January and February are always the most challenging months of the year for me. After the deep sigh that follows the frenzy of Christmas and New Year's, springtime seems an eternally long way off. As I tick off the days until riding season begins again I inevitably find myself occupying my time the same way that people in the northern hemisphere have whiled away the dark days of winter for centuries: stories.
So, I often find myself at MotoVida, hanging out with other riders remembering old rides or planning new ones. James and I have spent not a few nights poring over maps looking for routes we can squeeze into weekends between work and school. Right now I'm casually reading a coffee table book by Rene Cormier called University of Gravel Roads. A few years ago, Cormier found himself in the enviable position of being thirty-something and single with an unexpected windfall of disposable income. Consequently, he did what any right thinking person in his position would do: he bought a BMW F650GS and spent the next few years riding around the world. Now, most of us aren't in a position to leave for years at a time; however, there are few reasons why we shouldn't carve out a long weekend trip or two…or three…or four...
Sharing stories of riding is perhaps the best way to keep the flame of hope alive during the dark midwinter nights. Some stories are amusing—Brent told me a tale of taking a Dodge Caravan laden with bike hunters chauffeured by his father-in-law around southern BC and into Washington and Idaho on a motorcycles safari. They spent a couple of days picking up a variety of bikes and a couple of nights searching in vain for a vacant hotel room. Unbeknownst to this band of merry men, there was a baseball tournament in the area on exactly the weekend they were sourcing bikes. Consequently, they became less merry as the evenings wore on when it became apparent that every hotel room between New York and Seattle was booked. I think they ended up sleeping in the van. Nevertheless, it was during this trip that Brent found a 1986 Honda Rebel 450—the same one that Candace is still riding.
I was chatting with my BMW friend a few weeks ago and he was telling me of the first proper road trip he went on. He and some pals were lounging in a coffee shop on a cool spring evening in Prince George. No sooner had it come out that a few of them had time off coming up when suddenly there was a map unfolded on the table and fingers were tracing winding routes through the province and down the Oregon Coast. A month later four bikes with new tires were rolling towards the Redwoods of California. Even the guy who had used up all his vacation time had somehow managed to beg, borrow or steal some time off…or maybe he just decided that whatever occupational repercussions might result from missing work would be worth it. He must have been right because it was a trip BMW never forgot. His eyes took on a familiar far off look when he recounted the details of the trip: sliding through a sketchy gravel section in the driving rain before deciding to wait out the storm; watching, enthralled while the sun burst recklessly through a mountain of gray cloud transforming the leaden seaside into an ocean of sapphires and diamonds; and meandering modestly through ancient Redwood cathedrals whose solemn spires strive inexorably for the stars.
I think that there is perhaps something unique about a first motorcycle trip that is remembered. I wrote earlier this year about some of my own experiences and there are a thousand more details that I'll never have the time and space to fully recount, but are nonetheless intricately woven into my mind and heart.
In the end, it is our stories that connect us. As my story has become entwined with the stories of other riders I have found myself, almost by accident, a part of a community. Our respective roads have all intersected for this particular leg of the journey through life and we have opted to travel together. And in the midst of all this I find that I am becoming a better version of myself—the self that remembers yesterday, loves today and has hope for tomorrow.
In the meantime, like Ted Simon, I dream a lot…"Often I dream of riding over the hard red floor of a great forest, beneath a high canopy of translucent green, spreading on and on. An enchanted forest, perhaps, where men may still sometimes play at being gods." (Jupiter's Travels)