John Otterbacher
Author, Speaker and Adventurer

A Good Run

Excerpt 4 from What Remains

As much as I love words, I don’t experience life in complete sentences, especially on my motorcycle. Images and impressions mostly, that I try to make sense of later.


These first miles are slow and hesitant, arms spastic, too cautious in the curves. Less control, I remind myself. More attention. To the tire-rupturing pothole I might see too late, launching me God knows where. To the oncoming driver looking down to text and sliding over the centerline. And especially on these tree-lined back roads, the driver looking for a car rather than a motorcycle and pulling out of a driveway in front of me. The road wants all of me.


There’s a lot to attend to for a mind that wanders, the autumn rust gathering in the trees, the old women in her front yard, bread crusts flying, the flourish of wings. It’s why I’m out here, the raw experience pulsing beneath my frenetic thinking.


I am beginning to relax an hour out, no passing cars for miles. I cross into Indiana and take a sleepy road into the countryside.


The forested hill country gives way to flatland, farm after farm, past abandoned houses, angular and empty, rusting equipment and collapsing barns, overgrown two-tracks and corporate spreads carpeted with the stalked remains of harvest. I pass an occasional pickup, summer blond grasslands, the roadside parks my parents favored, a straggle of signs announcing a town.


I slow as I enter, grain elevators, groceries and gasoline, past kids pulling a dog in a wagon, a barbershop, tractor supplies, pizza place and bar, a garage with the hood up on the truck out front, and way too many “for lease” signs. I slow further to pass a school and a football field with a single aluminum stand. Then a string of one-story bungalows, yards mowed close and American flags, grandma waiving from a porch.


I power through hay and alfalfa country, strobed light in the trees from the plunging sun, into shadow-land now, green going khaki, haze gathering at the edge of fields, deer in the fading light, high beam on the asphalt, hunger building, the unity of night.


I see a city glow out ahead, relief with the arrival of suburban houses. A good run and done.


What Remains, page 11



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Awards for Sailing Grace

Best New Non-Fiction Book, National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist, Best Book Awards, USA Book News Winner, Michigan Notable Book Awards

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