Wisconsin's April weather arrived in early March, setting in motion a spontaneous state-wide celebration that people from warmer climates could never understand. Winter's heavy blanket of cold, dark air is eagerly cast aside the first time the thermometer tops 40-degrees and the sun's glow remains visible past 6 PM. Senses, attitude, and desires awaken from their winter hibernation in a euphoric state. But this year was different, better than most; the warm weather and unusual lack of snow left the roads clear and dry much earlier than normal. This is a rare combination for Wisconsin in March and it startled our summer attitudes and our summer toys from their winter naps. As I write this, on the eve of the spring equinox, I've already gotten one motorcycle out – Backroad, my Yamaha Super Tenere – but the other two I'm letting sleep in. We still need a spring rain to wash the salt from the roads. Chrome and road salt do not play together well.
I also woke up Hobbes, my 1972 Triumph TR6. I put him to bed last fall after a thorough bath and a meal of ethanol-free fuel flavored with fuel stabilizer. His shiny parts, like those of my other two motorcycles, were protected with an oily balm. After I got him in his room last fall he wiggled restlessly until I lulled him into his deep winter sleep with a soothing spray of engine fogging oil, which he eagerly ingested. His battery was placed on a monitor and I covered him with his heavy blanket.
To wake him up this spring I pulled his blanket off and as he yawned I reached in and removed his spark plugs. A squirt of oil into each of his six cylinders satisfied the dry-mouth he was likely experiencing after his long rest. I nudged his starter until his oil pressure showed signs he was waking up. Because it is as easy to install new spark plugs as it is old spark plugs, I surprised him with a shiny new set. The words on London's subway warning signs tumbled in my mind as I adjusted the position of each spark plug's electrode: Mind the gap. My mind is always on the hunt for word play.
While I poked and nudged under Hobbes' open bonnet (that's the "hood" to you America car types), the garage radio kept he and I company with music from the 1980s. The radio is a powerful time-machine, sometimes transporting me to places long forgotten. Some of the songs carried me back thirty years and more, to when I drove and enjoyed a different TR6 than Hobbes. Triumph TR6s have been part of my life since I was eighteen. I do count myself lucky.
After I finished installing the new spark plugs, I was ready to coax Hobbes from bed. Like most of us over four decades old, he was a little rough at first but after his first cup of 91 octane "coffee" the rough edges had worn away. We went for a short ride to check out his systems and he showed me he was ready. And so he is.
Thinking of Hobbes, an inanimate object, as a companion is silly…or is it? Hobbes, the tiger in Calvin and Hobbes for whom "my" Hobbes is named, was a stuffed animal to everyone but Calvin. Calvin saw him differently. Calvin had a relationship him. He was a friend, a muse, a partner in crime, a confidant. He was integral to Calvin's life. "My" Hobbes came to me already named by a friend who nurtured the car for over twenty years. He'd tell you the car also nurtured him. Was Hobbes his companion? Did they have adventures? Boy, did they ever! And now Hobbes is mine and the adventures are "ours." He brings me joy just by being there and he's as much an instigator of adventure as a participant in it.
Do you have a "Hobbes" of your own? Maybe a garden you've been planning since the moment you removed the last vegetables last fall? Maybe a sailboat whose keel has been dry far too long? Or a motorcycle whose tires have have sagged from inactivity and gravity's steady pull? Inanimate objects, yes, but integral to your life. The soil doesn't need to be planted, the wood or fiberglass keel never needs to feel water again, but we need them to for our own sake. Even in the dead of winter that frozen garden plot brings pleasure in the planning.
As spring weather gains a stronger grip and we all prepare in our own way for another active season, recall the dialogue between Calvin and Hobbes in the final frames of the final Calvin and Hobbes* comic strip:
Hobbes: "The World Looks brand-new!"
Calvin: "A new year….A fresh clean start!"
Hobbes: "It's like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on!"
Calvin: "A day full of possibilities! It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy…lets go exploring!"
*Calvin and Hobbes words and images are copyright Bill Watterson.