After passing through the Rockies, we headed south towards Arizona on Tuesday. A slight detour from what the sisters did, but quite the opportunity to ride through some amazing landscapes. As we buzzed along, the topography began to change yet again. Rocky Mountains with evergreens and shrubbery gave way to giant mesas, truncated tabletops looming in the distance, their colors slowly evolving to include more and more red. The land spread out and flattened to the point where you could almost get a hint of the curvature of the earth. Clumps of desert grass and smaller shrubs, no trees. Heartier organisms. The air grew drier; my lips felt chapped.
We turned onto a desert road and buzzed down it, straight and flat, for an indeterminate amount of time. Welcome to Navajo Nation. We were at Four Corners, which is a strange idea considering it’s arbitrary state lines drawn in a place where there are no states – we aren’t technically in the USA while on the Reservation, so how can all four corners of the states (Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico) meet here? Purely an economic opportunity for the Nation? At any rate, BVB and I declined to wait in the line to take our photo. It was too hot and the whole thing felt like a ruse.
On the road again, we blasted straight through a big storm, passing through towns called things like Teec Nos Pos and Dennehotso. No rain gear this time, let’s see what happens. It lasted longer than I’d predicted, but the cool wet was welcome after the punishing sun. We pushed through it eventually, the grey sky still above us, allowing for a more comfortable ride. The topography continued to change; redder, more sparse, more desert-like. We were headed to Lake Powell, created by the Glen Canyon damming of the Colorado River (larger than the Lake Mead / Hoover Dam to the west).
The day extended, time bending and folding over on itself. What time was it now? How many time zones had we cut through? Hard to determine. My cousin Skyler told me one of his friends called his motorcycle his “time machine,” for this very reason. Once you’re on the bike, a minute could feel eternal; an hour like the blink of an eye. Time feels more elastic, possibly because of the deep chasm of space you often traverse while riding.
In the late afternoon somewhere in Arizona, this feeling stretched out. Were we riding forever? Were we almost there? I had no idea. Our surroundings began to look more and more craggy, like Mars. This was the part of the Southwest that I love. It reminds you that we live on a planet. In space. We, criss-crossing it much like the characters in the novel Dune. Desert planet, offering little solace, you must be careful and keep your wits about you.
The oscillation of the engine mixed with the wind in my helmet began to fill my ears in a new way; tonal qualities, major and minor chords. A whole symphony building up around me. Auditory hallucinations, or the manifestations of the vibrations where engine meets air? If music is vibration, then riding a motorcycle must allow for some kind of drone-y breakthrough. You vibrate with the bike. When I get off the bike at the end of the day, I am still vibrating. Ultimately I do think the whole universe is one vibration… so does the bike get you closer to the source? Much the same way mystics use music?
I asked my dad the other day what he would pick if he had to chose – music or motorcycles. It was an easy answer. Music. Same for me. I need music to stay alive. But maybe riding the motorcycle is a new way into the fabric of space/time vibration; maybe it could help me create music. Collaboration with machine. Bike as vector; as catalyst. Perhaps that’s the answer in all of this. I knew when this trip was over I would devote more of my time to music. Perhaps this is the portal I was looking for. The direct connect to the muse. Some artists have it always (like Iasos), others need to find new ways in.
The changing landscape affects the symphony around me. Waves of sound rise and fall with the elevation and the surroundings. The roads sweep this way and that, around mesas and buttes. The tar snakes are plentiful, resembling Arabic painted onto the roads. The dam and power station come into view; an alien landscape brought forth by human hands. Power line wire holders spread out across the rocks like sentinels. Lights blinking. Narrow metal bridge filled with tourists strolling this way and that. We were almost there.
A few days later, Diane Ortiz, one of our ride leaders and a favorite person of mine, generously offered to give me a slow-speed lesson in the parking lot. I still need work; I tense up too often in my upper body. She asked if I played an instrument, and I mentioned piano. “Sit like you’re at the piano. Stay loose,” she said. Immediately my mind went there, and my body knew what to do. Do a turn from a stop. At the piano. Make a figure eight. At the piano. My mind quieted and the bike went where I wanted it to go, my instrument of space/time.