Life on the Road

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Submitted by Joseph Michael Mackenzie
on 01/04/19

In the thin light of an early morning in late July, my father saddles up. It’s Rome, Italy,
2012, he is waving goodbye to our home for the last five years. My mother, sister and I
are already away on the easier route: flying.

It’s home for a month, to Spain, before
the four of us continue our journeys, my sister and me to the UK for boarding school
and college, my parents to Myanmar, the next leg.


In the airport we wait on a delayed flight, carrying whatever the movers didn’t take;
top hats and two cats. My dad has his own responsibility: a brilliant white Vespa GTS
300, still shining under half a decade of grime picked up from cobbled Roman
streets. It was the most sensible commuter choice. Better than sweaty, crowded
buses and more agile than a car, he could duck and dive through the morning
gridlock. Well, that’s what he says.

If you ask me I’d say the Gregory Peck inside of
him wanted a little Roman Holiday of his own.
And who could blame him? Every three years for the past twenty-five was a new
start. New schools, new friends, new age-defining pop hits; and new cars. Never
flashy, always functional, sturdy enough for trips out of the city, big enough to fit two
kids and four suitcases.

And, every three years, we’d move on, and we’d wave
goodbye to the schools and the friends, the houses, and the cars.
But not this time. Under any other circumstance leaving Europe would mean saying
goodbye to the bike along with everything else. But we had found an
honest-to-goodness home in the North of Spain: a cosy house in a sleepy village
looking out on the Picos de Europa, with country lanes just big enough for a zippy
Italian scooter.


So he saddles up for a 2000 mile trip out of Italy, through France and up to Spain. For
the first time in twenty-five years, he wasn’t letting this ride go.
Now, this wasn’t his first bike. That honour goes to a 1988 Yamaha DT50, a loud and
rickety trail bike he bought for $100 dollars after settling in Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka,
1992. Every morning, donning a plastic raincoat and flip-flops, he roared down the
mountain on back roads, past orange-robed monks and elephants being led to
work.

Teaching English didn’t make for a luxurious life, but with that Yamaha, my
parents had their independence.
They rode to the beach or the countryside on the weekends, roads to themselves, my mum on the back (until she was a little too pregnant with yours truly). They didn’t have much, but they had that driver’s freedom.

Submitted by Joseph Michael Mackenzie
on 01/04/19


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