Wednesday, May 31st, 2006 – Distance travelled 22 miles

When I woke up, my first thought was that I was in a tropical jungle, not in the “Windy City” of legend (and the song which, sadly, I am old enough to remember Doris Day singing) ! In my plunge into dreamland, the previous evening, I had omitted to turn down the heating. My clothes were, at least dry, but orchids could easily have thrived in the warm and moist air. I hurriedly turned down the heating and took another long shower to wash off the stickiness. I packed my little bag for the final time with that mingled sense of relief you feel for a job done and regret that it was now finished. When I left the room, I would be heading home.

I checked out, walked to the Harley and threw my leg over the saddle. I felt quite overcome by sadness. I had come to love that bike to a point where I knew, that the following day, I was going to miss it terribly. It had simply done everything I had asked of it in an unfussy way. I wanted to take it home with me. I started it, listened to the easy beat of its engine for a minute, then clicked it into gear and set off with a sigh !

I have said many times that I see Fate very much as a lady and so I have to report that she now chose to raise my spirits. To get where I wanted to go, indeed to where I should have been the night before if my concentration had held, I needed to go north. I was on Ogden Avenue and I needed to make a left at the first intersection, which would be north into Harlem Avenue. When I stopped at the lights, in daylight, there was a vague familiarity about the surroundings. i looked around and, directly on the corner to my right, there was a familiar brown sign, for Route 66. I suddenly realised that I had come down Ogden Avenue in the opposite direction, on the Route, when I had left the Sears Tower a month before and had made the left turn to the south at the very same intersection. Leaving aside the almost statistical impossibility of this happening, it sent my spirits into orbit.

Assuming that there is a perfect ending, this just simply had to be it. Samsara, the wheel of life, had made a perfect rotation. Never, ever, doubt its existence. Quite simply, I felt blessed.

Of course, I also felt hungry and luckily, after a few blocks, I spotted Connie’s Family Restaurant (3271 S Harlem Ave, Berwyn, IL 60402) and was able to stop and do something about it. It was all so American, that I actually sat at the counter, instead of at a table. The waitress noted the Harley, parked outside the window and was full of curiosity as to whether I had ridden “all the way from California” because that was where she was from and she had noted the tag. She was obviously a little more savvy than most, because my brief list of places I had been to and the fact that I had originally started just up the road did make an impression. She even threw in an extra “side” of bacon slices (which WAS about half a pig) as a token of my achievement ! I gave her a nice tip and left to take back my little bike.

I rode up Harlem Avenue to the I-90, circumnavigated the top of O’Hare airport and easily located the Eagle Riders office. The hand back procedure was almost painfully simple, although I did have to pay $130 for losing the key and for a new cable lock. Still, I got to keep the one I had bought in Santa Fe and it is securing my own Fat Boy, outside my house, as I type these words. My total mileage of 12,445 excited no comment whatsoever.

I had parked the bike in exactly the same place as it had been sitting when I first picked it up. That is the sort of thing that I do. I patted the tank and walked to the kerb where I flagged down a taxi almost immediately. I did not dare turn around, or I would have probably walked back inside and bought the Harley to take home with me.

The trip to the airport took only a few minutes and the flight was on time. The hefty disc lock did attract a bit of attention at the check-in counter, but otherwise everything was as smooth as possible.

The flight from Newark was overnight, so I went quickly to sleep in my nice Business Class seat and arrived back in Prague first thing in the morning to find my lovely wife waiting on the concourse.

Home again.