Road Pickle 2.0, our first stop is visiting my daughter Olivia and her husband David, awaiting their first baby, Jackson. Due any day now, it seems we got here just in time.
"Olivia's having contractions and went to the hospital this morning. They sent her home because they said she's in early labor, but her contractions are continuing. I think we better get going."
My son-in-law doesn't get frazzled easily, and this day was no exception. Standing in the driveway of my niece's home in Menifee saying our goodbyes, David made this statement dryly, as if to tell us his toast has burned. We had just packed the vehicles to leave for Bakersfield.
Side Road Steve on Blackbird, his Honda ST 1300, David in the GMC Sierra, and me on Tatonka, my Yamaha V Star 650, we hopped on Interstate 215 north and Bako-bound.
The ensuing 6 days have been filled with laughter, stories, preparations, meals and contractions. With a trip to the hospital Sunday night for an evaluation of Olivia's labor, we learned she's making progress.
"When your contractions are 5 minutes apart, or if your water breaks, come back here. Until then, just let nature take it's course," Nurse Laura explained kindly.
The next night we were back at the hospital, her contractions 5 minutes apart, only to be sent home again after they stopped.
"Really Sweetie, it won't take long. He wants to come out, but for now, just be patient," Nurse Laura assured her.
Patient isn't part of Olivia's vocabulary. Although she's rather frightened by the thought of delivering this baby, she's ready to hold him in her arms, just as I am.
But I've been feeling a flood of other emotions throughout the visit, so many, it's hard to understand it all.
"Will you make sure Jackson knows I love him, even though I won't be around much? Will you explain to him my need to ride my motorcycle, to travel, to see the country? Do you understand why I need to do this for myself?"
I found myself weeping, staring at my daughter's enormous belly, fearing I was being selfish. Many of my friends are grandparents now, and they tell me they want to be with the grandchildren all of the time. I hear stories of how much they love having the grandkids over every afternoon. But I don't feel that desire, and I wonder what is wrong with me.
I love my daughter, son-in-law and Baby Jackson, but this is their life, and I need to live mine. I want to give my daughter the space to be a mother and do it in her own way, to grow into her role freely without my supervision and instruction. She doesn't need me looking over her shoulder. Olivia is amazingly strong, fierce in her beliefs, firm in her choices. I've raised an amazing woman and I couldn't be more proud. She doesn't need me here. And neither does her fantastic husband. They have this well in hand.
My desire to ride my motorcycle is overwhelming; it's a driving force in every aspect of my life now.
I need to do this for me. It's my passion.
For now, it's just fine to have that motorcycle parked in Bakersfield. There's nowhere I'd rather be, and wait for my grandson. We even visited our favorite restaurant in Bakersfield, Donna Kaye's Cafe. But this feeling won't last long. By July 14, I'll be ready to hit the road again and pour myself into the miles, once again. And because I know that I've raised my daughter to be a woman, I'm free to ride.