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Born To Be Mild

Took a look down a westbound road,
Right away I made my choice
Headed out to my big two-wheeler,
I was tired of my own voice.
Took a bead on the northern plains
And just rolled that power on….

Bob Seger, Roll Me Away

Despite all indications to the contrary, the winter will end in the Northeast, the sun, such as it is around here, will return and someday in the not too distant future a brave crocus or two will burst through the frozen tundra that is my front yard.

Before long public works crews will begin the month long practice of sweeping up the tons of sand which serve to simultaneously provide traction and a sort of aerosol sand paper that’ll take the shine off of the Chevy or leave it with thousands of little scratches on its windshields. Sand clean-up is a blessing to auto finishes and bikers because as soon as the streets are clear it is time to try to start up the $25,000 toy which has been covered in the garage….vroom vroom baby. Yes my friends, the winter of 2012-2013 and its 120 inches of snow is done and it’s time to ride.

As some of you may recall, after much thought I abandoned my Harley Davidson motorcycle late last year for a Victory Vision Tour with the intention of hitting the open road with my wife this year. The new bike came equipped with heated everything, a bigger motor, and styling that makes the exhibitionist in me happy. It is designed for long trips, and I have to tell you I’ve started it every week and have been waiting eagerly to get it out of the garage. I put the insurance back on the bike last Friday, and as soon as I got off of the phone with my broker News Center 5 reported that another winter storm was bearing down on us. But I’ve remained calm. Winter is done and I can handle anything the old fella has left because Spring is just about here.

I am not that guy who hops on the bike like the character in the Bob Seger song and heads out through the Rockies. That just doesn’t work for me as a regular part of my life. My family is too important to me to take the summer off to trek up to Alaska, or to use precious vacation time to ride while the people I want to spend my time with sit at home. Life is full of tradeoffs and when it comes to motorcycling. I happily get my fill on weekend days when I ride with a couple of different groups of people. Most of the rides are very familiar and nearly all of them involve a lunch destination. The motorcycles all now include saddle bags, huge fairing,s and windshields so high that it can be a bit dicey passing under some of the older bridges. The only way Jack Daniels will ever appear on one of our weekend “runs” will be if they come up with a Starbucks Jack Daniels Chai Latte. But I have to admit that for the past ten years I had a growing urge to pack my saddlebags and head west where I’ve spent almost no time. Sure I’ve been to Cali, Texas, Vegas and Arizona but I need to see Idaho, Wyoming and Montana; and I need to get there soon. I tell myself every fall that next year will be the year when I’m going to break out and head for the Rockies. Without fail, I enlist one or two friends to join me and it is remarkable what fellow bikers will “commit” to in October.

I swear I could get ten volunteers to agree to ride across Siberia in October. The problem is that by the time spring rolls around these same people become some of the most practical people you’d ever want to meet.

“O.K. so we’re going to ride to Montana and spend a week fly fishing on the Beaverhead, the Big Hole or the Ruby Rivers. Who’s with me?”

Without fail I get some variation of the following response….
“Sounds amazing Mike, I know a guy who’s cousin’s brother in law’s sister is married to a guy who knows a guy who’s a fishing guide at Big Al’s Backwater Tours in East Podunk Montana, hell I bet he’d hook us up.”

So every year a few “friends” and I start planning the trip of a lifetime – a ride to Big Sky country. I’m finally going to see an antelope roam as I motor through Glacier National Park. I might even get to eat a pan fried Rainbow trout by a roaring fire camped outside of some town called Big Gulp Gulch. Last year I had at least four volunteers and even one guy who has never ridden who declared that it was time to finally get a bike and to get on with life. We were committed; this trip will happen we all promised over beers at a Patriots tailgate. Yeah right, by the time the middle of February rolled around (when deposits came due) my texts and e-mails are treated like Trojan horse viruses. No Montana, no learning to fly fish, no rides on any horses, no Glacier National Park no nothin’….on to plan “B”.

The other constant dream trip for people who ride is the Sturgis rally. Sturgis, South Dakota is a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere which hosts the mother of all motorcycle rallies for one week every summer. The event draws hundreds of thousands of people and the riding is said to be some of the best the country has to offer. If you know someone with a bike ask that person about Sturgis. I promise you they will get a far away look in their eyes…“yeah, I’ve really got to do that one of these years” or they’ll puff up their chest with the pride of one who has done the ride as they regale you with stories of riding the Badlands with 300,000 of their closest friends. Because I am very familiar with the Montana Go-No Go phenomenon, I decided this past fall to line up a Sturgis trip as a sort of adventure safety net. As I write this I am scheduled to go to Sturgis with three different groups of people. There’s the ride to Philadelphia, load the bikes on the “Auto Train” contingent; there’s the “We’ll get Bob’s dad to trailer the bikes out for us while we fly” group, and then there’s the “We’ll ride to Denver, spend a weekend and then head out for Sturgis” group which I have affectionately dubbed the “Pipe Dream Team” I can barely get these people to Sturgis how the heck am I going to sell a trip to Denver? Through November and December all three groups seemed focused, people were getting hotel information, we were told to try to stay in Deadwood because the hotels are less seedy and the town has a few nice restaurants. Everything looked really promising, we were setting departure and return dates and my wife was on board and even spoke of perhaps joining us if we flew to the event. Then it happened…. right around the time that the new year began my friends all seemed to go off the grid….now it’s down to two groups as the Auto Train crew cannot go because the guy who has the Amtrak connection’s second cousin on his step mother’s side is getting married for the third time. O.K. I never really liked Auto Train option anyway as I once took Amtrak from Boston to D.C. and was nearly suicidal by the time the ride ended. Nothing is more depressing than riding the rails through the back alleys of the Northeast United States.

So my best hope for a Sturgis Rally rests with Bob’s dad and his apparent willingness to trailer bikes to Sturgis while Bob and the rest of us fly to the event. As I type this it becomes clear that Bob’s father isn’t going to trailer our bikes, I’m actually not sure if Bob even has a father and if he does why the hell would he drive half way across the country by himself while Bob and Bob’s friends sip refreshing beverages as we jet off to South Dakota (does South Dakota even have an airport?).

That leaves us with the Denver trip. I think I’ll check in on my friend Mike….”The number you have reached is no longer in service”…. God, I need new friends…..oh well there’s always next year.

Who’s up for a ride to Vermont for a tuna melt and a shake at the Chelsea Diner?

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3 Responses to Born To Be Mild

  1. Susan McLaughlin says:

    Love this…always LOVED that Seger tune! And I’ve been to Big Sky country and the Dakotas… Great article, Mike… Always carve your own way…. like you haven’t already :)

  2. Scott says:

    Rapid City has an airport. Had to fly in there once on an Antelope hunt in WY. Just head out on your own and I bet you would find someone to join up on your way. Be safe.

  3. don says:

    i am in for the vermont trip, i will call you ………………don

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