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!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thousand Miles

Despite, as my daughter asserts, not actually working, by October I'd taken a grand total of one day of vacation in 2011.  While I had to cancel my planning Blue Ridge Parkway ride, I decided to take a couple of days of "vacation in place" and see if I could get in a thousand more miles in the few days before the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America's annual mileage contest ended.

The weather was gorgeous--a bit chilly in the morning (enough so that I tried out my new electric jacket, which is great) but warming to 60s and 70s in the afternoon.  On Thursday I went northwest looking once again for and failing to find the wild elk herd.  On Friday I went northeast and got tangled in the damage from September's massive floods in Pennsylvania.  I detoured around two sections of road still closed a month after the flood.  On Saturday, I joined a couple of buddies for a ride to the newly opened Flight 93 memorial near Shanksville, PA.  On Sunday, I ended with a medium distance ride on some of my favorite roads.  For some reason, the 25 year old future organ donors on sports bikes were out in droves that day.  I admired their skills but didn't even try to hang with them.

I did top 1,000 miles for the four days, and ended up with a bit over 13,000 miles for the six months of mileage contest.  Based on last year's results, this may put me in the top 20 in the state, but I can't match the 50K or more done by the contest winners (who must be retirees).

I didn't take a lot of pictures or video during the rides, but this was the one to the Flight 93 memorial.  As you can see, the leaves are beginning to change in western and northern Pennsylvania, but it will be a few more weeks until the color hits my area.

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