Tag Archives: FJR

Love the Ride for the Pure Joy of Life and the Never Ending Dream

shark

I knew that it would be another tough day at the office filed with turbulence and strife.  My commute is about an hour and felt a profound satisfaction that my hectic work day would start and end on my motorcycle.  During my ride, I dwelled upon the end of winter and the beginning of a new season.

As the sun peaks over the horizon and shares its warm vibrant rays, I realize that winter has retreated north.  The scent of new life has permeated through the plains and mountains and one can almost smell the land coming alive from a winter’s desolate exile.  The rivers are more vibrant, fed by melting snow and the birds chatter among the trees in an epic devotional of the miracles of spring.   For motorcyclist living in a multifaceted climate, this time of year represents an open door to freedom which removes limitations to our ability to ride.   The warm air and gentle breeze call us from afar to find new paths to places rarely visited.

Motorcycling in spring is like waking up to find that one’s awe-inspiring fantasy has indeed become a reality.  Seize the moment and ride.  Find a new adventure, research the wonders of history in your backyard, visit a friend long-lost, and cherish the majestic environment that only spring can display.  We are our own leading restraint in finding happiness in this world; don’t let any obstacle get in your way.   Now is the time to leave the chaos of life behind and chase smiles and grins on black top covered dreams.

We live a life of risk and rewards.  Every day may be the last day but we are always planning for tomorrow.  It’s a life of balance and one must never lose touch with rationale thought but an occasional jaunt living on the edge builds character.  Find time to live and breathe the fresh air of an uncluttered mind.  Focus on the Ride and let the road be your long-lost muse.

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn” –  Hal Borland

happiness


A Motorcycle Mindset- Exploits beyond the Plateau

sad-dog

Have you ever noticed the fact that motorcyclist tend to be individuals that normally diverge from the status quo.  When everyone else goes straight down the road of life, motorcyclist travel a different path.  We tend to have eccentric demeanors.  Our focus is not laser pointed unless were deeply entrenched into a journey on two wheels.  What we lack in focus we gain in individual perspective.  Motorcyclist may lack money and fancy houses but we have awesome stories of phenomenal substance.

Motorcyclist have a profound appreciation of life outside societal norms.  We tend to believe in hard work and dedication to family but our minds drift through the surreal in search of harmony and bliss.  The ride is not just about speed and adrenaline, it’s about searching our senses and our environment in a quest to find what is real in this life.   Don’t get me wrong, I love the wondrous views and the remote sense of fear as I take that curve a little too quick but it’s more than that.  It’s about finding our own path and dictating our own terms in a world where individual thought is discouraged.  Our continual search takes us all too a different spectrum of our environment.  Our quest will never lead us to the same answers, were just too darn individualistic to share that same route.

I have been working so much lately in an effort to do what is right for my family.  I have no issue with my job but sometimes I feel that maybe it takes me away from what is real about life.  In Denver, we have a huge homeless problem.  Some of these folks are surely caught up in despair and bad luck.  The gruesome cycle of poverty is no joke and I feel fortunate that I am still able to work and support my family.  With that said, every once in a while as I pass a person I think is homeless and they look at me and I swear THEY THINK, “you look at me like I am homeless but you’re the one I pity.  I may have no wealth or monetary substance but you are living a life of real poverty.”  I never want to be homeless.  I write this while camping in the mountains of Colorado in January.  Its bloody cold out, my fingertips feel like little rocks as I type away at the keys.  My hands and digits are stone cold and I shiver as my toes ask warmth but there is none to be found.  I camp in the cold typing on my laptop knowing that I have a warm home awaiting me after my winter camping festivities which provides me eternal security beyond recognition.  Homeless people do not have this option and this simple tragedy keeps me awake at night. Wow, I never want to be homeless and cold with nowhere to go. Most homeless surely do not want to be in their predicament and are looking for solutions to meet their immediate needs.  I grieve for these individuals and hope they can find warmth and security.   As bad as being homeless may be, is it possible that a few people choose to be homeless?  We live such complicated lives and through simplification of our environment our minds become less cluttered with problems and worries. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” I believe that there are a few individuals that choose this life style.  These few persons, give up everything in their search for an answer.  It’s an ALL IN Approach in their path to find knowledge.  This is a journey I never want to follow but I respect their conviction and courage.

One of the best books of insight I ever read was a novel called Siddhartha.  It’s a spiritual word fest of enlightenment.  When I was younger, this book answered many of my questions about what makes an individual truly rich.  I still very much respect this book for its wisdom but I have found in my declining years that answers of this magnitude can never be answered by a book but must be answered by the individual seeking guidance in the matter.  The answers are all relative and change with every individual.   I believe that books will never truly answer our questions but are needed to help us find wisdom so we can answer those questions ourselves.

Wow that was a tangent, I think I finally have succumbed to hypothermia.  My toes are now numb and silenced.  My hope is that I may be able to thaw them in my car.   My fingers are now in a frozen state and lack the manual dexterity to hit the correct keys.  It’s their way to punish me for writing in the snowy cold mountains in the middle of the night without any heat.  One last thought, I do believe that there is something about riding that helps us open our minds to answers and wisdom.  Maybe it’s a Zen Like state comparable to meditation that our minds transcend to while riding?  All I know is that mind works differently when riding in a positive way and for that I am thankful.

my-big-at-the-beach


The Loneliest Road in America

The Loneliest Road in America

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.

Nevada

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Random Thoughts on Two Wheels

My Bike Gazing Over the Pacific Ocean

 

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:

  1. 2016 Triumph Scrambler (There is a Hipster in all of Us Wanting to Ride a Scrambler Down a Dirt Road)
  2. 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse (A Dark Cruiser Needing an Attitude Adjustment and Caring a Big Bat)
  3. 2014 Ducati Panigale R (Speedy Gonzalez has Nothing on this Red Beast)
  4. 2012 KTM 990 Adventure Dakar Edition (Sometimes One Must Get Off the Grid)

Polar bear currage


Free Flow Thoughts while Riding

I am a Rider

We ride for so many reasons.  When I first started to ride, it was for the adrenaline rush and for the adventure.  To this day my adrenaline still flows on every ride and each journey I take on two wheels is still an adventure.  My passion of riding has become more than a physical reaction to speed and new scenery.  It has become a real mental escape for my soul.  Our bikes take ourselves away from the world and we have the opportunity to ponder thoughts and dreams which may be out of reach without the help of our motorcycle explorations.  It does not happen much but every so often when riding, I will think of a worldly issue such as bills, personal problems and work.  During such interruptions, I will quickly squash the thought.  There is no room in my head for such negatively while riding on my motorcycle.  When I first started riding, I would always contemplate my life’s concerns while riding which took away from the experience.  It took me years of training my mind to reserve the use of my brain to focus on road safety while riding instead of thinking of everyday problems which were vexing me.  This focus on road awareness eventually lead to a change of what I observed while riding on my motorcycle.  The external environment I viewed while riding became more vibrant and real.  The color of the trees and flowers I passed jumped out at me, the smells of the road were more pronounced and the sounds I heard became clearer.  I also found that putting my worries aside while riding opened up my imagination to original thoughts and perspectives which I would have never experienced when caught up in life’s mundane apprehensions.  I am so grateful for riding b/c it’s the only place where I can truly take myself away from reality and dwell on items of philosophical importance to me.

It is truly ironic because my mental focus on road safety eventually lead me to have more free form contemplations then I have ever had previously.  There is an issue with daydreaming to deeply; sometimes my mind begins to focus more on my free thoughts then keeping safe on the road.  So for me it’s a delicate balance of keeping safe and being able to day dream of thoughts that I can rarely ponder anywhere else.  Many people would state that we must only dwell on looking for escape routes, dangerous situations, and other perils while riding.  That is a priority but if done safely, day dreaming is a priority as well.

Can an individual focus on safety while riding a motorcycle as well as ponder life’s mysteries?  I believe this is possible and would argue that the riders focus on self-preservation actually opens one’s mind to deeper emotional thought.  When off of my motorcycle my mind seems to dwell mostly on items of immediate importance such as work, keeping up with my daily schedule and thinking of immediate needs like what’s for dinner.  When on the motorcycle my brain just goes to a deeper place.  It transcends the now and motors off to a different universe where I am free to dream and not be burdened by life’s problems.  Maybe this is due to the fact that if I hit an oil slick and slide of the road, none of those every day concerns will be of any consequence.  My mind is still hyper-focused on the dangers of the road but it’s also more open to thoughts and ideas that are not normally a priority in my everyday life.  This is what I love most about riding; it gives me the ability to escape my own head.

 Direction


A Great Long Ride

Learning

We woke up at 4am to begin our extended motorcycling trek to complete the “Colorado Classic 1000”. This BMW Riders Club sponsored event is not your typical Iron Butt Ride. Its 1000 miles in the mountains of Colorado which must be done in a 24 hour period. The preplanned route has a limited amount of highway miles, so one cannot make up for lost time with high speeds on the highway. Riding in the twisties of the Rockies is a different beast to tame when riding an endurance run. It’s not easy to increase your average speed while riding in the moonlight at 10,000 feet on a mountain pass surrounded by 3000 foot vertical cliffs that hungrily await your fall. Given the comparatively low speed one must take on the route, the challenge is definitely harder than say a jaunt from New York to Florida (about 1000 miles) on highway 95 where average speeds will be more robust. To be honest, I was doomed to failure from the beginning. The Colorado Classic 1000 was my third attempt at completing 1000 miles in 24 yours. The previous two attempts were lost in disappointment. The first being from a Hail/Tornado Storm which I hit head on in South Carolina, the other caused by a broken down Harley in New York. Luck was surely not on my side to begin this sojourn. Let me just begin by saying that the event was planned, organized and implemented in a professional manner. The route was superb. It’s hard to find a bad route in Colorado but the organizers of the Colorado Classic 1000 went above and beyond in finding a phenomenal route that severed to uplift and challenge ones spirit on two wheels. If you want to try out endurance run through the best roads in North America, then make your way to Colorado for this event. Sign up quick because they only have a certain amount of spaces available.

I normally ride solo for these types of events but this time I
took my buddy Greg on his 2003 Road King. This was his first attempt at an Iron Butt Award. We started the ride in the back of the pack poking fun at those who may have been taking this ride a little too seriously. I think I saw individuals wearing diapers so they would not have to stop to relieve
themselves. Whereas others took the challenge to seriously, we did not give the Colorado Classic 1000 the respect it deserved. Our first mistake was taking to many rest/gas stops. With each stop we were not properly disciplined to quickly get back on the road; instead we slacked off before hitting the pavement. These pit stops ate up crucial time needed and before we knew it, we found ourselves behind schedule. I made some rookie mistakes by not packing sun block, water and snacks. I assumed that there would be plenty of time to get a nice lunch/dinner but that was wishful thinking.

The sun was scorching on the day of the ride. I felt its rays eating through my soul and finally had to pull over at a Walgreens to get some sun block. I purchased the highest sun block legal in the State of Colorado. I wanted all the protection I could get so I smothered the lotion all over my bear skin including my scalp and neck. Newly protected from the Sun we took off like wild cheetahs looking to make up some time. About 15 minutes after my sun block lotion bath, my eyes began to sting. I thought the pain would work its self out so I pushed through it and kept riding. Soon after the stinging began, it quickly manifested into a painful blindness. This scenario was not cool while traveling 70 mile per hour down a river canyon road on two wheels. I was not thinking rationally because I continued to fight through the pain and lack of sight in a blind rage. Finally the blindness consumed me so I pulled over to duck my head in the river in hopes of washing away the sinister sun block out of my eyes. Thirteen years of motorcycling and I am still learning road lessons. My suggestion is to never put sun block on your body where it can eventually run into your eyes. This was a rookie mistake which cost me thirty minutes to wash out my eyes. The whole scenario was not my proudest or safest moment on two wheels.

Between the hours of 4pm and 10pm we actually made up some great time. We were on schedule to make our mandated 1000 miles by 5am if we could keep up a 45 MPH Average for our last 7 hours on the road before the deadline. Because we were behind, we drove through breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were surviving on flies, crickets and road critters which flew into our mouths during the ride. At 10pm we decided to buy some gas station road pizza which looked like cheese topped road kill. That crusty nasty pizza ended up being the greatest meal ever consumed on a road trip. Hunger has a special ability to make the worst food taste splendidly good. With full bellies, we took off into the night fully expecting to accomplish the mission to beat the race against time.

With our hunger subdued we mounted our rides not knowing what awaited us just beyond the town’s limits. Have you ever played Deer Roulette on two Wheels? Outside of Silverton, CO we were traveling up the Million Dollar Highway in pitch black conditions. On the sides of the road all you could see were deer’s eyes glowing like bright search lights in a dark sky. Then the deer would spook from our engine’s noise and would take off in the direction of their choosing. This deer crazed mad house created a Frogger Scenario on the skinny mountain pass. This situation mixed with the dread of falling down the dark foreboding cliffs lead to an adrenaline rush I have not felt for a long time. It is scary going up this mountain pass in the daylight on 4 wheels but doing in at 11pm in the pitch black on two wheels with kamikaze deer darting in and out takes the experience to a whole different level.

We got to the top of the pass and started our decent when Greg’s Harley started to back fire and sputter then without notice his lights went out. Thankfully he was riding lead, so my headlights covered his route to the nearest safe zone to pull over on this dangerous mountain pass. It’s hard to explain the precarious situation we were in unless you have been up this very perilous dark roadway. There are no streetlights or guard rails on the road; the pathway up the mountain does not have room for them. It’s just a maze of steep grades, radical curves and wondrously narrow lanes encompassed
with drop dead cliffs. It’s a great place to ride just not at midnight with a broken down Harley.

Once the Road King was safely on the edge of the road we spent about 45 minutes with our headlamps trying to fix the burdened beast.
Unfortunately her ills were beyond our limited mechanical expertise. Our only option was to drop my bags on my FJR and run two up to the nearest town to sleep off our failed mission. I made a goal to finish 1000 miles in 24 hours but there was no way I would leave a buddy stranded in no man’s land in the middle of the night. I guess we could have tried to finish the Iron Butt Ride with the both of us on my FJR but I am not that brave.
At the end of the day we had a great trip. We learned some valuable lessons which will serve us well next year in the Colorado 1000 Classic. I guarantee I will be giving it another try, so if you want to join me then sign up early and give me a shout. Colorado is Calling Your Name!!!


More than 8 Years Ago, I still Remember this Ride

life and motorcycles

It was June; the early morning sun was warm to the touch and I awoke to a reality of a dream. For a year my motorcycle sat in storage in Golden, Colorado awaiting my triumphant return. My family moved to the east coast from Golden, Colorado and, due to a lack of space, the motorcycle could not join our eastward trek. I attempted to formulate a plan to retrieve my motorcycle and drive it from Colorado to New York. This would be a 1400 mile trip that I have been anticipating for 34 years. As long as I could remember, it was my dream to have a motorcycle and ride for days on end with only the wind, sun and moon as my companions. However, there was always something stopping me. The lack of money for a motorcycle, college, work, family and whatever else kept me off a cycle. In 2004, after serving 14 months in Iraq, I came home and bought a brand new 2003 Honda Shadow 750 ACE. My new bike, in many ways, symbolized who I was. It was simple, dependable and modest yet had a sense of character all its own.

For three years of riding my Honda, it had not once seen a single rain droplet and had only accumulated approximately 4000 miles; most of which were received on short trips up the numerous curvaceous valleys of the Eastern Foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I had exactly zero amount of experience riding long distance, let alone from Denver to New York. In early June of 2007, I left Rochester, New York via a US Airways Flight which was bound for a final destination to Denver, Colorado. Once in Denver it was my plan to pick up my bike and drive it back to New York via an obscure path not yet planned. Rather than a planned route, it was more about heading east and finding my way home.

While in the military I was taught that piss poor planning resulted in piss poor performance. As it turned out they were partially correct. The long sleep that my motorcycle took during its time in storage reeked havoc on its running condition. After a fuel change, oil change, replacement of the fuel filter and battery the bike was ready for the 1400 mile jaunt. This unplanned maintenance took a full day. Fortunately, my plan was to have no plan so there was no real damage to my travel itinerary. With a working cycle, wet weather gear and change of clothing, I progressed east on my Shadow towards my home in Rochester, New York.

The first two hours of the trip went well, but then I noticed a few rain drops on my helmet. The scattered drops eventually became a down pour and, for the next two days, the skies did not dry up. Driving through Eastern Colorado and into Nebraska, on the back roads leading east, was like an oasis of views for one’s soul. The openness of the Great Plains is expanded tenfold while on a motorcycle. Not a dry fiber on my body, no windshield to divert the wind, the rain splashing down upon my legs likes mini daggers yet I simply wore a smile. It was a smile bred from being content and upon finding one’s place in the world. Maybe it was mild hypothermia, but my mind began to drift. I began to ponder actions done in the past and events not yet fulfilled. I became lost in thought while I drove through the prairie. It was like the openness of my surrounding somehow opened my mind to places long lost forgotten.

After my first 10 hours on the road, I decided to find a hotel, get a good meal and dry off a bit. I didn’t have camping gear and decided to just find cheap hotels on the road. It must have been the warmth of the hotel room because I did not know how sore and cold I actually was until I started to dry off. I ended the night with some really bad Mexican Food and a warm shower. Tomorrow was waiting.

The next day, I was a couple of hours into my trip when I found a Motorcycle Store about 45 minutes from the Iowa boarder. Just for a break off of the cycle I went into the place to have a look around. Twenty minutes later I came out with a SpitFire Universal Windshield and a leather jacket. At the time, I did not understand how precious of a commodity these items would be for the rest of my journey east. The little windshield really did not look like much, but it diverted at least 60 percent of the wind and rain away from my body. This protection increased my riding comfort tenfold. The leather jacket was on sale for sixty dollars, but was perfect for the warm summer. I never had any idea what a seventy dollar windshield could accomplish, but I will never again buy a motorcycle, which I plan on taking long trips on, without one. For the rest of the day it poured, but I found out something which was unexpected. A motorcyclist that is soaked, from top to bottom, but who still has a cheerful disposition breeds a curiosity in people. I found that every time I stopped to rest individuals would stop by my bike and ask me questions or make a funny comment about riding in the rain. It was strange. The standard social norms had seemed to be thrown out the window. People would just approach me and start a discussion. Was it because I looked like a drowned rat and they felt sorry for me or could it be that they found it fascinating that someone could be so content while being so bloody wet?

In Iowa, on the second day of my trip, I stopped at a Truck Stop and Diner. As I walked into the place I left puddles in my path. I picked a booth near a window so that I could keep an eye on my ride and ordered a BLT. I saw an elderly gentleman, obviously retired, walk across the restaurant and take a seat in the booth adjacent to me. At this point he asked me a few questions regarding my journey across country on a motorcycle. Those few questions transformed into a two hour conversation. John ended up owning the Truck Stop, but had relinquished operational control of it to his two sons. He was a teenager during the Great Depression, a World War II Combat Veteran, crop pilot, over-the-road trucker, farmer, Truck Stop Restaurant owner and family man. Throughout our conversation, I found that he lived a life filled with adventure, loss, joy, hardship, sorrow, fear and hard work. Also, I realized that he did not observe life as a spectator, he lived it.

I wish I could tell you the names of the roads that I traveled or the hotels in which I stayed, but I cannot. I kind of just drove east hoping to not run out of gas like I almost did so many times. Another lesson that I learned while on the road is that if you’re going to drive across country it’s a good idea to have a large gas tank. My gas reserve warning light would go off at approximately 120 miles and I would need to look for a gas station. In the city this is not such an issue, but in the middle of Iowa it could be a problem. Luckily I never did run out of gas. If I had, it would have been just another interesting situation.

Somewhere near the Iowa/Illinois boarder I began to ponder memories long hidden. In 2003 I was part of the invasion force into Iraq from Kuwait. The memories of the invasion often bring me night tremors and, at times, sullen depression. The thought of the war would strike at random times and would often be triggered by loud noises, smells but mostly by large crowds. It is actually pretty tough for me to even write about this, but I have figured out that if one speaks of the ills of his past that he will less likely be suffocated by the negative memories of yesterday. On the ride, I began to ponder the war and the part I played in it. The difference is that I thought of these issues on my terms and in my own way. For the first time in since I got back from Iraq, I found that I had control of the past and not vise versa. By no means am I saying that this motorcycle ride cured me of my past recollections and skeletons, but I can say, without a doubt, that I was able to get in a place that I felt like I could handle those memories and put them to rest. Do I still get a nervous twitch when I hear a loud noise? Well, yes but I am able to deal with it and continually move forward. For me, the trick is to vent these negative emotions, with a person who cares when the time is needed and not become consumed and transfixed by what occurred. With all experiences in life, one must progress forward along his or her chosen path and hope to learn and gain wisdom along the way.

The sun decided to show its’ fullness on the third day of my trip. I was content riding in the rain, but the sun brought a new perspective on riding. Instead of the people in the cars looking at me thinking, “How could he be on a motorcycle in the rain”; I was thinking, “How could these people be in a car on a beautiful day such as this.” Everything seemed perfect. By this time I was heading southeast towards Indianapolis. I remember getting lost a few times along the way. However, “lost” is a term that I use loosely because if one has no plan than where ever one ends up is exactly where he’s supposed to be. I approached the Indiana/Ohio boarder on my 3rd day. I found another mom and pop hotel to rest for the night.

Waking up on the 4th day I found that riding in the sun brings with it a nasty burn if precautions are not taken. The burn was not as bad as it could have been given the clothing I was wearing and the full face shield on my helmet, but I knew some sun block was needed. So I pulled into this gas station to fill up my tank and get some SPF 40 sun block. It was really early in the morning and I did not pull away from the gas pumps when I was putting on my protective lotion. Well, to make a long story short, while I was rubbing it onto my neck and face about ten mutant motorcyclists surrounded the gas pump. I looked up, with white lotion all over my face, neck and hands, and saw every one of those bikers staring at me. One guy, who looked like Andre the Giant, say’s to me, “We need to fill up, move your bike”. A personal pet peeve of mine is when someone doesn’t move away from the pump promptly after getting gas. So, I understood the situation from my large friend’s point of view and moved along. I spent six straight days on my motorcycle during my trip and this was the only negative experience that I witnessed and ironically it came from a fellow motorcyclist.

The next day of my trip brought me running north towards Cleveland, Ohio. I can tell you that I must have been deep in thought because, once again, I found that I was just about out of gas. It was around 8pm and it was a Sunday night. I was in a rural area and approached 4 different gas stations; each of them closed. During my quest for a gas station, I passed several different horse and buggy carts and was quite certain that I was deep into Amish Country. Though the scenery was great, I was really concerned that I was going to run out of gas. I eventually passed a couple of kids playing in one of the horse and buggy carts and I stopped and asked them for some directions. They gave me a perfect route to the only open gas station in the area. Once filled up, I thought of how ironic it was to be asking for directions for gas from a couple of kids who may never have been in a gas combustion automobile in their lives. That night I could not sleep all that well. I knew it was the last night on my dream ride.

The sixth day brought me home to Rochester, New York. My dream ride was better than I thought possible. I learned a lot about being a motorcyclist and about long distance riding. In some ways, I was able to learn about myself. Before returning home, I began planning my next long distance bike trip. Next time I will hopefully take my wife as well as some camping equipment and forgo the cheap hotels. For me, I really think it was the lack of a travel itinerary and the vastness of the Midwest that made my adventure so terrific. For some a perfect place may be in Aruba or a cabin in the Alps, but I feel most comfortable, on my motorcycle, facing the open road.