One for the Road
By: John Segalla
Subject: One For The Road
When I started off this morning on my ride everything seemed to be status quo. The skies were blue , the motorcycle made its normal ticking noise and my life was completely uncomplicated at that very moment. Around noontime, I arrived in a small town, similar to the thousands that I had visited in the past. I had a piece of paper in my pocket that had the name of a man that I had hopes of locating. I didn’t have an address or phone number to go with his name, so finding him could prove to be a difficult task.
My friend Red from Arizona told me that if I ever passed through this particular town, I should stop and see Tom. Red told me of Tom’s accomplishments in the world of motorcycles and so I was anxious to meet him. From what I gathered, Tom seemed to be a fly by the seat of your pants type of guy. When he got an idea in his head to do something, he would, despite the danger, cost or how it affected his personal life. In the process of living with this compulsion, he became famous. His stunts were written about extensively in newspapers and magazines, but I was more interested in who he was, more than what he had done.
I wasn’t in town long, when I received a tip on where Tom could be found. I was having lunch at a small café, when I met a man who called himself Santa. While sketching a map to Tom’s place on a napkin, Santa told stories that added more color to the picture that I was trying to paint of Tom. It sounded like Tom was either incredibly focused or borderline insane.
One hour later, I was knocking on the door of a beautiful home that overlooked the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean I studied the breathtaking landscape and intricate stonework while waiting for a reply. The door creaked open and an old man appeared before me. He stuck out his hand and welcomed me in before I had a chance to tell him who I was, or why I was there. Clearly, he had no fear of what I represented. Eventually, I explained the reason for my visit and he assured me that it wasn’t an inconvenience.
For the next few hours, he took me through the various rooms that housed his trophies, plaques and photos. He also showed me the numerous stories that had been written about his feats and accomplishments, but it was the way the house was furnished that held my attention. Classic motorcycles were on display in the different rooms we walked through and hundreds of bottles of wine were neatly stored in fancy wooden shelves everywhere.
As the afternoon turned to evening, Tom asked if I would stay and join him for dinner. Being in my tent most every night has a way of getting old, so he didn’t have to say pretty please for me to accept the invitation. That night, we drove about twenty miles of twisting Oceanside highway back to town in his old Jaguar. After a ride in a car like that, I wondered if I acted too hastily in my decision to live a simpler life. As we enjoyed the fine foods and talked about our experiences, Tom began to put away more than his share of mixed drinks.
After a while, he very frankly stated that “because of my drive to be the best, I’ve sacrificed my family, my health and any chance of a genuine friendship”. I sensed his loneliness long before his statement. I also surmised that his best friend was Mr. Jim Beam, judging by the frequent appearances of our waiter. On the way home, my concern for our safe return was quieted by Tom’s precise and practiced “driving while pickled” technique.
Shortly after our arrival, Tom began to drink more and it became impossible for me to communicate with him. Finally, he achieved the numbness he desired and then announced his departure for bed. About two minutes later, while in the process of thinking to myself “Thank God that’s over”, I heard an ominous thud from upstairs. I knew what the noise was, but I hoped that I was mistaken. I called out for Tom, but I got no reply. I ran upstairs toward his room, and a cold feeling rushed through my body at what I saw, Tom had collapsed onto the stone floor and blood streamed down his face.
I sat him up and held a shirt against the gash on his forehead. I yelled his name, but he didn’t reply. The panic and uncertainty of the present situation seemed surreal. Instead of calling an ambulance or trying to find his car keys, my mind drifted back to the tranquility of my morning ride. Within minutes Tom regained consciousness and then we began our game of twenty questions. The first question he had was “who are you”? Followed by “why did you hit me”? The evening became morning as the game went on and on. Tom replenished his blood loss with a few more glasses of Jim Beam and then was down for the count.
The following day, as I was putting the last of my belongings on the bike, Tom awoke from his less than peaceful slumber. In the process of saying farewell, Tom asked if I would be writing about any of his accomplishments in motorsports ? It amazed me how he was totally unaware of the dried blood that covered the side of his face and the front of his shirt. It was now my turn to be frank. I said “Tom, as far as I can see your greatest accomplishment is waking up every morning with the way your living your life”.
Tom was stunned by my remarks, but he stunned me even more when he gave me permission to write about our meeting. Understandably, he asked that I not use his real name or where it had all taken place. I thanked him for his hospitality and his generosity and spared him a temperance lecture. Clearly, he was resigned to the idea of living his life his way, and so I got on with mine. It was a beautiful day, the skies were blue, my motorcycle made its normal ticking noise and my life was once again completely uncomplicated at that very moment.
Posted by Donna Connell at March 13, 2002 02:04 AM GMT