Sunday, April 1, 2012

Weedbusters

It was almost chilly; not an unlikely state of affairs in Minnesota May but a surprise this day. As always the weather forecasters had lied through their little popcorn-like teeth, predicting a pleasantly sunny afternoon, perfect for long rides into seldom explored territories.
 

I had been planning on wearing the full Captain Ogre costume, yet I had to suppose it would only get colder as the day wore on, so I begrudgingly pulled on full jeans, legs and all, topped with my Cap’n Ogre black sleeveless tee. I also needed to acknowledge the fact that as hard as I try, I cannot seem to tie a bandanna around my nearly bald pate that will stay the course in the face of 70 mile per hour winds. As I’ve tried a ball cap and failed that test as well, I was forced to be satisfied with a great glob of SPF 60 sunscreen, smearing into my hair as if it were Brylcreme and I was a 60’s television sex symbol (sans hair, looks, trim physique and sex appeal). It was an invisible hat, seen only by a mildly chagrined, always malicious sun.

The lady was veiled in assorted cutenesses, well aware that my reputation as a motorcycle riding demigod was partly formed on my ability to passenger a trophy chick, and more than willing to serve her role so long as she didn’t have to do any of the work of transportation engineer. Granny boots, raggedy jeans and a green cotton top covered in a light leather vest made her the perfect companion, and the jeweled danglies swaying here and fro gave her a consummate class, and me, an enviable position.

I had memorized a map or two as I knew the general directions but not without the occasional spin off into whoopsie and dammit-lands. I likely should have actually printed a map, as my memory of late has become less the cavernous warehouse of the Smithsonian library and more the empty husk of a shriveled walnut. But the wind was blowing and I could always spit to see which fork in the road to take, so we left for booniesville on a wing and prayer.

Luckily within a few dozen miles I needed fuel,  the now nearly four dollar kind. Luckily that is because as I said it was almost chilly; enough so that I had to consider turning back in order to grab a parka and mukluks. But the short respite from arctic circle breezes was enough to remove the gooseflesh from my sturdy, uncovered arms, and I totally forgot about how cold it was until we were once again underway and too far from home to retreat.

It was generally city driving for the first 25 miles; not that it was through the city, but it seemed every yahoo within ten counties had forgotten it was Mother’s day on the following morn, and they all at once rushed out to the local convenience stores to buy those fake plastic single roses and a graduation card they might scribble-edit into “Happy Day Mom!” so as to not receive a “how could you neglect your mother” slap across the back of the head from dad at the family dinner. Once we had turned toward the Wisconsin border though, we were enveloped in outback, surrounded by greenery and freshly turned earth, and the smell that only a herd of cows in a chili eating contest could make.

Actually, it was almost perfect. The sky was split by a sheet of tarpaper stretched from Fargo to Chicago, its bubbly clouds obscuring what proved later to be enough warmth to make my teeth stop chattering. But to the north was cornflower blue, my newest favoritest color that I try to weave into nearly every outdoor story I write because it’s so cool, creased only by a few white weaving lines of jet contrails.

Once we reached the bottom of that sky, the sun appeared and began the cookery it’s famous for. Soon I was hot. Too hot, too cold, too hot, bitch, bitch, bitch. I made the best of it, furrowing my brow even deeper, squinting ever so slightly and smirking a bit knowing old Sol couldn’t boil my brains cuz I was protected by almighty goo. 

The miles piled on; 40, then 60, then 70. My buttocks began to feel as if two Roman phalanxes were driving through to my kidneys, taking the fleshy route and avoiding the obvious passage. Yet, the charm of small town cheeseheadland and the constant search for highway coppers kept me lucid, upright and moderately interested in the journey. 

Linda, lovely girl that she is, was intent on having sporadic conversation along the way; a daunting task under normal circumstances, but as she was nearly voiceless from contracting child borne illnesses du jour, it was all I could do to interpret what she might have been saying and respond with an appropriate shrug, smile, finger waggle, or verbal quip, such as “yea, me too” or “yup, sure is”.

Finally we were within range and I had one last turn to make. I chose right. It was of course, left; a fact that eluded me until another phalanx prodding 10 miles was added to the score. Fifteen miles later we’d at last arrived at the Linda chosen destination of the day, commemorating the best one of two of “Ron’s days off”, a celebration she enjoys as often as she might hornswaggle me into spending my every waking hour on various missions. 

I parked the machine and dismounted, slowly, lest a phalanx drive itself into my sciatic nerve and cripple me forever. Linda was ecstatic, or at least smiling, a little. There was a huge banner over the open door of a standard 19th century red dairy farmer’s barn. 

Alternative Landscapes it said. We’d driven nearly a hundred miles to reach nirvana… the local weed farm!

Oh sure, they had plenty of weeds. Weeds in little pots and big ones. Weeds so small they’re called plugs, as if mother earth is going bald and needs hair implants. There were weeds that would get tall and weeds that would most definitely stay short, weeds whose root systems would reach all the way through the molten core to drink freshly polluted water from the Yangtze. There were flowering weeds and seedy weeds and grass ones and bushy ones. All they didn’t sell really were dandelions, but they did have plenty of them everywhere the tightly weaved landscape fabric didn’t smother the opportunity for invasion. 

You wouldn’t think it would take an hour to pick out some weeds; particularly if the only mode of transportation these weeds have is born on two wheels. A motorcycle trunk is as large as the average man’s purse, and the saddlebags no larger save they’re vertical rather than horizontal, designed for more “stuffable” items. But it did take an hour and she did purchase a mess-o-weeds and I did eventually find a way to pack them into the cracks and crevasses of my aging motor beast.

Another 60 miles in reverse and once again the sky was gloomed by the blanket of soiled cotton balls, resulting in a temperature drop of at least ten degrees. At that moment I needed to recall my ancestors. Would Leif Erickson whine about a hurricane force frigid wind ripping through his t-shirt, pinching shut every pore of his lightly haired chestual skin with fingers the size of canoe paddles? I grit my teeth and swore an oath to Odin; “I am Viking, I am impervious, bring it on!” I only hoped it would last a few hours as we had a long, long way to go and the only cargo I was carrying was Linda’s prize noxious greenery. I didn’t think covering myself in weeds would bring relief. 

I did learn my lesson in time; it wasn’t so cold after all. As if sent by Odin himself, an ice laden rain shower passed just beyond our forward vision, leaving a frozen fog in its wake, one that we would pass through just as my throat boiled up the words “Holy Shit!” among other phrases of ill intent. Yet we were lucky; we didn’t actually get wet and made it to the suburb of choice with only knocking knees and crystallized faces to show for the trip.

We stopped for pizza. It only seemed right.

I had to reconcile the day in the context of global warming, as we all must do at least until the planet catches fire and burns itself into stardust, which may be any second now from what I hear. In our desire to plant only native “garden” species, whose root structures would hold the soil, require less water and absorb more greenhouse gasses than the abominable Kentucky bluegrass republicans are so fond of, we traveled a hundred sixty five miles, using 5 gallons of damaging fossil fuels and wasting 6 hours that might have been better spent finding more efficient ways to lessen our carbon footprint. Add to that the pizza we enjoyed, which took wheat, the growing of which ruins the soils, tomatoes which are in ketchup which the first Bush administration demanded was a vegetable, (that has nothing to do with global warming. I just like to make fun of politicians) cheese which is made from cow’s milk, cows who will fart us into oblivion sure as I’m writing this, and asparagus who everyone knows points to the sky where the aliens who brought the plant to the planet live and wait for Scientologists to add them to their list of benevolent masters.

I stowed the train of thought. I just ate the pizza. Life was complicated enough. I had a motorcycle full of weeds. If anyone found out, I’d lose my badass biker license.

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