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September 17th, 2018

September QuickThrottle Column

So, here we are half way through September already. It's still hot here in the desert, but the nights are cooling off. I'm sad I've not taken a big long bike trip in some time...these days life gets in the way.  Here's my September column for Quick Throttle -- a look at the joys of riding solo on a long trip. It's making me want to hit the highway...
There are riders who prefer to ride in groups, and there are riders that prefer to ride solo. For the most part I’m a solo guy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love going in a group at times – say up to Cumberland for Taco Thursday or something, and even on a short one-night trip. But more often than not I love riding alone. It’s my time to think. I go where I want when I want.  I get up when I want, leave when I want.  I eat what I want when I want.  I stop and poke around at things that interest me and take lots of pictures of things that I want to shoot.   And my bike Angus doesn't mind, he does exactly what I tell him to do.

People have asked if I'm lonely out on the road by myself.   Not at all.  I've got Angus, and we talk. We talk a lot. Call me crazy if you want, but I have great conversations with Angus out on the road. We’ll often solve all the world’s problems in our conversations. And we meet a lot of people along the way, like the locals who welcome me to their small-town cafe, and the people who admire Angus on the street or at gas stations and say what a great looking bike he is and how jealous they are.   Sometimes on a long trip when I’m loading up in the morning I’ll spent a good 10 minutes loading up the bag and chatting with a people who loved the bike and wanted to know all about it, and who wished me well on my journey.  People love the black denim paint on Angus, and the custom license plate C2CB2B for Coast to Coast, Border to Border.

Sometimes I’ll have my music on my iPod too, and the joy of riding down a road in the sunshine.  No, I'm not lonely at all.  On a long solo trip with no plan I’ll get up this morning and do my usual - go downstairs to the breakfast room at the hotel and look at my Harley Road Atlas to figure out where I want to go while I eat breakfast.  And more often than not I’ll just look and say – that direction looks good. As they say, young riders pick a destination and go -- old riders pick a direction.  I guess I'm an old rider.

If I’m lucky I’ll have the road pretty much to myself, and if I’m really lucky I’ll be surprised at the sparse traffic on the highway.  I love it when the road is quiet and it’s rare to see someone coming towards me and I don’t catch up with anyone going my way and no one catches up with me.   Having the road to yourself is both scary and wonderful at the same time.  Scary in that you wonder if the apocalypse has happened and you are the only one left and wondering if something happens who will rescue you.   Wonderful in that you have the road to yourself and no one to distract you, delay you from turning into view points or making U turns when you see something cool and go past it!

It's no secret that I despise riding on freeways, and I relish finding a windy quiet back road, even if it takes much longer to get somewhere.  No, especially if it takes longer to get somewhere.  Back roads are by nature lonely affairs -- with sparse traffic and small towns and ghosts of the road, and that makes me love them even more.  Freeways can go through the middle of nowhere as well, but it’s not the same.  In fact, it becomes a boring ordeal on the freeway, when the same distance covered on a back road can be an enjoyable experience.  And for me, a big part of that enjoyment is the solitude.  Just me and Angus -- the road and the sky.

A while back I was riding down US-395 in Central Oregon.  In the small town of Fox, Oregon I stopped to photograph a wonderful old church and a couple of abandoned farm buildings.  I pulled Angus to the shoulder and hopped off when a young man came ambling down the highway, stopping to remove those temporary plastic flappy square road markers that had been laid down some time back when they had paved the road but before they paint striped it.

Much of this stretch of lonely road had been recently paved and striped so it was a joy to ride – like ice skating on fresh ice after a zamboni goes over it.  The young man and I chatted a bit about the weather and his job -- all while standing in the middle of US-395, and the entire time not a single car came by.  He was walking back downhill to his car that he'd parked and would then do the same thing several more times down the highway.  As usual, he asked where I was headed and we chatted a bit about his wanting to ride and hoping one day to do so.

These are my favorite days -- when it’s just me and Angus, out in the sunshine, riding roads we've never been on.   Yes, I’m by myself.   But no, I never lonely at all.  I have Angus to talk to, strangers who amble by to converse with, and I have the whole world framed between my fists.


Gary can be reached at roadsigns@comcast.net and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com 

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