I usually have some “big” thoughts on my annual ride to Sturgis. This year, my eighth consecutive pilgrimage to the Mecca of all the motorcycle things (my seventh consecutive actual ride there) is no different, but I have not dwelt on it much nor does it have to do much with the adventure itself. It was, like all the previous seven excursions, not a “vacation” as commonly defined, even though for vast numbers of attendees it is that, it was once again about the journey. It is a three part deal — the getting there, the being there and the getting back, each full of trials, tribulations and triumphs — challenges to be met and overcome, expecting the unexpected and dealing with it all. Along the way, there is a complete immersion in the experience one can only gain from being in close contact with and in some control of the actual travel on two wheels, completely exposed to the elements, the atmosphere and in being an integral part of all of it. That all happened this year, but I’m not going to go into any detail about it. It was different this year, but the overall theme is the same — and that theme is that the experience is never the same.
The difference this year, for me, had nothing to do with Sturgis. It had to do with love, unconditional love. People put conditions on everything. There is always an unspoken agreement, always lines that cannot be crossed. Often they are not known until they are crossed, but they are, for lack of a better word, “conditions.” Even the most noble among us, the most saintly, have our limits. While “love” might always exist, the nature of relationships amongst humans is complicated and they can be altered, sometimes irrevocably. The same is not true of “man’s best friend,” our canine companions, dogs. I suppose there are those who would say the same of other pets, but I have not found this quality of complete, unadulterated, unconditional, reciprocal love more pure than between a human and his or her dog.
I have had a few dogs in my life, a few who have claimed me as their human. Most recently, Bella, an 11 and a half year old chocolate lab who was my son’s dog for the first half of her life, came into my home in her later years and claimed me as her own. She was my everything, but passed way too soon from cancer last March. Her loss devastated me like none before or since; it caught me off guard. I am not made of stone, but I tend to be somewhat philosophical about such things — life and death — I do not “not” feel it, but I tend to be rather emotionally stoic. Not so with Bella. Her loss has weighed heavily on me since she left — it still does.
I knew I would be getting another dog eventually, but I wasn’t sure when. I planned to be out riding my motorcycle most of the summer, including my ride to Sturgis. That did not come to pass. Although I did take one other shorter ride earlier in the summer, I was home most of the summer. However, I was not ready and I wanted to be home when I brought a new dog into my home, and I knew I’d be gone the two weeks for my Sturgis ride. I figured I’d begin my quest when I returned. But the planets aligned, my friends had a litter of golden retrievers in June and, as fate would have it, one of them would become mine. He picked me before he was fully weaned and I knew who would be coming home with me when I returned. I thought about him every day I was gone.
The ride home from Sturgis was actually one of the best. I rode with three others, two of whom were new to the entire experience. Most of the route was old hat for me, but the roads were iconic and ones I was glad to ride again (always). There was even a stretch of new stuff that proved to be absolutely magic (ironically, the name of a dog I had years ago). But as good as all that was, I could not wait to get home. I’ve been home for four days now and the unconditional love I missed from Bella is back in my life. It is not Bella, Möbius did not and cannot replace her, but he has filled a void that she left, and I know she is smiling down upon us. Because she loved me, unconditionally. Always.