The recent visit here from my friend Steve, coupled with a recent milestone birthday brought tons of riding memories flooding back. At my age birthdays are more than just another reason to eat cake; they are a time to sit back and reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Reconnecting with friends, especially simpatico riding buddies, triggers strong fond riding memories.
It’s not like anything is happening….I’m just marking another year passing. Yet, I’m at that point in life where I wake up one day and realize that life isn’t forever, that one day the sands run out and there won’t be a tomorrow. And that gets me to thinking; how have I done, what do I regret, what’s on my bucket list and what do I wish I have “do-overs” for.
There are a number of motorcycle trips I’d like to do: another cross country coast-to-coast run; a circumnavigation of the 48 states, some track time on a very small, agile bike. But, more than any trips, I guess I’d like to give folks who are just starting to ride, or who think they might like to ride; a look into some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had in a long and varied riding career.
Riding today is a very sophisticated undertaking; heated gear, video cameras, GPS, traction control, selective engine mapping, luggage “systems”, on the fly adjustable active suspension, and a dizzying choice of tires and gear all focused towards a particular niche or style or demographic in riding…wow!
Yet, when all is said and done, for me at least, what I remember most about the “best” rides of my life aren’t the seamless passage of miles. Nope. What I remember most about the “best” rides isn’t scenery; it’s the people I’ve met, the shared difficulties overcome, the unexpected challenges met and mastered….and sometimes, the misery endured and conquered.
It sounds weird, I know. But life today, here, is pretty sanitized for me, and for most people I know, too. Riding is pretty sanitized, too. All those sophisticated modern amenities tend to blunt the effects of nature, increase reliability of our rides, smooth out the vagaries of bad roads and ham-fistedness in riding.
I stopped riding with a group a few years ago not because of anything they had done or how they rode, but WHERE they road. They liked hitting pretty much the same route weekend after weekend, beautiful roads with pretty much GREAT surface, honing their skills and playing on familiar turf. Nothing wrong with that. Practice makes, if not perfect, then better.
The rides I remember with perverse fondness are the ones that at some point, turned to crap. You know; shit-hit-the-fan stuff. From a flat tire on a holiday weekend in the middle of nowheresville, to an unexpected cold front dropping ice and snow when I HAD to be somewhere the next day, to blasting along “over the ton”, making great time when the tank ran dry…..always in the middle of nowhere. I remember the sense of satisfaction getting the flat fixed after 3 tries with the last patch I had, the cup of hot coffee warming my freezing fingers when I stopped finally after making it through the arctic front or the kind farmer that drained the tank of his mower tractor to get me enough gas to get me down the road to a station.
And the other memories; the new riding friend showing me great roads in a new area while we skated front tires along through the wet leaves…and the strong smells of fall that day, the woodsmoke in the air, the sunlight streaming in glorious reds and yellows through the overhanging trees.
Riding early in the morning through the hills of West-By-God Virginia with inversions of fog and woodsmoke like layers over the roads, diving up and down through them like fighter pilots in the clouds…..
You REALLY need to come out and play….