Ride West: Day 26 A Summary
I’ve had a couple days while visiting family in Wichita and trying to plot a route through what will be a hurricane soaked South to consider the August days that made up the Ride West. If anyone wants a recap of the locations I visited and the roads I covered, I suggest just going back to the daily blog entries from Day 1 to Day 25. The summary in today’s blog will be more a reverie of various thoughts that occurred as I contemplated the past month’s activities: the things I’ve seen and done, the people I rode with (and didn’t ride with) and people I met along the way.
The Ride West reaffirmed my belief in several things.
Belief #1: This country is beautiful. Other parts of the world are beautiful also, of course, but the Western United States has a unique beauty unparalleled anywhere. In many ways, it’s a perfect place to ride a motorcycle, whether cruising at sight-seeing speeds or careening through colorful canyons and topping high mountain passes at speeds that preclude much more than a brief glance at the rugged scenery and the dangers that lie therein. Geology, history, pre-history, culture, nature, wildlife: the West has it all. I recommend to all my friends (riding and non-riding) that you visit as much of the West as you can as soon as you can. I saw more evidence of dramatic and rapid changes that bode ill for future rides like this one. Very little snow in the mountains and disappearing glaciers. Green trees turned brown by a pernicious beetle supercharged by changing temperatures. Lakes and reservoirs drying up. Charred remains where gigantic forest fires have blackened the verdant landscape. If the 95% of climate scientists who say climate change is real and deadly are right, the land I saw will grow less hospitable as the years progress. And I believe they’re right.
Belief #2: Riding a motorcycle is an experience like no other. Those who ride know what I’m talking about. And it doesn’t matter what brand of bike. Pick an adjective: Exhilarating, exciting, stimulating, dangerous, daring, joyous, intoxicating, liberating, invigorating, exalting, inspiring, emancipating, spirited, exuberant, formidable, precarious, intimidating, rewarding, frustrating, powerful. Motorcycle riding is all these and more. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a religious experience, but it is clearly a sensual, life-affirming, mind-altering experience. You cannot, I think, ride thousands of miles through the widest varieties of weather on hundreds of different roads with thousands of different scenes racing past you, coming in contact with hundreds of people and not, when you put the kickstand down and climb off, be a different person than you were when you first fired up the engine. It will change you. And for the better.
Belief #3: People are basically good. Almost without fail when I’m riding a motorcycle the people I meet are friendly, curious, helpful, accommodating, interesting–in short: good. Of course there are exceptions. But once again on this trip I was reminded repeatedly of the good. This was only my second motorcycle trip with my younger brother. It won’t be my last. A good person. I reconnected with old friends who, in short order, reminded me why we are friends and will stay friends. I rode with new friends whose backgrounds and experiences may be different from mine but who unfailingly welcomed me into their midst, made me feel like one of their own and made me a better motorcycle rider. Good people. Other travelers listened to my stories and shared their own. Waiters, waitresses, hotel clerks, limo drivers: all willing to give helpful advice that made the trip more enjoyable and memorable. Small town residents who went out of their way to make sure the trip was pleasant and whose suggestions added to the incredible menu of opportunities from which to choose my course. Good people.
Belief #4: There’s no place like home. Since I’m writing from Kansas, I thought I’d throw in the cliche from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. But it’s true. I miss my friends from home who share with me some of the same passions I have for the freedom afforded by motorcycle riding. And, most of all, I miss my wife who puts up with and even joins me in some of my motorcycle craziness. She is my best riding buddy who has been with me on some pretty rough roads. I look forward to dragging her off to the Alaskan wilderness next year.
Belief #5. I can’t wait to get on the road again. I started the Ride West blog by quoting Willie Nelson. Although I’m ready for a (brief) break from cross-country riding, it won’t take me long to recharge my batteries and get on the road again, making (road) music with friends, seeing things I’ve never seen, going places I’ve never been, a road gypsy with good friends. I strongly recommend it. Retire and ride if you can. Just ride if you can’t retire. But get on the road. Again. And again. And again.
Thanks, everyone, for following along. I’ll post once again when I get home to let you know how wet I got. And then the blog will probably go silent. Until I’m on the road again, of course.