Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Couey
I’ve been a motorcyclist for almost 18 years. I still remember with great clarity the first ride I took on my ’82 Suzuki GS550T. I was nervous and not very smooth, but the sensation of gliding down the road, the wind blowing past my head, the sky open and glorious above, seized my soul with a powerful embrace, a grip that hasn’t loosened in almost two decades.
Most of the miles that lie in my past were expended on commuting. For some odd reason, we’ve always lived at least 30 miles away from wherever I’ve worked. I’m not sure why that has happened, but it did provide the opportunity to turn a mundane act into a little adventure every day. Looking at my fuel logs, I estimate that I’ve put down in excess of 280,000 miles in that span.
Of course, there were the weekend rides, undertaken after I was freed from my chore list. Also, I took a lot of short trips, less than 500 miles, each time stretching the envelope of my experience. Twice, I embarked on even longer trips, a 6-day jaunt to Lake Superior, and the other a 9-day trek through the U.S. southwest, easily one of the most important times of my entire life.
I still peruse maps from time to time, contemplating other journeys. Time is passing and I know that the physical ability to endure such trips will not be with me much longer. So while I ponder the future, I also allow myself to dream.
An open road under a clear sky, on the horizon the blue peaks of distant mountains. On either side, grasslands bending before prairie zephyrs; seemingly endless deserts, each rock, draw, and tumbleweed starkly defined in the clear air. And as the road climbs into the mountains, it begins to bend, twist, and dodge, seemingly almost alive as it bisects fragrant pine forests. This is where I am truly alive, my spirit responding to the wide-open spaces, so perfectly defining the ideal of freedom. I have nowhere to be, and all the time in the world to get there.
Where would I go?
One trip would be to “Ride the Divide.” I would start at Glacier National Park and ride south, conforming the route as much as possible to the Continental Divide, passing through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Another long ride in my mind is to circle all five of the Great Lakes, starting with Erie, following the southern shores of Huron, Michigan, Superior, the north shores of Huron, Erie, Ontario, returning to the starting point of Erie, PA.
I would like to ride the Pacific Coast, sharing the route between the Pacific Coast Highway and US 101 from San Diego all the way to Canada.
And finally, the grand tour, encircling the entire United States.
Will I take all of these trips? Will I take any of them? Perhaps time will catch up to me and I will have to be content to journey through my mind’s eye.
This is my dream, my goal. I do not know why I am happiest on the road. It is one of the mysteries that will remain forever unsolved.
But I am a faithful man. I believe in Heaven; that it is a place where that which brings us the most joy exists in abundance. If that is true, then what awaits me is a road, a motorcycle…and God.