Monday, October 18, 2010

END OF THE TRAIL

ROCKLAND COUNTY, NY


Bam. And there it is.

Or. perhaps, was. Like a sailor still reeling from the sea, I'm trying to accept that this little hejiera is over with.

I left the hoary old Adirondacks early last week and headed down through my favorite old motorcycling haunt, the Catskill mountains, for one last blast..trying to savour that one last Fix, as it were, before the dreaded cold turkey comes looming into view... in this case, stasis. Non-movement. The wheels having completed their cycle. After that I pulled into Downstate New York and began the strange process of unpacking my duffel bag, (it sits on the chair, half empty, just in case I need to load it up again real fast).

I'm certainly not the first person to take this sort of motorcycle trip... it's the second time I've gone Coast-to-Coast, and the vast improvements in motorcycle technology have made it ever easier to do this sort of thing. The last time I rode a 1979 motorcycle with shakey carburetion, wood-blocks for brakes, old-school points ignition that let me down repeatedly. Now the new bikes are glossy-smooth computer-controlled spark advancmenent silky fuel-injection radial tire'd effortless. Many touring bikes have adjustable power seats, full cruise-control, built-in stereos, Bluetooth capable intercoms and heated coffee-cup holders.


Not mine, but it doesn't matter. I took a budget sportbike, simple and minimalist, freshly re-built from the transmission up; packed it with a single duffel bag and launched forth into the American Void. And survived. 12,500 miles. 26 states and two solid months on the Road, almost to the day. Back in one piece, with the bike ready to start right out again after an oil change and a fresh set of tires. (Not so sure my hands and neck would agree).

Those of you out there who have sat on a motorcycle for any real distance can understand what I accomplished. It was hard work. You're out there in the elements, come baking sun or drenching water, snow or dust, locusts or rockslides. Although sitting on the highway is relatively simple, your brain has to continue to balance this bloody contraption, and there's many a moment during a long run when you think, What's actually keeping me UP?

It's a very Zen experience. Pirsig had it partially correct, but he was a essentially big pussy riding a clanky old BMW twin at at speeds of 40-60 mph over a few states. Get a real bike, Alan. When you're on a modern bike with a high power-to-weight ratio, you get to play these incredible G-force games; when the road begins to undulate for example you can twist the throttle at the right moments and the raw acceleration will float you smoothly over the hilltops like some jet-propelled marshmallow. Whee, indeed. Smoothly in control at speeds that would make car drivers shrivel in terror. When the bike is running hot and true, you can pull out onto heavy Interstate routes with utter confidence and aplomb, throttle pinned to the stop while leaned over sharply on the entrance ramp. The rear wheel begins sliding just perceptably and completely within your control, (as you've been at this for quite a while and understand the Physics quite deeply). There's no need to look around to see what semi truck maybe be coming down the pike on your left, because you're pulling so much G acceleration and speed that no one could possibly catch you from behind. Just keep that handgrip pegged and you'll only need to watch what not to run into up ahead of you.


This stuff gets very addictive, and you get very good at it after a month or two non-stop riding. Day after Day... hour after hour... week after week. The Big Road... and although like the Sea you can't take it for granted, you learn to live with it's rythyms and rules. It becomes a friend of sorts, and many times I sighed comfortably after leaving some sordid urban jam-up or sketchy hillbilly burb behind, by launching up onto the open-lane asphalt and escaping down the road into the brilliant sunset.



I stayed off the Interstates as much as possible, but in the end you really can't avoid them on a trip so expansive. It's a huge country, and try as you may to stick to the red-line state highways, (far more rewarding), there's just too many times when it's getting dark or you're running exhausted from the endless thrill of swooping Appalachian switch-backs. Or it starts raining, and you simply can't fart around when there's thousands of miles to be done. There's always the blue-line, familiar old Interstate waiting, winking at you with it's tawdry glare of Arby's, Walmart, McDonalds, Motel 8, and yellow-stained Waffle Houses.






This was, after all, a very spiritual adventure for me. I told Ken Babbs out in Oregon that I was on a Mission, but that halfway through the trip I still didn't know exactly what that WAS yet. I think I still feel that way, but I sure did a lot of expanding and learning on this trip. Because I stayed off the Interstates I got to see a lot of what's going on in American in the year 2010... met a ton of odd people and because I was on a motorcycle, smelled a lot of horse manure. (how can shit have such a wonderful bouqet at times..?) I pushed my limits quite hard on this trip, venturing down tiny forboding lanes into the deep Montana countryside and sacheying into scary redneck bar-rooms, (some of which I departed from very quickly).
That, of course, is where the real Magic is found, out there on the teeth-chattering edge of your Limits.


From the, Credit where Credit is Due Department, please: I profess to be a follower of that... carpenter dude from Galilee guy... I had loads of time and circumstance over 12,000 miles to explore prayer and Road Communion.. and by pushing my limits in such utter solitary states I found nyself often in contact with... well, let's just call it my Higher Power, (if that makes you feel any more comfortable). Without any doubt, God was with my on this trip, in a very Big Way, and as I crossed the landscapes day after day I found myself Surfing the Coincidences... lots of stuff that would bore you if I told you and you'd say, AW that means nuthin', but you know, I WAS THERE during hundreds of special moments when wildly improbable things happened within my personal perceptions, and there was no one else there to share it with. God is ultra Subtle in my experience... and when you're truly alone and open to "It", it's amazing how much you feel A Presence. Not much more to be said on that note... except THANK YOU.


...for the miracles I encountered in getting the bike fixed after months of teeth gnashing. For opening the window for me to pull this off at all... for keeping me safe during many, MANY dangerous moments (that orange construction barrel rolled right into me outside of Vegas at a full 60mph, I hit it squarely, and I'm still here to write this)... onset of heat stroke in heavy traffic, local sheriffs in Texas tailing me for miles, frighteningly dark rain clouds gathering overhead in Montana, bad street corners in darkened city slums, and the long, long days and nights spent utterly alone.. except for this nameless, mysterious Presence...
I'll only bore you with one example, (and I reckon it's a good one):

In two months and 12,500 miles, I only hit rain twice.
Do the Math. That's simply incredible.. I dodged storms to the left and right and forward and back of me... and when I did get wet it was very mild, compared to the howling storms I've endured many times on shorter trips.
Lots of stuff like that; things far more personal and inspiring than I could adequately describe here. I've sort of asked that these Memories will be ..saved for a ... well, future moment, so to speak, and somehow I think I received an affirmitive of sorts, on that one.
 'Nuff said there.





I fell in love on this trip... with the Open Road and with my Life. I am so bloody fortunate to have this, and many other travel adventures, happen to me.. It's been positively Grand. I don't know what happens next.. t's a challenging moment now to return to "Normal Life", and I'm sort of in a bit of a ditch currently back here in the New York suburbs. But I'll carry the lessons I learned Out There: Against the Odds I'm confident that it'll all lead to another large adventure in the not-too-distant future.


Too much to blather on about at this point... so I'll put a cap on it here and just leave it with,
Suzuki Bandits RULE!


THANK YOU DEEPLY  to all the great friends and family who graciously extended their homes and hearts to me during this jaunt:

Ken and Eileen
Jena and Victor
Brendan and Shauna
Bear and GloJoe
Travis and the Navajo friends
"Coogey" Coyne, Ted, and the Lost Boy Denizens of Hilton Head
Al(pocalyptic) Plotkin
Bill and Arlene and the Kids
Pete Leroy & Family
Al Gilman and his new Mountain Squeeze, Anne
.... all my buddies and pals around the NY area who goaded me on and gave me due New Yawk ribbing when I took this trip (myself) too seriously.

See ya'z out on the road come Springtime!

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