Sitting at the picnic bench on the service porch at Michler’s BMW/HD in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, a technician is giving my 2004 BMW R1150RT a close inspection during its 42,000-mile service. Named for the color of its fairing, Ole Blue and I are heading west next week for Seattle in the company of a BMW riding friend, Ed, who lives there.
Like me, he likes to travel on pavement other than Interstates. Unlike me, he actually does it. Equally important, he limits his daily travels to 300 miles or so, roughly half of my daily average. Despite my best intentions, my trips, usually business related, end up being focused on making time, not traveling, which spends as much time off the road as on. With Ed as the leader of our westbound leg, I’m hoping his habits will sponsor the start of a 12-step effort to overcome my mileage addiction.
I got hooked on motorcycles in the 1960s. Then Came Bronson pushed the romantic notion of a solo rider traveling the nation and meeting its people. Was it serendipity that the Navy stationed me at NAS Alameda, across the Bay from San Francisco, where Bronson started his journey? Is it karma that he was what I would become, a journalist?
During my time there I rode a Honda 750 on short trips up and down the West Coast. One fulfillment of the Bronson dream was finally riding across the graceful arched concrete bridge on US 1, the famed Pacific Coast Highway, near Big Sur. With that fantasy fulfilled, I focused on the next one, a really long trip.
As seeds, fantasies do not take root in reality. Imagination is eminently more fertile because a clock and calendar do not rule time. As I act out my carefully planned fantasies they turn into overly ambitious real-world blivets overflowing with too many activities in too little time. You’d think I’d learn, but it’s been this way since my first cross-country trip in 1974. In 2012, Ole Blue endured a six-day, 2,752-mile run to the East Coast. It was a business trip built around feature stories in Wilmington, Delaware, Eagle’s Mere, Pennsylvania, and St. Clair, Michigan, and my son’s graduation from Navy officer training for new members of the Nurse Corps at Newport, Rhode Island. But that’s another story.
Ed and I have been fantasizing about this trip for years. The stumbling block has always been the 2,000 miles between us. Where between Omro, Wisconsin, and Seattle, Washington, should we meet, and then where should we go? During one e-mail exchange of ideas, I sensed that for Ed, the trip had become not a want but an emotional necessity. So I offered a wild hair suggestion. He could ride east and spend several days at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the annual aviation extravaganza (like me, Ed is an airplane guy). They we would return west by a different route. After a good night’s sleep (or two) at his place, I’d return home by another route, after doing my laundry, of course.
Ed replied in minutes, and the great Wild Hair Adventure was on. We discussed it when my wife and I visited him on our Great Triangular Train Trip earlier this year. In some regards, we both seemed eager but apprehensive. I’ve never made a long bike trip with another rider. Ed, I think, was justifiably worried about my propensity to make time rather than travel. We discussed the details over beers at his favorite Irish pub.
The components measured by numbers and undebatable facts were easy: 300 miles a day and no rain. The routing was pretty easy as well. I wanted to traverse US 2, which pretty much parallels the border with Canada. Several years ago, Ed had taken this home on his solo round-trip to Omro for his last AirVenture excursion, so I’d take it on my solo trip home.
Where to stop and where to spend the night took another beer. Ed seemed hesitant at first, but he said he’d like to see Mount Rushmore, the mountain promontory that’s becoming the Crazy Horse Memorial, the Little Big Horn Battlefield, and Sturgis, the motorcycle equivalent of AirVenture, plus some. Each year roughly 10,000 airplanes fly in to Oshkosh. Every August, Sturgis gets at least 10 times as many motorcycles. Looking up the dates, there’s a good chance we’ll be there when the event is underway. Where, I wondered, will be stay. Then I decided not to worry about it. I’ll be following Ed’s lead.
Finances was another question. We’d cover our individual food and fuel, but what about sharing a motel room and alternating the payment? At first I thought some unknown personality factor of mine was the source of his hesitation. After some hemming and hawing and deflection Ed admitted that he had sleep apnea, and that he snored, even with appliance that held his jaw in a happy breathing position. I’m married to an Olympic caliber snorer, and have been for nearly 20 years. In the end, we agreed to start out sharing a room and the expense, and it got to be too much for me, we could find peace in separate rooms.
Our three-beer negotiations complete, it was clear that needed several laps around the block before driving back to Ed’s place. We both are pilots, and we must report DUIs during our FAA flight physicals, which doesn’t look on them kindly. Turning the corner I almost tripped over an A-frame announcement board outside a spa. That day’s special was a Brazilian wax job for just $50. Hmm, that probably would not cure biker butt rash from too many miles in the saddle. Sharing a good giggle, we agreed that it was going to be a good trip.