Followed by the Moon

As I threw a leg over my bike outside Bodock’s Pub in Canton, Georgia, I felt an early summer warmth that made me smile after a long winter of bundled and zippered riding.  It was one of those nights that made you realize that southern living is sometimes a blessing that Alaskans or Canadians or even Minnesotans just never experience.  An evening of mid 70’s meant that I could leave my jacket rolled up and bungeed to my luggage rack.  The lit parking lot was especially bright, given the fact that we had a full moon.  I looked up at its glow some 239,000 miles away and pondered my very small place in the universe.  In my contemplation of insignificance I thumbed the starter button firing my V-twin to life, and smiled.  The 15 miles of winding back roads between the biker pub and my house in North Fulton are dotted with old farms and winding county roads.  I am not sure if I enjoy the lively company of the Thursday’s bike nights or simply the 30 minute ride home on unlit country roads.  Both I suppose.

As soon as I left the little metropolis of Canton and passed under I-575 into farm country, I noticed it.  Around every turn, at the crest of every hill and peeking out from behind every farmhouse, was a glowing full moon in amber glory.  Hung in the sky unimpeded from my view by a roof or visors or the appendages of automobile travel.  A bike provides 360 degree views both around and up, but in its freedom from enclosure, it also ushers in vulnerability.  I was subject to the whims of the ghosts’, goblins and Sasquatches that were surely lurking in the darkened recesses of the fields and woodlands around me.  Undoubtedly, they watched me motor by, clearly under the light of the full moon.  I am a grown man and realize the folly of such thoughts, but the bright moonlight let my Irish bred imagination run free.  A pitch black passage devoid of moonlight is one thing when illuminated by a Harley headlamp.  Riding shielded from woodland eyes on moonless darkned roadways through field and forest seems safe enough.  This is not that.  The bright moon lights the roadside, casting odd nighttime shadows not seen on clouded darker evenings.  I felt the throttle open unconsciously in the more eerie sections over old bridges and past antebellum barns close to the road.  Shadows, they do funny things to an imagination.

The old Harley Police bike I piloted is a trusty ride with smooth Evolution power.  It possesses no bells or whistles of the new millennia to distract me. Not even a radio to while away the miles.  Just me and the beat of a V-Twin heart guided by a big full moon that peered down upon me as if to mark my way.  The more I rode, the bigger it got.  Like an ever growing guiding light following me and illuminating my path.  It seemed to grow in size and brightness and in its ability to track my every curve.  I understand the principles of astronomy and science, wherein the moon follows an elliptical orbit around the earth and reflects light from a sun long since set on my hemisphere.  Sun’s light, shining a new day for continents across the globe and reflecting a small fraction of its luminescence off the opposing moon (about 12%) back at me on an otherwise dark continent.  I say “me” because on that night, the moon followed me all the way home.  It shone down on me and my bike on that night despite my ignorance of it on most nights.  But that night was different.  The roads were empty, the weather perfect, the bike running fine, like a trusty old watch.  The glowing sphere seemed inordinately large for some reason and I found myself staring up at it on long straight sections of pavement, like a child looking bewildered into a kaleidoscope.  At an average of 13 full moons per year it is possible that you may have 2 in the same month with the second called a “blue moon”.  Hence the saying “Once in a blue moon,” indicating a rare occurrence.  Although this only happens one time every 3 years and is slated to happen next in 2015, March.  Mark your calendars.

I do not know why this moon seemed different that night than it has been on any other night where it reflects a full round orb.  Perhaps the bike, perhaps the road, perhaps the weather – all exaggerating the moon’s lovely luminescence.  A quick reference to an online almanac tells me that there is a new full moon about every month.  It takes about 27.3 days to travel 1 complete orbit around the earth and a moon’s full phase cycle takes about 29.5 days for us to enjoy a new full moon.  This means that the full moons fall on different days of the month each year. So if you’re going to ride under one you have to do some research to figure out when it is going to be.  I was so stuck with the beauty of it all, that I pulled roadside onto a gravel shoulder and snapped this picture.  Once home I calculated that the next full moons were going to take place this year on August 10, September 9, October 8, November 6 and December 6.  I put the dates in  my calendar with a noontime alarm to give ample time to plan.  Like my sisters’ birthdays or my scheduled oil changes, I put “Full Moon” into my outlook schedule as dates to take an evening ride.  At 50 years old given the unpredictability of cloud cover coupled with a busy schedule, I figure I have only a couple hundred Full Moon opportunities left to ride my motorcycle under its lovely and sometimes ominous light.

To schedule “Full Moon Rides” is to make good use of biker time, lest the opportunity otherwise go forgotten.  You schedule Daytona, you ask the boss for time off for Sturgis, you organize your life to ensure that ride out west with pals.  Make a simple note in your calendar to ask your girl to take a short moonlit ride.  To be prompted to get on the bike should the weather cooperate and the full moon show herself for a simple putter through your favorite neighborhood jaunt.  To throw over a leg and thumb a starter and carve slow arcing turns under her magic if not for an entire evening, at least for a few miles to look up in the straights and remember how small we and our old bikes really are. –Irish

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