Thursday, August 25, 2011

Post ride report: Why The Bike?

After what seems to be a very demanding three weeks I woke early to write about riding a motorcycle for a month from coast to coast and from sea level to over 11 thousand feet and in rain and sun, temperatures in the 30s to over 100.  For riders there will be few surprises in this entry, and for non-riders there may be some insights into why people ride motorcycles.

I used to think that there were several kinds of motorcyclists: Some think an hour is a long ride; some think riding on pavement is very dangerous and stick to off-road recreational riding; some think off-road is dangerous and stick to road surfaces with 'good' traction; some think 300 miles in a day is fine if one travels at very high speed; some can't imagine a ride without a beer with their buddies in the middle of the ride; others won't drink until the bikes are parked for the day.  Then there are the ones that think riding a thousand miles in 24 hours is normal - and lots of people think that is nuts.  I could go on, but you get it.  Different strokes for different folks.

I have decided that these kinds are not real.  Each rider has a ride to complete and she or he is going to make that happen.  For me, this summer, the ride was complex and over-planned.  It was an exercise to see if I could plan in detail and ride the plan.  I found that I could and I did - but there were enough surprises along the way that it appealed to my usual riding habit of just pointing in a direction and seeing what happens.

My riding 'kind' is really not about sitting atop a machine with five gallons of gas between my legs and a hot internal combustion engine between my feet going  down the road on two tiny patches of rubber.  My 'kind' is really is about the people I meet along the way and how a part of them rubs off and influences my life.  Recognizing these encounters, and keeping a eye out for them, is a thing that gives me reason to swing a leg over the seat one more time when it is getting old, or is hot, or cold or the road is boring. And especially when it is good!

For example, lets consider the women and men who rode with me to Ocean City on the last day of the trip.  They embrace a 'kind' of riding that is not familiar to me, riding in groups on Harley-Davidson bikes and taking pride in having great looking bikes.  But they are also skilled riders and enjoy the ride as much as I do.  After the ride we really had a good time at the wrap party and I have to admit I would never have met these folks if a certain person had not organized that day.  Now, I will never feel uncomfortable riding with a group like that, and I may even wash and shine up my bike!

On this trip were many 'chance' encounters with people that helped me along the way, both motorcycle related and those providing life's necessities like good food, lodging, details of why one needs to buy bear spray (think pepper spray on steroids) and hints on good places to visit.  For me, that is what the motorcycle provides: reasons to be involved in the lives of others, if only for a few minutes.  Could I do it in a car?  Sure, but the bike seems to open doors to weirder people, the kind I like most.  And an old bike seems to me to attract older folks, ones whose life experience provides a reservoir from which to drink it in.

Take the owner of a bike called "Stir Fry." Protecting his identity (his buddies know who I am talking about) I have to tell you this guy has a lot to offer anyone.  His tales of giving back to the community really inspired me to be on the look-out for more opportunities to give.  I only spent an hour with this man and I hope we get a chance to ride someplace together in the future.  Would I have ever met him if we both rode up in cars to some diner?  I doubt it.

In future blogs I am going to write about other communities that were with me on the ride: ham radio operators, higher education friends, the Not Alone supporters and others.  I am also trying to rank the places I visited and write about a top three places for you to consider visiting.  Yellowstone had so much impact that it is hard to choose number two and three. Stay tuned!

Lessons Learned: Stay aware of the people around you, take the time to let something rub off on you, and embrace giving.

1 comment:

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Very well stated, Ron. I have never had a desire to ride a motorcycle myself, but can understand why others feel so drawn to riding.