“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.

Ted

Before I die, I want more of this. Care to join me?

40 Comments

  1. Dave K.

    Why not?

    Reply
    • Kevin Hurst

      I want nights I can’t remember with people I can’t forget

      Reply
  2. Ted Edwards

    If you had to finish the sentence “Before I die…”, how would you finish it? Let me know in the comments below.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      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.

      Reply
      • Erick Anderson

        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.

        Reply
        • Rob Brooks

          That would be a great ride, Erick! Go for it, man!

          Reply
    • Dave Kelley

      I want to be able to give like no other to those less fortunate than me.

      Reply
      • Ted M Edwards

        Thank you Dave. You have a generous soul.

        Reply
      • Bob

        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!

        Reply
        • Ted M Edwards

          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.

          Reply
          • AUGUST T WILLIAMS

            I want to own a new duel sport instead of used bikes but who knows if I ever will

    • Don Edwards

      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.

      Reply
  3. Larry M Bejcar

    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.

    Reply
  4. Ted M Edwards

    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.

    Reply
  5. Steve wellman

    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.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      We’d still love to see that, Steve. Best to you.

      Reply
      • Steve Wellman

        Coming soon!

        Reply
  6. tREVOR aLEXANDER

    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!

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      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.

      Reply
  7. Terry E. Hammond

    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”!

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      If we find the board this year, I am grabbing the chalk.

      Reply
  8. Hutch Collier

    Ted, In a heartbeat…triple digit sprints thru the Rockies and San Juan mountains are calling…are you ready?

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Being a part of the Colorado 500 is a great honor. Before I die, I want to ride with Currie more.

      Reply
  9. Ganesh

    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…

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Admirable goals Ganesh. May your roads be smooth and your path full of curves.

      Reply
      • Steve

        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.

        Reply
  10. Ross Wright

    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 !

    Reply
  11. Bob

    Enjoyed the read & reminded myself that the battery charger has mucked up & will forward this on to some I know.

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Thanks for reading Bob. We at Road Dirt appreciate every one of our readers. Get that battery charger fixed, riding time is near.

      Reply
  12. Robert Seay

    Thanks for that. Reminds me of a clip in Shawshank redemption…get busy living or get busy dying.

    Reply
    • Ted M Edwards

      Agreed. Thanks for reading Robert.

      Reply
  13. Marco

    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.)

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Marco, we would love to ride with you someday. Best to ya, friend.

      Reply
  14. She'llbe wright

    A faulty trickle charger went wrong on the DC side and my R90S went up in flames. Be wary!!!!

    Reply
  15. AUGUST T WILLIAMS

    And I don’t ever want to called a fair weather rider.

    Reply
  16. AUGUST T WILLIAMS

    I would like to get a new duel sport instead of the used bikes but who knows if it will happen

    Reply
  17. Jerry VanSchie

    Right to the point, nothing else matters

    Reply

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