I left San Francisco on May 3rd, 2001, heading north. A familiar feeling arose in my gut, a simple and powerful sensation. The feeling of movement, freedom. As the bridge opened up, and the tarmac sped past under the wheels of my motorcycle, I looked up â€“north- toward somewhere new.
The first time I really remember this sensation I was traveling to Paris. It was my first year at University, therefore my first year away from home, and I was driving to Paris for the first time. Paris, the city of myth and love and beauty.
The University of Kent at Canterbury, where I was studying, kicked everyone out of the dorms during the Christmas holidays. I was to be staying with my Grandparents in Devon, but before I traveled in that direction, I had to visit Paris.
Canterbury sits next to the M2 motorway, which heads due south to the port of Dover, and the ferry over the English Channel.
Early in the morning, I climbed into my horribly battered and unreliable â€˜74 BMW 2002, left the University, made a right and another right, and climbed up the entrance ramp of the motorway. There was no traffic, so I kept my foot on the floor, and felt the speed in the middle of my back.
The sensation of speed morphed into something else. A sensation of freedom, a sensation of movement, the passion of something new, and I could see Paris ahead of me, beyond the green English Countryside, beyond the white of the cliffs of Dover, beyond the blue of the English Channel, and finally beyond the French countryside.
The sensation felt like a slowly expanding balloon in the middle of my gut. It grew and grew in my abdomen, and then slowly expanded, rose through my chest, filling my lungs and my heart, rising and growing, expanding until I could feel the tightness all through my body. Finally it exploded out my lips, not in a scream, but in laughter, full loud laughter, while my hands gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, and I sped down the motorway.
Wiping the wetness from the edge of my eyes, the motorway ticked past like the flickering frames of an early movie. My mind was not thinking of words, but full of this sensation, this sensation of freedom, of movement, and that place over the horizon waiting for me.
A big dumb grin stuck to my face.
The sensation grew again as I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The joy, the newness, the freedom. All those petty problems of life dissipating behind.
The balloon expanded in my gut, filling my whole body, erupting with laughter. I wanted to fly, I wanted the motorcycle to launch itself over the people, over the columns of cars, so I twisted the throttle hard down and held on as the bridge ended and I climbed the hill, passing cars that were seemingly standing still.
The exhaust boomed through the rainbow tunnel, and I launched myself out the other side. North to Alaska.
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North to Alaska: Section II