RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

Zen Motorcyclist: Why We Go Away

Mar 30, 2018 View Comments by


Zen Motorcyclist


Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors and the people there see you differently too. Coming back where you started is not the same as never leaving. —Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

It’s mid-December as I sit down to write this. The riding season has pretty much drawn to a close with snowfall here in the Northeast, and I’ve been reflecting on the several trips I’ve taken this season. My summer included a ride through Arizona and New Mexico to visit the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, then a 10-hour ride to Tennessee for the RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend, a week in which I covered nearly 2,000 miles in six days. On the ride home, I toured Burke’s Garden, VA, which was so idyllic it seemed more like the set of a Hollywood movie.

Upon returning home, I was surprised at how little the 13-hour return trip affected me, which led me to draw a circle on a map gauging the distance from home to Tennessee. Thereby, I had created a template containing all the places on the east coast I can reach within a day by motorcycle. Niagara Falls fell within my circle, so I decided to visit there before the weather turned too cold.

Like most people I don’t have unlimited vacation time, but with a properly outfitted motorcycle and a sense of adventure there are a lot of places you can get to in a long day of riding. On each trip, I’ve encountered nothing but kind people willing to help who greeted me with a smile. It’s easy to give in to those who say the world is a mess and everything is coming apart. For that reason, I don’t watch much news or take part in debates on the subject of world affairs. Rather, I tend to rely on my personal experiences to inform my sense of such things.

Going away, as Terry Pratchett so accurately stated, allows me to come back with new eyes and new colors. Everyone who knows me, including my friends at Lost Tavern, my local watering hole, are always asking where I’m off to next and following along on social media, laughing that I’m there one day and gone, across the country, the next.

On a recent ride home from work I witnessed a car directly in front of me leave the road, strike a pole, and flip through the air. The sight of the undercarriage of the car was a surreal one. Without giving it a thought I pulled off the road and ran to offer aid along with a fellow motorcyclist. We worked together and with the help of other total strangers managed to cut the man inside loose from his seatbelt and pull him from the car, which had come to rest on the passenger’s side door. With a handshake and a “thanks for helping,” we parted having saved a fellow motorist and total stranger from a potentially fatal situation.

If you use personal experience as a guide rather than what you hear, you’ll come away as I do, feeling like it really is a beautiful country and a wonderful world full of people ready and willing to rise to the occasion for each other should it be necessary.
I’m looking at maps and wondering what other sites there are to see and who I may meet in getting to them in the coming year. On a macro level, things can sometimes seem troubled; but on the micro level of a motorcycle trip, I find we’re all pretty much the same: we love our kids, deplore rudeness and violence, and will take risks to lend each other support regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation.

I encourage everyone who rides to pick a point on a map and just go and let the experience influence your perception of the condition of the world you encounter. If you do, the next time you come back, I’m sure it will be, as Terry Pratchett wrote, “with new eyes and extra colors.”

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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.