A few days ago, I got my cycle out for a short jaunt. It was a sunny February day and the snow had melted and there was no ice on the roads, it felt safe to ride. Given the melancholy bleakness of winter, it felt like a hot summer August day. Weather can be a matter of perspective. I went to school in Buffalo, NY where it rained and or snowed 6 days of the week. Snow drifts the size of houses are a normal occurrence in Western, NY and the snow will last from November through March. This Sunny February day felt like the Bahamas but the reality was that it was about 40 degrees.
It felt good to ride again. I recently did a bunch of maintenance on my ride and she felt nimble and ready to pounce. As I was rounding a corner, I saw a golf course sprinkler system watering the greens. There was a brisk westerly wind pushing tiny droplets of water away from the golf course and onto the road. I automatically knew that given the temperature outside that the mist accumulating on cold tarmac would translate into a caustic situation. The fact that I was riding on a brand new front tire did not help the situation (Always Be Careful on New Tires). I was already in the curve and without thinking, I tried to upright my bike before going into the wet pavement because I felt that it may be ice. I am not right often but this time I was, that golf course sprinkler mist turned that corner into black ice carnage.
As soon as I hit the patch of water, I felt my tires sliding out of control and that is when my brain went into slow motion. It’s like you’re thinking in normal speed but everything in your environment is moving at a snail pace. This has not happened to me since Iraq. In combat situations, sometimes things just slow down. Do you remember in the movie Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hanks is on Omaha Beach on D-Day and everything just goes in slow motion, that is what it was like.
The funny thing is the first thought in my mind was the safety of my new Bell Helmet. It’s such a gorgeous helmet and the thought of it bouncing off the road chipping paint was just to horrific to contemplate. Then I thought of wanting steak and eggs with white toast, eggs done over easy fashion. Then I pondered my wife’s reaction, she would be so angry at me. I imagined being in a coma and having my wife lecture me for 43 hours straight on the dangers of motorcycling. Trapped in a coma listening to anti motorcycling propaganda sounded almost as bad as damaging my new slick painted retro lid. My last thought I remembered was hoping the dogs would be ok outside if I did not make it home till my kids got back from school. The beasts are inside dogs and it was a little chilly and hoped they would not be cold.
Then as soon as it happened the cycle righted its self and I was off the ice driving safely forward. The moment lasted less than a second but it felt like 4 minutes.
After further reflection, I am not sure about my contemplative priorities while getting ready to crash on the motorway. Luckily the crash never happened but it makes me think that we could all be only one second away from a life changing moment. Cherish the time you have on two wheels when you can get it and always let your loved ones know how much you care for them.
I don’t fear crashing as much as I fear not being able to ride.
I have no photos to prove I rode the Loneliest Road in America. Forgetting to take photos for a two-week ride on my motorcycle has not been my finest moment as an amateur blogger. Over the same two-week trip, I also forgot to put on pants at a family re-union dinner. Oh yes, this is a true story. I walked into the room with a short sleeve shirt, shoes, hat and boxer underwear. I totally forgot my pants but luckily was wearing white boxer briefs which could almost count as shorts but are definitely classified as underwear. The whole family noticed my fashion blunder and I will go down in the family history as the dude that forgot his pants at the Family Reunion. Luckily shortly after that incident, I got back on my cycle to ride one of the most majestic roads in North America. The Loneliest Highway through Nevada is not just a clever name to increase tourism, it is legitimately desolate beyond compare. Think of the Desert Planet Tatooine in Star Wars and you will have an accurate representation of the isolated motorway. The Loneliest Highway is part of U.S. Route 50 which starts in Ocean City, Maryland and runs all the way to West Sacramento, California. Highway 50 has been named the Backbone of America which defines its rural spirit. The Loneliest Highway is a subsection of this interstate which is located in Nevada. This stretch of payment is a philosophical bikers dream. It’s not filled with wondrous curves or insane pathway cliffs but its barren landscape breeds independent free thought. In the desert, the lines of communication between our consciousness and soul become more linked and primed. Back in 2003, I lived in the desert in South East Asia for a year. During this time, I wrote without abandon with more conviction and feeling then I have ever felt. This could be explained by many reasons but I always thought that the desert environment served as a muse which affected my soul directly leading to my literary expressions. It could be the open skies, the vivid sunsets, mesmerizing dawns, murderous sun or extreme deadly heat but for some reason, the desert enhances ones own own self perspective.
For me the Loneliest Highway started near Carson City, Nevada along U.S. Route 50 and ended in Delta, Utah. If you’re going to ride this isolated route, then be prepared for nothingness. For the first time in my life, I did my homework. My research found a limited amount of Gas Stations along the way. I packed an external gas reservoir, to supplement my small gas tank. This was absolutely needed and was used on multiple occasions. Sun block is needed and a lot of it. With every stop, I applied sun block. I found that the scent of the lotion much better than my natural odor (showers were limited on my trek). There are plenty of places to camp for free in National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Property. Watch out for small desert creatures that can ruin your evening if you choose to sleep under the stars. I traveled with a foam bed roll, sleeping bag and fully enclosed bivi shelter. I am a huge wimp; the thought of waking up with a rattlesnake in my sleeping bag or scorpion on my forehead makes the bivi shelter and absolute essential for desert camping. Don’t be fooled, it may be scorching hot during the day but at night the temperature drops and a sleeping bag is mission critical. Sitting under the night sky while camping on the Loneliest Highway is one of the most peaceful environments I have ever witnessed. The sounds of the desert, vast star infested atmosphere and the loneliness of the place, transfixed my emotions and brought me into a dream while still conscious. It’s a great place to be with one’s self and ponder life’s many conundrums.
I rode from Denver, Colorado to Lincoln City, Oregon a few weeks ago. I spent about 10 days on the road. I have only one photo of the whole trip. The picture is of my cycle gazing upon the Pacific Ocean and is attached above. It’s rather strange that I did not take more photos of this trip. Think about it, how many people take multiple photos a day of things like their meal or random snaps of grass growing. I travel half the country and only take one lame picture. I did not even notice until I got back home that I was basically photo less. Take more photos is on the need improvement list for future trips.
My Honda Interstate was so comfortable on this sojourn. I set it up for a long journey by adding an engine guard and additional foot pegs. I used to get major aches while riding on long treks on my old cycle (FJR). I was pain free this go around; the only reason why I had to stop was to get gas. Another added comfort was using one of my bags as a back rest. The back rest is a must have. One last tip, a cool way to store a tent and sleeping bag is to use a water proof bag and hook it on a luggage rack with zip ties. The concept worked great and your sleeping provisions will be guaranteed dried when it’s time to pull over and set up camp. Remember your essentials on a long trip which are zip ties, duct tape, multi-tool, sun block and flip flops. Nothing like putting on flip flops after a 500-mile ride. Leave your schedule and sense of punctuality at home.
I so much miss the speed and excitement of riding my old sports tourer but absolutely adored the cruising comfort of my new ride during the trip. What is more important, handling/speed or comfort? Let’s be honest, my Honda Interstate has absolutely nothing on my old Yamaha FJR when comparing corning, speed and agility. With that said, my Honda Interstate provides total comfort on long rides and gives me the ability to peacefully ponder the journey without nagging pain and discomfort. The answer is that it’s an individual decision. One may choose comfort over speed/agility or vice versa and there is no wrong answer. I used to think that my FJR gave me both comfort and speed but as I grew older and rounder, I found those ugly pains coming more frequently. I think the real answer should be that everyone gets issued 4 motorcycles that they can choose to fit their individual mood. This should be a tax payer expense and every citizen is able to participate in this program. Along with this program, once a month there should be a No Traffic Law Day where individuals can ride as fast as they want. Yes it will be an expensive endeavor but think of the benefits. I have listed a few below:
- Riding Increases Overall Happiness. We Finally Live In a Happy Society
- Increased Motorcycle Awareness. With Everyone Owning Multiple Motorcycles, Cagers Will Be More Mindful of Motorbikes
- Lane Splitting Would Surely Be Made Legal in Every State
- Less Crime Due to the Fact That All the Hoodlums Are Doing Motorcycle Stunts Via Massive Flash Mobs on our Local Highways
- Everyone Knows That Driving Fast on a Motorcycle Cures Hiccups
- More Women Riders
- Crack Addicts on Motorcycles, What Can Be More Entertaining
- Less Road Rage
- Moms Could Not Say, “Not When Your Living Under My Roof” When a 16-Year-Old Kid Asks For a Motorcycle
- A Decreased Dear Population From So Many Motorcycles Taking Out Annoying Suicidal Deer
- Less Use of Alcohol and Anti-Depressants As Everyone Will Cure Their Gloomy Dreary Lives With Super Cool Motorcycles Of Their Choosing
What 4 Motorcycles Would You Choose?
Here are my choices below:
- 2016 Triumph Scrambler (There is a Hipster in all of Us Wanting to Ride a Scrambler Down a Dirt Road)
- 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse (A Dark Cruiser Needing an Attitude Adjustment and Caring a Big Bat)
- 2014 Ducati Panigale R (Speedy Gonzalez has Nothing on this Red Beast)
- 2012 KTM 990 Adventure Dakar Edition (Sometimes One Must Get Off the Grid)
Have you noticed there are just too many types of cycles out there? I am not even going to try to list all the different niche bikes there are on the market today. I love the fact that there is a diverse selection of rides to choose from but it bothers me that we categorize them in different sects like some sort of evil Anthropology experiment. At the end of the day we have a motor and two wheels and that is enough for me.
Give me a slow bike and I will ride it like it’s on the Salt Flat Time Trials. Give me a duel sport and I will tour with it like a Gold Wing. It took me 30 years to get my first cycle and have loved riding since day one on a cycle. One constant has remained true in my 12 years of riding; “I have not met a motorcycle, I did not like”.
I refuse to classify my ride as anything but a motorcycle b/c I plan to use it for any purpose my warped sense of judgment leads me. If that means it’s a dirt bike one day then so be it. If I go down on soft sand then that is life; it’s nothing a pair of knobby tires can’t fix.
Don’t Settle Into Conformity That Other Define. Be the Catalyst That Burns Down Those Barriers
Today I took my FJR up a dirt mountain pass in Colorado. Well to clarify, about 7 miles was hard gravel/dirt road, the rest was tarmac. In all reality, I wish I had a bike for every occasion but I am lucky to have one bike let alone 6 different rides. Make your bike whatever kind of bike you want and need it to be.
Get rid of brand allegiances and style snobbery and embrace all that is good about our lifestyle.
Whatever you ride, keep your passions vibrant, the wind in your face and let your smile linger as you cruise down life’s wondrous pathways.