Episode 39: Motorcycles and the Art of Wandering

Young riders pick a destination and go.  Old riders pick a direction and go.  Ha, yeah, I get it. 

Henry David Thoreau talked it way back in the 1860s, this idea of wandering.  As motorcycle riders, we have the freedom to wander aimlessly, and nobody’s going to question us about it.  Some of us feel compelled to do that.

Look at most any motorcycle advertisement and they’re typically not about the money you’ll save your commute to work.  It’s about adventure.  Discovering places and also about discovering something about yourself.  That’s what folks like us want today.  I’ll take that further, that’s what we need today!  Adventure.  Freedom to wander and set our mind free.  

We will have another episode dedicated to discussing the deeper meaning of motorcycle company advertisements, but do you know Harley Davidson’s corporate mission statement is? “More than building machines, we stand for the timeless pursuit of adventure. Freedom for the soul”.  Yeah I think they nailed it.

We don't always have to be going from point A to point B. We don’t always need to be accomplishing something.  What we do need is peace of mind, freedom of both mind and body. Wandering around without a specific destination in mind can be amazing.  Where will your motorcycle take you? Let’s talk about it. Thank you for joining me today!

Horse Creek, Wyoming.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it, or maybe not.  Horse Creek is on a tiny county road, about halfway between Cheyanne and Laramie.  There is a volunteer fire department building, a small ranch, and really nothing else.  This was a few years ago, but from Horse Creek, I saw on the map that there was an even smaller road going west toward Laramie, which is about 60 miles away.  So of course, I took it.  

What started off as a wide enough dirt road where two cars could pass each other, turned into a very narrow dirt road, then a two rut lane.  For a car, one rut for each tire.  Once I was several miles outside of Horse Creek, there were no more road signs.  Just a direction, West. So I continued West.  What stopped me in my tracks was a one and only sign beside the two rut road that read “Private Property”.  Oh man, really?  The map showed this as a public road!  I just turned off the engine and sat there for a minute.  

Then suddenly, I saw something move up the hill to my left.  It was a cowboy.  He was about 100 yards away, on his horse, among a herd of probably 100 cows.  As soon as I looked at him, I waved, probably looking like an idiot. Instead of waving back, he started riding over to me.  At a gallop.  Oh shoot (or something like that) I said to myself.  In the couple of minutes it took for him to ride over to me, I thought only of the worst case scenario, like I was trespassing on his land and maybe he was not happy about that.  As he got closer, yep, he was carrying a gun.  One of those 6 shooter revolvers on his hip.  Just like from a John Wayne movie.

He had a big smile on his face and knew exactly why I had stopped.  He said “Don’t worry about that sign”, referring to the Private Property sign.  He said that the road is public, and only the property on either side of the road is private.  I told him that I appreciated that. And then he said “Nice bike” and I said “Nice Horse”.  I probably should have also said “Nice gun”, because that’s what really grabbed my attention.  

Within the next half hour or so, as I came over a hill to see Laramie out in the distance, the road got a little wider, then became paved.  Back to civilization.  Out from the wild west.  I reached the Coal Creek Coffee Shop on Grant Street, got a vanilla latte, and thought, wow, isn’t motorcycling amazing!

I’ve since thought about that cowboy.  What a different life he leads than most of us.  I don’t know what he does day to day, watching after the cows, moving them around as needed, probably acting as their veterinarian too as needed.  I’m sure that he faces the same level of stress that any of us do.  Just in different ways.

I’ve often wondered, if I had grown up on a ranch and started riding horses at the same age as I started riding motorcycles, would I think differently about wandering around?  I’ll never really know, but I don’t think so.  I think on both the saddle of a horse and the saddle of a motorcycle, we can wander.  It’s a mindset. Maybe an attitude.  

I learned more about that horse back riding and motorcycling comparison this past summer and shared it with you.  In Episodes 32 and 33, I interviewed Brett and Mellisa Wilson who are horseback riders.  We called those Episodes “Views from the Saddle”.  The conclusion?  Whether you’re exploring Nature on a horse or on a motorcycle, we have a lot in common.  It comes down to the joy of being outside, moving through Nature, doing something you love.   

I like to explore Wyoming.  A lot of empty space out there.  Recently, I explored a dirt road that drifted east from an abandoned little village called Tie Siding, Wyoming, just a short distance from highway 287.  I stopped and turned off the motor, to take in the view.  To take in the silence, when I heard a slight rumble of a freight train, way off in the distance.  There he was coming down the tracks about 20 miles away.  I put back on my helmet and raced over to the track to watch it pass.  Now that’s entertainment!  I know that on our computer screens and on our phones, we can watch most anything that’s been recorded from anywhere in the world.  Just right there, feeling the ground shake as that massive train sped by, yeah, that’s entertainment.

Henry David Thoreau wrote the simply titled book he called “Walking” back in 1862.  This is the guy who wrote “Walden”, as he described it as an experimental time of simple living.  

Anyway, Thoreau was known for his long, aimless walks.  Sometimes in his writings, he calls it wandering and other times he calls it sauntering.  In the book “Walking” he wrote:

He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the wanderer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river,...

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There’s no right way.


When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me, I find, strange and whimsical as it may seem, that I finally and inevitably settle southwest, toward some particular wood or meadow or deserted pasture of hill in that direction.

As for me, from here in Loveland, Colorado, I tend to head to the Northwest.  Specifically it’s an area called Cherokee Park, County Road 80C that winds it’s way over small mountain passes and through meadows.  Taking a right on County Road 59, you’ll soon reach the Wyoming boarder.  The road eventually emerges from the trees and opens up to a vast prairie where I almost always see large herds of prong horn sheep and recently a bald eagle.  That road tees into Tie Siding, as I described early.  

We can fear traveling, exploring, wandering, with no real destination in mind.  Especially when riding alone in lonely places, we carry a GPS with alert capabilities, just in case.  Personally I carry the Spot X unit, which is comforting.  Hopefully, I’ll never have to use it.  

It’s wilderness out there and other places like that.  I know that I need to be self-reliant, prepared.  But the more time, years that I spend traveling out there on those lonely roads, it becomes known to me.  I’m comfortable there.  I’m not lonely at all.

We can be afraid of who we might meet.  Yeah, bad things can happen.  But there is something special about getting out there.  Something very cool, maybe even magical may happen.  Because maybe, when you look to your left, you may meet a cowboy, with a big smile, who says “Nice bike”.  And that brief encounter with a stranger, you’ll probably never forget.

So, keep on wandering!

As always, thank you for listening.  I wish you peace. I wish you love.

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