Discovering the West – on Two Wheels

One of the things you may not know about me – I ride motorcycles. It’s my husband’s second love (after flying), and I learned to adore it, riding behind him for more than 100,000 miles. 

Then I learned to ride. I’ve had 5 now, and I’ve ridden probably 200,000 miles on my own. All our vacations used to be taken on motorcycles, and I’ve been from Mexico to Canada, California to Florida and most places in-between, on two wheels.

 

You may have seen them-articles about “Why I ride a Motorcycle”.  This is a subject that fascinates me. Maybe because no one ever seems able to explain it well. I thought for a while that it was because the answer couldn’t be expressed in words – that the emotion couldn’t be conveyed to someone who had never done it.  But that’s not it either.  I have another theory; that the answer is so multi-faceted that it can’t be described in a few sentences.  Yes, the experience is individual but there are points of commonality. 

In a car I never would have experienced:

  • The awesome vistas of Wyoming, where the land is so open and rolling, that from the top of a hill, you can see how the glaciers carved the land, and how time has softened its harsh effects.
  • In the badlands of Utah, the delicate multicolored striations in the crumbling ledges made me wish I knew how to dye cloth to be able to recreate it on fabric.
  • The vast open sky of the Four Corners area, with the dramatic red stone monoliths seeming to rise out of the ground in the distance.
  • The never-ending green covered prairie of Canada, with the wheat rippling in great waves in the wind.
  • Small towns in the middle of nowhere, shutting down the main highway that runs through town for a Fourth of July parade complete with tractors pulling hay wagons festooned with bunting and carrying the local beauty contest winners.
  • Real country stores with wooden floors and pot-bellied stoves surrounded by rocking chairs – not to be trendy, but because the old-timers sit there.
  • The howling aloneness of the Canadian Rockies, where the mountains stretch seemingly forever.

True, I could have traveled to all these places in a car. But on the bike, I didn’t go looking for them.  In a car we generally tend to ‘Go Somewhere’, you have a destination in mind, say a National Park.  You drive there, experience it, and drive home.  On a bike, I like to have a destination too, but the destination is not the reason for the trip. We “happened upon” most of the above places on our way to somewhere else.

Another part of my theory is that experiencing life from the seat of a motorcycle is more real and indelible than a car experience.  Follow me on this one, it’s kind of weird.  I believe we’ve been so indoctrinated by our “socialization” to be able live so closely together, that we lose the sensitivity to really experience life to the fullest.  The physical and mental rigors of riding a motorcycle scour that protective layer off, and allow the details of life to sink in to the pores of our consciousness. 

Think about it.  Imagine watching a rain storm from inside a house, and then imagine experiencing it on a motorcycle; black clouds ahead, and the straight road is leading right into them.  Before you get there, there is a temperature drop, the wind buffets you, you smell the rain in the air, but more than that, you feel the storm inside of you…it almost feels like a small electrical current humming inside your body.  An experience like this is naturally going to remain with you longer than watching rain come down outside a window. 

Food tastes best, outdoors, right?  I think life is sweetest when you’ve been on the bike long enough that your “normal life” has receded to the background, and you are truly living in the moment, happening upon the next treasured memory.

How  about you? Ever ridden a motorcycle?

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Laura Drake is a New York and self-published published author of Women's Fiction and Romance.
Her romance series, Sweet on a Cowboy, is set in the world of professional bull riding. Her debut, The Sweet Spot, was a double-finalist, then won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award. She’s since published 12 more books. She is a founding member of Women's Fiction Writers Assn, as well as a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing the West.
Laura is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She's a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

36 thoughts on “Discovering the West – on Two Wheels”

  1. I have ridden a motorcycle, but I never got really comfortable on one, probably because I was diagnosed with arthritis when I was in middle school, and my back always hurt if a rode more than an hour or so. However, I grew up with my family going on weekly rides in a car with no destination and stopping to discover unique places, so I can do that very well. When I got interested in photography, I did it quite often.

    • Oh Janice, that’s something I wished I were good at – photography! I take a photo, and look at it later, and think, ‘Why did I take a picture of a bunch of trees?’

    • Learning to ride my own was really hard. I white-knuckled the first 80k miles or so…it helps, riding with my husband ‘breaking trail’ for me!

  2. My husband used to have a bike many years ago. I would ride it with him but he scared me to death. He would fly on that thing . he didn’t have since enough to ride it. Its a wonder he didn’t kill us both. He took me down the road doing 100 mile an hour so that was the last time I got on that bike. He finally sold it and I was so happy when he did.

  3. What a fun blog to read. No I have not ridden a motorcycle. But, I/we love to go four-wheeling and have been to incredible places … deeper in areas attainable by an ATV unit … that bring such beauty to behold a person just breathes it in. Wyoming vistas … for one. Thank you for brightening my world today with your cute pictures and blog. Happy trails!

  4. Such a well-written blog, Laura! You put me on that motorcycle with you with your vivid imagery!

    Yes, I’ve ridden on a motorcycle numerous times with two different boyfriends. It really was a thrill, though now that I’m older, I worry about crashing. Cars go speeding by so fast!

    I admire your free spirit, Laura. You’ve experienced some amazing things!

    • Thanks Pam – but don’t give me credit – I’m mostly a follower – I just followed my husband! I’d never have done it if he hadn’t been around.

  5. My husband used to have a motorcycle and I loved our early morning Sunday rides. We would head out to the country and spend most of the day riding the country roads around farms or lakes.

  6. As a teenager I rode on a motorcycle, but haven’t since. I’m not interested in riding them now (in late 60s). I would caution any of my grandchildren to be extremely careful if they were on a bike. Bikes are not as safe as a car because of other drivers. In the last couple of months 2 people riding bikes were in separate accidents. One was killed and the other was hurt.

  7. I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle at night, with the wind in my hair. I was in college. He was a nice guy, but not a keeper.

    My brother has a really cool Harley.

  8. My dad had a motorcycle when we were growing up and I loved to go riding with him! It’s probably been 30+ years since I’ve been on my bike, but would love to do it again sometime.

  9. Hi Laura, what a fun blog. I can’t even ride a bicycle, never could, but a motorcycle, believe it not, is on my Bucket List, but not sure I’ll get it accomplished. I certainly saw the many places you’ve been to through your eyes. Fun, fun blog. I enjoyed it. Take care and keep on riding and writing! Hugs, P

  10. I love motorcycles and I always will, even though I have never ridden on one by myself. My husband did try to teach me to ride one, because I had asked him to teach me, but I was too scared, so instead I rode with him. They are alot of fun though. My youngest sister has one and she loves riding it. Have a great rest of the week and stay safe. God Bless you and your family.

  11. Laura, I have never ridden a motorcycle. I’m a big fat chicken. But my oldest daughter loves to ride and it’s nothing for her and hubby to take off and ride 3,000 miles or so. They take two weeks every summer to go exploring. My sister is also an avid bike rider. This is really interesting. Love your post.

  12. I rode a bike once in college and my friend said I was so pale when we got off, he was afraid I was going to faint. The next time I rode was on a small motorcycle in Indonesia. The fellow traveler I met had ridden before so I was again a passenger. It was nice traveling on it until our tires hit sand just off the side of the road. We went down but luckily it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t get hurt, but unfortunately, I landed on top of her. She got scraped up a little but nothing serious. The bikes peddle got bent a little, but that was all. Our daughter and her husband have 3 wheelers and ride as often as they can. They do circuits with their group, but haven’t traveled on their bikes.
    I do not feel secure enough on a bike to travel. I think of the herds of bison we have been surrounded by on several trips, and a bike is the last place I would want to be. Our balance certainly isn’t what it used to be. I think of other situations we have been in and it just would not have been safe at all on a bike. We travel much like you do, but in a car and a few times in an RV. We take the back roads, appreciate the surroundings, and explore. I have never understood the fixation on the destination being the vacation. Getting there and back is a major part of it and often has been the best part. We have found some unexpected gems on the back roads and now that we are retired, we can take even more time to slow down and explore. The hikes, the sunsets, finding a local diner with great food, just seeing the great expanse and variety in the country is something to be savored, no matter how you can do it.
    Enjoy your rides, stay cool and safe.

    • Good for you, Patricia. Enjoy! We were stopped in traffic on the Weeping Wall once, and a grizzly was down the slope, shaking the heck out of a 8″ tree. We were deciding which car we’d seek shelter in!

  13. The crazy man I was married to rides a Harley. When our kids were little, I rode behind him from Kansas City to Pike’s Peak to see the annual Pike’s Peak race. Halfway across Kansas, we came upon a thunderstorm. That crazy man decided the faster he drove, the sooner we would be out of the rain. He was doing close to 100 mph the last couple of hours, in the pouring rain and dark, lightning and thunder; scared me half to death. All I could do was hang on and pray. When we pulled into the motel I was so cold that he had to pull me off the bike. Not the most pleasant trip in my life!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing. I do not remember being on a motorcycle. Now that I am disabled, it is not something that I think I can do.

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