I grew up in the south, a land plagued with a past but rich with culture. Of course I’m biased, but we boast some of my favorite food, and music today (across all genres) would not be what it is had it not been for the Delta region and the blues influence. Sometimes there is sweet in the sour, I’ll let you meditate on that a bit. Percy Sledge recorded the ever famous, “When A Man Loves A Woman” in Sheffield, AL. The late great Aretha Franklin recorded some of her most memorable hits at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This particular area of Alabama boasts some other first recordings by other great artists. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I didn’t appreciate this region’s culture nearly as much as I do today.
At the age of 18 I left this little corner of the U.S. as quickly as possible, I needed to see the world. I saw some amazing stuff, met some amazing people, but I didn’t forget home. I never forgot my great grand Mama Clark…
I never forgot her blackberry cobbler or her collard greens. I never forgot her stories of life during the Great Depression, of her picking cotton in the fields, poke salad, and drinking ice water out of mason jars. Her work ethic has stuck with me to this day. I won’t immortalize her, she was human like we all are. She had her hang ups but through her strengths and her flaws I found lessons, invaluable to my life. She loved a simple man who farmed peanuts and ginned cotton, Daddy Clark…
Loving him during such a time couldn’t have been easy, but they made vows and they stuck it out through thick and thin, literally. The past may have it’s dark spots but we would be in error to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” there’s much to be learned from the past successes and mistakes of those who came before us. If time is an equalizer, then we are no better in this generation than the last, we just have different mistakes to make and lessons to learn. Arrogance plagues our culture just as much as other evils.
However, this blog isn’t about history, family, music, mistakes, or successes as much as it is about bikes. Today I took Sarge out for a spin down some south Alabama dirt roads and the ride got me all nostalgic. I started the morning feeling down in the dumps. Who knows why? Hormones? The monotony of life? Aretha’s passing reminding me that mainstream music is declining? Maybe something else more personal? Either way, I said a little prayer asking Jesus for peace of whatever it was plaguing my mind and then decided to get out and play with the off road riding mode on the Tiger to clear my head.
Anyhoo… feeling depressed, I jump on the bike and hit some dirt roads and boom, immediate mood enhancer. I didn’t know honeysuckle was still in bloom at this time of year but there was a sweet smell from my past that hit my nostrils and flooded my memory with images of Mama Clark and Daddy Clark, growing up with little but feeling like we had a lot, family, food, and most importantly faith. It was faith that has gotten me through every hardship that I’ve faced.
I wasn’t really lost, I grew up on these red clay roads, but it’s been a few years. My head stopped worrying about the daily grind of life and traveled back to a place of youth that made me happy. A place of dirt roads, good food, south Alabama heat, and family. I had thoughts of feeling blessed. There’s been a lot of bad, but there’s a lot of good too, and being out in God’s creation reminded me of His blessing. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time in the city but you can’t see the stars under a canopy of florescent light and smog will choke out the sweet smell of honeysuckle. I can’t take credit for the first part of that last statement, that was a point inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King. On two wheels I feel the wind against my body, the sweat rolling down my back, and nature inviting me in. I feel connected to God and His creation.
This was the maiden voyage of Sarge in the dirt. Granted, we can’t really call this off road, it’s a dirt road, but I’m an off road newbie so I take baby steps and anyway not all of the dirt roads in Geneva County, Alabama are maintained regularly but I like it that way. A little nature creeping back in is a good thing. Don’t ask me why but I began this venture by putting the bike into rain mode??? Anyway I finally got it in the normal off road mode, and on some of the less developed roads Sarge and I had a bit of fun. There was some back tire sliding and some choking out the motor but I managed it without dumping the bike.
The comfort I feel as a rider on this bike really allowed me the ability to take a stroll down memory lane and hit the mental reset button. When I felt the back tire slide, it felt like controlled movement, not chaos, which allowed this off road newbie to enjoy her morning. Maybe I was overdue for some saddle time, maybe I’ve let the media and all it’s crap seep back into my head, but I’m glad it’s out now.
“Let’s start with the church. As you know, It’s my background, it’s a natural setting for me and it’s definitely my roots.”
“Soul is a constant. It’s cultural. It’s always going to be there in different flavors and degrees.”
As I sit here and type I’m enjoying some tunes from one of history’s great soul singers and some from country music legend Miss Patsy Cline. They may be different ladies but they both sound amazing. I’m thankful for different songs sang, lessons learned, motorcycles ridden, lives lived, my own roots, and being loved by a good God. Now time to wash Sarge. He may be rugged, but his current state will never pass the hubster’s detailed inspection…