Sunday, September 26, 2010


Back around 1981, my old pal James and I rode our motorcycles to Yosemite. I sat upon a Honda 360, his was a 400 of unremembered vintage. We were young and vigorous and arrived without incident.

That’s when we sat at the wooden table at the campsite and thought, “Hmm, perhaps we should have brought some food.”

We were cramped in the two-man tent, and hungry. Then we got cold. We were awakened early, while it was still dark, by the falling rain that had nearly collapsed our poorly tethered tent. By the time we found a place for coffee and breakfast we were dripping wet.

It was a grand adventure!

In 1986 Kristin and I took a two-week trip to Canada, on our 1983 Kawasaki 750. We had a windshield and a radio and we were comfortable beyond belief. The only campground incidents included a squirrel that had chewed through the side of our food bag and died—gorging on trail mix—with its hindquarters hanging half outside the bag, and the apparent theft of a buck knife and a flannel shirt.

I have wondered, lo, these many years, what kind of thief is in need of a weapon and lumberjack clothing. Regardless, it too was a grand adventure.

So now, after many years of not cycling far from home, busy with trying to work as little as possible and seeing just how long I can make one loaf of bread last for a family of four, I once again took to the highways and byways to see what sort of mischief I could get up to. I have recently returned, after nine days and 1,781 miles. There is some debate whether, in style and manner, I was more like Peter Fonda or Dennis Hopper. I’ll leave that up to you decide, as long as you don’t choose Jack Nicholson. He was just a passenger in that movie.

And if you don’t know what movie I’m talking about, get thee to a motorcycle rally.

My iron horse on this particular journey was a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 (903cc if you want to obsess over the details), and a smooth and powerful ride it was. There was no question it could get me safely to my destination. In question, though, was whether I should travel with any flannel shirts, and whether I would get blown off on the way.

I chose not to put a fairing on the bike, because it would ruin the look of this beautiful gray cruiser. But I’m almost fifty years old, and hanging on to the handlebars for hours on end tends to weaken my weary muscles. I felt some trepidation, but went anyway. You never know unless you go, right? Turns out the headwind wasn’t too bad. I just leaned back, kept my speed constant and steady, and tried not to relax so much that I fell asleep.

The grand culmination was visiting daughter Kate at her new digs in Prescott, Arizona. But I also saw Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, the Laughing Buddha Coffee House, and Barstow, California.

Not sure what to say about Barstow. I’ve probably already spent too much time talking about this dry, dusty, drive-through town. But I’m sure the residents are all fine individuals.

I also went to Sedona, Arizona, but it wasn’t as goofy as I thought it would be. It is known for being a haven for mystics, hippies, UFO hunters, and New Age weirdos. There was some of that, but it was mostly a thriving tourist trap. There were more cars with out of state license plates than there were mystical crystal-reading aura-diviners.

It had been many years since my last lengthy motorcycle road trip, and I found that the thrill of the open road still calls to me. Without Kate’s move, though, I’m not sure I would have been compelled to venture so far from home. I just might have to convince the other two children to relocate when the time comes to keep my blood flowing. Maybe Bozeman and Atlanta. Or Omaha and Pensacola.

And Kristin will have to remember how to pack all of her belongings in one small saddlebag. She was good at it 24 years ago, but judging by our bedroom closet she is clearly out of practice. Until that time comes:

Get your motor runnin’. Head out on the highway. Lookin’ for adventure. And whatever comes our way!


  1. I'm pretty sure whoever stole your knife & flannel was a defenseless, thieving lumberjack. (I'm just going by the facts.)

    I've always been afraid to ride a motorcycle. I'm not so much fearful of my own driving/riding skills, I'm worried about everyone else on the road. You're a brave 50-something year old!

  2. You're right, the "everyone else on the road" is the biggest obstacle to a safe ride. But it can be done! Even by old dudes.