Make Your Great Motorcycle Escape

No Excuses!

I was pulling into a little motel in the "suburbs" of Glasgow, Montana, on my way back to Virginia, and I was dog-tired. I had been on the road for four weeks already and was aching for a little dinner and a soft bed. There were two Gold Wings with Connecticut plates parked a couple of spaces away from my room. Sitting nearby at a table with their backs to me were two riders poring over maps and planning the next day's ride. I sauntered over to introduce myself and find out what had brought these guys so far from home. I was more than a little surprised when they turned to say hello, revealing they were each in their mid-70s. Now I've owned a Gold Wing, and it is no small task riding a 900-lb. touring bike, especially at slow speeds. I suspected I had encountered a couple of riders who could only be described as "hard core," and I wanted to get to know them better.

It seems that Bob and Dick, a couple of retirees, travel 30,000–40,000 miles a year on their bikes. Bob had retired from a telephone company 10 years earlier and Dick, a true entrepreneur, had done many things, including owning a restaurant and a bungee-jumping business in New Orleans. They were on their way to California, simply because they hadn't been to Death Valley and wanted to see it. They regaled me for several hours with details of numerous cross-country jaunts as well as trips within the last five years to Mexico, along the coast of South America to Chile and in the wilderness of the Alaskan Highway all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Any rider who's thrown a leg over a saddle knows that this kind of riding would be a challenge to people half these guys' age.

Make your great motorcycle escape. Maybe start at the Grand Canyon
There are no excuses as to why you shouldn't go out and ride to see some destinations. Make your great escape!Photo Courtesy of John Morris

We sat at that table for almost three hours, and over a couple of beers, they explained that they had been riding together for more than 30 years and, with the (incredible, I might say) indulgence of their wives, took a “serious” trip every summer. The anticipation of the ride gave them something to look forward to, and they worked out, walking five miles four or five times a week to keep themselves in shape. As Dick explained, “a Gold Wing is no scooter.” As diplomatically as I could, I asked them how long they planned to continue taking these trips. “Until we’re too old,” was Bob’s reply.

As a fellow rider, I found these two guys to be true inspirations. They have a real passion for motorcycling and recognize that life is an adventure. They refuse to spend their golden years sitting on a couch waiting to check out.

How about you? When it comes to motorcycles, do you still have the same passion you had when you first started riding? Have you taken that trip you’ve been dreaming about? If not, why? I’ve heard numerous excuses, and for years I’ve uttered many of them myself. Here are some of the most popular: you want to wait for the kids to get older; you need to get a larger bike, with bigger saddlebags; you only have another six years until you can retire; or you want to build that extension on the house.... How many have you cited?

We all have obligations associated with spouses, families and jobs, and I hardly advise disregarding such important priorities in life. However, as responsible adults, we often put our own needs last, and this is unfortunate.

He taught me to live for today, since none of us know how many tomorrows we have.

I had a good friend, Hank, who’d retired from the military when he turned 50. We had been riding together for about three years when he announced over breakfast one day, that he was going to ride across the country. I suggested that if he’d postpone his trip for a year, I would have enough vacation time to accompany him. Although Hank was in good health, he was mildly diabetic. “No, I don’t want to wait. After all, I don’t know how much time I have left,” he winked. I asked him if he was going to buy a bigger bike for the trip, since he rode an ancient Honda CB-750. He said he wasn’t planning a high-speed interstate blast, and his bike would be big enough. He planned to motor at a relaxed pace down back roads with a duffel bag bungeed to the passenger seat. “If it falls off, I’ll put it back on,” he said.

Hank made his trip. He had the time of his life and entertained me and the rest of our little riding group with great stories and pictures of his travels. He was like a little kid, and his excitement was contagious. He got us all thinking about and planning trips we wanted to make. Less than a year after his return, Hank was dead at the age of 55 from a heart attack.

Hank’s legacy to me was to give me the incentive to accomplish my dreams. He taught me to live for today, since none of us knows how many tomorrows we have. He taught me that while one must fulfill your obligations to others, you must also attend to your own needs to lead a life that is full and balanced.

Meeting Bob and Dick on the road brought back all of these important lessons. They’re living life to the fullest, and their bikes play an essential role in their physical and psychological well-being. They are a lot younger than a lot of people I know, most of whom are half their physical age.

So, what about you? Are you ready to shed a few years and make some great memories? Get your bike ready and head out for the ride of your life. No excuses!