Monday, September 26, 2011


I only [fill in the blank] when I’m alone or with somebody.
College roommate’s comment
about drinking beer

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE on a motorized two-wheeler involved a high school chum named John who owned a Honda Trail 55 with a chrome front fender. Somehow we talked my mother into letting me buy a Trail 90 back in about 1969. Our favorite ride was to access the Southern Pacific’s service road where the tracks crossed 8th Avenue west of Chico, California and race in and out of mud holes and dust patches, emerging three miles further up the line at Muir after about an hour and a half. Riding with John was great fun. We laughed and shared the common experience and always looked forward to the next opportunity to defy physics on our little tiddlers.

My college roommate – the one quoted above – moved me onto a more vaunted machine: one with a clutch. We commuted from our shared trailer to class on our Honda twins for a semester or two. When co-eds weren’t the topic of conversation, the bikes were.

After quite a hiatus, I bought a BMW R-65. The time was right and I decided a solo road trip to Washington State might be a suitable adventure. And an adventure of discovery it was. I discovered I could rise in the morning and take off when I wanted to. I could eat when I was hungry, unencumbered by anyone else’s pangs. I could stop for pictures, change routes, and take a nap or a piddle without fear of holding anyone up. I was experiencing the freedom of the sunrise, the sunset and the open road.

MOST OF THE CHURCH OF THE OPEN ROAD’S entries chronicle solo trips I’ve taken – some a day in length, some several days long. I find myself doing all the things I learned I could do on that R-65 and then some. With a good map, I could chart a course different from what I might have planned. With my notebook or Alpha-Smart I could write down thoughts about the things I saw, the people I met or the little spiritual moments that overtook me.

Once in a while, I ride with somebody else. Within the last few years, I have been accompanied by my brother on a couple of day rides. Until just recently, the eras when he owned a motor were the exact opposites of the eras when I did. Now we both do. Our excursions help determine what, if any, common ground exists between two of such common genetics. The bikes may be the thread.

On grand occasion, I ride with a buddy. He comes to California, rents a bike and off we ride. As recently as a week ago, we toured some of Northern California’s best motorcycle routes, any one of which would make for a memorable and challenging journey. We did about eight “of which” in five days. Like those long ago adventures racing along the railroad track, each day ended with recountments of how great it was and comparisons of the same scene witnessed through different eyes.

Recently, correspondents to the blog or to one of the conversation websites I’ve joined (Pashnit or Wild Goose), have encouraged me to hook in with a ride they have planned. I participated in my first charity poker run at the behest of a Wild Goose rider from the Stockton area and thoroughly enjoyed the day. All of a sudden I found myself with about 1400 new best friends. I need to pledge to do more riding with others perhaps simply to share the experience or perhaps to enjoy similar passions as experienced by others.

STILL, RIDING SOLO will be the thing I love to do most on a bike. The independence. The freedom. The whimsy. The call of the wild. And that spiritual thing.

I’ll continue to pack a good map. And I’ll continue to leave some sort of itinerary with loved ones along with the note, “If you don’t hear from me in three or four days, follow this general route and look skyward for the circling buzzards.”


Riding buddy from Washington State has found great success in renting from Adventure Touring in Santa Rosa, California. At Charles M. Schulz Airport, the very cordial and accommodating owner, Mike, has located his business where it is easily accessed by out-of-towners.  His collection of nearly new BMW GSs is always in top-notch condition.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. Tony (the wrench) DelgardoSeptember 26, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Usually I do things by my self. Riding and hiking are both good activities for letting the mind explore, expand, and reflect. I find that when others are involved in these activities that my mind becomes clouded by their presence. I sometimes miss the days when my best pal Matt and I would take off on our lightless xr75 minibikes on a moonless night for some midnight mayhem. As for drinking beer I have decided that beer also tends to cloud my mind and get in the way of my best thoughts and ideas. I have decided to let the rest of the guys enjoy the ale. Alone time is important for quality spiritual growth.