My first article published (aside from some college newspaper articles I have written) was in American Motorcyclist magazine, which isn’t available on-line except to paying members.
Four days of rain, two days of allergies, one day of serious sunburns, three days getting lost, parts failure on the motorcycle and finally a bite on the thigh from a Brown Recluse spider. I am in my 13th state; every one of them so far has presented a challenge. And I have loved every minute of it.
I had gotten the idea to write a book about diversity in America several years ago and had decided that the only proper way to meet the people I needed to interview would be by motorcycle. I had acquired my first bike, a Harley-Davidson SofTail Springer Classic, in Salt Lake City, UT, and decided to ride it home to Virginia. It was the worst thing I could have done to myself because ever since I have had a singular desire to be on the road. Every year that passed without a long distance ride was a year of frustration. I needed to be pushing pavement.
Finally this year, I decided that if I didn’t do this trip now, I probably wouldn’t do it at all. I did a feasibility study and announced to the family that my trigger date was May 17th. They knew change was coming because I had that look like something was scratching me that I couldn’t quite reach and I was looking for a big stick to get it. It was almost with relief that I said that I was going to do this; they practically kicked me out of the house.
I left from Fredericksburg, VA, to go to my starting point in Charleston, WV, in a torrential downpour. Water was pooling in the heels of my boots before I had passed the first mile marker on I-95 South. Water was already slipping into the seams and crevices of my rain suit and I knew this was the most proper sendoff for my quest. I didn’t care; I was riding. I had just started an adventure that most of my 40-something buddies were envious of. Something I needed for my soul. Rain was the least of my concerns. I was free again.
As I traveled down I-64 west into West Virginia I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the clouds rising from the forests. I weaved through the wide, green farmland of Tennessee and clung to the edges of steep-sided roads in the Blue Ridge Mountain valleys going toward Asheville, NC. Trees rising from bloated bases submerged in the swamps of Georgia, Arkansas and Louisiana acted as silent sentinels watching as I blasted past their stagnant-looking surface waters. I found myself in awe at how, in just 13 states, I could be surrounded by the constant beauty of the variety of life and nature. Some may see only trees, I see nature exploding all about me.
I knew when I started this trip that I would see beauty in nature; I never imagined it would be so breathtaking. But I have experienced many more surprises that have encouraged me to continue. The books I want to write required me to talk to strangers, risking my comfort zone. I imagined politeness, I found friendships. I knew that this world on two wheels is a brotherhood, I discovered how much of a family we really are. I specifically chose small towns to visit, worrying that I would be shunned as an outsider. Instead I have been embraced as a local son having returned home. I have had challenges, but they pale to the rewards I have gained in such a short time.
The Spanish author Carlos Casteneda said “”The difference between a warrior and an ordinary man is that a warrior sees everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man sees everything as either a blessing or a curse.” I like to think of myself as a warrior, so although I have had a lot of challenges on the road in the last 19 days, all of them were worth the experiences of this adventure. I know more are coming, but I know that each one means I am living a dream. I am experiencing life.