|by Garrick Goh
|He was a well-traveled cat, having followed my migratory post-college career, living in Ithaca, Los Angeles, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. Wherever he was, Caesar was always completely at home, greeting me with his distinctively scratchy meow at the end of a long day. When traveling, I grew to miss his habit of sitting by my pillow to purr me to sleep.
Caesar was always ready for action, constantly awakening my college roommates with his love of chasing AA batteries. Never content to be one of those cats that slept their days away, he preferred to strike up a conversation with whoever would listen. If nobody was available, he would engage in other activities, such as attempting to shred his favorite lint duster. Perhaps drawing inspiration from how my friends and I chose to ride our bikes, he was also a bit of a daredevil - I once watched him gracefully leap from balcony to balcony, 30 feet up in the air.
It was as if he knew his days on the planet were limited. As if he knew he had to fit his life’s experiences into a narrow window before it slipped away.
We hopped back in the XV Crosstrek, the cabin of which was now showing evidence of our road trip. Yesterday’s water bottles were cradled in the door pockets along with our extra keys and snacks. My trusty iPod1 was connected and safely stowed away inside the center console. There was plenty of room left for us, despite Chuck’s large plastic tote occupying most of the back seat. Even our CamelBak® hydration packs slotted perfectly behind the accessory subwoofer. Although we were carrying a full load, there was still a place for everything, leaving us free to concentrate on the journey itself.
Chuck was right about the road conditions leading up to the trails. Normally, if someone had asked me to drive a fully loaded vehicle for miles on rural, unpaved, rutted, forest roads, I would be a bit nervous. But the XV Crosstrek shrugged it off, as if we were taking a trip to the corner store.
It was not a sloth-like beast of burden, slowly crawling its way down the trail. Instead, it was an enthusiastic coach, egging me on to push harder over the bumps and ruts. And this was with a full load of two kayaks, two bikes, and all of our gear.
As we passed a few minimal maintenance road signs, we enjoyed the long-travel suspension and hearty tires, which partnered to smooth out the questionable road conditions. The Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) ensured that there were no neck-snapping downshifts as I called for more power to climb the hills. It was a wonderfully coherent package, enjoying its romp out in the woods.
A few carefree miles later, we arrived at the trailhead and eagerly pulled the bikes off the carrier. As we walked to the drop-in point, we took a moment to enjoy the silence. There were no trucks rumbling down a nearby expressway, no planes queuing overhead in a landing pattern, and certainly no trains blaring their horns in the distance. All we could hear was the rustling of leaves, punctuated by chirping and ribbiting from local woodland residents.
Although it was my first time riding at Shindagin, we soon witnessed the universal mountain biker camaraderie: A local future extreme-sports star eagerly showed us the best line for launching off the end of an elevated skinny. An older pair immediately took us under their wings and became our trail guides. And a muddy college student asked us for a crash course on bike repair after taking a crunchy splash down a rocky decent into the water.
Activity, new friends, and sheer enjoyment, plus a soul-satisfying blend with nature – what a wonderful way to commemorate Caesar’s life. The end of our trip quickly morphed into that feeling. And we did end up going wine tasting. We were out of time, but the weather was too perfect and the scenery too beautiful.
It’s what Caesar would’ve wanted.
1 iPod is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.