It was around the time of my 30th birthday when my good friend throughout the years, Jonathan, and I were chatting about milestones, dreams, and experiences we hoped to well, experience someday. As we talked more and more about the things we look forward to doing “when the time is right” we both came to this “ah-ha” moment. Why are we waiting to do these things we could (and should) be doing right now? Here you have two responsible, intelligent, and capable guys that couldn’t find the mustard to pull the trigger. I was at a crossroads and ready to return to a career I had left three years before. My leave from finance (and subsequent return) was driven by my desire to explore what drives me, and force a serious look at what I was using as motivation for my life. For years, my work was unfocused and didn’t bring joy.
Finally, we called each others bluff and essentially dared one another to just make it happen. This was in February 2011, and the goal was to take a motorcycle trip in June. The caveat was neither of us had ever ridden a motorcycle before. The first thing I did was Google “motorcycle road trip.” We both searched the web and it became clear to us that we needed to do this the old fashioned way: on a Harley-Davidson. Not on some BMW, Honda, or Ducati. After some Harley-Davidson research, I found a blacked-out 2011 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight. It became apparent to me that this bike was not the ideal bike for the road-trip; however, I likened it to a car purchase. I could buy a Cadillac for a once-in-a-lifetime road-trip, but it would sit in the garage after the trip. Or I could buy a Corvette and get a little beaten up on the trip, but it would continue to get used each and every sunny day after the trip. So, I picked up the “Corvette.” Jonathan went the practical route and bought the Cadillac: a Road King.
Prior to buying the bike, I needed to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course, a statewide program endorsed by the California Highway Patrol that offers weekday, as well as weekend courses. I opted for the weekend course during a cold and rainy March weekend. I hated it, but it prepared me plenty of cold and rainy days on the road.
After passing the MSF course, it was a quick trip to the DMV and then on to the dealership. The paperwork was filled out in an hour and the Forty-Eight was delivered to my home later that afternoon. I had five weeks to familiarize myself with the motorcycle, as well as acquire all the necessary items to last on the road for three weeks.
When I hit the road on June 5, I had never ridden after dark, pressed the limits of my 2-gallon gas tank, had my hands go numb after four hours on the road, or forced myself to press on when fear, fatigue, and soreness warranted a break. It wouldn’t take long for each of these to become part of my reality, along with a redefinition of who I was.
The days were long and hot, the terrain was varied, and the people on the road were truly the salt-of-the-earth. Prior to the trip, I had an idealized perception of what a “biker” was. However, it wouldn’t take long for me to realize that a biker was more than a look. It was a state of mind, a way of living, and a welcoming community of good people that will lend a hand (or a beer) to a complete stranger. Being on the road, and riding a motorcycle is not about looking the part, or walking and talking a certain way. It is about having a genuine appreciation of motorcycles, and a love of the open road. I found within myself a very strong desire to wander and explore, and this trip was the perfect venue to wander the country and explore what makes me who I am.
As soon as I arrived at the ROT Rally in Austin, I threw all of my preconceived notions out the window. I don’t recall meeting a single unfriendly person the entire weekend. Often times the ex-con, biker-gang looking guy would be the first to offer me a cold beer, or the first to explain the difference between a Shovelhead and a Panhead, or a lane-splitter from a tracker. These people were real. They didn’t pass judgment on my style, accent, or taste in music…so I didn’t pass judgment on them.
The trip provided a catalyst to explore, but were it not for Jordan we would not have been introduced to the community of motorcyclists that will keep us coming back to the road (and perhaps Austin) annually. We have already discussed a desire to explore other parts of the country, Canada or even South America on our motorcycles. It goes without saying, but I am hooked, and just as Jordan took his open-road experience to show some “newjacks” the ways of road, I feel its now my duty to pass on my experience to rookies that cross my path. HB