MHT Days 36 & 37: End of the Tour
The 2019 Magical History Tour is over. Yesterday I rode the remaining 650 miles in one day instead of two, covering the route from Conway, Arkansas, to Maggie Valley in about 11 hours in 90+° heat. My conclusion was not unlike that of the 1804-1806 Corps of Discovery, whose exhausted members paddled harder and with more determination as they neared the end of their incredible journey, even foregoing hunting and eating only what remaining supplies they had and fruit they found for the final several days.
I covered 8,540 miles, according to my trip odometer, on a very dirty motorcycle that had more than 96,000 miles on it when I drove up my driveway five weeks after I pulled out.
Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the unsung members of the Corps of Discovery explored unknown territory recently added to the young United States; discovered new species of plants and animals for eager scientists to study, catalog and classify; mapped previously unmapped lands and rivers; and encountered industrious people whose roots in those lands went back thousands of years. They did, in short, most of what they set out to do. They did not, of course, find an easy water-route connecting the eastern part of the continent with the Pacific Ocean because there wasn’t one.
What about me. Did I do what I set out to do? I think so. I spent hundreds of thoughtful hours contentedly cruising endless asphalt on a Harley-Davidson enjoying incredible and varied scenery offered everywhere by the bountiful country. I greatly expanded my historical understanding about a vital piece of American history and, through my daily journal entries, perhaps expanded others’ knowledge as well. I identified new outlets for my insatiable wanderlust that will return me to ground already covered and offer new roads to explore. I met, as I always do, scores of people who were kind, cordial, helpful, sharing, engaging, interesting–in short the civil, caring and humane people who make this country and the world worth living in despite the trials that challenge us on a daily basis. And finally, my brief but important contact with friends and family rewarded me with love, laughter and life-lessons.
Each motorcycle adventure I take provides serendipitous encounters, unanticipated meetings and unexpected pleasures. Sometimes they come in the form of people I meet along the way who surprise me with their kindness or a unique perspective. Sometimes they come in the form of a sunset or sunrise or mountain view or common cuisine that stops me in my tracks and make me truly appreciate my aging senses. Sometimes they come in the form of a long-sought accomplishment that helps complete my life. The blog’s daily posts can’t always capture the joy I experience as each day unfolds and the chapters of my journey are penned, but know that these encounters, meetings and pleasures fill me with wonder and delight.
This trip is done. The bike is in the garage waiting to be washed. The final words of the final post are about to be written. But the memories from this trip–people, places, scenes–will stay with me and, years from now, make me smile as they creep for an instant into my consciousness.