Vita Rara: A Life Uncommon

Part XIII: Way-point Zulu

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September 6, 2003: Way-point Zulu -- Old Orchard Beach, ME

Today was the day. I would ride to what had become the "end point" for me. My way-point Zulu. When I began this ride I didn't know where I was going, other then to Deals Gap to ride the Dragon. Once I was into it I decided I wanted to ride in every state in the Appalachian Mountain Chain. Well, the only ones left at this point were NH and ME. I used to go to Old Orchard for summer vacations when I was a kid. So, for me it became a fitting place to aim for.

Today wasn't so much about the ride as it was about the destination. Very different from other days. The roads in VT and NH were very nice. I took US-4 east to NH-118 north to NH-112 east to US-302 east. NH-118 and NH-112 are well worth riding. 112 was a little busy with tourists, but 118 was a delight and had significant portions that were newly paved. Nice curvy road, a little off camber in places, but nice.

The roads in ME were boring, but that was OK. I was getting close.

This trip was a victory for me. When I first starting riding in 2001 I was diagnosed with reactive arthritis (ReA). My particular case really took the energy out of me, and my body hurts pretty much all the time from the waist down. In 2001 when I took a day long ride I could pretty much plan on spending the next day in bed, or at least on the couch recovering. So, I would ride on Saturdays and recover on Sundays. I loved riding, but it really took it out of me.

I started feeling a bit better in 2002, and was able to ride more, but it still took a lot out of me, but I coped better. ReA can go into remission over time, and I think some of that has happened, and that I've learned to cope and deal with it. I've gotten back a lot of energy, but the pain hasn't gone away.

Well, when I rode into Old Orchard Beach I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. I had reclaimed my life and this was the symbol. I had made it. I had reached my Way-point Zulu. I ate lunch on the beach, bought a camera and headed down to the surf. I took my boots off, hiked up my pants and walked out into the surf up to my knees. I asked a lady who was passing by if she would take some pictures of me. I explained that this was the "end" of a long motorcycle ride. I wish I had gotten her name. She seemed to understand the importance of capturing this moment. I can't put into words what it felt like to stand there with my feet in the Atlantic Ocean. It seems so simple, yet it was so profound.

I returned to Killington a changed man.