Motorcycle Touring: It’s Not Where You Go

May 30, 2013 View Comments by

Motorcycle Touring: It's Not Where You GoI am often asked if it is scary riding alone. The answer is always the same. “Sometimes.” For example, when I am off paved roads for extended periods of time. I know there is always a risk that something could happen and I may need help. I also know that in some remote locations it is normal for another traveler to not come by for hours and sometimes days. But that is the extreme. In general I find something magical happens when I ride alone. I meet people.

A great example of this phenomenon occurred a few years ago when I headed down to the Grand Canyon from Colorado. I was not entirely alone; I was traveling with my friends Ben and Bill. But as happens on some of our rides, we were separated due to what I call variable speeds and missed turns, if you know what I mean. We did eventually meet up at the Grand Canyon and here is the story.

Ben and Bill were holding court alongside the canyon rim, two moderately attractive motorcyclists sitting together on a tiny bench watching a sunset. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that). An observant gentleman approached them. Gesturing in their direction as if he were Christopher Columbus, he proclaimed to have discovered the “motorcycle, tequila, and cigar-smoking club.” He, in fact, was a more accurate navigator than Columbus, and he immediately decreed his interest in pledging membership to the club. He introduced himself as Dale Strother and was soon quenching his thirst with spirits, haloing his head in smoke rings, and watching the sunset with two moderately attractive motorcyclists on a tiny bench on the rim of the Grand Canyon. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Eventually, Ben and Bill entered the lobby of the El Tovar restaurant where I was waiting for them. They introduced me to Dale and I learned how he was solo riding around the country (50 states in 50 days), for the simple reason that he had just turned 50. He explained that he was stopping at the Grand Canyon before heading to California to fly to Honolulu where he was planning on circumventing the island before returning back home. (Side note: Dale was successful!)

Being spontaneous, (translation: no reservation) we passed the two-hour wait for a table with good wine and shared stories. Soon other hungry (translation: thirsty) travelers started to listen in. Before long it looked like we were a tour bus worth of travelers waiting for dinner, rather than a few scattered souls looking for adventure. Individual travelers, couples, and small groups from all over the world began to meld into one. By the time we sat for dinner we needed a bigger table. In the end almost a dozen of us broke bread that evening before shutting down the restaurant.

In this case I wasn’t the one that was riding alone, it was Dale who was on a lone adventure. But I believe his solo approach was the impetus for our meeting. Over time, Dale has become a good friend. The first time we connected after the Grand Canyon was when he came to stay with my wife, our two girls, and me. Have you ever had to tell your spouse, “Honey, a Harley Rider I met over drinks one night at the Grand Canyon is coming to stay with us for a few days as he makes his way to Sturgis? Oh, and we are going to a George Thorogood show together. Cool? Thanks. Love you.” I highly recommend it.

Dale reciprocated the hospitality a couple of years later when my dad was riding back to Connecticut from Colorado. With 24 hours notice and one phone call, Dale became a one-man motorcade as he guided my dad to his home for dinner and even gave him a personal tour of the famous Dragon.

Occasionally your fellow travelers are familiar faces with whom you share adventure. But at other times the road has different plans. Sure it may look paved with preordained bricks of gold, but is it really? Step off the path and you never know who you will meet. The Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, or perhaps just a great guy who hails from Tennessee and is now an official member of the motorcycle, tequila, and cigar-smoking club!

Take a moment and share your best, unexpected meet-up story on the road with fellow motorcyclists!

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About the author

I am an introvert posing as an extrovert. I love travel in all forms, but prefer 2-wheels. I created AdventureHermit as a way to share my adventures and inspire others to find joy through discovery; writing for RoadRUNNER is a dream come true!