Motorcycle riders focus on the tangible elements or the things we can plan, see, and do. As creatures of habit, we take the main road, but any road will get us out the door where we may discover that all roads – even the pock-marked and dusty trails that we curse in between the splatter of bugs on our windshield and our face – lead to a rally, an event, a new road, or new discovery.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . .
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.”
The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
The road less traveled is the one you don’t see at first; the path we discover through a missed turn or a mental stumble. It beckons, so we follow it and rub up against the intangible or unseen. I look for these roads, and when I find them, open the throat of my bike and the heart in my body to engage my Harley-Davidson’s six-geared drama. Its ups and downs are programable, but the stage is never predictable as I ride a highway drama unfolding like a multi-act show that includes millions – other riders – seen and unseen, leather-clad bodies of light and life.
They are wearing hats this November 11, both veterans and non-veterans, musicians and non-musicians, bikers and non-bikers, an inclusive and often disruptive congress of partiers riding a rumble seat that was built with muscle and sweat. Engineers did their work first, finding a way to harness the friction of rubber and metal and the best way to direct the explosive energy of gas and fire. Steel workers put it together and the harnessed energy found its way to us via an Idiot Wind and divergent road.
Talk of motorcycle journeys focusing on the tangible will address the usual questions: Where did you ride, what did you do, who organized the ride, what were accommodations like? But the intangibles are underlying currents that extend beyond what we rode, what we saw, what we gathered onto ourselves, and the speed at which we gathered it. Thinking too much of this we might wake from a daydream and find that the machine has spit us down the road less traveled and into the mystic.
Someone asks “What time is it?”
Another answers “Who cares, we’re on biker time.”
Riders connect with one another through the bike, and our connection is strong but staggered as we take the formation, wave our respect to one another, remember our loved ones, and imbibe smells and sounds, sights and tastes in all flavor-faves of dirty and sweet.
If we’re lucky, we stumble into the divergent, less traveled road – where navigating is easy, almost automatic. Steering with our eyes and mind, the cars and trucks – caged and distracted drivers – disasters on wheels, seem to disappear.
And if, sitting later, we find a space and time for reflection on our good fortune we take in a little bigger breath, add a dash of gratefulness, and butter the remains of the day with our love for the road, for one another, and for ourselves.
It was a good ride we’ll say, and when memories meld with grace we know we’ve been in the zone, an imprint of reality where performers testify that everything was easy and automatic, almost magical. Our very bodies remember sinking at ease into the saddle where it felt natural to be grateful.
In that moment from the day before – way too long ago now – our motorcycle seemed to drive itself, and we were along for the ride, following its beautiful head we call The Big Twin as it steamed out in front of us. We remember holding on to the reigns of power like the Druids grasping their witchy oaken sticks, or Obe Ben Wan Knobe wielding that lightning wand of metamorphosis.
I’m fond of the road less traveled. It’s the divergent yellow one where both tangible and intangible melt into my cup. I gulp from its overflowing potion of love for community and family, for controlled explosions and pavement lines, for luck, and for the grace to survive both hardships and good ships.
David Crosby said, “I drink to ships that sail and ships that sink, but most of all I drink to the best ships . . . friendships.” GET YO MOTO’ WOIKIN’ friend and get your ship a running, for the road less, and the yellow wood beckon and call.