In the Beginning

Driving a car, your relationship with the road is like that with a friend. Bumps are softened. On a motorcycle, the relationship is much more intimate, like that with a lover. You feel every small bump and dip.

Me, November 2011

This is the unfolding story of motorcycling and me. While I'd toyed with the idea of riding for several years, I'd never thrown a leg over a motorcycle until I was 51. Then the time seemed right. My youngest kid had finished high school so I considered myself expendable. I'd just spent two years with every waking moment was consumed writing a book. With it completed, I again owned my life and was looking for a new obsession.

My driving force in life has always been pushing myself, taking on new challenges and mastering new skills. I thrive on exploring new places and always prefer to be outside with the wind on me as much as possible. So I gravitated to riding.

As I contemplated this big plunge, I made several assumptions. One was that riding a motorcycle would save money given that gasoline prices had just spiked. A second was that royalties from the book would pay for a motorcycle. But most of all, I assumed that having put in thousands of miles on road racing and mountain bicycles, and manual transmission cars for years, I'd pick up motorcycle riding easily.

These assumptions all turned out to be wrong. What I spent on motorcycling far exceeded any savings from higher gas mileage. I didn't sell enough books to cover the costs. And learning to ride was much, much more difficult than I expected. But it was also much more fulfilling. In life, I've always wanted to be where I'm not. And I'm rushing to get there.

In the few years since I began riding, I've fallen passionately in love with it. The average American motorcyclist rides 1800 miles per year. I did 16,000 my first year, 18,000 the second, and over 20,000 in the third. I've continued to average 15,000 to 16,000 miles per year even when I began writing a weekly column that eats up much of my Sundays. At night I often dream of squiggly lines on a map. Seriously.

When everything is clicking--I'm alone on a winding country road, I've got my "A" game, the music is in a groove--I sometimes forget the motorcycle is there and feel like I'm simply flying. If you don't want to take my word for it, trust Alton Brown.

Luckily, I live close to some fine riding, with twisty roads over mountain ridges, large state forests, miles of farmland (which often requires dodging Amish buggies), charming little towns (each different from all the others), and lots of historic sites. There's always somewhere new to see. (Here's a map of my favorite routes and road food). I particularly like combining riding with photography--one of my other passions.

When I began this blog I was riding a 2010 BMW R1200R. In BMW jargon, this bike was a "hexhead" (named because the engine cylinder covers are hexagonal). So these are the "Hexhead Diaries." I'll update them regularly with stories and pictures. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just Another Pennsylvania Saturday

Since I'm constantly looking for new ways to challenge myself on the bike, I toyed with the idea of doing my first ever 500 mile ride on Saturday. But the weather forecast called for a chance of afternoon thunderstorms, so I postponed that idea and opted for a normal Saturday ride of about 300 miles.

I went to the west, including the wonderful section of Route 30 between Fort Loudon and Breezewood. I then cut north, zig zagging across Raystown Lake, then back via a southern route.

 In the morning, there was dense fog in the valleys. It wasn't as bad as a couple of years ago in the same area when visibility was maybe 20 feet and I had to pull off and wait it out, so I just pushed through it. Luckily I'd thought to take along a Gatorskin shirt and a high visibility vest and threw those on when I hit the fog bank.  The sky was clear and vivid blue on the mountain ridges, with the peasoup in the lower lying areas.

As usual, I got stuck behind wallowing cars and trucks on about half of the twisty mountain crossings. At one point, I got into an excellent groove and was so focused on the road and slicing the curves as hard as possible that I missed a turn. Rather than backtrack, I decided to just keep riding, knowing eventually I'd end up somewhere I knew. Because of this, I saw some new roads I'd never ridden before. I stumbled across this interesting old house. It was unoccupied, but there was no sign of who, if anyone, owned it.

When I got back, I threw together a video, so here it is:

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