Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Get on a Motorcycle and Get Lost, by Robby DeGraff

Get on a Motorcycle and Get Lost, by Robby DeGraff

Pick a road, ride, ride and continue to ride. Pass through towns you’ve never heard of, or counties you never knew existed. Stumble down dirt paths and side roads to discover old buildings and relics of the past. Pull over on a hillside to gaze upon the miles of hilly farmland. Ignore mile markers, turn your phone off and hide your watch. None of that matters right now. Throw out fears of ending up in a new place, break out of your comfort zone and just go. Wave at strangers mowing their lawns, sitting on the patio at a roadside steakhouse and of course other motorcyclists. You’ll see signs trying to sell you rhubarb, chain saw sharpening and home-made wooden sculptures of anything you could imagine. Ride until bugs cover your helmet’s visor, the rain gets unbearable or the need for more fuel comes into play. If the road you’re on ends, turn around and find a different way. Just keep riding.
 out on your motorcycle and get lost. Forget the maps, forget the Foursquare check-ins and forget the GPS. Just, get, lost.
I started riding about two-years ago, when I returned from living in Saigon, Vietnam for four months. Over there, motorbikes (scooters) and motorcycles dominate the roads. It’s impossible to live without one. Riding around on the back of friends’ 50 cc Hondas, Suzukis and various knock-off brand motorbikes, weaving at the helm through the chaotic streets of downtown Saigon introduced me to the two-wheel lifestyle. You get scared, absolutely terrified, riding around with millions of other motorbikes and motorcycles just inches from you. Traffic patterns seem frantically confusing at first, but after a few minutes, time just seems to slow down. The thick, exhaust-fume filled ai dissapears, while the buzzing engines and honking go to mute.  Then you realize, that stampede of two-wheelers flows almost orechestraly and uninterrupted. It’s sheer brilliance. 
Upon immediate arrival back into the states, I took a basic motorcycle rider safety class, a valuable decision, and went on to buy my first motorcycle. Wrenching in my parent’s garage while home from college holiday breaks, I returned it to prime running condition. With any classic engine-bearing machine, stuff will break, but thankfully repairing motorcycles is often inexpensive and easier then learning to use chop sticks.
After fixing a blown starter clutch this past spring on my thirty-one year-old Honda CM250C  (yes I’m a sucker for old-school Japanese bikes) I set out on a ride. Eager to feel that sense of open-road adventure again, I picked a random direction and rode on, regardless of where  it plans to take me. Motorcycles offer an unparalleled sense of freedom and serve as a key tool to exploration. They can traverse roads and paths that cars often can’t. When you’re on a bike, you’re free. Free from cell phones, obnoxious passengers, automatic climate controls, yelling GPS navigation systems and local radio stations that fail to deliver that promise of ‘fresh variety, all day, everyday’.  Getting lost is what starts an adventure.
You’ll experience weather’s games first-hand. It’ll be colder for a brief stint and then 15 degrees warmer moments later. There aren’t any windshield wipers to clear your view, or tightly-sealed windows to protect you from harsh wind. Semi trucks look bigger from a bike, gusts of crosswind can raise the hairs on your back and those potholes will swallow your bike’s front tire if you’re not paying attention. This is part of the adventure, the ever-learning adventure. That’s why I do it, because it makes me a better rider every time I get out on two-wheels.

The feeling of pure exploration and getting lost is incomparable and addictive. If you haven’t tried it, I implore you to learn how to ride, and get out on a motorcycle. And wear a helmet, you’d be an absolute fool not to.

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