Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More Solitude in the Sticks

Alexander Pope, 1688-1744.
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.
Blest, who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,
Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixt; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Solitude has much been on my mind of late and I suppose has been reflected to some degree in the photographs I make. I believe there is a measure of psychology available through the pictures one makes. I came across the poem by Alexander Pope and was struck by the simplicity I seek through solitude and by extension through riding.

An early breakfast in Bellefonte at the Café on the Park, a favorite, offered a quiet place to eat and read the paper before going to work. While I have no herds or fields supplying me with milk and bread I imagine the café as just a few simple steps away. A lot of years have passed since Pope wrote his poem.

I sat at the counter, something I seldom do. Looking at the place I found it more like an old general store than a restaurant. It has it’s own unique charm and I’m glad I found it.

The ride yesterday morning was cold enough that I had to stop to put the liner in my First Gear Kilimanjaro IV riding jacket to be comfortable. At 64 degrees I’m a wuss. Looking at the Vespa parked between Interstate 99 passing overhead I’m reminded of how small and insignificant the scooter is on the road. I left with a renewed sense of rider responsibility.

I learned what benthic invertebrates are while photographing two scientists working in Spring Creek. This big gravel lot used to be the site of the McCoy Dam near Milesburg, Pennsylvania before it was torn out a few years ago to allow Spring Creek to return to it’s natural flow. The two women at the van were pulling on their waders to begin sampling in the creek which flows on the right. They’ve been studying how the ecosystems restore themselves after a big disturbance like the removal of a dam. As a value-added educational feature of Scooter in the Sticks I’ll let you research the meaning of benthic invertebrates. (grin)

Quiet by day,

On roads like this there is ample supply of quiet both for the ear and the eye. It surprises me at times how I continue to be drawn to these places.

At the end of the day at the southern end of the valley I found myself in another quiet place. Visually at least. While making this photograph a large truck full of liquid manure pulled in to begin spreading it’s nutrient goodness on an open field behind me. Something I’ve learned is you don’t want to cross paths with a working manure truck.

While the day was full of work it also provided more lessons in solitude. I know many riders abhor being alone on the road choosing travel to pig roasts and poker runs and the socialization that follows. Maybe I’ll learn to appreciate those events someday. For now I still find value in the sweet recreation of solitude on the road.


Danny said...

I like riding alone with no one else to dictate my pace or destination. I do enjoy the occasional charity run or ride with a friend though.

cpa3485 (JIM) said...

Most of my riding is alone as well. My short trips back and forth to the office allow me to get some thinking done as I ride. Yes, you have to watch the road and other drivers and I constantly fight it a bit to maintain alertness while thinking.
But at other times I find it nice to ride with other people.
Steve, your photography is superb and this post reminds me that I need to get out and ride more often on another path besides the one to work.
BTW, I haven't had any of my liners in my jacket for about 2 months now. They are just hanging in the closet for another day. On cool mornings, my arms may get a bit cool, but in a strange way I find that sort of fun.

Charlie6 said...

Steve, as usual, great pics. They sure do shout "solitude".

I try and time my shots of scenery on my rides to give an impression of "lonely wilderness", glad to see I am not alone in this.

Steve Williams said...

Danny: I've only ever gone on one big group ride at a scooter rally. I didn't really enjoy it but perhaps it was because there were too many involved---60 or so scooters.

I do enjoy riding with my friend Paul or with my father-in-law. I have to make a point of doing that more often.

JIM: The weather here the past few days has been chilly in the morning. I don't like to feel cold so I often am bundled up, even at home, when others are in t-shirts. I think I have worn my lined jacket in every month of the year, especially early in the mornings.

I've heard others say they like feeling cold but so far I haven't experienced the thrill. Today I was photographing in a big drive-in freezer at -40F with only a long sleeved shirt. I wasn't in there long but man did I not like it. Felt like my lungs were freezing...

Charlie6: It's weird about timing photos. Once I started to not want to see another vehicle in the picture it becomes really hard to not wait for those open moments. Thankfully most of the time there aren't any but still, it's sort of weird.

Photos really create their own realities.

jbrenner said...

I truly enjoy the writings and pictures. I just happened to stumble across your blog while googling parts for a scooter I bought from an estate sale a few weekends ago. I haven't been able to get out and ride the countryside yet but I will soon. Keep it up!!

Bryce said...

Your prior comment to me about being in line at The Creamery behind Penn State basketball players sums up my situation exactly, nothing fits, including footwear! Now you, and others know why a scooter nor any other low-seated motorcycle or 99
percent of the vehicles don't fit either.

The place for your breakfast almost reminds me of a former apothecary
outlet. I see you don't drink coffee in the morning either.
You did include yourself in reverse in the mirror though. BTW
couldn't afford a D700, purchased a D90. Between it and the F100 am set now for a bit.

As for feeling the chill, it is all of 10 degrees C here this June 18
morning, dull and overcast.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

This is a very thought-provoking piece you've submitted today. There are very few places where a rider like myself could get lost in this part of the country... So I will head out to yours some weekend and move through your world... Hoping that insight and profoundity will visit me in an empty field.

More likely, a passing bird will contribute directly to my helmet. In two more episodes of Twisted Roads, I am going to write about my dream weekend... Which is how I would like to exit this world. It will cost me every female reader I have ever worked so hard to get.

In the meantime, I am thinking I will do a few sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway by myself this summer... And try to take your cue about solitude.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

Conchscooter said...

benthic invertebrates and Pope all in one essay. How complex it all gets on two wheels.

Anonymous said...

Lovely, thought-provoking post, Steve. I've been focusing a lot on riding with groups or friends recently, as my local group has grown. I think after the big group ridefest of Amerivespa, I'll be ready to spend some time taking off on my own, heading into the mountains and doing some exploring.

Steve Williams said...

jbrenner: Thank you for your kind words of support. I try to do the best I can in reflecting my experience on the road.

I hope you find your own scooter find on the road soon!

Steve Williams said...

Bryce: Coffee is a taste I've never acquired. I relish the aroma of fresh ground beans but the taste has always left me cold. Water, tea, milk, juice -- those are my drinks of choice when on the road with water the clear front runner.

The D90 would be a fine digital camera stable and along with the F100 you have the digital and film worlds covered.

In case you have not already found this I would suggest the Ken Rockwell site for information on cameras. His reviews are first rate and he goes into a lot of user detail that is helpful in finding better ways to set up and use digital cameras. The link below is for the D90.

Ken Rockwell's Nikon D90 review.

So.... Bryce, when are you going to start a blog? You certainly have plenty of experience and perspective that others would be interested in.

Steve Williams said...

Jack Riepe: "insight and profundity will visit me in a field..."

I think both have already visited and left you brimming with perspective and wisdom. They're evident in your posts and what makes them so enjoyable and engaging.

As far as getting lost there are plenty of places north of here where I still get lost. On foot you can really get lost.

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway would be cool and I look forward to reading about your dream rides.

Conchscooter: You caught that did you? My next challenge is to work a French philosoper, peanut butter and Harley's into a post....

Steve Williams said...

Anonymous: Los Gatos would be a fine starting point for a lot of rides. I've only ever been through that area in a car but on a scooter or motorcycle it would be great. Hope you have a fine time at Amerivespa.

What sort of Vespa are you riding?

Cindy said...

I love days when my husband and I can ride together on our Scooters. But I have to say there is so much peace in the lone ride. My favorite is the ride I take to the yoga studio where I teach. Early in the morning, quiet neighborhood, large trees that canopy the street equals pure Zen bliss.

Joe said...

"...pig roasts and poker runs and the socialization that follows."

I'll always be a solitary scooterer. If my friends bought scooters and joined me I'd ride in a group, but to join a club and make contrived friendships for the sake of riding together? Probably not.

- Joe at Scootin' da Valley

Steve Williams said...

Cindy: Your description of early morning rides sounds perfect. Makes me want to walk out to the garage and go.

I hope someday Kim will have a scooter of her own and that the two of us can ride through the countryside together.

Joe: Solitary riding works for us but certainly not for everyone. I suppose we miss something riding alone and those riding in groups miss something as well by not being alone.

irondad said...

I love solitude. I tend to seek it out when I ride. I'd actually like to live a more solitary life. Yet, I can't find fulfillment without being around a lot of people. Like teaching riders. It's very rewarding but impossible without a lot of human interaction. So I do my thing, find fulfillment, then go ride alone to find peace and retore the balance.

I've always wanted to be one of those benthic invertabrate things but I have a back bone and don't care to live in pond sediment.

What lense did you use for the photo of the overpasses and the scooter? It looks something like 55 to 75 mm but I'm a rank beginner to that particular game.

Steve Williams said...

irondad: I think a mixed experience is probably best. Too much solitude may drain it of its power. We are social creatures after all. But a good ride alone is great for restoring balance.

I shot the picture at the underpass with a 17mm lens. It was a full frame digital camera. On one of the 3/4 digital cameras like a Nikon D40 or Canon Rebel XT that would be about a 12mm lens. Pretty wide. With a 55mm lens I would not have seen anything but scooter and green.