I looked at the map and got somewhat intimidated at the distance and the time it would take. I take that back – the distance actually looks scary when you stand back and look at a continental US map. But when I was riding across the prairie in the early morning, watching the hunters dressed in cammies off to the fields after pheasants, smelling the fresh crisp air, and watching the farm town water towers that look like giant golf balls perched on 10 story tees rise before me as we near a town – riding through at 25 mph, past the town café where we can smell the bacon cooking, I was moved to want to see all of this great land.
We took two days riding through Illinois and Wisconsin – spending the night at the small town of Lake Geneva, WI, which sits along US-12. Once again I was drawn to the fact that if I turned West, I could ride that highway all the way home to Washington. We spent a lot of time on US-12 two years ago on the big SMC ride, and that small black and white shield with the number “12” on it is one of the icons that makes me want to hit the open road. Hell almost any road sign does that, but the black and white “US” numbers, especially ones that I know go “home”, pull at me like nothing else.
The next morning we rolled out early and headed further south into Illinois. We motored through Hebron, IL where the town water tower was painted to resemble a giant basketball and commemorated the local high-school’s state championship. In 1958! The paint was still fresh, and this small American town still remembers it’s crowning glory, which still has not faded from memory. The fall harvest moon was still full in the sky and we rode south along with the migrating birds in their “V” formations. We neared Chicago and the suburbs ate into the farmlands until we rode up to the HD Dealer and reluctantly turned the bikes in on yet another perfect fall day.
I realized I couldn’t pass up the chance to spend three weeks riding like that again making the journey itself the purpose of the trip. Riding until it gets to be dusk, looking for a nice motel and maybe a movie theater for a break. Seeing what it is that makes this, such a remarkable country, the people, places and history. Enjoying the total freedom of a motorcycle, the open road, a book of maps, no schedule and an American Express card can bring.
The question I have now is not “can I do it”, but what can I do with it. I’m told that I have a gift of writing. If we do this trip would I be able to take the adventure and describe the people we meet, the places we go, and the roads we take in such a way as to make it a book? Could I take others along this journey and make it worth reading? Has the “motorcycle road trip” book been done to death, or could I write the next “Travels with Charlie” John Steinbeck’s masterpiece about hitting the open road, or Jack Kerouac, or even Long Way Around, Ewan McGreggor’s book about going around the world on a BMW bike a few years ago? To me the pure enjoyment of riding is the purpose, not the “ends’. I ride to have a good time, not to make good time. If I make this a “project” will it become just that – a project, and not a trip? All great writers have a plan, an outline, a goal in mind when they start. Do I do this as well, or does that make it less of a trip and more of work. If I want to see if I can become a writer do I make that the purpose of the trip? Those are now the questions I’m asking.
Tony’s seed has now grown into a tree. On July 3rd we shipped the bikes to Miami. We pick them up on Saturday July 19th and ride to Key West. As another of my heroes, Warren Miller the ski bum/filmmaker/philosopher says: “if you don’t do it now, you’ll just be another year older when you do.” The question now is what kind of fruit will the tree bear.