WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderNorth 1 - Madras, Oregon
Date: Thu, 31 May 2001 22:18:30 -0700

    Beauty in motion.

    While drifting along the freeway, dancing between traffic, and feeling the wash of time passing me by, I looked down at the motorcycle beneath me and thought - this is a beautiful machine. If such is possible, it is happy doing what it does.

    Thoughts come slowly on the road, like milestones approaching in the distance.
Here are some road thoughts.

Why is a motorcycle beautiful?
|    The beauty of a motorcycle lies not in its form,
|    but in its function.
|    You can not see the feelings it delivers in motion.
|    You can not touch the emotions it evokes in action.
|    It is a means to an end. And in the end this is one time
|    when the end does justify the means.
The ride is the reason.

    Hello friends. Yes, I'm at it again. This time the goal is to see much of Beautiful Canada (BC actually means British Columbia, but I doubt they will object), and then on to Hyder, Alaska. All of this trip is a "long distance" event. It starts with a barbecue in Bonney Lake and a lunch in Kirkland, Washington - the annual Spring Fling gathering of the LDRiders. Then a week later is the anniversary of Ron Ayres triumphant completion of the 7/49 record ride in Hyder. He visited all 49 states in 7 days (and 1 minute) on a motorcycle. A bunch of us LDRiders who think "Alaska isn't that far on a map ..." are going there to honor him and help him celebrate.

    So here I am, On The Road Again. Hmmm. "O"n "T"he "R"oad "A"gain. OTRA in Spanish means "another" or "again". It fits.
    But being on the road after a bit of an absence shows me how easy it is to get out of practice. I did take one long trip this year already which I haven't written about. Rebecca and I rode 4,361 miles to Missouri and back in April. But traveling alone is vastly different than traveling with even one other person. The horizon is wider when only one person looks at it. (And I don't spend half my time 'riding' my mirrors.)
    One of the first things I notice is how far from home I have to get before I feel I am really on a trip. Back where I grew up 100 miles would take you to another state. Here, it is 150 miles before it seems "beyond a day trip" and 300 miles before I am out of the "been there" feeling. This long distance stuff could become a problem - am I going to run out of new roads?
    Next I notice how the rhythm of the road draws my thoughts to the future. These thoughts just skim the surface of consciousness while my autopilot handles traffic awareness. There was an excellent article in Motorcycle Consumer News about the concept of mental "Flow", also described as riding "in the zone". It is supposedly a difficult state of transcendence to manufacture, but it happens easily for me on a long trip. See Beauty in Motion, above.
    Then, after being lost in the why's and what's of reviewing the trip preparations, it suddenly comes through to me that I am really "out there". The geography has changed. The displaced anomaly of the Sutter Buttes floats past. The ragged teeth of Castle Crags gnaw at the sky. The hills are already the golden brown of a California summer, more yellow than brown, and smiling in the sun. Riding to the north in the Sacramento Valley, you can easily see both sides from the coastal range to the Sierra foothills. They are closing in to end in one of only two transverse ranges in the state. It is surprising, for a state so mountainous, 200 miles north of its mouth the Sacramento River is only at 318 feet elevation. Gad, this valley is flat.
    Then, climbing past Redding and across Lake Shasta one can not help but think of the great forces moldering down under the crust. Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen are the two southernmost volcanoes in the Cascade subduction range. Shasta is asleep. Lassen is merely napping. Both still hold their blankets of snow wrapped about their shoulders. But other scenes are obvious. North of Shasta is a wide valley with dozens of cinder cones and gas vent hills from long past eruptions. On the otherwise flat plain they look like so many pimples. Geologic acne.

    Back to thoughts of the trip. Listening to my body I hear I have not sufficiently hydrated for the heat of the day. I can tell from how and when the little aches come that things are out of balance. A quart of Gatorade and a 10 minute nap in the shade of a grassy park fixes that. The back relaxes. The neck flexes. The knees soften. We are creatures of fluid - it does not do well to forget that.
    That reminds me of a sign just across the Oregon border in the Klamath Valley. Farmers there have had their water allotments from the Klamath River cut more than half because of a switch in government environmental policy to protect salmon runs. The Klamath Valley is a desert. Without the river water it is a dry desert. The farmers are "not happy". One sign put it all in perspective for the locals: No water - No barley - NO BEER!

    Finally, if you miss those loooong, flat, straight roads where there is seldom a curve and never a change in scenery ... if you (pun) pine for Kansas but with trees - then come to central Oregon. I can't imagine why the BMW Motorcycle Owners club thinks this is a good location to hold their national rally in July but ... oh wait, they are from the mid-west, of course - they think straight-flat is 'normal'. Sigh. Nice pine trees, but 100 miles of straight road with pine on both sides is not what I call enthralling.

    Just keep telling yourself ... the Ride is the Reason.

533 miles
San Francisco I80 I505 I5 US97 Madras
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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