|Helpful hint from your friendly neighborhood moto-traveler: Take pictures with your helmet hair in the shadows. No one will be able to tell how awful it looks!|
"Wow! That's a long way for you to ride by yourself..." Said the guy on the ultra clean 1200GSA, wearing almost no gear at the gas station. His wife who was sitting on a curb--unhappily hurrying down her lunch--had even less gear on, but more excitement for me and my trip.
My fourteen day, 3,497 mile trip at the end of June might have been a long way for him to ride alone, but not for me. The truth is that I might have started out by myself and finished the trip by myself, but I wasn't alone. I met loads of new people, saw some old friends, rode with friends old and new, and spent some very precious time with family.
Strangers automatically asked where I was riding from, especially after my second day in. Riding an average of 400 miles a day and camping those first few night, a person could tell I was not local. How? Well, it could have been the wealth of dried, crispy bugs on my bike, my riding gear, and my helmet. Or, it could have been my helmet hair--so attractively matted flat to my head. Maybe the Colorado license plate. Maybe a combo....
|Having another person along on the trip can save you from taking pictures like this...|
|Ok, this one is better.|
Have you ever traveled alone? It's not for everyone. But, if you can do it, a whole new door to the world of getting to know people opens up. And, if you're on a motorcycle, it opens even wider!
Take Natalie, for instance. Riding from Portland, Oregon to Plain, Washington one day, I pulled into a rest stop. Across the sidewalk and under a tree, sat a set of grandparents with their (I'm guessing on age here) 5 year old granddaughter. As I returned from the ladies room, I saw the three of them watch me pass by. I took sometime to have a snack, and as I did, the trio walked back to their car, which was parked next to me.
Grandma told me their granddaughter liked my motorcycle. I told them she could come over closer if she wanted, and she scooted right around! She told me how much she liked it, and that her name was Natalie. I wanted to let her sit on it, but the blazing sun had turned my seat into something akin to a stone in a pizza oven, and I didn't want her to burn her little legs.
What I found so completely amazing, and uplifting, as we talked about my travels and things I had seen on this trip, was the grandparents enthusiasm in encouraging Natalie to like the bike, and the idea of traveling by motorcycle. They did not indicate that they rode at all, but I would guess they were travelers. We all left that exchange with big waves, and bigger smiles! I predict a future GS Girl from that meeting!
In western Wyoming, after I left Utah, but before I headed back into Utah, I was stopped for road construction. These stoppages would happen frequently on this trip. As the car in front of me and I rolled up to the flag-holder, I cut my engine. I figured I'd be there a while, and that thought was confirmed as I heard the woman tell the driver in front of me it would be about a fifteen minute wait.
As we were waiting, her golden retriever--a certified service and therapy dog named Peaches--went walking by. As I had some time, I slid off my bike and made a new friend. As I was petting her, the flag-holder wandered over and started a conversation. She was a lovely woman, and wanted to hear all about my trip.
At one point, she made a comment, marveling at the idea of traveling alone--not having to go where someone else wanted you to go, or having to stop when they wanted to stop, even if you didn't. I thought about it, and agreed that it was fun to be in charge of where I went, when I stopped, how long or how far I rode each day. When you travel in a group, even two, you have more than just yourself and your own wishes to consider. There is something very freeing, and even indulgent-seeming, about traveling alone.
I really enjoyed that exchange. It was a chance for me to not only meet someone new (and a dog!), but to reflect on the opportunity of being on a trip alone.
Later that day, as I rode through farmland, interrupted by only the tiniest of towns, I got to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes of traveling alone. With music and the engine hum as background, I would slowly ride through those little towns, looking at the houses, imagining the occupants and their lives, and playing the game of "Could I Live Here?"
I would take into account such things as proximity to cool nature stuff (rivers, forest, rock to climb), how cute the main street was (do they preserve--or even have--historic buildings), and if there was a liquor store in town. The real important things.... I grew up in a small town in Northern California, so I often thought I could really enjoy small town life again. But, let's be honest, if it's not within 30-45 minutes of a real city with some good restaurants, some theatre, and a good motorcycle dealership, I'm out. Still, it's a fun game.
I am not interested in only traveling alone. I love traveling win Josh, or a small group of people. It is fun to have someone to share and compare stories with at the end of the day, or while on the road through our Sena com systems. But, every now and then, a trip alone does wonders for my soul,and I embrace it.
There will be more blog posts about this trip coming: trip route, a description and review of the Touratech Rally for those who have never been, and maybe a couple more stories. Stay tuned!