I “stole” this from Facebook this morning because it prompted me to think about where I’d be if I hadn’t agreed to go with Ralph to the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle in 2010.
I’ve never been a daredevil. I never learned to ski or waterski and I can barely move around on ice or rollerskates. I was 57 then (go ahead, do the math), and I didn’t have much experience riding on the back of a motorcycle, much less riding one for days on end. The Grand Canyon is a long way from Minnesota. What if something happened to us on the road?
I started talking to myself. When I was 77, did I want to be able to look back and say, “I’m glad I did that”, or would I be saying, “I wish I had done that”? I decided to put my trust in Ralph (after all, he did get us through several canoe trips in the Boundary Waters during the early days of our marriage) and get on the bike.
The first week, we cruised along Route 66. Oklahoma has more of the original road than other states, but we had fun getting off I-40 to snake off to little towns along the way. Some of them have begun to promote their location along the old route, but others are ghost towns, with shells of gas stations and old motels slowly crumbling into dust.
There were a lot of “ifs” on this trip. If we hadn’t gone to Amarillo, Texas, we wouldn’t have known about Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the U.S. Unlike the largest, you can ride your motorcycle into it. If all the rooms in the Holiday Inn at Kayenta, Arizona, hadn’t been taken, we wouldn’t have had the fun of staying in an old trailer with sagebrush growing over the windows and eating freshly-made Navajo fry bread. Nor would we have ended up on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway. What splendor to see the clouds below us and the golden aspens beside us!
It ended up being one of the best, most restful vacations we have ever taken, despite putting more than 4,400 miles on our Victory.
As Robert Frost wrote:
We said goodbye to our 2002 Victory Deluxe Touring Cruiser this past weekend. “Champ” (named for his champagne-and-cream paint job) had taken us 48,000 miles since we picked him up second-hand in 2007. He went to the Grand Canyon via Route 66, climbed Colorado’s “Million Dollar Highway”, visited all four corners of the state of Minnesota, drove around Lake Superior, followed the Mississippi River from its source in northern Minnesota to New Orleans, and took us safely through the Black Hills. He also served as a weekday mule, transporting my husband to and from work.
It was sad to see him go, but he was an orphan. Polaris made that particular style only one year. Parts were had to find. At 52,000 miles, he had given good service.
We went down to Harley-Davidson of Winona last Saturday to take part in a pre-Sturgis bash and promote my books. (The photo of Champ, by the way, is on the cover of my new book, Ride the Black Hills.) We took the opportunity to test-drive a couple of Harleys and wound up trading Champ for a 2016 Road King.
The ride home from Winona on Hwy. 61 was highly enjoyable. The weather was beautiful and the Road King handled the curves so smoothly! We’re heading out soon for Glacier National Park. It will be fun to discover how the “new kid” handles the mountains.
Is there anything heavier than a toppled bike? A few years ago, Ralph and I took a trip down US 169 to old Rte. 66 and the Grand Canyon. We stopped for a traffic light in Altoona, Iowa. The bungee cord that held most of our earthly belongings for the trip broke, and the Victory went down. I scrambled to get off as Ralph struggled to keep the motorcycle away from the pavement. The guy in the car behind us got out and helped us push.
Last summer, while working on Ride Minnesota, the bike toppled again. We were in Aitkin, making a left turn from a side street near the American Legion to the main drag. As we started the turn, a local yokel in a pickup truck bounded through the intersection. It was stop or be killed, so we stopped. The motorcycle began its slow descent toward the ground. I hopped off and started pushing. Fortunately, another driver stopped and came to our aid.
Speaking of pushing, I got a call yesterday from Bill, the sales manager at Motoprimo in Lakeville. He wants to talk about book signings and sales. Says he’s “fascinated” by the book. That’s one salesman who has my ear!
Downtown Aitkin, approaching the only stoplight in Aitkin County!
When I first began riding behind Ralph, I clung to him for dear life. It made me nauseous to look down and to the side and see my shadow racing alongside me at 65 mph. I noticed passengers on other motorcycles were more relaxed. Some held onto the bars on the seat rest. Others simply sat with their hands in their laps.
After a trip to the Grand Canyon via Rte. 66, I can look at my shadow now. And more often than not, I ride with a small digital camera in one hand. I still reach for Ralph when we hit a bump, but most of the time it’s “Look, Ma, no hands!” You have to have a certain amount of fatalism to sit on the back. If I leave the bike, I leave it. I’d rather be flung from it, I think, than trapped beneath it.
Since I’m not distracted by having to keep the bike safely on the road, I have plenty of time to think, plan and pray (not out of fear, mind you, mostly I tell God thanks for the beautiful day). I planned Ride Minnesota on the back of our Victory. That’s where the book took shape. On the back of a motorcycle, in Minnesota.