Friday May 20
How do I sum up a trip of a lifetime?
I have, since childhood, had this thought to ride across this country on a motorcycle. Thinking back to my first experiences with motorcycles, (http://njregularguy.com/2010/06/14/mild-hogs/ ) I can tell you that I have always wanted to feel what the freedom of riding was about. What better way then to ride across country with no time table or plan other than taking it one day at a time. Earlier, I wrote about just getting the bike out of the driveway and that’s really what life is all about isn’t it? We all have dreams and many are attainable if we just put that first foot forward.
I realize more today than I did three weeks ago how lucky and grateful I am to have had two of my best friends make this journey with me. I tried to do this trip last year and the plans fell apart, partially due to poor timing, but mostly I believe, due to the fear of the unknown and just plain making up excuses why we can’t do it. This year the Gods were smiling down on me because everything just worked out and for some reason we all had the”balls” to do this.
Traveling anywhere for three weeks with someoneÂ can be difficult and can make or break your vacation. I am fortunate that even though the three of us have different personalities, we all seemed to have one thing in common. We made this trip about us and we considered each others opinions and desires each day as we planned out the ride from town to town. The common bond we shared was our love of motorcycles and the idea that we would experience life together in a way no one else could understand unless they were here with us.
Everyone we met was so interested in our story. My friend Ed made it a point to tell them exactly what we were doing, so much so that it became what sounded to us like aÂ prepared statement because we had heard him repeat it daily to almost everyone we came in contact with. The laughter that was ever present, is the number one thing about our trip that made it so enjoyable. We laughed so much everyday that at times it hurt. For some reason the three of us just found humor in everything we experienced, especially with the people who roamed the streets in NOLA, Memphis and Nashville. The interactions we had with these people ranged from scary to interesting but mostly hilarious.
About the people we met…..
The ride itself is one thing, sometimes hard but always rewarding, when traveling so many miles. The best thing though about the journey is the people you meet. We grow up in a shell of sorts, experiencing only the people where we live.Â In some part, for that reason, we form opinions and such about America and its inhabitants. For instance, we are told how divided by race this country is but when you go out and experience real life in America you find most people regardless of race just want to connect with each other. They want to hear your story and tell theirs. They, like us, are just ordinary men and women who want to live their lives peacefully and happily, one day at a time. It’s unfortunate that we grow up in a country that continues trying to divide its people instead of uniting them despite the promise of the opposite from our so called “leaders”. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable or worried about a different race when you are uneducated or inexperienced with such people. So hard to talk about for fear that I might say the wrong thing or that my words might be taken out of context but it was so great being around people of color and experiencing what life outside my bubble is really like. We were treated so well by the ordinary folks we encountered each day that I found it so hard to believe we have a racial problem in this country. I am not naive enough to think it doesn’t exist but there are so many good, honest people in this country that have to live with the idea that we don’t like each other when in fact it is so far from the truth. I never felt out of place or threatened except one time in Memphis during bike night on Beale street where there were dozens of gangs wearing their colors. Both white and black gang members made our time there very uneasy and if not for the police presence we would have left quickly after we arrived. Even then, there were no incidents based on race. If anything, it probably would l have been more to do with club colors than skin color. I guess what I am trying to say is that this stuck out in my mind more than anything else on our trip. The south is such a friendly place and the people in each town were quick to show us how friendly they are. We were treated to food, drink, free room upgrades and one man Rick Fairless of Strokers Dallas, took us on a 45 minute tour of his business just because we were there. Americans are truly amazing people!
My greatest memory of this trip will always be of the folks that shared their time and their stories with me.Â There is something about traveling by bike that attracts people to you that would normally never interact with you otherwise. So many men and women approached us with stories, questions and sometimes awe and envy when they realized the scope of our journey. Bill Hiatt from Floyd’s City Barber Shop in Mayberry took over his dad’s reins when he passed on, as the face of Floyd’s. Bill spends his days as his dad, Russell, did before him for decades, meeting and greeting visitors who stop by to experience a place from television history. Bill hears tales all day long from tourists who remember the show and all its characters. This day Bill would be so interested in hearing about our 911 experiences when he found out my friends had direct involvement in the events that followed that days tragedy. We shared stories about that day and how it affected us all in one way or another. Bill is truly part of the heartbeat of America.
Most riders who take trips like these talk about the bonding they experience from being together for such a long period of time. This is all true and became clearly apparent during the last days of our trip. As our time together began to wane, I felt a sense of melancholy come over the three of us. I am sure we were all anxious to get back home once we knew there was little time left to explore new places, but also the reality that we would soon be apart made it feel strange. We had spent almost three weeks doing everything together and now the thought of it ending was kind of sad. I mentioned earlier that I was fortunate to have done this trip with two of my best and closest friends. What I didn’t say was that they didn’tÂ know each other except for the fact they both knew me and had met once some 30 years ago.
My friend Guy, I met briefly when I was 7 years old. We didn’t know at the time that we were making our Communion the same day but we spent the better part of the next 10 years growing up together until I left for college. Time and distance may have had some doing in the fact that we lostÂ 20 years where we didn’t see or talk to each other much or at all, but true friendships never die. The past three years we have been trying to get back on track and this trip was a testament to our friendship. Guy has always been the brother I never had.
I met Ed the first day of college. We both attended school in Rhode Island and made contact during freshman orientation. We later shared a house together along with my only other close friend Donn, during our days at school. We have been friends ever since and survived times where we lost contact over some stupid stuff but in the end our friendship prevailed. I first approached Ed with this crazy idea of riding out to Texas by bike and he thought I was nuts. This was Eds coming out as he never really rode such long distances before and now after this I’m not sure he will again. LOL!Â I have always felt like Eds older brother even though he is my senior, and during this trip I felt like it even more.
I love these guys and I couldn’t be happier to have accomplished with them, such a great thing. Only the three of us know how hard the ride was but also how great it makes you feel each time you pull into the next hotel and know you made it safely.Â The laughter and experiences we shared will be the things we talk about for the rest of our lives and no one will ever be able to take that from us. If my friendships with these guys ended today, I know the memories we share, will live on in our hearts and minds forever.Â This is what they mean when they speak of bonding. It’s just something that happens but you can feel the difference as each day passes. I am sure that Eddie and Guy both know what I mean.
I am back home now and all the laughter has stopped. The long days rides are behind me now and it almost feels like a dream. I went from bad ass biker dude to yard boy in one day, as today I weeded my property. Funny how much can change in one days time. Still, my memories live on and I laugh a bit everyday when I think back on the time I spent with two of the greatest men I have ever known. Thank you guys,Â I owe you big time!!!
Just One Man’s Lifetime Experience!
The Regular Guy