Author Archives: Laura Rena Murray

September 26, 2015

wake up in Elk
above the rafters of
the Greenwood Children’s Barn
daydream about hand massages
while I rub lotion
over each sore joint

so close
to home
this journey
this long wild ride through my country
has come to a definitive
life is due
to shift again
I am stronger now
than I was before
a challenging endeavor
there was no choice
but to grow
I transformed on these wheels

look up for perspective
and the redwoods
steal my next thought
high canopies
and bare splintered trunks

take it all in
golden hills with shaggy trees
red-headed vultures crisscross
the Shoreline Highway
roll along
the curves
of coastal cliffs
where there are no guardrails
or streetlamps
just a steep drop
into the ocean

stop to rest
eat a couple of clementines
in the branches of a bay laurel
a mile up the road from Fort Ross

I stopped looking at the map
days earlier
I know my way

under an almost full supermoon
due for an eclipse
watch the moon rise
until it absorbs all the daylight
turning white
when earth is stripped
of color

pause by the Golden Gate Bridge
at the headlands
to raise my face
feel the wind
off the bay
before sailing home
where Irony awaits
in the quiet space
of wood and skylights
I left so long ago.

September 25, 2015

leave full up on
a hearty breakfast
at the Powderhorn Cafe
where 2 waitresses
with heavy makeup
rush to keep everyone’s mugs full
of weak coffee

open my visor
to wind through redwoods
inhale the undergrowth
musty and rich
wisdom rooted deep
in earth

eyes fill with tears
when I see the yellow poppies
on the California welcome sign
leave cool trickles
down my cheeks
nothing feels better
than coming home
after a long time
of being gone

fog lies
like skin
on the ocean
rolls in to hide Crescent City

soothed by
the swooping curves
of California’s coast

enveloped by fog
over and over again
trucks become hazy apparitions
roaring by
in between
I swallow miles of dry heat

fall in behind
half dozen packed-up Harleys
with Michigan plates

arrive in Elk
with the twilight
under a bright moon
high in the sky
watch an owl dive
to snatch up

September 24, 2015

a beautiful bright sunny day
to wind down the coast
relax when I see
ocean open up the horizon
a pale blue reminder
of how I fell in love
with the Pacific

church signs along 18
tell me to have an “awesome” day
and I fill my helmet
with laughter

there are a lot of gun shops
in Siuslaw

cruise 101’s curves
hugging the coastline
breathe deep
to absorb familiar air
full of dust and salt

I do not like
riding I-5
through the mountains
through the dark
where cars impatiently
race around semis
on winding narrow roads

thankful to arrive
at an airy, open house
with plush teal carpet
where I guzzle water
and sip pinot noir
talk about
the child sex abuse scandal
that caused an uproar
in the Grants Pass mental health community
she tells me the perp
was everyone’s best friend.

September 22, 2015

Seattle in September
is beguiling
I linger too long
before jumping on the road

head toward the military bases
cut down International Boulevard
where a woman stands
in her panties and thigh highs
smoking a cigarette
outside a row of strip clubs and auto shops
forgot what it is like
to drive in a hoard of
collective testosterone and latent rage
muscled arms dangle
from open car windows
one throws up a peace sign
when an SUV cuts me off
2 shaved heads bounce
as they drive over low medians
using bumper car maneuvers
a handicap tag
swinging from the rearview mirror
everyone here
drives with a touch of PTSD

realize I’m riding without brakes
pads worn off
by the long ride
til metal screeches on metal
decide it’s best to
avoid the interstate

Portland makes me pause
for some moto maintenance
that I know how to swap out my brake pads
work on my bike
realize how much I’ve grown to trust

September 20, 2015

start the morning
flocks of quail
peck at the ground
with the court administrator
and the retired EMT

she tells me about
the booming sex trade
over coffee
how 14 year old girls
run away and get snagged
locked into campers
sex slaves to men
who work in the orchard
sit down to a plate
of bacon and pancakes
with homemade huckleberry syrup
feel guilty when I notice
the pig portrait
in the bathroom

he takes a handful of pills
with each meal
remnants of his time with Agent Orange
in Vietnam
the gift that keeps on giving
she says
he is grateful they have
2 healthy children
in spite of it all

they tell me
Washington burned this summer
she points to the mountain range
looming above their house
shows me the 8 mile stretch
the fire ate up

appreciate how
people who are parents
always check the weather along my route
and send me off with snacks

I ride through 5 miles
of charred tree trunks
on the way to Curlew –
the first of several scorched sections
I’ll go through –
wind my way through
bright mountain roads
and miles of open range
where wind hurls tumbleweeds
across the road

ride 20 to 97 to 2
emerge from the mountains
drop down into desert
through miles of smoke
to find a sea of colorful tents
another fire camp
on the edge
of the Colville Indian reservation
where gas is 10 cents cheaper

apple orchards run along the banks
of the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers
desert scrubs anchored in sandy pinnacles
that rise up
in the background

discover a Bavarian-themed enclave
in Leavenworth

2W through the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
is a gift of
rocky mountain walls
gurgling river
lofty trees
brilliant red, orange, yellow leaves
scattered amid the evergreens

fog settled in Steven’s Pass
time to adorn
additional gear
to ride through the clouds
55 miles of rain and hail
a baptism
to welcome me back
to the west coast
there’s a whiteout
at Deception Falls

arrive in Seattle
to a triple rainbow
and a Black Lives Matter sticker
on the window.

September 19, 2015

“where you guys headed?”
asks the young woman
with a pierced lip
cleaning rooms at the Caboose Motel
an assortment of Harleys and Hondas
lined up in front of each door
it takes her a moment to realize
it’s just me
she tells me she’s got
a Honda 250
she just started riding
cause her boyfriend does
I tell her
that’s what I learned on

American flags hang
from every streetlamp
in Troy
hawks soar overhead
evergreens scale
the rocky mountains
and I along with them

when I cross into Idaho
the first thing I see
is a smoke shop,
a sign warning:
“Transportation of Invasive Species is Illegal”
hand-painted boards advertise
“rabbits” and
“pups” and
bicyclists pedal
through Kootenai National Forest
on Saturday afternoon

teens hold up posters
of dismembered, bloody babies
outside the Head Start school
in Sand Point
why is it condoned
to show children
such terrifying, graphic images
all in the name of politicking

spend the day moving through mountains
while Washington blooms with fall colors
small towns sporting lumber mills
every sign comes with an addendum
thanking firefighters

smile at
the welcome sign in Kettle Falls
I want to meet
the grouch

pass a fire camp
en route to Barstow
tents sprawl
across the valley floor

bunk down 18 miles
from the Canadian border
a liberal refuge by the river
where a fat black tomcat
stalks through a tiny vineyard

she reminisces
their pet pig.

September 18, 2015

wake before sunrise
to watch the earth materialize
in shades of gold
until the temperature
climbs above 40 degrees
to crawl out of the tent

a windy morning
by Beaver Creek Lake

gifts given along the way
become objects of comfort
to hold in lonely moments
of protection and courage

cut through ranch land on 2W
where billboards advertise cowboy paraphernalia
bleed for the 100 mile ride
to Shelby
where windmills line the horizon
every turbine spins
counter clockwise

wind throws me around
on the road
when I pass through the Blackfeet Indian rez
a dog lunges at me
children walk
through ramble-shack houses
set close together

immediately stopped by traffic
when I enter
Glacier National Park
to watch a black bear cub
walk along the road
five feet from me

the mountains bring rain
twist through a pass to find
snow on the road
adrenaline usurps
all discomfort
I forget
that I am wet
that my fingers burn
that my muscles are coiled,
braced against the wind
I focus on surviving

Kalispell is full
of casinos
when I ask for a room
at the motel
on the outskirts of Marion
they tell me my best bet
is 68 miles
down the road

as night strips the remaining light
from the sky
I am afraid;
give myself pep talks
tell myself I must ride fearlessly
after I brake for 4 deer
I fall in behind another car
with better headlights
and follow for the remaining 48 miles
5 more deer
leap in front of us

arrive in Libby at 8:54pm
slide off my moto
stiff and slow
after riding 383 miles
it is difficult
to move
the woman at the front desk
tells me to take a hot shower

September 17, 2015

I take him for a ride
he cleans the face shield
of my helmet
so I can
see better
sends me off with
a beer and pudding cups
treats for tonight

road runs straight
I can see miles ahead
and behind
my field of vision
opens up
the sky becomes
and I am just a speck
in this landscape

cross the border and stop
in Culbertson, MT to warm up
by rubbing my palms
under the hand dryer

ride 90 miles across
the Fort Peck Indian reservation
enormous expanse
over the plains
my eyes stretch
to take it in
half the trees I see
are yellow
back to riding over
BIA roads
there are billboards for
casinos and Indian Health Services
some are hand-painted
one reads:
“Promote healthy families
Stop Using!”

stop to eat
dried coconut and jerky
in Wolf Point

pull into the Fort Belknap reservation
riding on fumes
the gas station shares a wall
with the casino
the parking lot is busy
nobody says hello to me

race toward Box Elder
as the sun descends
into my eyes
find a level spot
by lavender wildflowers
next to Beaver Creek Lake
pitch the tent
with haste

flocks of geese
soar overhead
free ranging cows graze
on the next hill over
pelicans cause a ruckus
on the lake

hear the wolves howling
as I watch the sky turn pink
then red
and a sliver of the moon
glows brighter
as night takes over the sky
above the plains

wake up at 3
in 32 degree weather
listen to the wolves
as I shiver
burrow deeper into my sleeping bag.

September 16, 2015

open my eyes to
cows lowing
crawl out of the
wet tent
the river is moving quickly
under a solid grey sky
the water cloudy with mud
a beaver swims down
the middle

shrug on
additional layers
the forest is
chilly and peaceful
in the morning

a lone duck’s honk
echoes through the sky
as it flies overhead
I wonder if it is

move down the road in search of
call my sister
to say “happy birthday”
she tells me
it is Wednesday
I am a day early

watch an old woman
in Towner
put gas into her Ranger XLT
a “Ryan Taylor for Governor” sticker
on her bumper
in a gas station where every vehicle
is a truck or SUV
the corners of her lips
lift up
when she passes me

cruise down Main Street
in Stanley
where Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”
blasts from speakers
mounted on telephone poles
the television
in Joyce’s Cafe
plays only Fox News

bales of hay
scatter across the plains
every time I’m blown
across the road
I wonder at the lack of

the horizon of northwest North Dakota
along highway 2
is dotted with fire
flares from pump jacks
machines that drill for oil
without pause
the air smells of
oil and rain and smoke

Williston greets me
with a downpour
as I make my way
to the boardinghouse for men

there are 2 things to do here
he says
the 70 million dollar rec center
where muscled men talk openly about steroids
or the bars

we talk Saudi Arabia and oil politics
over beer
when a brawl breaks out
in the bar
the fighters are shoved

this boom town seems to be
he says
so many layoffs
on the oil rigs
from 180 operating in 2012
down to just 70
he can’t get
a job.