The countdown is on. As I type these thoughts, I am twenty-two days out from my 2018 summer moto trip.
The transformation is in motion. My home office walls are starting to look like a Giant Atlas. Paper maps of every State and Canadian Province which I’ll be cruising through are taped to the walls. Cities where I will overnight are highlighted in bright yellow. Back roads which I’ll travel are referenced with a black sharpie. Slender blue post-it tabs calculate the number of miles I will roughly travel each day. This 6,500 mile excursion is starting to take shape.
Motorcycle riding is about the journey. While the end destination for any particular riding day is important, the path one takes to get to one’s final target is the BEST part. The adventure lies in the moment by moment encounters with both human and wildlife; man-made machinery and Mother Nature; greasy spoon and out-of-the way fuel stations. It is the interruptions while ON the ride, that make the road trip so memorable.
Think about this: when YOU are driving in a car, how often do you stop to chat with the locals or take pictures of the scenery? If you are like most people, you are probably driven [pun intended] to GET to your destination. One hour, two hours, three hours, and more…mile after mile you drive your vehicle across the asphalt landscape with a minimum of stops.
While traveling in our automobiles, we silently race the other cars traveling on the road next to us. When we pull in to a Rest Area, we take care of business as quickly as possible. “Kids, don’t talk to any strangers,” as parents we implore. And then just like that, back INTO our car we will climb and resume our Interstate race as we continue on.
NOT so on a motorcycle. ON a motorcycle the focus is different.
Surrounded by nature in an almost 360 degree panorama of sights and smells, the moto rider breathes in THE EXPERIENCE. When one stops at a Rest Area, besides taking care of business, one ALSO stops to eat a snack, hydrate with a cold beverage, stretch the muscles, snap a picture or two, and even on occasion, capture a short 10-minute nap.
Hour after hour, stop after stop, this pattern repeats. And with every stop and every break, if there is someone nearby, you can almost be certain that they will strike up a conversation, which frequently goes something like this:
“Nice bike!” the greeting often begins. “Thanks,” I’ll say. “Where are you heading?” the inquiry continues. And just like that…our conversation is off and running.
“Do YOU ride?” I almost always query. Over the years of my motorcycle riding, I have learned that most people who approach me usually have SOME familiarity with the motorcycle world. Either they ride, have ridden, know someone who does, or have some deep longing to give it a whirl. By the time you look at your watch, fifteen minutes has been invested. And in the process, I will have once again, heard yet another person’s story; and quite possibly made yet another new friend.
How long has it been since you stopped and talked to someone you didn’t know? When was the last time you initiated a conversation with a total stranger? In the world of motorcycle riding, such behavior is commonplace. In fact, it is eagerly welcomed.
Can I offer you an invitation? The NEXT time you pull into a Rest Area, local gas station, or are forced to pause for road construction…when you see a moto rider near his/her bike or a construction worker holding a sign, will you dare to say “Hello?” Will you dare to take a “slow breath” in your day?
From my experience, it is worth the risk. What you will likely experience is the joy of NOT ONLY putting a smile on the face of the person with whom you are talking, but equally cool, your impromptu exchange quite likely will also put a smile on your own face. And THAT, in part, is what makes the road trip, a road trip. After all, we are ALL part of one big family.
While traveling through Colorado, I rolled up on a group of four friends who were out on their Annual, summer excursion. I rode with them for about 100 miles before parting ways. During a road construction halt, we had a chance to formally meet. Below is a video clip I shot while tooling along with them.