Saturday, June 14, 2014

What Makes a Motorcycle Rider?

The year was 1971, and Americans couldn't soak up enough science fiction television. Series such as "UFO", "Star Trek", and "Land of the Giants", sparked the idea that we were not alone.

I remember one evening that year, standing in the backyard with my dad.

"That's the Big Dipper!", he pointed out to me. I was five years old then. "It takes a million years to travel there."

A million years away, and yet I could see it with my own eyes! I was fascinated.

It's a father's job to fill their child's mind with wonder. Inspiring them to do something great, by showing them how vast the Universe is, and how endless the possibilities, is what a boy or girl needs to build talents from their natural born tools.

I'm traveling at a high rate of speed down a long, straight highway through the New Mexico prairie. The wind in my face and the vibration in the handlebars are a constant reminder that I'm covering miles of territory at a great speed. The sun is shining on me, I see pronghorn in the distance, and I'm hundreds of miles from home. I may not ever ride in a spaceship, but this motorcycle is all I need to explore the world.

Through towns full of strangers and wilderness full of animals, I trekked into far reaches of our country. I saw trees I had never seen before and eaten food I had never tried. Through Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, until I reached the shores of Ocean City, MD and dipped my toes into the water, I realize I had just done something many riders hope to do.

"I just wanted to get away from the snow and the trees", my father said to me when I was in my 20s as he explained why he decided to join the Navy. He joined in 1959, before Vietnam and before the draft. He didn't have to join, but he did anyway. "That was the only way I'd get out of Seattle".

I realize that I grew up with more opportunities than he. But I hadn't realized that the sense of wonder is what drove me. Just the dreaming alone is what made me give up my home, my things, and ride my motorcycle across the country for six months. The question of "what if" is the seed he planted into my brain, and I've been asking that question ever since.

When I came back to my home town of San Diego, I spent nine months trying to settle down, but I couldn't set aside the urge to leave it all behind again. Wanting to ride my motorcycle on a never-ending road trip seemed like my destiny. Now here I am, doing just that, with no plan to return. It's as if there are too many "what ifs" I need to explore. Somehow I find security in not putting down roots.

father and son photo
"I just wanted to travel", my father told me about a year before he died. "That's all I ever wanted to do".

And travel he did, across North America, the Pacific, and Asia. Now he's free to go wherever he wants. Perhaps he's hanging out by the Big Dipper now.

If I inherited anything from him, it's the need to keep going and keep running. As long as there's a road, I have to see where it goes. Maybe that's part of what makes a motorcycle rider.

Happy Father's Day, Dad, wherever you are.


  1. Awesome tribute to your dad on fathers day Steve, great article! My wife and I traveled around for 9 1/2 years before getting steady jobs and settling down. Many days I miss it...

  2. Steve,

    What a nice walk down memory land and tribute to your dad. I'm sure he's looking down on you and wishing you well on your journey.

    Jumping head first into the unknown with a sense of fear and excitement is something few of us have the courage to do...maybe that's also part of what makes a motorcycle rider. You are a motorcycle rider. Safe travels.


    Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy.

  3. Awesome post sir. Rest In Peace AND happy Father's Day to your father.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. It definitely sounds as though you got the wanderlust from your father. I am sure he'd be proud of your wanderings.

  5. I know from first hand experience that your Dad is proud of you. He really loved you so much, inspite of his own shortcomings. He took me aside on his last visit to San Diego and asked me to take care of you, to go travel with you, to help you see the world.
    I loved your Dad, but it seems the things I loved about him are the same things I love about you. That amazing thirst for knowledge and that gentle nature.
    I'm so honored to know both you and your Dad.

  6. Steve:

    I can't say that I have any good memories from my Dad. We had no money. We didn't go anywhere. He lost his way for a few years when my Mom left and I was shuffled around with no real roots and grew up with my uncle and aunt. I have always had to work so I had few friends, had to earn my own way.

    sometimes I wished I had a mentor to look up to . . .

    Riding the Wet Coast

  7. i love my motorcycle,
    love riding on various places.
    great trips


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)