Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on the road? To just leave everything behind and ride off… no responsibilities, no bills, no ties? This type of lifestyle began to appeal to me when I was in my 20s and two of my friends offered me the opportunity to live on a boat in the Florida Keys for as long as I wanted. I briefly toyed with the idea until my logical… no, fearful… side took over and determined that I would lose my job. You know; the same job that made me miserable until I finally quit some 20 years later.
After one more highly-paid but highly-stressful job, I left the corporate world for good. I had a vague plan of selling my condo and just riding around the country for a while, staying in campgrounds or cheap motels until the money ran out. But once again, my left brain, assisted by my accountant, dictated that I buy another smaller, less expensive house so I wouldn’t take a big tax hit at the end of the year.
Eventually that dream of life in the wind faded, with my wanderlust somewhat sated by riding to rallies all over the country as a THUNDER PRESS contributor. But I still wonder what it would be like, hence, my fascination with other riders that are living the life of an itinerant traveler.
Over the years, I’ve come to know a few of these motorcycle nomads fairly well, and one thing they all have in common, besides their thirst for excitement and allergy to routine, is that they each live their lives in different ways. Panhead Billy, who refers to himself as an adventurer, is the first motorcycle drifter I’d ever met. He’s been utilizing various vehicles since 1976, and since 1984 his ’60 Panhead has been his road companion. The only break Billy’s had since then was the year and a half he spent on crutches due to a hit-and-run accident in 1993.
Then there’s my buddy Bean’re, the self-proclaimed Mayor of Fun, whom many of you may have met while he was performing emcee duties at various events. Bean’re rides a distinctive purple custom chopper, as well as other two-wheeled conveyances depending on what country, or terrain, he’s traversing. My friend Joe Sparrow, a.k.a. Couchboy Joe, is another motorcycle gypsy that crisscrosses the country and can often be found working J&P Cycles booths at events, or at random campgrounds between rallies. Another friend, Scooter Tramp Scotty, has been on the road for about 23 years, and has refined his way to life to pretty near a science, working only enough gigs to support his travels.
This genre isn’t limited to the guys; there are female motorcycle nomads as well. A few years ago I met Michelle Hope who, along with her pup 2Lane, was living a nomadic existence. Michelle had attended and graduated massage therapy school, which is how she supported herself while on the road. Last I heard she was going to school for herbalism to add to her holistic healing practices. And of course there’s our own Felicia Morgan, who’s been a road gypsy for the past eight years, traveling throughout North America and abroad in search of stories and the humans that inspire them.
My fascination with these road wanderers spans many levels. The interest I have is, of course, related to my own psyche, with probably the paramount question being, how do you part with all your stuff? Although I’m not exactly a hoarder, I have trinkets, mementos, magazines in stacks on shelves, photographs in bins, unworn clothing and shoes, and all sorts of things that I’ve dragged from one home to another as I’ve moved domiciles over the years. How does one pare down his or her existence to only what can be hauled on the back of a motorcycle? I have enough trouble packing only what I need onto my bike for a two-week trip to Sturgis, so the thought of becoming a long-term minimalist just blows my mind. What I have learned, though, is that each traveler has his or her own process, with some just chucking everything at once, while others pare down their accoutrements over an extended period of time.
I’m transfixed by the logistics of living on the road as well, such as the mechanisms by which one finds lodging that suits one’s needs. And the choice of locales, which basically seem to be south in the winter (for instance, Scotty generally spends the coldest-weather months deep in Mexico) and north in the summer. The financial aspects interest me, and the ways in which these nomads support themselves are as varied as their individual personalities, from working rallies to taking on seasonal construction jobs.
There’s a camaraderie among biker gypsies that, to me, is enviable. Those that have been on the road for some time mentor the younger folks just starting out on their adventures, sharing with them the best places to camp, where to take showers, how to spend the least amount of money and many more little things that make one’s existence not only bearable, but comfortable. In fact, some of my traveling friends only feel at home in their tent or lying on top of their sleeping bag with only the sky for a blanket.
During Laconia Motorcycle Week, I met another of the roving motorcyclists whose Facebook page and blog I’ve been following. Chip Parisi has been on the road for about a year, leaving a nice home and cushy job in Rhode Island. He got restless. And I got very interested in his story. Chip has agreed to share various aspects of his journey with THUNDER PRESS readers, so watch for his online-exclusive column in the near future. In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming about what freedom really means.