Brent Allen, author of Motorcycles, Life, and… and The Elemental Motorcyclist and his wife, Julie, are on a road trip, two-up. They are heading to the AMA Superbike races in Elkhart Lake, WI, riding their Honda ST1300 from their home town of Nampa, ID (just southwest of Boise). They will be our guest bloggers while on the trip, and each will give their own impressions on their travels and give us a look into each of their own individual ways of looking at the same experience.
First, from Brent:
Saturday June 07/Provo UT to Nampa, ID/07:15 to 15:30/3875miles to 4280miles
Home. Random first thoughts.
Things I never expected to say: “Hey, the morning commute in Milwaukee isn’t that bad.” & “Hey, the morning commute in Denver isn’t that bad.” Also, “How can it be this hard to find cheese in Wisconsin?” & “Get ready for another U-turn.” (The U-turn thing I said at least one daily, sometimes more.)
Things I never expected to see: 1. A convenience store attendant put 3 cases of beer into the back of a Buick sedan for 2 little old ladies and then tell me, “They come in every week to restock.” 2. Sooo many Santas. Apparently the Midwest is chock full of elfish workshops that need loads of supervision from stout men with white beards…and cruisers. 3. The Colorado River & the Green River. We hadn’t thought seriously about our return route until we left the races.
Things that surprised me: 1. The absolute otherworldly beauty of southern Utah. It was amazing and I recommend everyone see it once. US70 across the bottom of the southeast corner is stunning. 2. Seeing Mrs. Crash sniff a sock, hand it to me and say, “You can go another day on those.” 3. How much I missed my dog Nitro. I am a type one diabetic and he is my service animal who spends almost all day, every day with me. He’s a Toy Fox Terrier and 8 pounds of unconditional love. When I would call home and the kids put it on speaker he would hear me and start to howl.
Things I didn’t understand before that I understand now: 1. The wave. I thought I kind of got it but when you are 50 miles down a road that started with a sign saying, “NO SERVICES NEXT 100 MILES” you suddenly understand that waving to that guy or gal going the other way is really a comforting way of saying, “Don’t let them forget me if I never arrive!” It’s weird and strange and hard to impart how important that simple human contact can be when you’re out in BFE and the wolves of worry howl in the back of your head. (Ask a Master Sergeant where BFE is and he’ll tell you. I won’t) 2. The road hides its scars well. In a car you’re looking for major issues like potholes or large debris that could damage your vehicle. On your bike you’re watching for debris that could damage you as well. Things flip up and you don’t want to get hit by something you kick up. Likewise you get nervous about cutting a tire or getting a more traditional blowout caused by impact. As it turns out there are black spots in the surface of the road that are indeed potholes, others are filled potholes, some are over-filled potholes and some are just voids—not classic potholes but broken out chunks of road where an edge has broken off a seam. Most shocking was the sheer amount of huge black patches where the road itself had burned when someone’s car had burned to the ground. Every day I saw two or three clear scars from car fires. 3. Even with a passenger and intercom you spend a vast amount of time thinking and talking with the Lord. It’s unavoidable. It was a far more spiritual event than I had expected. Sometimes between the sound of your motor and the wind out there in the Big Empty you’ll hear voices meant only for you.
Tricks I learned: 1. If your bike has a taller seat height try this, before your passenger mounts STAND over the bike. This allows the bike to move and you can stabilize it without feeling like you are in danger of falling over! Basically it gives a good sense of control by letting you know the bike is just moving around not tipping over. Try it. You might like it. 2. Ride like a local. If you’re in Wyoming and all the Wyoming plates are whizzing by you then you are an impairment to traffic and potentially a danger to yourself or others; likewise for Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Wisconsin and even Utah. Ride like a local, go with the flow. 3. Trouble is almost inevitably in front of you. If you’re going 80 miles per hour you’re eating up 117 feet of road per second and if you decide to take a good hard, long look behind you remember you’re traveling 117 feet per second. A two second peer into the mirror moves you almost a football field down the road. We all get a little paranoid about getting hit from behind but during interstate travel the real threat is that fact you’re barreling down the road and if you lose track of what’s going on in front of you then things can get crossed up pretty quick. It’s like life, don’t get all hung up on what’s back there, the future is in front of you.
A word of advice: If you’re thinking that 4300 miles on a motorcycle, sleeping in motels and eating both fabulous and dreadful food; that trying to figure if you can do 500 miles today or 250 or even when to take a pee break is going to save your marriage I’m not sure you’ve got a good idea. The intimacy of riding 2up and living for 400 miles 2 inches apart and then all the loading & unloading, packing & unpacking, comfort & discomfort while sleeping in the same bed could be a trying ordeal—if you don’t like the person next to you, or behind you or in front of you or breathing loudly 2 feet away—you might find things go from bad to worse. When you’re 2up and living and sleeping in such close quarters you cannot afford to let the little things bother you. You have to be able to let things go and always, always assume good intent. What may have been an offhand comment by your companion can sting if you let it but, If you hold it close then it will rub and chaff and could end up infected and septic. Imagine what a bad fight 1500 miles and 2 hard, hard days from home could be like if the motel is full and you have to share a room before you can hit the road. If your marriage is in good shape and you decide to give the road a whirl than remember to take your compassion pills, your forgiveness vitamins and your patience steroids. Taking on a road trip shouldn’t be a “this should work” situation; it should be a “we can do this”. You both will be wrong at some point. You both will be the most annoying person in the world for few moments here or there and you can’t afford to try to pin your mate into that corner because once you try to stick them in that corner you’ve cut off 50% of the escape routes and if you can’t see a way out you may end up acting like cornered rats.
If I ask you, “How intimate are you with your spouse?” you may be offended thinking I’m talking about sex. I’m not. I’m asking you how well do you know each other and can you survive living in the same space. This entire journey has made me more Zen. I’m closer to the idea that rather than changing other’s actions I’ve changed my expectations; changed not lowered. I don’t expect perfection. I expect humanity and its glorious moments and disappointing lows. I don’t expect Mrs. Crash to know what I’m thinking (even though she usually does). Us? We’re looking around thinking about the next one. I’m really serious about a John Wayne/John Ford run back through southern Utah and into Monument Valley and other points Arizonian. We’re better for our ride, it made us more patient, more forgiving and closer as husband and wife. But I’m lucky—she’s the hero that puts up with me.
And, from Julie:
Home at last. I am relieved, sad, happy, exhausted and excited, lost and found. My emotions are a jumble. The past two weeks have been a blur. We drove through, viewed, smelled,tasted, touched and were touched by ten states, 20 percent of our fifty states. Our country is amazing. Geographically the artist's master piece, color and texture changes sometimes subtle other times abrupt but always perfect. A country filled with vibrant, strong and from what I can tell in my limited experience generally happy people. People who love their country, god and families. Hardworking people who love the land, understand it and do their best to not only take care of it but provide a living for their families and feed this country. Do not believe the media.
Crash and I are business partners, companions, lovers and friends. We've been married for over 26 years. We have had our share of rough water and smooth sailing. We laugh a lot, cry a lot, and I talk a lot. (Crash listens a lot.). In 26 years we've spent time together, lots of time but never like this, is such close proximity. This trip we spent 24 hours a day inside each other's bubble of personal space. I learned things, things that are tender, compassionate and things that make Crash who he is. I'm sure he had moments of stress, anger, frustration most of them with me, but he never exhibited any sign or said a word. This trip helped me remember why I fell in love with Crash, why I still love him and why I love being with him. For me this trip brought us closer. I have truly enjoyed being this close.
I spent 8 to 10 hours a day (with the exception of the race weekend) on the back of the ST. That's a lot of time to sit. I'm a people person, I like to talk. Self reflection, solitude are hard for me. I had plenty of time to do a lot of that, which wasn't a bad thing. Luckily I'm also a visual person so getting to view so much of the world around me was helpful and a welcome reprieve from my own company. My added bonus was getting to snuggle up close to Crash and if I was lucky have him brake hard,. Wink wink... My favorite times were the back county highways where speeds were slow enough we could visit about what we were seeing together.
Now we're home again, back to those responsibilities and obligations, the everyday grind. I hope and pray the effects of our trip are long lasting. If so or if not, well, it never to late to start planning the next trip.