“How can I be lost,
When I’ve got nowhere to go?”
– Metallica, Unforgiven III
We all do this – get used to riding close to home, we get set in our ways, we take weekend trips to stuff we’ve already seen. Park in the same spot. Take the same route to work. Eat the same junk off the menu. Trade in one bike for the same one, just a few years newer. Quit. Quit it now.
In the last two weeks, I’ve had the chance to learn – or relearn – a few things, and the challenges that you and I face in our daily lives? They aren’t that damned overwhelming.
The biggest challenge? The one that we are all suffering from? Mediocrity and “normal.”
Where’d this come from? The Old Lady. She had a business trip to Fort Collins to meet with one of her oldest clients and his company, so I tagged along, figuring that I could stay out of trouble and lay low, maybe steal the rental car and go check out the city.
When we got to Tom’s house, there was a bike tucked under a tarp in the garage and, of course, I had to ask.
Tom, who is in his late seventies, had bought this Gold Wing new in 1984 and ridden it a little bit each year for many years until he had a hip replaced two years ago. Now, it sat in the garage, battery discharged and spider webs in the spokes of the wheels. The conversation had quickly turned from business to pleasure and in less than half an hour, Tom graciously showed me where his tools were and invited me to “do what you have to” to get his bike running and take it out for a ride.
Two hours later (and a jerry can of fuel and a new battery), the old Honda turned over. The carbs weren’t completely in sync, but the fluids were clean and the filters had been changed before he’d put the bike up, so I donned his helmet (thank God his head was as big as mine) and, with none of the usual gear I would wear, eased the old bike onto the street.
Now, this isn’t a post about taking an old bike for a ride, or fixing up a septuagenarians’ Gold Wing so he could get back on the road, this is about changing your own mind.
I’m not going to get into all the back story, but Tom (and more importantly, the Boss Lady) said if I wanted to take the big bike out for a long weekend in the middle of the week, I could ride as far as I wanted.
And that’s what I did.
The next morning, with saddlebags stuffed with some overnight gear and a few tools, I headed north out of Fort Collins and headed towards Wyoming. Riding through the plains with the mountains rising in the distance?
Riding a bike that I knew virtually nothing about and hoping that no major mechanical issues arose?
Outside of Laramie, I lost phone signal. Nearly 150 miles later, I still didn’t have it.
Guess what? I didn’t miss it, either. I had guessed at everything I might need and just had to hope that I guessed right. Nobody was going to know where I was until I hadn’t showed up for a few days. At the same time, not really knowing where the heck I was going meant that nobody was going to be able to guess where I was until I had been gone awhile, either.
So what happened?
I guess the big answer is that when you ride the same area day after day and year after year, you close your mind down. Let’s face it, vast swaths of North America look a lot alike. South Carolina looks just like east Texas, although they are over a thousand miles apart. West Texas looks a lot like Arizona, and the Prairie Provinces of Canada all favor one another, too.
We all, inadvertently, ride ourselves into a rut, weekend after weekend and somewhere near Snowy Range Pass in the Medicine Bow Wilderness, nearly 11,000 feet above sea level, I realized that there is more to life than being small minded.
All of us get one life to live and I challenge you to make sure that the one you are living is actually worth it. As riders, we enjoy seeing things the guys in the cages can’t see. They ride “in” a car and we ride “on” a bike. As many of us are starting to plan on putting away bikes for the winter, I challenge you to put that bike away with the expectation that when you get on it again, you’ll do so with more passion and a broader mindset for where you’ll point that bike and what you’ll do when it gets there.