“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?