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?
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.
You either understand this, or you don’t.