Jan 28, 2017

Losing the Travel Thing

All my life, “getting away” has been a theme. I grew up in western Kansas and anyone with any sense at all wants to escape that hell hole as fast as possible. I got started with a lifetime of “camping” there when I snuck out Saturday nights with a canteen and a blanket or a Cub Scout’s sleeping bag to hide in the basement ruins of a Catholic college that had been wiped out by a tornado. If I made it out unseen, I could get out of 2-4 hours of Methodist sermons and Midwestern religious hymn-howling. My motivation for making my great escape was pretty great and getting away has been a theme of my life since.

For most of my adult life, my “career” was a collection of low-to-moderate income, high-pressure repair or engineering jobs with a fair amount of middle and upper management thrown in to extract any fun my job might have provided. Managing most people is about as entertaining as herding chickens and managing management is even more painful and unrewarding. Add to that a house full of girls and women, two daughters and a wife, and I regularly needed to “get away.” For a couple of decades my getaways were off-road motorcycle racing and backpacking into remote areas.

CaliforniaMoveFor the move to California in 1983, running from the Reagan recession that pretty much wiped out non-military/industrial jobs in the Midwest, I bought my first street bike since I “borrowed” my brother’s Harley Sprint in 1963 and stripped it down for flattracking. The trip to California in late March of that spring was my first adventure tour, since I rode through 400 miles of sleet, snow, and ice storms to get to southwestern Texas where the winter weather finally let up. It was an adventure, for sure. I probably shouldn’t have survived that trip, since I knew practically nothing about safely riding a motorcycle on pavement. My CX500 was poorly setup, marginally ridden, and completely inappropriate for the places I forced it to go. That ride and that motorcycle started a whole chain of events in my motorcycle life, though. I didn’t really think of myself as a “motorcyclist” before that first 2,000+ mile long late-winter/early-spring slog.

At least 250,000 miles later, I’m beginning to lose that identity. This past summer, I rode my V-Strom to Colorado and back. For the first time in all of the years I’ve been touring, I did absolutely no prep work on the bike before I left. I didn’t even do a needed oil change. I have no excuse. I was looking forward to the trip, I think. I knew how long the trip would be. I’d done a fair amount of work on the bike the previous year and, then, barely rode it at all. So, I had some false sense of security that somewhere, sometime I’d already done the prep, but I knew better. I just didn’t come up with the motivation to crawl around the bike doing the things that needed doing. The end result was a fairly high-tension trip with the only real fun moments coming off of the bike when I was hanging out with a friend at various Colorado hot springs.

There was no “escape” in that trip. I had lots of work to do at home, none of which I dreaded or needed escape from. I’ve been everywhere I went on that ride and there was almost no adventure to the trip, except for the tire failure in Nebraska and that wasn’t particularly entertaining. I even avoided a short dirt road section in Colorado, opting for pavement to preserve my too-many-miles chain and sprockets, while my friend took the high and unpaved road. I skipped Pike’s Peak on the way back, something I never imagined I’d do. Other than doing long miles on the interstates, my ride to and from Colorado was totally atypical for me. It didn’t really qualify as an adventure and I didn’t at any time feel obligated to turn it into one. Honestly, most of the time I just looked forward to it being over and being back home working on my projects.

I suppose Trump should be inspiring some motivation to get away, but even he and his band of merry Brownshirts are not doing it for me. For the last three years, I have been talking to a company that specializes in South American motorcycle tours.I sort of had Peru on my bucket list, but even that just seems like more hassle than fun these days. I think might have lost the travel thing.

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