Just skip this first part and scroll down to the picture to begin.
Funny how we can come from such different places and end up on the same trail; end up knitted together in spite of our extreme differences and all. Funny? Or spooky?
Have you heard of this thing called quantum entanglement? How one particle can instantaneously change another particle even if it’s light years away on the other side of the universe? Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance” and didn’t believe it could really happen. Though he’d already done the math proving it was true, even his genius couldn’t imagine something traveling faster than the speed of light. I don’t think he considered the angel factor.
Angels live in another dimension, maybe multiple dimensions and maybe at the same time because they’re not bound to time as we know it; they travel faster than the speed of light and we’re all the better for it.
Angels move things around just to nudge us, to make obstacles give way when we really need them to. So Goyo is crossing a double yellow on a blind right curve as he roars past a pokey RV on the Million Dollar Highway. Around that curve is a drowsy dad in a late model SUV drinking Mountain Dews to stay awake. Dad doesn’t even know an angel had him drop his coffee five miles earlier just in order to time the exact moment he’d soil his pants as Greg slips back into his safe lane only inches away from the cricket bat sized rear view mirror sticking out with only bugs splattering against it, instead of the Espresso KId. Thanks to quantum entanglement, the work of angels and a few sessions of Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist, our favorite biker lives to pass another slow driver. Faster than the speed of light, God engages his mercies to make sure death takes one more day off.
Little nudges here and there in our lives and in the objects around us that move our bodies to grace and safety and sometimes hurl our souls towards each other.
I hike a lot these days. My hiking has definitely interfered with my motorcycling. And I’m the better for it. Sometimes … sorry Captain Oh… you have to slow down, which would make the other part of the Cook Equation, which I realize I’m using the converse, come into play: then, you’re not going fast! But truth is, at my age the paradox is the truth: everything is moving faster than ever in my life and yet I’m slowing down as often as possible. Still time races on…
But in hiking I get closer to those gifts of the spirit that I think many of you enjoy when riding a motorcycle: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (funny how right after self-control comes the words “against such things there is no law” which seems to apply to speed limits and double yellows somehow). I still love being with you, my fellow maniacs, on motorcycles; but I had to slow down to deal with everything speeding up. Like looking through a turn far enough to see a horizon, I’ve had to lift my head and look down the trail I’m on; when I look at the ground under me it’s moving so fast, when I lift my eyes higher things calm down and I don’t freak out in my spirit quite so much.
Mitch was the first of my close friends who rode motorcycles. Our lives merged thanks to Jesus and the ministry in New York and we’ve been together on the same trail for a long time.
I’ve ridden behind Mitch and listened to his tail pipes on a variety of machines and listened to him talk on a myriad of subjects but I don’t recall him ever once saying anything bad about anybody. For that matter, talkative guy that he is, he’s often bragging about somebody else and most likely that’s one, or more, of you guys.
We call him Rooster and that’s partly a Foghorn Leghorn reference, but largely due to his John Wayne similarities… Rooster Cogburn… cause, well, Mitch is someone with True Grit. He’s a friend to the end which makes it all the harder the times he’s not been able to join us.
I’m up to the year 2013 in this little email series of ramblings, and 2013 was the year Mayday brought Goyo from Denver to meet us out in the high desert at a place called Condon, Oregon. That was our Hell and Back ride, where we stayed out in the tiny podunk of Halfway in Hell’s Canyon and Ray can’t talk about that journey without lovingly complaining about how many espresso stops he had to make for Greg. Espresso Kid is still my favorite nick name for the most avid biker amongst us but I’ll leave it to Ray to tell us why that 1000 miles required more coffee than usual.
I remember that ride as the one where Mobetta was the first among us to slow down a bit. He first wanted to blame it on the bike. “Something’s wrong with this Harley”, he’d keep saying; about the Heritage on loan from Bob who was still renting bikes at the time but was himself overcoming the near death experience he’d had the year before on a ride with our Oregon boys up to Canada. Bob still had a shop full of bikes and I still had the Ducatis and the Scrambler and Captain Oh showed up a day early so we could “knock the rust off” his riding, as if he ever got rusty. I’ve never seen anybody more natural on a motorcycle than Rick and never seen any of us hellions get more conservative on a bike than Mo. I measure myself by both of these men and come up wanting. Mene mene tekel parsin.
When we got back to Portland from that trip Lance and Cmack stuck with me and helped with a big group of guys on a trip down the coast, through the redwoods, over to Crater Lake… where Rick Biordi and Brian Gaukel would end up in the hospital after a dumb accident that nearly killed Rick and almost lost Brian his hand. Two years in a row I ended up in the hospital waiting room, spending the night worried about riders who were suppose to be in my care. After that year I canceled my dreams of building an annual Portland ride for anybody… except you fellas … cause I feared one day I would end up in the morgue identifying one of my brothers. But the irony of that summer’s riding was that when I finally got back to my house late that Sunday night after nearly 4000 miles of riding the four corners of Oregon I’d fall down my front steps taking out the trash and rupture my quad and have a hospital visit of my own.
But the I missed Rooster that week. 2013 Mitch’s pipes were still roaring somewhere, but we missed him on the trail.
Mitch grew up learning how to wrench from his dad. By the time I met Mitch we’d made an overlapping circle of friends that would bring him to Brooklyn to work in the New York church Lisa and I had stared in 1983. Being a big man, Mitch always stood out, but never more than in his willingness to take care of people, serve in any way day or night. He’s just always show up, no matter what. No one was ever quicker to get my house if I needed something than Mitch. Jan and he were (and are) two of the most loving and dependable saints I’ve ever known.
When we put together the group that met back in that year at the Grand Canyon, Mitch was there. He’d been there for me so many times over the years and I certainly wanted to have him circle up with my best friends out here in the wild west. Goyo had bought a bike with Billy Joel’s autograph on it and Mitch took a photo on it looking something like a giant on Barbie bike —-
I’m pretty sure you were still riding your Concours back then, right?
But in 2013 we were sans Mitch and all the worse for it. I think he cheated on us that year and went with another bunch of misfits to Alaska or something; or I’m getting my years mixed up. In any case, we sure miss the Rooster when he can’t join us and sure laugh a lot when he can. He’s ridden longer than most of us and is by far the most modest motorcyclist in our humble group. Any group is lucky to have him but I’m jealous for his company.
Cmack talks about heaven a lot and how we’ll ride the rings of Saturn when we die. I sure like that idea. But even more, I like to dream of a place where we can all be together all the time. Where no one has to miss the time together and we all make our rock star ‘album cover’ photo together. We still don’t have a photo with all ten of us. Our record so far is nine.
In heaven maybe we can get Jesus to join us and Joel will be there, too; completing the picture. Of course Joel would have to slow down for just a moment. Taking a break from racing angels to the rings of Saturn. Racing faster than the speed of light.
In tears, thank you very much to Steve. Thank you all for the friendships. When it is all said and done, there is no true discipleship without true friendship. The rest is manufactured and manipulated. Love you all. MM (Rooster)
the first time i got to know Mitch was on the North Rim trip. It’s funny, but I was riding a brand new bike that would one day be his! Gordon’s T-Bird. Its also funny how riding together in adverse conditions somehow bonds you, ice, sleet and snow over Wolf Creek Pass, rain and mud over Cottonwood Pass.
Mitch called me last summer and confided in me in a way that honest, vulnerable and validated what I’d always believed. That even short times together in the right circumstance can bond us for life.
Mitch, thanks for trusting me enough to make the call. You did the right thing and God blesses you for it. Thanks for your wisdom, righteous character, stability, sense of humor and iron will.
iron butt too, but i’ll leave that alone. the topic, i mean. the butt too.
dang it – that didn’t end well. Mayday.