The Blissful Escape That Is Motorcycle Road Tripping
Today’s world is overwhelming: too many people, too much news, too much access to information, too much of everything. In a world that thinks life is improved by giving us instant access to everyone and everything, I object.
I want less. Less of everything. Less information, less people, less of the news telling me to panic about what just happened. But how? How to take arms against this sea of troubles and by opposing, end it?
Run away from it all. Run from the clatter, the clamor, the commotion and cacophony of a world gone mad and shove the pressures of society back into its proper place. Leave the noise behind and put it in its place.
A man, his horse, and room to think.
And that proper place is the rearview mirror of a motorcycle. Nothing puts the world in perspective like throwing a leg over this psychological regeneration machine. Suiting up changes your focus from trying to absorb everything demanded of you by an overwhelming and overstimulating world, to a new environment that is small, clear, even simple.
Putting on a helmet gets the point across as the world shrinks down from a massive cauldron of boiling trouble to the inch and a half between your eyes and your face shield. Ears cocooned by cheek pads cannot hear society screaming for your attention, they can only hear the simple elements of wind, exhaust and innermost thoughts.
Put on the leather jacket and gloves and feel them hug your torso and hands like they have thousands of times over the years, your trusted friend. Having left behind the shape of their former owner they are your skin now, your armor against a world gone mad.
Hit the starter button, drop the clutch, roll away and the world is simple again, even easy. A helmet. Leather. A motor. Two wheels. Gasoline. Noise. Speed. Immediate rewards. Clear consequences.
Scenery is a moving art gallery of hilly green fields, decaying barns, lazy cows, green tractors, and asphalt running through it. Bright sun and cold air are your diametrically opposed companions.
There is time and space to think, ponder, consider. My permeating thought is I understand why Native Americans worshipped my northwest homeland and sought for generations to live in harmony with it. My horse is different than theirs, but the spirit is the same. When you travel through the landscape you sense that the land has a life, a tangible soul that has endured for thousands of years unaffected by the internet, the news or who is president. Cattle care not about politics.
But to be done well, this journey must be done not for hours, but for days, preferably weeks. A daily dose is good, but we need more than the daily cleansing ride. So kill the excuses, run from the noise of the world, and go.
This wooded campsite on the Oregon coast was at the end of 7 miles of dirt road, not the VFR’s natural habitat. Solitude has its price.
Camping is mandatory on weeks-long trips. Hotels require painful human interaction with people who stand behind counters wearing name tags and using horribly worldly things like credit cards, computer screens, receipts. Pitch a tent out in an open field, alone with your steadfast bike parked alongside, aluminum castings ticking cool in the breeze as they dissipates the day’s heat. Strive to live upon the land that has beckoned to generations of adventurers.
Keep the rain fly packed away at night and let the summer stars be your canopy and companions. Wild horses wander down from the nearby hills to feed on the grassy fields by your campsite like they have for generations and will continue to do long after you have gone. Large, bony beasts, they still roam free in these parts of the west if you know where to look and can stop life’s frantic pace enough to slow down, stop and sleep among them. They approach your camp because they see the bike, the tent, and know you are their kind. You are both free on this grassy plain, natural outgrowths of the land, answering to nothing but your own whims and thoughts.
The wild horse here contrasts his smaller, domesticated cousin.
And therein lies the greatest danger, for who among us wants to have hours, days or weeks alone, with their thoughts their only companion? What demons lie buried deep within us that we suppress with the noise of the world? What would we think about if no one told us what to think about? No social media, no news, no devices, no distractions. What truly lies inside us?
This is the reason many fear solo motorcycle camping. It’s not the danger of smashed machinery and broken bones alone in a remote land. Those can be repaired. But what to do with the fractured subconscious, the fragile mind broken? Can you ride fast enough to outrace your own thoughts? They are trapped in your helmet no matter how hard you pin the throttle. Solo motorcycle camping is simultaneously a journey into the external and the internal, neither for the faint of heart.
The helmet brings both safety and danger, protecting from exposure to external impacts while trapping in thoughts we try to smother with the clatter of society.
For this reason, solo motorcycle campers garner respect wherever they go. In all of my solo camping trips across the west, I have always left my helmet hanging on the rearview mirror, gloves on the dash, gear strapped with a bungee and sometimes just left the keys in the ignition. Never has anyone touched my gear.
At the gas station, bystanders understand. They see the bike and helmet painted with bugs, bedroll and sleeping bag bungeed as unwilling passengers, dirt on the fenders, tires worn to nearly bald, half empty water bottle on the ground and a weary traveler standing alongside with buggy clothes smelling like campfire and eyes with a weary, distant gaze. Something deep in the abyss of their psyche, they get it. They know this motorcyclist is taking a journey not only across America’s precious lands, but deep into their own psyche, away from the world and into themselves.
Bike and helmet are shockingly clean. It didn’t last long.
Somewhere in the bystanders’ minds, they wish they could run away too. Instead, they climb into their cars, whip out the cell phones and turn up the radio.