6 minute read
2500 Mile Solo
June 10, 2017
Written while on the road during a 2500 mile solo motorcycle trip from Houston, Texas to Chattaroy, Washington (See it on a map). Every image was taken with my iPhone 6S.
Day One, Ennis TX
I hadn’t planned to leave until tomorrow. Only three hours on the bike today because I want to beat the rain predicted at home, but it’s enough time to consider making this blog post about the solo trip. More than I realized, I enjoy riding these long trips alone because it’s a great opportunity to think about details of life. Most of the time I normally just pack away in the back of my mind all the nonsense and goings-on to make concentrating on work more effective, this ride is the sort of time when I take inventory of everyday things like relationships, what’s going on with my aging body (read: sitting on a sportsbike), and how I’m doing as a husband and father.
And the more I think, the more I realize this is what I do every time I’m alone. Take mental inventory. Maybe that’s why I enjoy solitude.
Taking long trips on a bike has a down side, too: all the missed images that I see along the way. By nature of the trip it’s impossible to shoot anything, even passively with a gopro (not that I even want one) because I constantly need attention on the road. These journeys produce memories that are only mine, part of why I’d enjoy a little company. But honestly I think the solitude is a good tradeoff for the inspirational beauty I see and cannot record.
Even though on the ride I saw many image ideas and thought of several to make when stopped, tonight it’s too late to do anything because we got up early this morning in Washington to catch the flight to Texas, and I’m tired now. So dinner will have to suffice.
Day Two, Hedley TX
When I take a trip like this I make a plan but it’s only an outline, functionally the trip framework morphs around whatever happens in reality along the way. Today it was an emergency with a customer at work and I had to stop en route for a teleconference.
The day didn’t go as planned, but then again that’s the nature of the trip. Including the working call and email, day two was fourteen hours on the road.
At a rest stop somewhere in north Texas I spent two hours half-listening to the meeting and half-looking for memorable images to remind me of the mental detour. While on hold (a lot) I recall seeing many reminders that I miss her – birds fighting, signs about dangerous wildlife, wildflowers, and a couch’s kingbird. All comforting things that give me the feeling she is with me.
Fatigue is always a part of something spent over the course of four or five days, but I revel in the risk. Experience tells me when to stop and when to keep going. Risk is one of the things I like about this kind of long trip. Taking a step back, clearly the danger is feigned (except for the real risk of doing something stupid and causing my own death), but there is a sense of independence, some slight real danger, and the fact that I can’t prepare for everything. That’s just not possible.
Day Three, North Of Denver Co And Buffalo Wy
When I left Houston I knew the clutch was strange, but I made the calculation and left anyway. If it went out while in the middle of nowhere there would be no need to change gears so I wasn’t worried about that, but when it failed in traffic in north Denver I had to stop. This was the first time I’ve ever had a real challenge on the road.
The problem gave me the opportunity to meet two great people and have some reality injected into my motorcycle dream. Besides being a convicted felon, an amateur stock car driver, and someone living in a 5th wheel with no air conditioning since he just got evicted three days ago, the tow guy knew exactly how to strap down a street bike – well. And apparently my distress was nothing compared to an asshole maserati owner who tried to tell him how to do his job right. Thanks a million, John.
Finally at the Honda shop 40 miles up the road in ft. Collins, they stopped their work to fix me up in 20 minutes. A miraculous recovery from impending potential doom. I was prepared to sell it to them and fly home if the repair was ridiculous, but after 3-1/2 hours of not sitting on a bike I was back on the road. John thompson at interstate Honda, you are much appreciated. Yes another John, go figure.
Only the uncertainty when the clutch lever failed was stressful, but even that was nothing compared to what other people go through on a daily basis. Looking back I realized how lucky I was to get the opportunity to meet a couple strangers who were genuinely interested in helping me. They were getting paid whether or not my problem was addressed, so I like to think it was all just an exercise of the human spirit, a way to experience new people.
It took about 150 minutes covering the 230 miles to Casper through high winds, high speed, and heat, with feeding deer in the interstate median and dead marmots peppering the highway. This is the longest trip I’ve taken, so making the best out of all the issues was a requirement. No reason to make it negative.
As I was riding I considered that it would have been easy to sell the bike from Houston, so there was no need to take this frivolous trip. I didn’t sell it in Houston or in Denver only because I wanted to complete the journey, plain and simple.
Just twelve hours today on the road. Also I think there are no black people in Casper.
Day Four, Bozeman, Mt
Montana is gorgeous, probably my favorite state, but today it presented me with a cold rain in the mountains. Riding today was truly dangerous, but honestly I don’t mind, nothing is truly safe.
I woke up in buffalo ten hours from home but there’s no way I’ll make it today with the rain, so Missoula is the destination, now seven hours away. Even that will be a challenge with the rain. I’m sore and lonely and cold: the one thing I didn’t do that I probably should have was bring my heated gloves.
There will be no trip log tomorrow, I just want to get up in the morning and leave so I can be at home in three hours. Before riding into Missoula I was thinking about logistics and my method of execution for the trip, it’s really just one point to the next on this journey, testing the way I feel along the way. When planning a trip I only know what I’ll need on the road and I make no strict plan other than a destination for the day, adjusting it to the environment and the way I feel on the bike. Everything is totally fluid.
Seems like a great metaphor for a life plan - why does it have to be more complicated than that?