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, December 26, 2011

Long Time No Blog

The past month hasn't been great for riding.  As can be expected this time of year, the weather was often bad.  When I was able to get out, it was normally overcast, keeping me from spending much time on photography.  And other commitments, both family and professional, cut into my seat time.

I did get a short ride in on Christmas day.  Every Christmas since 1967, I've been in Myrtle Beach with my family.  This year a few days before we were to leave, my dog collapsed, was diagnosed with cancer, and given a few weeks to live.  I couldn't kennel him in that condition.  A commitment is a commitment.  So while my immediate family headed south, I stayed home with the dog.

I'm only able to leave him a few hours at a time, but got in a short ride over the mountains to the next valley and back on Christmas.  It was nice--not only did I badly need the ride, but the roads were empty.  There were no fun thieves to hold me back on the twisties.  Even though I was a tad rusty from a lack of riding, after an hour or so I was back in the groove.

The day after Christmas I decided to ride to Gettysburg and do something I'd been meaning to do for years: walk the path of Pickett's Charge.

I started at the North Carolina Memorial which would have been where Pettigrew's division began.

View across the field toward the Union line from Seminary Ridge

Codori farm which would have been in the middle of advancing Confederates.

 The stone wall which was the "high water mark" of the Confederacy.

The "copse of trees" from "the angle"

 The Eisenhower farm which is just behind Seminary Ridge where the Confederates were arrayed before the charge.