I mentioned last month that I had the chance to cruise around the state of Wyoming a few days on an old, borrowed Gold Wing. The lists of towns and places isn’t important, although the effect they had on me was. More than once, I crossed the remnants of the Overland Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the Mormon Trail, and in Sweetwater, Wyoming, it hit me.
These tough bastards loaded everything they had into a mule or horse-drawn wagon and headed west. At about three miles an hour. They spent months side by side with their families in tiny-assed wagons. No time outs, no “taking away the X-box” punishments. I bet they got to the root of the problem and solved it, post-haste.
I mean, a decision like that, involving your wife and kids and everything you own? With plenty of First Nation people pissed at you and ready to decorate their lodge pole with your scalp? You have to have balls so big that they clink when you walk and if you got your feelings hurt, you sorted it out, right there.
At 70 miles per hour, it still took hours to reach the mountains in the distance. I didn’t need to find water (although gas was sometimes a challenge), I didn’t need shelter, and I had all my vaccinations, but it was still amazing to comprehend. In a lot of ways, the times I’ve driven to Sturgis or across the U.S., I never took the time to pay attention to the area I was in, I just wanted to get to my destination.
In the middle of the plains of Wyoming, though, I didn’t have an itinerary and was really able to just point the bike where I wanted to go and stop where I wanted to.
A Coke and a smile was anywhere I wanted it since there was no traffic to speak of and no need to check voicemail.
How many times can we say that we didn’t check out phones when we stopped?
Not for years…
What happened to me out there?
A shift in values.
I began to remember why I do the things I do. Not to buy more “stuff” but to enable me to enjoy the things I have. To share my knowledge with my kids and my friends. To make sure that the Old Lady is happy.
Or, more importantly, to NOT get stuck in a rat race of accumulation and debt.
Sitting at the rest area in Sweetwater, looking at the remains of the Overland Trail, it dawned on me, the stuff in this life that is really important is not stuff – it’s the intangible things that we do for our families and friends. I know men and women worth millions of dollars and I know folks who don’t have two nickels to rub together – and some are happy and some hate life.
The ones who hate life? They think that more crap in the house or the garage is going to change that. My new philosophy? Buy the best you can and think long and hard about why you need “more” and what “more” actually is.
New bike? Sure, it’d be great, but what about teaching your kids or spouse to ride?
If your answer is that you don’t like them that much, then you need to fix that relationship, not run from it. That new Road King is not going to make up for your failings as a friend, lover, or parent. Maybe, though, just maybe, spending time – instead of money – can change that. You could buy gear for the whole family for what the down payment would cost you and sort out why it is that they don’t like you or you don’t like them.
My Grandfather once told me, when I was struggling with my first marriage, “pencils have erasers for a reason” and that knowledge was the deciding factor to start fresh. Out there, in the middle of nowhere, I realized (again) that camouflaging the problem or avoiding it – whether that was due to your mistakes or others – was a piss-poor way to spend this life or the next.
My advice to you, from the middle of nowhere, is to get your act together and get busy living. Ride the bike. Hug the kids. Leave work early. Take her to a nice restaurant. Nobody ever wished they’d spent more time in the office or ate more leftovers. Your kids could care less whether you ride a new Harley or an old beater, but I bet they’d appreciate your ass watching their game on Saturday morning before you speed off to ride with your partners.