It’s November. I’m picking up my journal just now after hitting the ground running here in the USA last June. I found this entry about riding motorcycles from April, 28th and thought I’d share it.
I love journaling.
April 28th, 2015
I saw a BMW R1200GS today while going to get some pills for a runny nose. It was yellow and very clean. Guate plates. I pointed out the bike to Miriam (my teacher) and told her that I wanted to buy a bike like that for world travel. She agreed that it was a very nice bike. I drank it in and thought about how lovely it would be to glide along Guatemala and Mexico on that thing. So smooth, so much gas capacity. So much wind protection. How comfortable. I almost kicked myself for being so narrow minded with the KTM. I thought I was being so smart: kick start, 6 speeds, super low weight, easy maintenance. It sounded like a great recipe. I suppose that if I hadn’t done it, I would have always wondered what it would be like. I would have tried it sooner or later. Curiosity I suppose.
I think that I underestimated the buzziness of the bike. A single just thrums. I didn’t feel fatigued, but I am certain it affected me. The wind blast, the buzz, the worry about fuel. It just added up one after another to create mental stress and physical stress. It was a distraction and when you’re traveling, really traveling, you want to be lost in the landscape, in the exploration, not divided between your machine and the beauty unfolding before you. You only have 100% to give. If you can only give 80% to what’s happening in front of you, 20% is being needlessly lost on your moto. I remember getting on Patrick’s (story) bike and thinking how smooth the engine was. It was as if it wasn’t even on. I could only feel it in the higher RPMs. It must have been a joy to ride.
I think about the small bits that pile up and suddenly you realize that you made a mistake. I’ll have the opportunity to ride Daniel’s R1200GS this coming weekend, but I fear it’ll be the final nail in my coffin. It’ll solidify my regret. Especially when he tells me that he practically never needs to downshift from 6th on the open roads. I know that feeling because my Triumph was the same way, and I loved it.
Another issue was that I didn’t expect to find so much pavement. The roads are in much better repair that I had expected and I was able to eat up distances much more quickly than anticipated.
I have come to realize that traveling by bike is not so much about the bike. I mean, it’s completely around the bike, but once you’ve chosen a good steed, the bike moves backward in the hierarchy and becomes just an element. Almost like you’re preparing a dinner. You need 5 ingredients to make the dinner. Without all 5 to complete the recipe, the meat for burgers or the bread even, you miss the integral part and the goal is unfulfilled. Lost. But, once you make a hamburger dinner, you eat the burger and don’t remark specifically about the bread or burger meat. All you know is that the dinner is excellent. All of the pieces worked together but once combined it became one product: a dinner. The same goes for biking. You want the best ingredients, the bike, the kit, the camping tools and tent and GPS and so on, but once you’re on the road, you realize it’s all about the combined product: the dinner, the trip. And when you stop to think of what the final product you are really searching for is, you find that the trip means discovery, means meeting people, means solving problems and relying on yourself to be resourceful. The smaller ingredients are always part of the equation, but don’t standout as stand alone pieces. I hope to be able to say this more artfully someday. While prepping or watching videos, I remember honing in on comments about the bike. Perhaps it was something that Ewan or Charley said about the BMWs. Just a comment: “These bikes are just so big and heavy” with a note of regret and disdain in their voices. Other moto travelers on YouTube reflecting about something mechanical. As gear heads we all want to pick up nuggets of experience left by real travelers to help shape our future trips, our plans, our dreams. So we focus on gear and equipment and things. Finding the perfect bike becomes the most important topic of a trip, instead of where you’re going or what you might see or how you plan to get to know the people. What bike you’re taking and what tools you have and what tires you use are the centerpieces. And I played into it. I am still attracted to it all. In a way, it’s one of the things that you can control on a long distance trip so you focus on it. You can’t control the weather or the people that might or might not cross your path. But, as I feel now, once you get a bike that can you take you to where you might experience new things and it doesn’t wear you down while you’re going there, then that’s the proper adventure bike. I realize this now. I noticed that so many travelers show photos of people and places and different scenes. It’s because they’ve embraced the trip, not just the bike. It’s the means, not the purpose. They don’t look down at the odometer and say “I’m not fully satisfied until that odometer reads 50,000.” It’s silly to think like that. And so, travel has become, to me, a way away from it all. And choosing the proper horse for the job hopefully won’t be all consuming as last time…especially not the prep time either. Yuck.