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Oddchester: Milestones are marked by more than mileage

September 5, 2018

Last month, my motorcycle odometer clicked over to 35,000 miles as I drove off the MS Chi-Cheemaun — a giant ferry that carries people and vehicles down Lake Huron on the Canadian side — on the annual motorcycle trip with my 83-year-old dad.

It’s a digital odometer, so it was not the slow scroll of 0s. But I was driving off a ferry! With my 83-year-old dad!

I am, for whatever reason, one of those people who puts stock in mileage milestones.

A few months ago, our 1997 Pontiac Sunfire — the first new car we bought — was five miles from clicking over to 200,000.

It was Friday night, and I was leaving a poker game at a friend’s house. I Mapquested the miles to home, and it read 5.1. On the drive home, I took shortcuts through parking lots and and steered as straight as anyone has ever steered. I honestly considered backing through our subdivision. I made it home, though, with the top of that fifth zero just starting to peek into the odometer window.

The next morning, the entire family piled into the Sunfire. We hit 200,000 miles before we were out of our cul-de-sac.

If any neighbors happened to be looking as we crept slowly down our street, they probably thought OnStar told us we’d just won the lottery.

So it has gone with my motorcycle mileage.

In 2005, I passed the 5,000-mile mark as my dad and I — on our first-ever motorcycle trip — rode through South Dakota’s Custer State Park (where buffalo blocked our way and wild burros ate crackers out of our hands).

In 2008, I hit 10,000 miles as my dad and I rode back to our hotel through the Colorado mountains.

I had horribly misjudged how long it would take. At one point, we could see mountain goats. Below us. By the time we reached the top of mountain number two of three, it was pitch dark. The thermostat on my bike read 30 degrees. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

There was a moment that I considered motioning my father off to the side of that dark road to tell him about some trick I just remembered that could save me from the unbearable cold. But then I realized that the trick was from “The Empire Strikes Back,” when Han Solo cut open that Tauntaun and stuffed Luke inside it to warm him up. And that my dad would be the Tauntaun.

20,000 miles? That was 2013, while riding a stunning 100-mile stretch of two-lane highway through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains as we made our way to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. (I say Monticello, here, to sound more mature. We were actually heading to a museum in Virginia that holds both The World’s Oldest Peanut AND The World’s Oldest Edible Cured Ham.)

25K? Riding to work.

30K? Heading to Kentucky. While I can’t verify this, I’m sure my odometer flipped to 30,000 at the same time a giant June bug hit me directly on the tip of my nose, which has always been extra sensitive. To add insult to injury, my motorcycle almost simultaneously began making what sounded like a tiny, sad, high-pitched whine. After a few minutes, I realized that sound was coming from me.

Those, at least, are the numerical milestones.

There have been plenty of other memorable moments, though.

Like the times when I would ride home after work, and Hadley, then 5, would be standing at the end of the driveway, dressed in her helmet and riding gear, just waiting for me so we could tool slowly around the neighborhood and she could sit in front of me and push the turn signals to determine which way we’d go.

Or the time Henry, 6, rode his tiny gas-powered four-wheeler alongside me on our first-ever motorcycle trip as we road-tripped the three blocks to Ben Franklin Elementary to eat lunch.

Or the time Emma was 8 and we took the back roads to Jeff’s Little Store. As we sat on the picnic table with our ice cream bars, a dozen or so hardcore bikers, engines roaring, pulled in. Then, seeing that Emma was riding with me, fist-bumped her as they walked by. One of the women went to her motorcycle and returned with a badass biker headscarf that she gave to Emma.

Emma was wearing that yesterday, as she sat on the back on the Harley, telling me stories the entire way along the slow back roads to Jeff’s Little Store.

Miles 36,612 to 36,617.

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