A Bystander’s Snide Question, A Biker’s Thoughtful Answer

 

This is for you, mister random Yosemite Valley stranger who spun on your heels and approached me while I dismounted my bike that sweltering July day, who stopped your walk along God’s Country to ridicule my exhausted frame as I peeled sweaty gear off my back, who halted gazing at El Capitan so you could critique me.  You pulled your focus from where it should have been to where it had no business being, aiming your spiteful arrows at me to offer a cutting remark to this travel weary vagabond.

“Is it worth it?” you inquired rather sarcastically.  Then before I could respond, you turned and walked away.

You skipped the typical pleasantries I am used to when I travel, small talk like “Where are you from?”, “How long have you been on the road?”, and “Where are you headed?”.

Where am I headed? Out there, somewhere…

Your question caught me off guard with not a brain cell left to answer for you see, I was in the middle of what would turn out to be quite a trip.  The previous night I was tearing down track advertising at Laguna Seca after the World Superbike races.  A man whose name I never knew thrust a rubber banded wad of $100 bills in my face for my efforts and his offer fell into my empty pockets like a kid stealing candy.   Tear-down lasted until 2:00 am as we worked by headlight, surfing on the truck’s running boards, driving up the Corkscrew, rock music blaring with our energy fading.  I tried to sleep in Matt Collier’s trailer in the paddock and for the few of you who know Matt, you know his trailer is like someone dumped a frat party in a blender and filled a single axle trailer with the slurry.

When you saw me that afternoon I had little sleep, less food, was some states away and a thousand miles from home, still heading in the opposite direction.

Later, I would end up riding across the Nevada desert in 115 degree heat, then get swallowed up in a West Yellowstone thunderstorm with lightning so electric my hair stood on end, thunderclaps throwing punches at my chest and raindrops pelting me like paintballs.  From then on, it rained every day until I got home.

When I got home my best friend died, clinging to life until I could make it home to say goodbye.  Carrying his limp, dying form into the veterinarian’s office while I sobbed made me reconsider the question you asked me weeks earlier.

Is it worth it?

Worth it.

Absolutely sir.  Every damn mile.

You will never understand those of us with the traveling spirit, the drive inside to be outside, on the road, exploring, discovering, learning.  What good is a life coddled by convenience, pacified by purchases or numbed by the glowing screen?  Who has ever had the best day of their life on the couch?

A breed of people with the explorer spirit still exists, pursuing adventure not because it is easy, but because is is difficult.  While most seek comfort and the familiar the adventurer yearns for the new and uncomfortable, seeking the reassuring feeling of motion.  And they do it by motorcycle not because of its protection, but because of the vulnerability.  Unprotected exposure to nature’s elements, the land and its people is their drug of choice.

It’s out there.

Home is wherever their tent is pitched, wild horses are their neighbors, the night sky is their theatre and stars the evening entertainment.  An exploring soul knows that sometimes, the best way to get everything you want out of life is to leave it all behind.

Home away from home.

People like you think we are crazy but we don’t aim for the world’s approval.  We don’t seek our own fame, we don’t need likes on social media or even care if the world knows who we are.  We just need the wind at our heels and the spinning of our wheels.  And the most memorable trips?  Those are the ones when something goes wrong.

Our souls are different, yours and mine.  My soul says “Go”.  And when your soul says Go, who are you to say no?

So to answer your question, dear sir, mister random Yosemite Valley stranger who bitingly critiqued my ‘why’, you asked me “Is it worth it?”.

I say: if you have to ask the question, you will never understand the answer.

Ted

You either understand this, or you don’t.

12 Comments

  1. Mike

    Right on! Write on!

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      Thank you Mike. Glad I am not the only one.

      Reply
  2. Ted

    5W1H – How you choose to ride is foremost, Who you choose to ride with, What you ride, and When and Where you ride influence How. If you have to ask Why, maybe best to stand down.

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      Agreed. The sharpest criticism always comes from the audience, not the players of the game.

      Reply
  3. Robert Timco

    To those to whom an explanation is required, none will ever suffice.

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      Indeed. Trying to explain why I ride is lost on most people. Some think I am irresponsible. Many think I am trying to kill myself. Others call me an adrenaline junkie, or just plain stupid. None of them have ever ridden a motorcycle. Probably never will.

      Reply
  4. Veazie

    Ride to live; live to ride. Well written story, sorry to hear about your dog.

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      I have been told I have a big heart. It makes for good writing, but hurts when life takes those I love from me. However, I would rather pour out my heart to my writing, my readers and my dogs than insulate myself. Thank you Veazie, for your kind words. I do appreciate it.

      Reply
  5. Bill Roberson

    Spot-on, Ted. Great column. Says a lot of things that we as riders sometimes can’t find a way to express. I too have had people look down their nose at me as I pull up on a bike. I always think the same thing: “I’d hate to have your boring-ass life.” Best trips are the ones that take those unexpected turns. Don’t overplan!

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      I couldn’t agree more Bill. The trips we talk about are the ones where things go wrong. And people do cast me into a stereotype as I pull in on a red sportbike with a loud exhaust and a flashy helmet (sometimes with a green mohawk), then I pull off the helmet and they see the gray hair. That usually either prompts a load of questions or shuts them up. By the way Bill, love your work. Keep it up.

      Reply
  6. Marco

    Another wonderful piece of writing. Your timing is interesting. Just three days ago I had a relative twice removed by marriage, when he found out I was leaving the next day on this cross-country trip I’m on, ask “Why? So you can brag that you did it?” I thought about the things I’ve learned on the road over the past 40 years of riding, how this backroads trip was going to connect me with the US most people never see, and help me figure out who I am now that I no longer work at a 9-5 job. As for my smart-ass relative (a lawyer and a politician, but I digress) I just looked at him until he became uncomfortable and my wife rescued him by changing the subject. I forget who said “for those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is sufficient.” Again, well done, thanks.

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      Marco, I am impressed with your self-control. I cannot say I would have been so gracious. To him, no explanation would work. His goal was to be understood, not to understand (and he sounded kind of jealous). And I agree, none of us seeks attention for our exploits, we do this because we live more during one day on the bike than most people do in a year. Please travel safe Marco, and if you are ever on the west coast, you have a place to stay here. If I’m not on the road, that is…

      Reply

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