RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist


May 24, 2012 View Comments by

I started a motorcycle touring group back in the fall of 2010. I got the idea after returning from a solo ride over three days from Pennsylvania to North Carolina via the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. We have over 100 members now, and plan a dozen or so rides throughout the year.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was always a road I thought I’d love to ride someday, although it is more than a day’s ride from my home just to get there. In the summer of 2010 I rode down to visit my sister who had recently moved to North Carolina. I mapped a route that followed parts of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge. The idea for the group came to me on the ride home. As I rode along I thought about how amazing the ride would be if I were able to share it with a group of other riders. I wondered if there were others like myself who dreamed of taking long rides to places they’ve read or heard about, but for whatever reason, had never been able or willing to do it.

Last weekend Cori and I led a small group down through Gettysburg,PA to Virginia where we spent a day riding Skyline Drive. Leading rides can be time consuming and stressful. You need to select a route and map it; which means taking into consideration a whole range of abilities and motorcycle types with varying range capabilities. You are in many ways assuming responsibility for the group. It can also be stressful in that you need to not only look out for yourself but also keep one eye on the mirror in order to keep everyone together. In addition, you need to be sure each rider is aware of the hand signals necessary to communicate while riding, and knows the “rules of the road” for group riding. You require enough tact to balance the needs of the group, from the guys who don’t like to stop often, to the needs of those who, for medical as well as physical reasons, have to stop more frequently. It’s not easy, and you often have to set ego aside in favor of group harmony.

The payback for leading and all the work it involves is seeing the smiles on the faces of everyone in the group. Nothing feels better than hearing someone say “I never knew that road existed” or “great ride, thanks for doing this.” When you’ve taken a ride that changes you, you just want to share that experience with others.  At a rest stop on our ride a solo motorcyclist approached Walter, one of the riders in our group, who wore a vest that identified him as a Vietnam Veteran. The other rider thanked him for his service and they shared a bit about their tours in the military. It was something nice to be a witness to, and to have played a small part in. If you pay attention life opens windows that let us glimpse things we otherwise might have missed. I’ve had many of those moments aboard a motorcycle.

That ride down to North Carolina, in many ways, was life changing. I went having never ridden that far before, nor had I packed a bike for multiple days on the road, so I didn’t know what to expect. It may not sound like much to many who are used to extended tours, but to me at the time it was a sign that something inside me wasn’t being utilized, that untapped potential was urging me to expand my horizons.

The ride changed me much like years of riding had but on another level. Before that ride I would rather have been one of the members following rather than the one to take charge of the planning and coordination of the ride, which I assumed was for more confident, experienced individuals. After that ride though, I felt like there wasn’t much I couldn’t do if I wanted to do it badly enough. So as soon as I got back I started the group, began writing and haven’t looked back.

I’ve made many friends since starting the group. I’ve learned a lot, taught a little, been embarrassed and proud, lost and found, and smiled the whole time.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.