Last weekend I went for a quick dual-sport ride. If you add up the miles they total only about 300, so few I didn't even bother to keep accurate track of them. If you add up the nights I spent on the road or the hours spent in the saddle, you'd get just one night of camping and a paltry dozen or so notches on the clock. But here's the thing: this was the ride I'd been dreaming about for twenty years.
Somewhere in Montana. Just crossed one mountain, on to the next one.
I got my motorcycling start as an oversized sixteen-year-old (almost 6'2" at that point) wallowing an undersized XR75 in the sandy whoops of the Anza Borrego desert. The bike wasn't mine. My younger brother purchased the little red machine for $50 cash (but paid for it in the form of some concentrated motherly consternation.) At that time, no one in my family rode motorcycles. We'd never been to the desert in all our years of San Diego living. But one day, my eleven-year-old brother had been mowing some lawns for our neighbors and had acquired a fifty-dollar bill. If I remember it correctly, he'd just been paid and was walking home when he passed by a little red XR75 sitting in a yard with a for-sale sign taped to the weathered seat. The sign said, "For Sale - $50." Clearly a signů and not the for-sale kind either. My brother did not hesitate. He knew an omen for what it was and saw no need to consult our parents when the future was as inevitable as this. He chose not to obstruct fate and bought the bike on the spot, pushing it home because he didn't know how to ride it yet.
The thing about being eleven, though, is that you can't legally drive anywhere. And when your parents don't ride and have things that make no sense to eleven-year-olds like jobs, and errands, and pool cleaning to do, you don't get to ride your new motorcycle very often. The thing about being sixteen, however, is that you can
go to the desert -- almost any weekend you want, in fact. And if your younger brother happens to have a little-league game that weekend and can't go, well, more seat time for you. Sixteen-year-olds are such jerks.
Not the XR I rode, but one just like it. FYI, that pipe burns legs.
Jerk or no, I took my brother's bike to the desert and it only took a few trips on the XR75 for me to get the bug. The XR turned into an '84 KX125, then a '94 KX125. I made friends who also rode. I quit the lacrosse team so I could spend more time in the desert or getting into crashes at Palm Avenue after school. We rode every weekend we could. We started dipping our feet into the exotic world of Baja. It seemed like our trucks had motocross bikes permanently installed in their beds. But amidst all this riding, a constant dream appeared. A desire unfulfilled.
I remember it being brought up around a camp fire one night at Gordon's Well sand dunes. Someone in our group had some friends camping that weekend at Glamis, another stretch of Southern California dunes, and he brought up the idea of riding our bikes over to visit them in the morning. We added up the miles, divided by things like gallons in the tank and light in the day. We rejiggered the equations and massaged our numbers but no matter. We couldn't make it work out. Motocross bikes just weren't made for that sort of thing and even with our adolescent stupidity supplying the optimism, we knew that we'd either run out of gas or find ourselves wandering blindly through the desert night. We ditched the plan, but not the dream. We learned of this place called Mike's Sky Rancho and imagined it was probably something like that bar in Star Wars where all the galaxy's miscreants gather to drink whiskey and plan trouble. The odd compulsion to ride off from our front doors, explore the world, and return on the same machine, took hold. But we never made those dream rides. College and jobs got in the way. Stupid excuses got in the way. For some of our group, even death got in the way. But the dream never died with me. And as this epic-length post stated in its beginning, that dream came to life last weekend, twenty years after entering my brain around a desert campfire.
One night of camping off a motocycle transforms a ride into an adventure.
Like I said, last weekend's ride wasn't much. But it was my first dual-sport ride. The first time a motorcycle adventure began and ended at my front door. There is more magic here than I ever imagined. In those measly 300 miles, I discovered dog-legged farm roads that turned into narrow slot canyons and emerged in the middle of nowhere. I found overhead mining conveyors and roads that kept going up and getting narrower until they turned into single-track nonsense before summiting a mountain and widening back up again. I rolled into the town of Boulder, Montana and spent time soaking in a hot spring where I met an army veteran being treated for PTSD. She'd married an Icelandic man while stationed in Iceland and she gave me lots of advice for another dream I keep, cycling Iceland's ring road. I got strange looks from a midwestern family at an A&W. I got waves from grizzled Harley riders and cold stares from close-shaven and be-leathered Harley riders.
So that's the long gestation of a dream. Turns out, said dream was well worth holding on to. With luck, the miles will multiply and the days will drag on.
Thanks for reading.