Spring time came to South Georgia last week. It didn’t follow any calendar, it just decided that enough was enough and it was time for some color and milder weather down here below the Mason-Dixon Line. It showed up the day on my motorcycle ride from Georgia to South Carolina. My wife Deb had worked in Oklahoma the week before, and had a visit in Simpsonville, South Carolina, after a weekend in New York City with our daughter. I got up on Sunday morning and it looked a little overcast, the yards in our neighborhood still having that brown color signifying winter was still here, but the temperature was in the 50s and the weather girl said that the temperatures would be in the upper 60s by mid-afternoon. I had packed the BMW the night before and had a route planned to arrive in Simpsonville by the afternoon. My plan was to avoid the interstates and take my time. I hadn’t been on a “real” motorcycle ride for several months; with the holidays and my aversion to cold, the longest ride I had been on was just over 100 miles. It was time to get serious—not iron-butt serious, more like aluminum-butt serious. Simpsonville was about 325 miles from home, so this would be a good first ride to celebrate the coming of spring.
I left home with a thick fog blanketing the roads and was glad I had chosen Route 319 which runs northeast towards South Carolina. The road is a good two-lane black top and traffic was minimal. I wore my bright yellow rain jacket to keep out the mist, and to make myself more visible to the few cars out that day. The fog was starting to lift by the time I had reached McRae, Georgia, so I stopped and grabbed a breakfast sandwich and put away the rain jacket. I kept heading northeast as the day turned from gray to sunny and spring-like. I got on Route 221 and was heading towards Augusta when I noticed the dogwood trees were blooming, the white blooms lightening up the scenery as the BMW cruised towards Augusta. Just before I got to the South Carolina state line I noticed that the air had a distinct aroma. I pulled over and shut the bike down.
I took my helmet off and as I looked across the road I saw fields of purple, acres and acres of purple. It was lavender and it was breathtaking. It not only looked beautiful, it smelled like springtime. My route had taken me through a lot of rural areas and after stopping and admiring the lavender fields I started thinking about other signs of winter’s end. The dogwood trees and the lavender fields stood out in contrast to the fields that were in the process of shedding their brown winter coat in favor of the springtime green. It was then that I realized I putting too much emphasis on getting to Simpsonville. I needed to slow down and enjoy this beautiful day. This winter hadn’t been bad in South Georgia but we did have several weeks of unusually cool weather, and I had been putting a lot of time in working on the house. I rode a lot of miles last year, and wasn’t real happy with myself for the small amount of road time I have put on my bikes so far this year. The weather and the signs of spring filling up my head gave me a new outlook. I wasn’t going to concentrate on where I was going, I was going to concentrate on the joy of being out on a motorcycle I know like a good friend. I started the bike up again and just started riding. I stopped in Pollards Green, Georgia, at a convenience store on the side of the road, where I had a long conversation with an older gentleman who seemed preoccupied with how fast my BMW would go. I found out he was a Korean War veteran and spoke fluent Korean. I don’t know how often he had a chance to speak Korean in Pollards Green, but if the occasion ever does come up my new friend will be prepared.
I crossed over into South Carolina and stopped in Abbeville. I got a bottle of water and talked to guy who had his two five-year-old twins in the car with him. Before I finished my water both boys were sitting on my bike and smiling like it was Christmas morning. I took Route 25 north to Route 416, which took me east just a few miles south of Simpsonville. Route 385 would run me into Simpsonville, but just before I got on it I saw a motorcycle shop. Only 20 minutes from my final destination, I decided to stop. If you ever end up in Fountain Inn, South Carolina, stop at Berry Woods Cycles. It has a great selection of used bikes and really friendly people. I wandered around the cycle shop for 15 or 20 minutes before moving on toward Simpsonville. I arrived at the hotel and when Deb met me in the lobby, she was a little worried. I sometimes have a one track mind and after my decision to enjoy the day I hadn’t called her with a report of my progress. I explained that it was just too nice of a day to be spending any time on a cell phone. She just smiled and shook her head.
“How many new friends did you make today?” she asked with a little smirk.
“More than a couple, but Deb, what a great day to ride.”
She stopped and looked at me as we waited for the elevator.
“Mr. Hale, do you ever not have a good day to ride?”
She didn’t want me to respond. She knew the answer.