St. John, New Brunswick

This morning I found a miracle.

Standing around in the parking lot, I looked down and saw a two-and-a-half-inch long nail sticking through the sidewall of Sean’s rear tire like a hairpin. Without flattening the tire it had passed through the side and emerged again so that both the head and the point of the nail were exposed; it was a wonder and  a spectacle, like those x-rays of  people who’ve had railroad spikes through their brains and survived. All who saw it were amazed and moved to tell their own tales of fantastic objects penetrating motorcycle tires such as pieces of fence and six-inch screwdriver shanks, inspiring tales to dwell upon! Pilgrims who came and pressed their wounds upon the nail soon found them healed, and the proprietors of the Honda/Kawasaki dealership were so touched that they sold Sean a new tire for only a couple hundred dollars. Yet another reminder that Death is just a handshake away; I always half expect my old bike to fly apart underneath me, but Sean’s is like new, a 1996 Vulcan,  beautiful and carefully maintained.

This afternoon I surgically altered my seat with a knife. Much bad foam was removed to the sound of many vertebrae cheering. The butt had mixed feelings about the operation.

Saw a bald eagle flying over a marsh near Calais, just before we crossed into Canada.

Scarborough, Maine

We left just after the thunderstorm; the air was so humid and sweet I thought I was riding home to the swamp I grew up on. It’s great to finally be on the road.

This is not properly a part of the 751 since it’s a separate trip that Sean and I have been planning in one form or another for the last year. I’d never expect him to adhere to the  751’s rigorous standards of expenditure on his vacation, and I’d be a lousy traveling companion if I just moped around saying things like, “No, no, you go ahead and get a room, I’ll just eat my can of pork and beans, then I’ll curl up under this bench.” Even though this trip is drawn from a separate fund,  it’s a chance to test  my equipment and see if this is really going to work; for that reason, and because it’s just such a damn good place to start, let’s consider the whole Newfoundland trip a prologue. In two weeks we’ll return to Manchester, I’ll take a couple days to get my act together and then the 751 will begin in earnest.

We took four hours to do two hours’ worth of riding because of the 4th of July traffic, my back feels like I dragged it behind the bike on a rope, and all we’ve got to show for it is we’re in Scarborough — but it’s great to be in motion.

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.