I had never before met my next hosts. Gypsie and Ali had lived and worked with my parents in Iran, long before I was born. These days they lived outside of Johnson City, down dirt covered roads, tucked away in the hills. I punched in the gate code and drove over the small bridge that crossed the dam. A mile down the dirt track I found the sign for Moon Face Ranch and pulled in. They met me at the gate and helped me clear a space for the bike inside. Their home was beautiful and spacious, built completely of white stone-work. A back porch looked southwest into the sunset and the expanse of Texas Hill Country. Brewer's Sparrows warbled their metallic song from the scrub. Kestrels and Wild Turkeys called noisily at the red-violet ball of sun as it lowered against the skyline.
We finished the night inside over Coors Light. At ten, their son Nick came home, fresh from his high-school baseball game. He was a smart kid with a boisterous disregard for authority. His spirit reminded me of my own high-school years and we shared stories of foolishness and rabble-rousing. Ali showed me photos from years ago. Photos of him and my father in Iranian Army uniforms, posing with rifles. Photos of Gypsie and my mother laying on blankets in the sun, surrounded by hip young Iranians, picnicing and smoking cigarettes. My sister was there, just nine months old. Gypsie recounted stories of waiting for the oil company plane to arrive, hoping for Ali to be on board. He was always the last to step off the plane, she said. They served free beer on the plane, he said.
I woke late in the morning. I watched Ali feed the chickens out back while Gypsie cooked eggs and bacon inside. The meal was delicious. I drank french-pressed coffee and ate pears with jam. This was, a thousand times over, the most comfortable stop of the trip, and I relished in the luxury. After breakfast I helped Ali rake and fertilize some sapling trees in the yard. Pomegranates, Pears, and Apple Trees, sitting cozy in their beds of fresh-laid soil. Working in the warm sun felt good, and the gardening reminded me of the countless hours of yardwork I'd done with my dad. I spent the rest of the morning birding, recalling the familiar desert birds as they sang and fluttered past. We split a few strands of Cedar for the fireplace and retired inside.
I propped the motorcycle up on the centerstand and set to cleaning and checking her over. The shift linkage had grown stiff, and I cleaned the assembly until it ran free. I greased the kick and centerstand and tightened up the engine bolts. Finally, I pulled the spark plugs and spent awhile examining the burn residue. It felt good to run through the bike and I ran the engine a few minutes, listening to it run, before pulling her back inside. I thought back to chilly October, when I'd bought the bike for $700 from an ad in the paper. I hadn't even had the confidence to register the thing for more than one year. And now, we sat in Texas, in the midday sun, wind-worn and halfway through America. Oh, the places we go.