Saturday, April 5

The joy of trip planning--and a painful reminder

Trip planning has an appeal all its own. I realize now that it isn't just about where I'm going to travel, it's a process. Trip planning is a ritual of sorts that signals the riding season is around the corner. Last season, I didn't go to all the places I had planned on but every place I went, I truly wanted to go.

As a researcher, I love nothing more than pouring over things, looking behind the statistics, unearthing long dead things, and poking around in unfamiliar places. To me, curling up with a map and travel guide is more fun than one should have alone.


When I was little and would ask my parents a question about some esoteric tidbit, they would frustrate me by saying, "Look it up, that's what a library is for." They lived, I believed, only to make my life difficult. In retrospect, I think their refrain was a wise one. Early on my search for answers took me deep inside libraries and gave me a parent-approved, ready-made excuse to be excused from most chores and family duties. Looking up stuff had some wonderful hidden rewards! I enjoyed annoying the most patient among my teachers when I wielded my new found knowledge as a weapon against boredom. For me, K-12 was mind numbing--and you know what they say about idle minds... Books and stories held secrets. I feel that way still. And maps...well, they hold the most secrets of all.


While taking notes on places to visit, it dawned on me that this is my third riding season since my return to motorcycling. According to the famous Hurt Report (that really is the researcher's name!), a rider with "two to three year's experience is even more likely to crash than the new kid," as quoted in Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough. This sounds counterintuitive but it really makes sense. After a couple of successful seasons (i.e., no accidents), a rider can become "cocky" and mistakenly feel that s/he knows all there is to know. They start to ride on automatic rather than ride with a consciousness that this could be the last ride ever. I don't ever want to visit that zone.

To stay mindful, I go through the motorcycle check before my daily mount. I've actually gotten on the bike and gotten off again when I've forgotten this step. I don't expect the machine to change much in these daily checks--it's not about that really. it's a way of getting my head and heart ready for riding. It slows me and everything else down (in a good way), it gives me time to think about what I need to remember and execute on the road. This fun we take on can be deadly at any time. This time to slow down matters is also the hidden benefit of donning gear. Personally, I don't ever want riding to become a quick and easy thing I do. Driving my car had become that way. I would just hop in, buckle up and drive. Fortunately, I only drive stick shifts. I think do so imposes a bit of this "mindfulness" that I'm referring to.


Two things I've vowed to do to launch each riding season: 1) take an advance riding course, which I'm scheduled for next month; 2) read one or more of the classics (anything by David Hough, or the MSF's Motorcycling Excellence, or year's worth of my favorite moto magazine's riding skills articles). MIbk

I do something too that others might think rather morbid. I read accident reports. Some people probably don't want such reality checks but I think that most two-wheel riders need it now and again--it's great anti-cocky research. Until recently, however, I didn't know just how powerfully such an exercise could affect me. While visiting one of my favorite haunts, Adventure Riders forum, I happened across what I thought would be an interesting ride report. I paused to read it and soon found myself hooked. It told the emotional story of Clayton Schwartz's trip on a KLR650 from Seattle to Argentina. I couldn't stop reading. If you ride two wheels, take the time and read Clayton's aka "Ozymandias" story. Please, read it to the end. CIMG0863


Queenie returns from winter camp today. The weather looks great the entire weekend! A little parking lot practice is in order to reacquaint myself with my gal pal. Tomorrow, a short trip.

Ride safe. Ride smart. Ride mindful.