Reflections of a Motorcycle Addict

The way of the road

Reflections of a motorcycle addict
Little did I know I would spend a large portion of my life wearing dead bugs and drifting in and out of small town fueling stations, smiling at kids whose eyes bulged at the sight of me.Cruiser

I am an addict, you know. A slave to the open road. An empty piece of tarmac can set me off like a drunk in a liquor aisle. My hands sometimes tremble when I look at maps, and my heart quickens at the sight of bungee cords. It’s a sick­ness, perhaps, but I don’t want the cure. I savor this wander­lust that runs in my blood, this pulsing and perpetual want for two wheels and the hum of the world slipping by.

I don't know where it started. I remember the first time I saw a motorcycle packed for a tour. It was at a gas station in my hometown. At 7 or 8 years old I didn't know the brand, but in my memory it has become a late 1960s BMW R-bike. It was black, and the man was wearing bug-encrusted leather. I was enraptured. It was like seeing King Arthur at the neighborhood Exxon. Oh, the adventures he must have, I thought. He walked by me as I stood in line to pay for my Necco wafers and he smiled. Just a little. I could smell the leather he was wearing and a dim scent of something carnal (the bugs, I like to think). It affected me like musk. Little did I know I would spend a large portion of my life wearing dead bugs and drifting in and out of small town fueling stations, smiling at kids whose eyes bulged at the sight of me.

Most of my long distance journeying is done solo, and I rather enjoy that. My travel style tends to be a little hard-core and without companions, I only have to stop when I want to. I can stay in the buzz all day, not speak to a soul and never feel lonely. That’s how most of my recent 3600-mile ride from Minneapolis to Chicago and down Route 66 went. I was riding the road for a February issue feature and was lost in the essence of what that highway means to us as Americans. In the same process, I found myself exploring my own long-standing lust for the road.

What did it mean? Was my constant hunger to get on the bike and ride out of town about avoidance? Was I running from reality? Damn right. I really didn't get far with the soul probing though. When I thought about why motorcycle touring was so important to me it was the little things I kept coming back to…the smell of rain on warm asphalt, or the way the road ahead turns to liquid in the heat. I can pass a deserted farm and daydream for hours about who lived there when it was new. I grin every time a dog in the back of a pickup looks at me and cocks its head, or a little old lady raises her eyebrows…and I absolutely live for the way an ice-cold soda feels going down my throat after riding through a tank on a triple-digit day. Train whistles, hot showers, pancakes and bacon while your bike's sitting outside—it's all good, right?

Well, mostly. There were those tornados in Oklahoma, and the minivan that almost ran me off the road in Texas. And now that I think about it my butt was aching non-stop, and my lips were peeling like fried chicken by the time I arrived in Arizona. But I'm not looking for perfection out there on the road; I'm looking for adventure, right? Honestly though, there was something missing from my trip (besides a good butt pad and some lip balm) and from my list of high points, but I didn't realize it until I was halfway home.

On Route 66 I came up with some pretty good reasons why I live to travel by motorcycle. One of the top motives was quality time alone. Then I met up with The Guys (Brasfield, Cherney and Groover) in New Mexico for our four-bike comparison. They roared into the gas station where I was waiting, we topped off, traded bikes and rode away, all within 10 minutes. The sun was setting and it was 200 miles to our destination. Just as the desert turned blue-gray we turned off the interstate onto a snaking, bumpy and utterly deserted 150-mile stretch. And the magic began. These are people I’ve ridden with extensively and, as far as their riding goes, I know them intimately. For the next two and a half hours we didn’t ride together as much as we danced. We’d stop and switch partners and dance again. At midnight, we ate in a Denny’s where we could admire the bikes through the window. We laughed and talked about riding, aliens and Route 66. It didn’t even matter that the food sucked.

And so it goes. There are scores of fantastic things to enjoy about traveling on a motorcycle, but nothing beats sharing the experience. After all, what are addicts without connections?

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