Reality of the Road: The Landscape of Travel
Even I get caught up in the romantic notion of riding a motorcycle across the open landscape under sunny blue skies with the wind in my face. The reality of the road brings me back to earth. Every time.
Last week I arrived in Portland, OR afterd riding 4,000km/2,600miles in six days. It sounds so doable from my home: average 650km/400 miles/day. Until you factor in temperatures in the mid 90s (exceeding 100 one day), high humidity, traffic, and managing a migraine headache.
After a great first day, travel turned exhausting. I questioned my stamina to make it all the way in the time I’d allotted. Twice I ended up in a motel overnight because campgrounds were completely booked or unsuitable. I prefer the outdoors and my budget is for campgrounds.
Always, it was the treasures embedded in the challenges that energized me and reminded me why I do what I do.
Like the Amish woman who parked beside me at a grocery store and struck up a conversation. A mother of five, she’d just dropped her son off at his flying lessons. She enjoys the drive with him for the bonding time. The waiting time gives her reflective, spiritual time. She also recounted how she and her husband have moved away from their culture. She struggles with a spiritual challenge to stay connected to a community she found oppressive. Her story could have been taken from the pages of Crash Landing.
Or Alex, the fifteen-year-old behind the desk of my second hotel who worked it like a pro. Life hadn’t been easy for them and he and his siblings all had to work from an early age. His grandfather had built an exquisite custom motorcycle for which he’d refused an offer of $250,000. Grandpa also built a custom bike for his wife, Alex’s grandmother, who no longer rides. As soon as Alex is of age, he’ll learn to ride on his grandma’s bike and go riding with his grandpa.
Or camping on Mr. Haddy’s yard in the RV park after Trudy balked at riding in deep pea gravel to get to the tent sites. (Too much with a full load at the end of a long day.) The kind, frail 93-year-old WWII vet, nourishes himself through a feeding tube. He spends summers in Montana, moving to Arizona for the winter. I accepted the jar of jelly he gifted me with deep gratitude.
Depleted at the end of most days, my energy was recharged every morning, even after the night in the campground between an Interstate and two or three trains an hour running on the other side.
Finally nearing Portland, the last full day of riding was the hottest—more than 100deg F— and included powerful gusts of the Columbia River Gorge. Camping under the towering pines at the edge of the river restored me yet again on the eve of the first stop on the Long Road Home Tour.
Time and time again, stories of the strength, stamina, and resilience of my ancestors came to mind. Understanding how to draw from their lives while letting go of the stories that bound me is what Crash Landing—and this moto-book tour—is all about.
No matter what my expectations, the reality of the road always wins. Invariably, in a way far greater than I could have imagined.