Last month I set out on a cross-country ride with a tight deadline, something I don’t usually do. Typically I cruise along at an easy pace, plotting a course along whatever new scenery or city I’d like to check out and take my time doing so. For this trip I needed to get from Milwaukee to NorCal’s beautiful redwood forests in time for a family reunion and found myself hurrying to cover 2,350 miles in four and a half days. Considering weather issues, it was going to be a tight schedule. As usual, that’s when things go wrong. I’d not even made it out of the state of Wisconsin before a bolt fell off the Beast’s linkage and suddenly there was no shifting capability on the 2012 Street Glide, something I’ve been told is common for this model. I found myself asking, “Really? Haven’t you factory guys ever heard of Loctite?”
I chose to ride it out until I needed gas, and another 60 miles down the road luck was on my side as I coasted into a gas station with a motel next door and the nearest H-D shop turned out to be less than a mile down the road. I managed to jury-rig things enough that when the shop opened the next morning I was first in line. Back on the road two hours later, all went well until late the next day when, after another couple of states, I again found myself at a dealership after a loud “pop” from the engine sent me searching for help—this time in Wyoming. I’ve had an issue with a front cylinder clatter for some time and each time I’ve mentioned it during the regular service visits, my complaints fell on deaf ears. Not at Deluxe Harley-Davidson in Gillette. Two different mechanics came out to ask diagnostic questions before it was determined that I had a bad lifter and, while I waited, they replaced all four. The Beast and I were back on the road in time to make another 130 miles before nightfall.
All in all, the trip was an incredible adventure despite the time constraints, breakdowns and wretched weather—and I arrived on time. Now, as I soak up the coastal fog along the NorCal shore, the scent of fall is setting in. Over the course of the summer I cruised through 15 states, two I’d never ridden in before, and had a great time touring our country. I got to see an Amish man in a wagon driving his team of draft horses through the cornfields in Minnesota, huge herds of antelope in Wyoming and had a close encounter with psycho deer in Montana. I eyed a mama eagle feed her fledglings in a roadside nest and watched buffalo wallow in the silt near Old Faithful. The roads of South Dakota never seem to bend; the Beartooth Pass twisties were evocative of the European Alps. It took some doing to maneuver the crappy conditions along Idaho’s northern roadways, and I sat through more road construction delays than I care to recall. Through it all I was pelted with rain and hail, dodged lightening bolts and was almost blown off the road during the Nevada monsoons. As I eyed the horizons for forest fires and coughed my way through the smoke, the sun scorched my flesh riding through Arizona’s and California’s deserts and I leathered up along the snow-capped passes in Oregon. There were several police encounters this year, but not a single speeding ticket so having a speedometer has paid off. There’s still a proposed tour of Texas riding next month and a few thousand more miles before the end of the year, but I found myself grateful for the incredible adventures that have come my way so far. I was recently asked how it feels to be so disconnected from the average citizen, so I shared these three affirmations I jotted down when I locked the door of the storage unit back in 2010:
1) Breathe: Holding your breath during the incredible experiences of life means you deprive yourself of the opportunity to fully absorb what’s going on around you. Breathe in every mile of every day.
2) Forget about what’s happening elsewhere: Focus on what’s before you. Live for the moment; be fully present in this life you’ve chosen. This minute is just that; a minute, then it’s gone forever so participate. Embrace this place in time with all you have.
3) The written word is timeless: Whether a particular instant makes it to the page today or tomorrow is not nearly as important as the fact that it happened. Sometimes it takes a little time to process the magic of the moment in order to do the experience justice, but when it does, it has power. Record every beat of the heart.
Sometimes the gypsy life can be overwhelming. It’s often amazing, always exciting. Each day I come off the road to process what I’ve just experienced and try to make it digestible for others, but sometimes, it’s just not transferable. Life is short. Live it.