So how does one say “goodbye” to friends and family for 22 days? Heck, I don’t know. I’ve never figured out how and as a result, I’ll rarely say the word. “Goodbye” just seems inappropriate…entirely too final, yet strangely incomplete. I struggled with words a moment, hugged the wife, tweaked her on the butt, mumbled, “See you again,” and pointed my motorcycle north. That would have to do.
Twenty-two days on the road. Twenty-two days with almost no plan. Twenty-two days to run with the winds.
“Where are you going?” my friends had asked.
“Los Angles,” I replied, “by way of Wisconsin.” I’m not sure they believed me. I can’t say that I blame them. I’m not even sure I believed me. That’s only the first half of the trip.
It took nearly an hour to clear the Metroplex, the bustling city only reluctantly letting me go and finally vanishing in my rearview mirrors. Once the congestion faded, I grinned, rolled the power on, and rocketed the big bike into the central plains. I was finally free!
I never thought the day would come when I could cram twelve dollars worth of gas into a motorcycle, but I did on the Kansas Turnpike. I suppose I should be shocked at the high gas prices, but I’m not. The miles have to be run. For me, the road trip is not an optional activity. I couldn’t feel bad spending the twelve bucks anyway, the SUV at the next pump had gone over $100. Ouch! The Dragon will run a long way on a hundred dollars worth of gas, even at these prices.
I should explain the name thing. Riding is an intimate experience, immersing the rider in a level of interaction with his or her machine, the road, speed and distance, and nature to a depth that cannot be found in many places. Riders are more a part of their machine than non-riders can often understand. As a result, motorcycles all have names, at least, the ones that are regularly ridden do. The beast I am astride, the machine I have become a part of, the thousand pounds of blood, bone, muscle, and black and chrome steel, answer to Dragon. Some scoff, expecting the name was picked in some macho drum-thumping, bare-chested, alcohol fogged ceremony, but the truth is really much simpler. She’s big, she’s a beast, and she likes to fly. If I press her a bit, she’ll even roar and possibly shoot some fire. See? Dragon. It’s her name. The big Valkyrie Cruiser came with it. Simple.
Just to complicate things…Dragon is my nickname too…but that’s another, longer, and much older, story
Seven hundred and fifty miles makes for a long day on a motorcycle. I rolled into Des Moines, Iowa, after about twelve hours of riding. Along the way I shivered in the cold, roasted in the heat, fought vicious crosswinds, and watched in awe the thunderstorms clashing in the distance. A friend and fellow motorcyclist (hi RJ!) met me south of the city for dinner and put me up for the night. I’m sure I’d have been exhausted, except it’s hard for me to feel tired when I can still picture the huge blue skies, the rolling plains, and the open road speeding by. Maybe later, when I can wipe this grin off my face, I’ll get some sleep. I’ll need it. Tomorrow I’ll be on the road again.
Flying, free, alive.
I’ll see you on the road.
Index Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Afterword