“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Gil Bailie
Browsing through old photos is my time machine, pictures resurrecting the sounds, smells and feelings of tours long forgotten. Tour after tour breeds complacency of the spectacular and reminiscing over photographs helps me appreciate the past and long for the future while my bikes hibernate through winter, tethered to their electric umbilicals. During a sleepless night as I kicked around photographs and memories I came across one I hadn’t seen in years.
What would you write?
It was June 13, 2016, a Monday, four days into a week long northwest tour. We had stopped in Cambridge, Idaho when my dad walked across the street to look at a curious blackboard on a store’s wall. “Before I Die…” was the heading on top with room beneath for people to fill in their answers. Responses ranged from serious to comical: rule the world, become the world’s best cook, experience an outpouring of the Holy Ghost, own a horse or marry Rhonda Rousey. I snapped a poorly framed, grainy picture of my dad as he read the board, filed it away, then forgot about the photo.
Now, years later, I stumbled across that photo. Studying it reminded me once again that our years are short. Our life is but a blip in the expanse of time and tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. Money, fame, and millions of Facebook or Instagram followers will not buy anyone an extra day. God decides that. It made me reflect on how I would end the sentence on the board. If I had the chalk, what would I write? Years after taking the picture, I know the answer.
Before I die I want to appreciate exactly what I am doing right now. I want to wake up to a house full of my brothers with motorbikes, laugh as we roll out of bed, share breakfast then irresponsibly caffeinate ourselves as we lean over maps debating the day’s plan.
I think our plan requires more floor space. And more maps.
I want to throw a leg over a beautifully crafted machine while my brothers do the same, then watch as they slam their mirrored faceshields shut and nod their heads, the signal that they too are ready for the day. I want to be the last rider in our group as we leave, seeing every blur of color and hearing every obnoxious exhaust, watching my brothers tighten their formation then peel into a corner one by one like fighter pilots on a strafing run. I want to see them brake late, lean hard, drag their fingers through the corner then carry a two inch wheelie at the exit.
I want to stop for afternoon coffee and be the loudest laugher in the group as we tell stories of the ride so far. Did that cop see us? Has anyone seen where Matt’s exhaust landed? Did Trevor get attacked by a bald eagle again? And how in the hell did a man with no legs in a wheelchair end up on a forest service road in the middle of nowhere twenty miles from town? (that one still bugs me)
Why do we always find cattle?
I want to chase the setting sun with my front wheel and right wrist, see all of my brothers make it through the day, then share a single cigar and single malt by the fire while we stare at our glorious machines, telling stories from the front porch. Then I want to do it all over again the next day, and the next, and the next, until old age or speed claim me.
Single cigar, single malt, single sided swingarm.
But before that happens, before I die, I want to hug my dad like tomorrow doesn’t exist and tell him how much I love him, the humble man who infected me with this motorcycle touring disease and encouraged my career of moto-journalism that has taken me places I never imagined.
Hard at work.
And as we ride off together, I will pass his slow ass like the obnoxious son I am, brake way later into the corner than he ever would, drag my fingers through the corner like he never did and carry a two inch wheelie at the exit while he shakes his disapproving head at me, the hooligan he created.
What a beautiful way to go out.
Before I die, I want more of this. Care to join me?
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I want nights I can’t remember with people I can’t forget
Then you just might be Wild Rose Squad material. How do you feel about scotch that tastes like charcoal and single sided swingarms?
Do another cross country trip, this time on a proper touring bike instead of a sportbike, and return when I’m tired of traveling instead of when I have to be a work. I want to see the sky in perfect darkness, see the geyser spout. And then I can die.
Nothing wrong with touring the country on a sportbike Margie. And I’ll see you at the geyser.
Great article, spot on and hits my heart. My dad passed away in June 2016. He used to ride but quit when I was young. I started riding a couple years ago and my big regret is not starting sooner and getting him back into riding. How much I would love to go on rides with him. I’m always so envious and yet so happy for people like you who ride with their father or son.
Just Awesome, keep making those memories as long as you can!
I know the pain of losing a father, so my heart goes out to you. We’re glad you are riding, whenever you started. Ride in honor of your dad. Great way to celebrate him.
I like finding backroads I have never traveled and not knowing where they end.
Way too expensive to ride a motorcycle sadly! Only the well off can afford this! At least in Canada where insurance is thousands, I have sold off all of my bikes to pay to live humbly and cover home expenses and even gas!
Motorcycling is one sport that can be done on the cheap if you are willing to hunt and wrench on old bikes. I agree gas has gotten wildly expensive lately, but the sum total of all three of my motorcycles is less than the price of one good used bike. And bikes are easier on gas than most cars. Also, the payback that motorcycling has given me is well worth the investment. I hope you find a way to afford your dream.
If you had to finish the sentence “Before I die…”, how would you finish it? Let me know in the comments below.
Before I die, I want to have lived so fully that my wife felt supremely loved and cherished, my girls looked up to and wanted to marry a man like their dad, and as much as it depends on me, every person I encountered on the road and in daily life felt enriched because of meeting or knowing me.
Oh, and ride across America. Atlantic to Pacific. Toes in the sand on both coasts. That would be cool too.
Infected by this motorcycle touring disease is a great way to explain it. I can think of nothing more exhilarating than exploring new places with like minded friends on motorcycles and later recounting the days ride(hopefully around a fire). Before I die I’d like to ride from my home in eastern Pa to Alaska by way of Banff and Jasper national parks. Riding some of the mountains in Europe would be nice too but I’ve got quite a bit to see in North Amerrca.
That would be a great ride, Erick! Go for it, man!
Wow, I was living inside that moment when you explained. I would love to follow your stories. Do you have a page or platform where I can get your stories? I myself was a journalist back in the day. I miss those day. Keep well.
If you’d like to follow and read more of Ted’s stories, you’ve come to the right place. Ted is a much-loved writer for us at Road Dirt, and you can get your fill of his musings right here.
I want to be able to give like no other to those less fortunate than me.
Thank you Dave. You have a generous soul.
Great article Ted and awesome writing. I see your VFR, I have a 1990, 750 VFR as my street ride which I love but also have 12 more other bikes and most are projects that I will probably not finish. Take care!
Ahhh, the 1990 VFR 750, now we’re talking! If you ever decide to sell it, it would look fantastic next to my 1993 VFR750 (The Unicorn written about elsewhere here) and 1998 VFR800 touring mule. Well done Bob.
I want to own a new duel sport instead of used bikes but who knows if I ever will
Yep, giving away bounty is the best.
And if you’ve already done most of the things on your bucket list it must mean two things. You’re getting old and you’re very fortunate. I am proud to be Ted’s dad…don’t mind being called humble…but bristle at “slow ass.” Wonder if I can get a refund on your birthday present. I’ll check with Shoei.
Haha, now that, is funny!
As I consider my response, it’s -26 C outside, and even in the milder PNW, I’m told it’s colder, and wetter than wished for. Sigh, a bit of down time, the turn of the calendar, and the big What if? to contemplate.
I’m not so clever as to come up with an answer for you, I’ll keep working on mine. I’d say asking the question is the best first step, and to keep asking it.
To help with that contemplation, may I offer the movie ‘One Week’ as a suitable road fairy tale, so that you may explore the theme, while we wait out the weather.
Larry, temperatures here have been in the single digits Fahrenheit to sub zero giving us plenty of time to drink coffee and contemplate such questions. I agree that asking the question is the first step, and pursuing the answer is the next. May we enjoy the journey.
After writing this story, I went to my dad’s house, gave him a giant man hug, and told him how much I love him. Then we got out maps and started planning our annual June ride.
Design, build and produce the fastest, most beautiful motorcycle in the world and use it to capture the Land Speed Record for motorcycles that you ride.
We’d still love to see that, Steve. Best to you.
Before I die I want to have no regrets. I will work the rest of my life towards this goal. Like always, excellent read Ted-Ed. WRS for life!
Thank you Tail Gunner. Though we have ventured through some regrettable weather in our journeys, I’ve never regretted a day on the road with you.
Don said the Wild Rose squad has been looking into the “June ride”…..sounds like we’ll be revisiting some of our favorite haunts….Snake River Rendezvous, LoloPass, Fred’s at Warm Lake, Prairie Rose Guesthouse and a Rocky shindig on the High Prairie.And ,yes, let’s check out the “before I die” list on our way through Cambridge which looks to be during day 4 of our week long tour.
Thanks for again brilliantly and beautifully capturing the essence of “why we ride”!
If we find the board this year, I am grabbing the chalk.
Ted, In a heartbeat…triple digit sprints thru the Rockies and San Juan mountains are calling…are you ready?
Being a part of the Colorado 500 is a great honor. Before I die, I want to ride with Currie more.
Before I die, I’d like to travel at least 30% of this world, be in the present leaving the past behind and be carefree about what comes next…
Admirable goals Ganesh. May your roads be smooth and your path full of curves.
Before I die I want to make it to the Baja and take an enduro down a lengthy beach while taking in the scenery of the ocean on one side and the desert hills on the other. All while feeling the peace and tranquility the racers describe while going 100mph in the isolated region without distraction of the outside world.
Steve, allow me to whet your appetite-
As a “Legal” motorcyclist for 50 years and still loving my 11year old BM R1200GS. Crossed the Australian continent coast to coast 5 times. Now need to do South to North.
Riding is still the best fun you can have with your pants on.
Go for it !
Rock on, Ross!
Enjoyed the read & reminded myself that the battery charger has mucked up & will forward this on to some I know.
Thanks for reading Bob. We at Road Dirt appreciate every one of our readers. Get that battery charger fixed, riding time is near.
Thanks for that. Reminds me of a clip in Shawshank redemption…get busy living or get busy dying.
Agreed. Thanks for reading Robert.
Last year ticked one box: cross-country (USA) east to west. This year, circle tour of Lake Superior with my wife. (And someday the one I don’t tell her about: find out the top speed of my ’14 VFR.)
Marco, we would love to ride with you someday. Best to ya, friend.
A faulty trickle charger went wrong on the DC side and my R90S went up in flames. Be wary!!!!
So sorry to hear about your flame colored BMW.
And I don’t ever want to called a fair weather rider.
I know our editor-in-chief Rob Brooks is not one. Witnessed that one myself.
I would like to get a new duel sport instead of the used bikes but who knows if it will happen
Right to the point, nothing else matters
Thanks Jerry. It’s even better when shared with the like minded.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for 50 years. I got into Road riding on a motorcycle 73 Z1 900 because I couldn’t afford a Ferrari. But on that bike even with only one front disc brake I can leave the redhead in the dust. I’ve travelled all over the world on motorcycles and I have tried out just about every different type of bike. I’ve never owned a motorcycle that I haven’t beveled the foot pegs. The world’s fastest Indian is the movie that speaks to my soul. I’ve been doing my bucket list ever since that movie came out it was very inspiring got me on a hang glider over the ocean in Port Macquarie.
Good on ya mate.
I just finished my 25th radiation session, so my mind is focused. Before I die, I want to spend the rest of my life responding to God’s invitation to get to know Him better and to love and serve Him as a member of his redeemed family. Can I do that while riding with my wife, my family and my friends? Can I do that riding across America on my Yamaha FJR? Can I do that riding off road on my new Yamaha Tenere? YES. These too are God’s good gifts to be treasured. Then let me slide in sideways, in a cloud of dust, all used up seeking to further God’s kingdom on earth, saying “Wow, what a ride!” [with apologies to Hunter Thomspson.]
To all that, we give a huge AMEN Paul! And prayers for your strength and health, sir.
With 50+ years in the saddle, riding solo I still look for that “special” ride where the sun has long ago set and the warmth of the day is being lost in deep valleys but revisited again in the flats. Where the sound of the bike is telling you that all is well and you have no care in the world and feel that you could go on like this forever.
I have been fortunate to have this “special” feeling a number of times in my life; and look forward to many more.
My 22 year old decker sits on its stand all polished and buttoned up ready for mid May, where we both start feeling the pull of the warmth of sun. We are both getting old and start contemplating on how many more springs are in the future for us, but on that first empty road on a perfectly lit full moon night and a pull on the throttle allows the bike and me to be one with the road.
This, to me, is the ultimate wish come true.
John, I was almost picturing the scene as you described in your comment. Nothing quite like riding an open stretch of empty road on a full moon night. Done a few myself over the years.
Blessings on ya, and may you ride many more.
Before I die, I would like to take my wife on a spectacular ride that re-kindles her excitement in riding. When we got together 25 years ago, she loved riding as much as myself, going on our first date 2-up on my Yamaha, getting caught in a thunder storm, thinking it would be our last date, and she still having a big grin when we stopped for dinner, loving every minute of it. She owned a Kawasaki 454, a Shadow VLX, and when, in 2000, I bought a VFR800 and let her ride it, she said “I gotta get me one of those”. So we bought her a clean 1997 VFR750. Then one day in 2003, she said she was going to sell her bike because she didn’t care about riding anymore. It broke my heart. Riding is a passion of mine, in my blood, and I cannot imagine ever giving it up. But now all of my trips are solo and I miss her companionship on the road.
May your longing for a spectacular ride with your wife come true again. Nothing quite like the joy of sharing your passion with your beloved.
…especially if that beloved rides a VFR. Not that I am biased.
This makes me wish I could have ridden with my dad. He had a bike long before I was born – we think it was a Henderson. The only time I ever saw him ride was when my cousin brought over his early ’50s ex-police model Harley. Dad took it for a ride and had no problem with the foot-clutch, hand-shift. At 16, that beast was a challenge for me. I did discover it would knock over a 4X4 fence post like a match stick. My dad was a hard-working man and probably sensitive to my mom’s wishes to never get a bike. But I’m sure he wanted to and that counts for something. I’ll ride some extra miles in his honor.
Great post. Oddly, at present, I don’t have a lot of “before I die” resolutions, which is likely a reflection of my personal good fortune to have a wonderful family and the opportunity to travel and ride quite a bit.
Certainly, before I die I’d like to ride more, not less, go more places, and have good health (if that makes sense). Maybe before I die, I’d like to be 103? Time is the most precious resource we have. I’d like to see grand babies before I die, maybe own a Norton Commando that runs for more than a week at a time, see Europe with my wonderful wife. Those things. Given time to ponder, I’m sure we could all come up with long lists. Thank you for the invite for the ride this year, I’m sorry to have to miss it. 2024 hopefully. Hopefully see you at The Ridge.