“I don’t think I’ve fully processed the scope of what I’ve just done. On one hand, people ride across the country, across Europe, Asia, even the world, all the time. But on the other, I don’t do it all the time. My heart keeps reminding me that, at age 58, riding 6,338 miles in three weeks is kind of a big deal.” – Baz
That’s a word I’ve come to know well. My son Benjamin and I left San Jose, California on June 5 and I returned home on June 29. If I subtract days where I didn’t ride to a new destination, that leaves 17 days when I averaged 372.8 miles.
That translates to approximately five hour’s non-stop riding (about seven hours with stops for fuel, hydration, meals, and stretching my legs) each of these days. Some days I clocked 13 hours and on others a mere six. Google Maps just doesn’t understand what it takes to ride a motorcycle across the US.
The physicality of riding for up to 13 hours in a single day on an Interstate or even a two-lane country road is demanding. It requires not only prolonged stamina and alertness, but the skills to take evasive action if required when encountering a road hazard such as potholes and retread strips from semi-trucks and also lazy humans driving cars and SUVs who don’t think their heads can rotate to look over their shoulder when changing lanes.
If you drive a car, please be aware that your mirrors can never provide enough visual awareness. Look over your shoulder. You have a rotating skull for a reason! 😡
Each night that we stayed in a new town, Benjamin was usually the first one to fall asleep. He preferred to shower before going to bed and that most likely helped him relax after our 10-13 hour rides during the first leg the journey.
I’m more of a morning person – coffee, shower, sparky personality 😆 and so I’d wait until the morning to shower off the grime that built up on me. We’d have breakfast somewhere and be on our way.
On the morning of the fourth day I knew I was way too tired to complete another long day of riding I-40. I’d not slept the night before very well at all. We rode from my daughter’s house at Vance AFB in Oklahoma to OKC to pick up a few screws and washers for Benjamin’s windscreen. Then we rode across Oklahoma and into Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
I knew I couldn’t go any further without rest. It would have endangered both my own safety, Benjamin’s, and that of surrounding motorists. We stopped and booked a room at the La Quinta Hotel and I immediately napped before dinner at the Outback restaurant that was just a short walk from the hotel. The next day I was more rested and we made up some lost time.
While it’s physically tiring to ride across the United States and back within three week’s time, it’s also one of the most exhilarating journeys I’ve ever undertaken. To have completed the first leg the journey (California to South Carolina) with Benjamin was something I’d long dreamed about.
Now that we’ve completed such an epic adventure together, it makes me feel proud, mainly of him for his own stamina and caution while undertaking such an arduous journey on a bike that was literally brand new to him.
The vistas along the way were truly spectacular, from the Joshua Trees in the Mojave Desert to the breathtaking views from the southern rim of the Grand Canyon; from the red and purple plateaus of Arizona and New Mexico to the wooded forests of the Flagstaff area.
We looked out over vast grasslands in the panhandle areas of Texas and Oklahoma and rode through the gentle rolling hills of my home state, Tennessee (which had the best roads by far).
We stopped at a couple of unique road stops such as Cline’s Corners in New Mexico, Standin’ On a Corner Park in Winslow, Arizona, and the Flintstone Amusement Park/Souvenir shop just south of the Grand Canyon. Each were unique in their appearance and character.
Perhaps the most memorable visual experience of the journey was seeing Benjamin in my mirror. To look back and see him riding the RT like a pro gave me such reassurance and a sense of confidence in my ability to get him safety from one side of this vast country to the other where his wife and children awaited his safe return.
I have an innate sense of curiosity when it comes to people and their customs. Each day we rode across the country I envisioned what it must have been like for Native Tribes to have roamed the land, from the Great Plains of the west to the harsh conditions of the New Mexican desert and still thrive as a people. It always saddens me to know that my European forbears and later, my own ancestors, relegated the culture-rich tribes of the New World to arid, desolate spaces that no one would choose voluntarily. Each time we passed an Indian casino, I hoped that the money that flowed into these ventures somehow found its way to those who truly need it. One can dream.
I was also curious about why most drivers don’t bother to look over their should when changing lanes at 80 m.p.h. Riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity, not because of the minimalist approach to transportation, but because of careless drivers who are too often looking at a digital device while driving. It infuriates me to see this and it clearly is a threat to my own safety and that of other motorists.
Finally, curiosity is what often leads to an evolutionary leap. For hours at a time -there is a lot a time spent in the saddle on a trip like this one- I thought about my business, website, blog, focus, vision, and where I see it going. I firmly support the notion that unless we are evolving, we are being left behind. I have no desire to be left behind.
As the journey came to an end, I increasingly felt a simultaneous sense of fulfillment and achievement.
Fulfillment means the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.
The sense of achievement was evident when we pulled into Benjamin’s driveway in South Carolina. I was so proud of him for the way he rode and kept up the truly grueling pace of 511 miles each day. I also felt a sense of achievement in having braved the panhandle crosswinds that threatened to blow us over with our bikes leaning at an angle of 70 degrees into the direction of the wind to counterbalance its force.
I also felt a sense of achievement when, on the first evening, we successfully pulled into a lone gas station in the middle of the desert after my reserve light had been illuminated for twenty minutes. I’d foolishly underestimated my fuel range and very nearly paid the price for it. My sense of fulfillment arose from Benjamin’s response when we pulled off the road to discuss the possibility of me running out of fuel (I opted not to carry an extra container of fuel… 🙄 ).
“We’ll make sure you’re somewhere safe and I’ll ride to get some fuel and bring it back to you.”
Even now, the maturity and command of his response in a situation filled with risk in an unknown territory, fills me with rush parental pride and fulfillment, though clearly unearned.
Finally, gratitude is something I felt every day of this journey. I was grateful for the time and opportunity to spend a week riding with my 28 year-old son who continues to amaze me with his clear thinking, his careful planning, as well as the love and affection he gives to his family. I’m grateful that my 2000 BMW R1100GS and it’s tireless performance without one single mechanical incident to speak of. I’m grateful for the family I was able to visit along the way and on my way back. I renewed long-abandoned relationships and forged new ones.
I am also grateful for those of you who followed me on this journey, watched my Facebook live broadcasts, and followed me on Instagram and Twitter. Your support was felt each of the miles I logged and I thank you again for that.
Recovery is nearing it’s end stage and I’m headed back to the gym tomorrow for my first full workout since returning two days ago. I’m going to focus on swimming and ease back into free weights to build body strength. I lost a bit of weight on the journey and I want to keep that going. I’m back on the high-protein nutritional plan, but still staying away from red meat in an effort to please both my doctor and my adoring public. 😉
Kidding….who cares about my doctor! 😎