From the Front Porch: Fortress of Solitude

According to the old DC comic books, Superman maintained a Fortress of Solitude as his own private getaway. Depending on which comic book you read, this fortress was located in various places, most notably somewhere in the Arctic, beneath the Polar Ice Cap.

Now then, I lay no claim to being any kind of superman – but I do have a Fortress of Solitude. It is our front porch. Often I go there (especially this time of year) in order to gather my thoughts so I can then put them on paper. As of late, it has not worked quite as well as sometimes in the past; therefore, my writing has suffered.

This morning, however, as I took my cup of coffee out to my fortress, it dawned on me that the secret to regaining my strength was due, in large part, to the fact that I hadn’t been listening. Rather, I was too busy thinking – which, according to my lovely wife of nearly 45 years, is almost always a dangerous thing.

Consequently, this a.m., I simply shut down all thought processes (an easy task), closed my eyes and simply listened. It was a pleasant experience that I’d temporarily forgotten about.

The first sound I heard was that of three great horned owls who’ve taken up residence for the summer in a tree about a half-block from our house. They were settling in for the day, after a night of hunting. I will miss hearing them once the weather becomes inclement.

Next, I turned my attention to the sounds of Interstate 90. If you walk a block and a half east of our home, you can pass under I-90, either on foot or by car. Once you have traversed the underpass, you’re no longer in town. It becomes beautiful country farmland (which might help explain why the owls have taken up residence just inside the city limits.)

In the summertime the sounds from I-90 are some of Janey’s and my favorites. You see, we don’t travel much; but by listening to the traffic rushing along nearby, we are able to travel vicariously throughout the summer. We simply let our imaginations take over as we decide where all these people are heading. It’s fun for us, besides being a very inexpensive way to travel.

One sound from the interstate is unmistakable – it’s the bikers on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Before long, they will be the predominant instruments of travel, as they roar their way eastward toward Sturgis, South Dakota. Then, sometime after mid-August we will hear the same roaring symphony as these same bikers head back west, toward home.

Sturgis is a rendezvous for one of the largest bike rallies in the world. In a town with a population of nearly 7,000 people, that number soars to upwards of 300,000 for Sturgis and the surrounding area during their annual bike rally. And we’re not talking about just any bike. It has to be a Harley.

They converge from all points of the compass, making the thousands of bikes that pass through Deer Lodge a mere fraction of the total. This is where traveling vicariously is at its best in the summertime

Jane and I imagine ourselves breaking out our biker ‘leathers’ (riding attire), going out to the garage to re-polish the chrome and candy-apple paint on our make-believe Harley, hop on and take that eastbound exit out of town to join the Harley migration. She will become, for a time my ‘biker mama.’ And she’ll be seated comfortably behind me, her biker ‘old man.’

Of course none of this actually transpires. The closest I’ll ever get to riding a Harley will be if and when I decide to buy one of those little electric scooters for feeble old men from the Scooter Store you see advertised on T.V.

Meanwhile though, Janey and I can sit on the front porch of a summer evening, drinking sweet tea, and dreaming dreams of the young.

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