Pulling the strap as tight as it would go wasn’t that challenging. A backpack full of clothes and a camera wasn’t heavy, so securing it to the rack was easy, too easy.
After anticipation had built up for months it was finally time, the road trip was here. It was a weird feeling, however. No nerves, no jitters, not even adrenaline was coursing. The weeks leading up to it was full of mental and physical prep. So what may have seemed like an impossible or stupid task to some, was deemed routine by my psyche. At this point the only thing left to do was leave . . . and leave I did.
For a while I’ve had a restlessness that wouldn’t subside. The “bucket list” pine had been growing with an ache that just wouldn’t quiet, and the logical solution was simply to quench a desire for adventure without cause. What better way to claim autonomy than to get on a motorcycle for two weeks with only a few goals in mind? No to do list, no promises, no one to answer to.
Rolling through Baton Rouge before the sun was up is an experience I haven’t felt in a long time. It was a slightly chilled morning, and it wasn’t until turning north on I-55 that the warmth of the sun began to come. In that is when the seconds started to feel like minutes, minutes felt like hours. You don’t realize when driving a car how much is available to distract you from the road. Either through phone calls or texts, easily choosing music, talking with others in the vehicle. What may seem like a long trip can pass by quick when you are able to give fractions of your attention to other tasks.
You can’ do this on a motorcycle. True focus is required in nearly every moment you operate the vehicle. Yeah the helmets now have blue tooth connection so you can listen to music while you ride, but you have to have eyes on the road constantly.
The first stretch was invigorating, but after arriving at the first welcome center in Mississippi I was ready for a break, and unfortunately had only just begun.
Fast forward. The first day was brutal. Chicago was the goal destination in one trip . . . and it didn’t happen.
Leaving New Roads at 5:30am wasn’t difficult, but once 7:30pm rolled around (ha, rolled) signs for Effingham, IL came in to view. That whole day the longest break taken included only 20 minutes at a McDonald’s in southern Illinois. Other than that? Pull over, get gas, drink some water, snack on part of a protein bar, empty the bladder, hit the road. Total time on the bike was over 12 hours . . . by the end of the day, my body was in pain.
Once I settled into the cheap motel, started checking the weather to make sure I was ahead of the bands of rain. Forecasts said the rain would hit the town about 8am, perfect. Up early and it would be easy to be out of town before the rain came . . . and it didn’t happen. Change in the winds brought the rain in town by 3am. So again, goal not achieved. My destination of Fond Du Lac, WI was less than 6 hours away, but arrival time was being pushed farther and farther.
Lone wolf. That was the theme of this trip. Up until this point I was in a rush to get where I wanted to go, but a phone call from a dear friend reminded me “You don’t owe anyone anything right now, just do what you want to do and enjoy the ride.” From that second forward, is exactly what happened.
Cruising at 60 with one hand on the throttle and one on the hip, cars passing by, was a life changer. Instead of bouncing eyes back and forth from the road to the speedo, taking in the landscape and it slowly panned by was refreshing. Autonomy took over, which was the point of doing this trip anyway.
See people, see places. Those were the only two line items on this trip. Though it was arduous, item one received a check mark on day two.
See, one motivation that pushed me to take this trip was a need for freedom. Prove to myself that I’m not chained to a 9 to 5, or my life was only purposeful by responding to someone else’s needs. Working for the last year in order to reclaim my personal wealth has been taxing, to the point that every decision being made, every effort being exerted, was not for me . . . but to give something to someone else.
The analogy of chains.
Laboring for 10+ hours a day only to pay bills and pay someone else is dehumanizing. For the first 3 months of this year I felt like a robot. Wake up at 5am, go to work, get off, go to work, get home at 11pm.
However. I dug this hole, and it is my responsibility to fill it back to the brim. Full accountability and ownership of that fact. I just needed a breath.
Into the Wild. Have you read the book? Or seen the movie? The story of a young man abandoning everything he had to find meaning is an idea that so many of us slyly long. He just leaves, alone.
The whole time he is on the road, or in the canyons, or down the river, he is alone. Everyone he has an intimate encounter with diverts their affection to him. Why not? His libertine spirit is attractive. Who wants to be bound to a job? Or other’s expectations on how your life should chart?
However one factor you also notice is that no matter how many people’s lives he enters and enriches, he is still alone. They ask and he diverts. He offers but does not receive. Though he is generous with his labor and time for so many, he is the most selfish person in the story.
Of all the beautiful landscapes he saw, the unique people he encountered, the personal development he retained. It was all in vain.
So often we equate happiness with autonomy. “Don’t tell me what to do.” has become the mantra of our day. However the main component of being able to live by this command requires solitude. To have no expectation requires no communion with another person.
The interesting turn comes in his moment of despair. Of all the awe inspiring scenery in the story, the one that moved my heart is what he wrote in the margin of a book “HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.”
There were a few objectives to this trip that I wanted to achieve, but as the days passed only one aspect gave me more energy. Communing with other persons.
Whether it was from visiting with best friends, old friends, or even strangers, sharing this trip with other people solidify the memories. Between planned meet-ups and telling the clerk at the gas station a guy was dispensing fuel on the ground, looking into the eyes of another person is a stronger connection than can ever be experienced from the beauty of external scenes.
Don’t compare with these.
There was, and still is a lot of negativity in my life about having a motorcycle. So much that it severely burdened my first day on the road and distracted me for several days. But there were also countless conversations with strangers that are pondered in my heart.
- The guy who stopped me at McDonald’s to tell me about the race bike he built.
- The girl I met from DeRidder in Kentucky, who wasn’t insulted when I guessed she was from East TX (I.E. SWLA).
- The older couple who tours on their cruiser, and gave me tips for long trips.
- The air-bnb host who flirted with me, asked for a ride, but was too attached to her dog to join me for dinner.
- Ms. Grace who was in her 80’s but wanted to trade her brand new car for my bike.
13 Days. 10 States. 43 Hours Seat Time. $98.05 of Fuel. 40 Gallons of Gas. 2,603 Miles. 16,770,000 revolutions of the motor.
That’s what it took for me to run away in order to come back.
Loosening those straps were a lot harder than putting them on.