Our fearless crew of riders barrels forward into a descending storm.
The Narrator describes eerily as the gray and foreboding clouds descend from the heavens and begin to engulf the landscape which they can witness clearly here on the level ground as they speed along the road. Small rain drops begin to pepper them and bolts of lightning strike the ground around them. As if that’s not scary or dangerous enough, they decide to step on it so they can “beat” the storm. Quickly they ramp it up to 90 miles per hour. The Narrator alludes to the fact that the rain drops feel like needles at 90. And he also describes, with a sense of pride, the musical note of his motorcycle engine and just as it appears he is getting lost in his riding zone (see chapter 2!) a nearby lightning strike illuminates a farm house and water tower.
His reverie is shattered.
And now the story takes a turn for the strange.
After the farmhouse whizzes by he falls into a spell in which he experiences an odd sense of “deja vu” and other senses of familiarity in which he keeps referring to the “he” or “him” who has been here before, here on the road. “He’s been here,” the Narrator thinks. And quickly winds down his speed while John and Sylvia race ahead.
Chris asks his father why the sudden slow down and all he can tell his son is “too fast.” Naturally the little Evil Knievel protests, but they continue driving on at slower speeds and eventually catch up with John and Sylvia just outside town. The Narrator keeps mentioning that this disembodied and unknown “he” has been here and you get the sense that the Narrator has visited the town before as well.
After meeting up on the side of the road, they decide to pull into town and the Narrator mysteriously propels them toward a hotel which they would never have seen or noticed without his foreknowledge. John asks the Narrator about that; how he knew about this motel. Did he stay here before….and the Narrator merely volunteers that he doesn’t remember.
As they check in at the front desk, Sylvia watches the Narrator and notes that he is pale and asks if the lightning shook him up. He looks like he saw a ghost.
Ghosts are the theme of this chapter.
Later they eat dinner at a local diner then trudge back to the motel patio and it turns out that John has bought a bottle of whiskey and some good ol’ 1970’s vintage fun is about to ensue. Thankfully Chris’ presence prevents this story from degenerating into a raucous and swinging Love American Style philosophical debacle. Chris keeps it clean.
Chris is amped. The ride, the food…he’s ready to have a campfire. He wants to sing songs and tell ghost stories. The adults are tired from driving and they just want to drink up. Chris persists with his ghost story requests and he knows what he’s doing, because a few swigs of the demon juice and now his father is ready to talk ghosts alright. Philosophical ghosts!
Chris must be thinking his pops is a real buzzkill because instead of talking about spirits of dead people, the Narrator launches into a deep philosophical diatribe with the ostensible question being “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it…” and spends a good deal of the time treating the group to his monologue. A monologue wherein he questions and doubts the concrete nature of reality; where our thoughts are but fluid expressions of our interpretations of the world and where our world view is basically stunted by the boundaries and mores imposed by mankind’s reliance on the cognitive legacy left behind by previous generations of mankind. It is deeply mysterious and plays out like some strange campfire ghost story minus the strange apparitions hiding in the shadows.
Their little pow wow comes to an abrupt end when Sylvia, amazed (and erotically intrigued?) asks the Narrator where he gets all his ideas.
The Narrator then describes to us how he thinks he might have gone too far. And he steps back, ie, shuts up. John makes small talk about the mountains.
And just like that, talk of philosophical ghosts is over. Sylvia’s amazement will have to wait another day.
And again I must twist this cool little philosophical motorcycle venture and turn it into smut, but I will not be surprised if Sylvia and the Narrator hook up (if they haven’t already) while John is out buying marshmallows or taking a shower. Actually, this is the 70’s, so maybe all three of them will join in the marshmallow-fest in a very “The Ice Storm”-ish kind of way.
The chapter concludes when the Narrator and Chris retire back to their room and Chris still persists in talking ghosts. He asks his father if he’s ever known a ghost and as usual, the Narrator skirts the issue. Interestingly, he finally surrenders a little info…he tells Chris that he once knew someone who searched for ghosts. And he found a ghost, then became one himself. Hmmm. This story is going odd places, isn’t it? And in a final mysterious touch before they go to sleep…this person’s name was “Phaedrus.”
Oh so mythological. As Chris falls asleep the Narrator is laying there in his own thoughts and suggests that he could have told Chris a ghost story, once he knows well…but the thought is too frightening. And now he really “must go to sleep” and Chapter 3 ends.