the wonderful sport of Motorcycling relatively late in life. But upon the discovery, I was hooked for life and started wondering why I hadn’t taken this up twenty years earlier. I have now made several cross-country trips and other shorter but no less memorable jaunts. I have discovered what long time riders have known for years. There is something about long distance riding that simply adjusts the soul. It’s not an easy thing to put in to words, but you know it when you feel it. On the original MisterEd.com, back in 2004 I wrote about the epic quality of the long ride and all of this still holds true…
There’s a ton of riders that live for the long ride. Whether it be the weekend jaunt across five states or the three week trip around the country – or something longer – there’s a common craving for the distance and the things seen along the way.
For me, the long rides are remembered as a collection of moments, sights, smells, feelings. I barely remember the stretches of interstate to get from place to place quickly, but the quiet moments, the exciting moments, the epic moments – those are the ones that stick in the mind.
It can be something as simple as how the freshly cut grass smells on a spring morning as you roll through a small town in the midwest in the warm sun – you come down main street and breakfast is wafting through the air with the wisps of coffee, toast, pancakes and laughter coming from the local diner. Maybe it’s the bite of a really cold morning when you leave the no-name motel you picked last night while it’s still dark and the early morning air is still and silent and the only sound you percieve is the wind whispering past your helmet. Even with heated grips you have to flex your hands to keep them from getting stiff, and the fog from your breath hangs heavy behind your faceshield. It can be the sight of a perfect sunrise coming up over a sleepy valley that’s still wrapped in a snuggly blanket of fluffy fog as you crest the top of a ridge in the Smoky Mountains. Or the deep, rich aroma of the cold sea air as you ride the Pacific Coast highway with the gulls.
Sometimes it’s the heart racing moments. That squiggly little line on the map that your coin flip this morning brought you to. A road that’s right at the limits of your abilities, that wakes you up and makes you gasp a couple of times as you come hurtling around a bend and the left peg just grazes the pavement as you continue to roll on and tighten up to get through the other end. It can be that moment that a lot of us have had – in the desert, on the flats, not another living human soul around for 50 miles, dead straight road – how … far … do … I … dare … open … the … throttle ………
It can be the funny and touching and human moments. The little boy in Nebraska who walks up to your shiny motorcycle, holding mom’s hand, and just stares at you and your bike with a huge grin on his face, and then clings to mom as soon as you wave at him, and Mom laughs. The time that you were gassing up at that little filling station in Texas and a grizzled gray fellow on a beat up old 1930’s Indian pulls up to the next pump – and you find out that he’s owned that bike since he was in college in the 1950’s and he’s been keeping it going for the last 50 years and riding almost every day – and then you discover that he’s got a Ph.D and he’s an oil field geologist! The gal in Ohio who gives you a cup of coffee and a cookie with your gas “… just ’cause you look tired …” The guy with the buzz cut that you met in San Diego, getting one last ride in on his sport bike before shipping out to Iraq the next day to do things no 18 year old kid should ever have to do – God speed Marine, God speed.
And then there’s the times when it’s just you and the road and it just plain feels good. The days when the time passes so well that you’re just amazed that you have to stop for gas already – didn’t I JUST stop? The days when 500 miles go by like they’re 50. The days when nothing is wrong, everything’s working and perfect and this odd sense of calm, peace and relaxation fall over you while you’re doing over 100 MPH. There’s the 450 mile day in the pouring rain that makes you ever so glad to see a Motel 6, but gives you a sense of accomplishment nonetheless.
There’s even joy, sometimes, in the bad moments. The day the bike breaks down, but you’re able to patch it together with the duct tape and wire in your saddlebags enough to get to the next town. The day that you get hurt, broken, bent, bashed, but come out the other end alive and able to ride another day. And even tragedy can bring people together. A friend dies and his friends can become closer and more supportive of each other than ever before.
We all ride for different reasons. We all remember different things about the trip. But we all have one thing in common – the ride is a story, a fable, an epic tale told in miles and gallons and cups of coffee and memories.
Ride safe. Enjoy the journey.
Motorcycling has become a passion for me and will continue to be, I suspect, until I simply can ride no more.
Click around on the links to see more about my trips, my bikes and other things.