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Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Biker’s View of The Straight and Narrow Road

If you have a map handy or Google Earth, take a look at how many roads are perfectly straight, or at least appear to be. I thought I had found an abundance of straight roads on a motorcycle ride down to Key West when my friend Mark and I toured the heart of Florida only to find ranches and cows, then sugar, then landscaping nurseries between us and Key Largo. The exhilaration of those four or five standard, flat curves between us and South Florida was underwhelming to say the least.

A straight road is the shortest path between two points and it is often a goal to be efficient in navigating any course from where you are to your destination. Very few of us can reflect on our lives and see many straight roads on the path to who and where we are today. Life, much like the terrain of the earth, requires an occasional twist and turn in order to get to a destination. Maybe God knew what he was doing when he required us to have to turn our heads from time to time in a different direction in order to remind us to pay attention to the journey along the way.

Bikers often migrate to US 129 between Tennessee and North Carolina on the road called “The Tail of the Dragon”. "The Dragon" is a scant 11 miles of road with 318 curves. It is one of the most twisty, and dangerous road in America if you fail to understand the laws of physics and speed. Bikers are killed every year on the Dragon, from failing to understand the limits of their abilities. Some terminally cease breathing from over-doing the sheer adrenaline rush of pushing life to the edge with their knees or bike parts dragging the pavement from the extreme leans required of such tight turns. Moderation and preparation keeps you off the edge of the pavement where the rail and cliff is, or too close to the middle of the road where other vehicles are.

Narrow roads usually have one obvious characteristic – they aren’t used as much as wide ones. The narrowest roads are usually the hardest to build, and go to places most people don’t usually go to. When you have to cut a road through a forest, or into a mountain, it makes a lot of sense to avoid making it bigger than it needs to be. Narrow roads cry out to those who don’t mind a little challenge in the journey, and who seek to go to more quiet and private places few get to see. You have to be equipped and experienced to take the narrow road, and it requires extra discipline and higher level of vigilance than the wide roads to avoid driving off the side, into someone else, or getting stuck. For some narrow roads cut into rock and dirt, you even need special equipment to make the journey. That actually requires you to think about the road ahead and to prepare for it.

The destination is simply part of the journey. Some people get it, some don’t. Some thrive on the speed and the thrill of getting there first; others thrive on slowing down and taking in the scenery along the way. During a spring ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mark and I were winding our way back up the mountains and going at the pace you’d expect from two old farts on cruisers. We had just gone through a series of winding turns that broke out into one of the most panoramic and breathtaking views I have ever seen and it caused me to break out in spontaneous laughter and pure joy. It also reminded me that God sometimes gives us a lot of crooked and narrow roads to go down in order to learn to see the good stuff and appreciate life more.

So take a lesson from all your biker friends. Don’t get too caught up in straight and wide roads that are easy. You may get there faster but you are likely to miss the surprises in each mile of a magnificent journey on the less beaten path. Even if you slip and fall, or get bruised and banged up, there is learning, redemption and another chance to ride the narrow and twisty road of life.

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