On The Road Again
Tomorrow, with the raspy-voiced Willie Nelson crooning through my bluetooth helmet speakers, I’ll navigate down my driveway and onto roads that wind through the Western North Carolina mountains. I’ll be “on the road again.” It’s been three years since I saddled up for a long motorcycle ride, and I’m ready to go. Really ready.
This year’s adventure will be a butt-numbing, bugs-in-my-teeth, wind-in-my-face, six-week celebration of my 75th trip around the sun. And, of course, it’s going to be another fantastic opportunity to investigate new places, meet interesting people, and create indelible memories of singular scenery. I appreciate how fortunate I am to still be able to add another 11,000 miles of asphalt to the nearly 300,000 miles I’ve logged on two wheels in the past 20 years. And, I’m anxious to again share this year’s adventure through daily blog posts for all who want to follow along.
This year’s route will take me to Canada. Again. I’ve ridden in all ten Canadian provinces (and one territory) during the past two decades, but I’ve never explored all ten in a single trip. That’s this year’s goal: To watch a golden sunrise bless the Atlantic Ocean at the eastern most point of North America near St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and, after following a circuitous route through the expansive Canadian interior, watch Sol sink slowly into the Pacific waters from the rocky shores of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Over the years, I’ve ridden solo; I’ve ridden with a partner; I’ve ridden with a crew of a dozen twisted but very talented riding fools. In the early planning stage, this cross-Canada trek was designed as a solo adventure. But a long-time riding buddy expressed an interest in this year’s outing; I immediately accepted his offer to join me.
Steve Lee and I met through a Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) chapter in Jacksonville 20 years ago and he and wife Ruth have been good riding partners and even better friends ever since. We’ve enjoyed week-long adventures cruising the Appalachian mountains and navigating along Atlantic beaches searching for great roads, unusual lighthouses and unique eateries. Steve and Ruth are retired U. S. Air Force veterans, and last year they both finally retired from their post-military civilian jobs. Now they’re ready to ride like retirees should ride.
Steve’s plans to join me in Maggie Valley for tomorrow’s departure were nearly derailed by a late spring storm that dumped ten inches of heavy snow on his RV home base near Colorado Springs last Friday. Fortunately, the snow melted nearly as fast as it came down, and by Sunday he headed east to North Carolina despite temperatures in the upper 30s.
While I have a general idea where I’m going during this incredible iron horse rodeo and approximately when I’ll be there, nothing is set in stone. I expect detours, delays and downtimes along the way. I not only expect them, I want them. Serendipitous surprises, after all, convert a jejune sight-seeing vacation into a blog-worthy, two-wheel adventure. If this ride is anything like multiple trips to Alaska, a circumnavigation of the Rocky Mountains, a journey in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, an extended exploration of Newfoundland and Labrador, a tour of Civil War battlefields, and roaring through canyons and passes in the southern Rockies and the Sierra Nevada mountains, it will be as enjoyable and as memorable.
This trip will differ from my previous motorcycle trips in several ways. In the past, 500+ miles a day was not unusual as I too often hurried from point A to point B to point C to ….. Not this time. Going a little slower and usually covering only 300-350 miles a day, I’ll take time to appreciate more deeply the ever-changing scenery that is my 360-degree view from the saddle. I’ll go fewer miles each day, giving these aging bones a chance to rest a little in the afternoon while exploring that day’s destination. I expect to learn more about Canada and the province I’m in each day, making this an educational trip of sorts that I’ll share on the blog. I hope to wander frequently through city streets and small town museums, absorbing the sights, sounds and tastes our northern neighbor has to offer.
One more change, for those who have followed along earlier rides, is a different bike. For most of my two-wheel tours during the past 15 years, I straddled a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic, complete with large, wind-diverting fairing, built in radio/CD/CB, large saddlebags and a tour pack for extra gear. I had three Ultras (2007, 2010, 2013) and two of them carried me 100,000 miles each while the third logged nearly 50,000 miles. Last fall, I traded in my aging black 2013 Ultra Classic and bought a 2019 Harley Softail Heritage Classic with only 500 miles on the odometer. It sports an upgraded transmission and larger motor, but because it lacks many accoutrements found on the Ultra, it weighs 200 pounds less, tipping the scales at slightly more than 700 pounds. It may be a little less comfortable as the miles roll by each day and a little more open to the elements, but if I happen to lay it down, I’m far more likely to be able to get it upright again.
I’m packed, probably with more gear than I need. The bike is ready, including a new dose of synthetic oil and a couple of added accessories. Steve and his bike are also ready. Another great adventure is about to begin. Thanks for coming along on this year’s celebratory circuit. I hope I can make the blog as interesting and exciting as the ride will no doubt be in person. As always, please feel free to use the blog’s comment feature. It’ll be nice to know that someone other than Marilyn and Ruth is joining us—at least in spirit.
I really can’t wait to get on the road again.