt a disproportionate joy — this meant free coffee! But then I walked around to the other side of the car and saw a whole wad of bills in a puddle; hundred-dollar bills. A few feet away, more. I scooped them up and stuffed them in my pocket without counting them, then walked numbly into the store and left my name and phone number with the cashier.

I turned the money in to the police, who held it for several months according to the law. But no one claimed it, and no one called from the gas-mart, so late that summer I went down to the station and picked up an envelope containing the 751 dollars that I’d found in a puddle.

It’s a strange amount of money. On the one hand, it’s large enough that it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime stroke of luck; on the other hand, in just a month it would sink without a ripple beneath the surface tension of rent and bills and be gone forever.

I set the money aside, hoping I would think of some way to spend it that would be worthy of this extraordinary benevolence of Fortune. Gradually I realized that for me there was only one thing this could be: a motorcycle trip. The big one.

This was the rule: gas, food, and lodging must come out of the 751. I would see how far that got me.

My thumbnail estimate? At $1.20 for a gallon of gas, and 50 miles to the gallon, that would be 30,000 miles, as long as I didn’t eat or sleep.