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"Riding Rockets:

the Inward Road"

An Excerpt

from Volume 5: Wild Mercury

by Ciro Coelho

Motorcycles have pervaded my life, appearing at different junctures ever since I was in my mother’s womb.


It was lunchtime on a November day in 1977 when I started his red Honda CB 250––unbeknownst to him––and rode it around the neighborhood where I had grown up. I was twelve then, and our father had passed away a few hours earlier, that very morning. The ride was as aimless as it was cathartic. I circled around the block on the bike a few times as my friends from school started arriving to be with me. I didn’t realize it then, but it was on that motorcycle––on a motorcycle––that I felt the most alive.


Luis, my half-brother, had parked his motorcycle at our house to go to my father’s funeral with my mother. She had given me the choice to attend the funeral, but I had decided not to see my dead father. Luis and I shared a father, but we had different mothers, both named Laura. My Laura was only seven years older than Luis, her step-son, but somehow, he had always felt that she was more of a mother to him than his own. When I was born, Luis was 23.


Growing up, he was my idol. I always teased him for being responsible for my passion for motorcycles; after all, he had taken my mother on bike rides while she was pregnant with me. Over the years, he came and went as he relocated to other states in Brazil for work. It wasn’t until much later, after I had already moved to the U.S., in 1996, that we reconnected. Now, family bond, and the compassion for the passing of time for both of us, had replaced the pedestal inside of me where he had lived. We were two human beings, two brothers, both getting old, each at his own speed.


At 72, Luis went on his motorcycle, by himself, on a 7,000-mile trip from São Paulo, in Brazil, to Tierra del Fuego, in Argentina. I can only imagine the experiences he must have had. Last Fall, when I first contemplated going on my first long motorcycle trip, I thought of him. If he had done it at 72 on a Triumph Rocket 2,300cc (the largest displacement engine of any production motorcycle), I, at 53, could take a four-month motorcycle road trip across North America on my BMW R1200GS Adventure. We both sought the open road, the runway that allows us to take flight on our motorcycles.


Luis was very excited when I called to tell him about my upcoming adventure. The talk was brief, as he had been feeling under the weather. As we were saying goodbye, he promised to send a photo of his bike all loaded up from his trip to Patagonia.
I never got the photo. Shortly after our talk, Luis was hospitalized and the flu-like symptoms evolved into full kidney and liver failure, and he died a few days later at 77. 
My brother is riding rockets again.

 

To read the rest of Ciro's travel memoir, please purchase Volume 5 in our bookstore.

Motorcycles are like cats: either you love them, or you don’t. There is certainly no ambivalence about either. Loving both, but taking only one of them, in August of 2019, I left Ojai, in California, and went north on an open-ended, unscripted healing adventure motorcycle journey. Inward Ride––the title I gave this inner and outer road trip and vulnerable exploration of life, lasted 97 days, and transformed my relationship to life and to myself.y.

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