The Night Traveler

I wrote this story while waiting to board the 1 AM sailing of the S.S. Badger car ferry, to cross Lake Michigan, on the first leg of a 3400-mile solo motorcycle adventure to Bar Harbor, Maine, in September 2012. 


"I've never seen a night so long

When time goes crawling by

The moon just went behind the clouds

To hide its face and cry"

~from "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams

Night is a lonely time for the solo traveler. The road is both endless and no longer than the reach of the headlights. The miles pass anonymously as a series of white dashes on a black asphalt treadmill.

Cities glow orange beneath sodium vapor nightlights. Homes are dark, plastic toys sit gathering dew in the yard. Businesses slumber until the rattle of a shopkeeper’s keys awakens them in the morning and their doors yawn open for the first customers.

The hopes for the day have faded with the day’s light. The promises that rose with the sun seem unfulfilled. Hope, anticipation, and optimism all sleep at night. The solo traveler’s thoughts drift to what was, what could have been. Night is the time for looking backward, not forward. The past is recorded brightly in memory; the future hides under night’s dark blanket. Night is for looking inward, not outward. The dark, cold air encourages withdrawal, both physically and mentally. Cold air invites cold thoughts and brings an end to the warm daydreams of the sunlit hours.

Midnight, waiting in Manitowoc, Wisconsin for the S.S. Badger to carry me across Lake Michigan.

Midnight, waiting in Manitowoc, Wisconsin for the S.S. Badger to carry me across Lake Michigan.

The quiet of the night calls attention to the few remaining sounds. The hum of a truck’s tires on a distant highway, masked by the crowded streets of day, becomes the suppressed weeping of a mourning widow who remains graveside after the others have left. The rhythmic click-click, click-click, click-click of the car’s turn signal is deafening in the silence of a deserted intersection, its urgency out of place.

But morning’s rising sun will warm the night's cold thoughts and hope, anticipation, and optimism will rise with it. Excitement and possibility will chase away loneliness and longing. The new day will bring wonderful, bright memories to replay when it again becomes dark and quiet.

Just 6 hours later, a completely different mood on Michigan's sandy, western coastline.

Just 6 hours later, a completely different mood on Michigan's sandy, western coastline.

Hold-out for the Sun….

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