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Racing on the New Jersey Turnpike

It’s not what you think. This story is not about me. It’s about something I saw. It’s about a race I observed on the New Jersey Turnpike while traveling between exit 9 and 11 heading north. It was ... a thing of beauty, between two formidable and equally matched antagonists. A race of epic proportion and uncertain outcome; a race I have not been able to shake from my mind today. 

Leaving work last night, I was uncharacteristically early and anxious to get home. The parts for my ’70 BSA motorcycle had finally arrived and I could get started, on what I hope to be, my last repair needed to get it on the road. My shirt was wet and sticking to me, still sweating from forty-five minutes on the elliptical, when I stepped out that steel door into the tail end of a passing thunderstorm. By the time I made it to the Explorer, the rain had stopped and I was soaked. Now my two-door Explorer is a “tail happy” girl, and on a good day the backend will break loose unexpectedly in a turn ... on a rain slicked road … I become an old man. The roads had dried adequately by the time I arrived at the NJTP, and soon the 85 mile per hour wind was streaming through the windows and roof, blowing Pearl and “Cry Baby” into my back seat. The ride was uneventful and quick up to and past exit 9, New Brunswick, when I looked up and out my sunroof and caught the start of a rainbow. 

The setting sun, to my left, was reflecting off the mist to the northeast, part of the storm that was now raining into my seats (I was not, however, shutting the roof and missing this). The rainbow was less than one-quarter of a full arc and stretched between two clouds. She was broad and full of color, like a large, thick, swath of summer wild flowers. I glanced at the road ahead just enough to be safe, but I could not keep my eyes from turning skyward. As the sun continued her decent into the west, my rainbow grew, about one-third now and the small foundation was beginning to form on the right (this was one of those rainbows that starts on the ends and meets somewhere in the middle). As I passed exit 10, this beautiful rainbow was slowing traffic behind me. My rainbow waxed as the setting sun waned. The celestial race was on. Would the full arch of her be completed and known before the setting sun doused her vivid color? Poor girl, she had started so late in the day. If only the timing was better, another half hour. But it is what it is, and now it’s a race to the finish. I watched this drama unfold with anxious eyes, and all too soon, my ramp appeared before me … and I was gone. I would never know the outcome … this race between the building rainbow and this setting sun … between the realization of something complete and beautiful and the solemnity of the final light. As I speed up, after the toll, onto the Parkway ramp, wrestling with how to tell you this story, it occurred to me … maybe this story … maybe it’s about me after all.