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!

Friday, July 5, 2013


I had a very nice but very uneventful 282 mile ride on the 4th of July, heading west on Route 30, through Blue Knob State Park, and across Raystown Lake.

It was too overcast for decent photos, but I skirted a few small rain storms. The GPS actually worked. Sort of. I uploaded the route from the computer but it showed up as 288 miles on the device, so Garmin had added a detour somewhere. I recalculated it and it then then showed up as 282 like it was supposed to. I turned it off, walked out to the garage, mounted it on the bike, turned it back on, opened the route and now it was 292 miles. So somewhere between my study and my garage, the Garmin had added another detour, so I had to recalculate again.

By the way, I'd emailed Garmin tech support about my ongoing problems and they offered to "fix" this for $60. Given that this is my fourth replacement of the same unit in two years, I'm certainly not betting $60 of my money that Garmin can get it right the fifth time. I'll just live with it and hope that some competent competitive product comes on the market. The only other thing I can find now is a Tom Tom Rider 2 and the reviews of it that I've seen have been terrible.

But, as to the name of this post--toward the end of the ride, I stopped for gas and while I was standing around drinking a bottle of water, a couple of Harleys pulled it. They fit the model--big roar of sound, not wearing helmets, all wearing tee shirts from various Harley dealers around the country. I knew they'd be watching so as I left, I did a perfect, tight U turn out of the parking lot that no one could do on a Harley other than maybe a motorcycle cop.

Then when I got ready to pull out of the parking lot, I stalled! I was shocked--I haven't done that since I started riding five years ago. And since I knew I had an audience, it was the worst possible time. The only thing I can figure is that I had on thick elkskin gloves, my hand was tired, and the clutch lever slipped. But I hung my head in shame and took off.

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