TBT: Let’s Talk about Historic Highways

Here’s something from the past on Throwback Thursday.

I have a fascination for highways–old and new. They have been my focus for many motorcycle rides.

I had the chance to talk about riding historic highways and trails with Carla King and Tom Lowdermilk on Side Stand Up, that great motorcycle talk show hosted by Tom.

SIDE STAND UP–EPISODE177, 05/25/2010. Episode Notes: Miss Adventuring, Carla King, is back to talk with writer and photographer D. Brent Miller about motorcycle rides that will take you back in time. The Historic Natchez Trace  and the National Pony Express Historic Trail are just a sample of the historical roads he’s chronicling. Listen to the excerpt here:

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Perhaps, we can talk Tom into bringing back Side Stand Up. 🙂

See you on the highway.

Brent

A Motorcycle Bucket List Item is Completed

Why do humans climb mountains? Why do they sail around the world or learn to fly? We have this innate drive to accomplish. Maybe it’s ego or an adrenaline rush. To go boldly where no one has before.

I’ve been motorcycling for more than 50 years, and early on, I never once thought about riding my motorcycle in all of the United States of America. But when I began to seriously tour on two wheels, I realized I was accomplishing just that.

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It was after I rode the Pony Express Trail to California in 2009, and discovered mapping software that would allow me to track the states I had visited that I became conscious of this goal.

My next tour on the Oregon Trail had me planning to ride through states I had not previously visited. And, future tours began to form. My tour to the southeast to ride through states almost caused me to quit riding. Yes, quit riding. It was the most miserable tour. It was 2,400 miles in six days with five days of rain. Miserable. Miserable. Miserable. Not to mention the bee sting in the face at 70 mph on the Interstate next to a semi-tractor and trailer, or the pit bull that charged me when I was taking a photo of entering the fine state of Georgia. Or the chain-reaction accident that occurred right in front of me as I was attempting to exit the interstate in Augusta, Georgia. Miserable.

What I was left with was the northeast. Ten states that needed some color. After that miserable southeast tour, it took me a while to actually plan the northeast ride—a couple of years in fact. But, the day finally came, and I set off to accomplish something that few motorcyclists do—to ride in all of the lower 48 states. I packed my Suzuki V-Strom 650, and headed out.

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Unlike my southeast tour, I could not have asked for better weather. Blue skies and mild temperatures were abundant as I wound my way through Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and into Connecticut. I managed to take a wrong turn or two. I took the wrong interstate in Connecticut found myself in Massachusetts unexpectedly and had to back track to cut over to Rhode Island. I didn’t want to leave that little state out of this ride. Then back north around Boston into New Hampshire and Maine—the turn towards home point. All good roads.

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Riding back across Maine and New Hampshire, I was in awe of the landscape. Beautiful country with fun twisty roads running along rivers and streams around mountains. I met up with a friend who gave me a guided tour through her part of New Hampshire. Riding a scenic byway, we headed for lunch, and then for the apex of my ride—Vermont, my 48th state.

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What was it like riding across the state line into Vermont? Was it like standing atop the mountain just climbed? Like finishing a marathon? Upon my return home, my wife asked me this: “Was it like the euphoria when you finished the Pony Express Trail or the Oregon Trail?”

In previous rides, there was something more than just the ride. I was following history attempting to imagine the experience of those travelers 150 years ago, travelling by horse and wagon. This ride was … well, just a ride to fill in states. It is an accomplishment that few do, but with a few days to think about this bucket list item being checked off, I can say it has given me some closure.

I’m ready to move on to the next adventure … whatever that might be.

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See you on the highway.

Brent

A Simple Ride

“Honey, I’m going for a simple ride. I’ll be back in a little while.”

“Okay. Be careful.”

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And with that, I rolled the motorcycle out of the garage, started the engine for a warmup, put on my riding jacket, helmet and gloves and straddled the bike. Pulling away from the house, through the neighborhood, and out onto the county road to see where it might lead me. It’s just a simple ride.

What constitutes a simple ride? Around the block? To the store and back? Thirty minutes of country back roads? What does it mean? To me? To you? Lots of questions about a simple ride.

What do you expect to feel when you ride? Exhilaration? Adrenaline rush? Do you push yourself and the motorcycle to reach these sensations? Speeding down the highway flat out, or cruising through the curves with twists and turns and white knuckles? Hearing the roar of the engine with rapid acceleration? Or, are you looking for something else?

The county road flows through the countryside like a river of asphalt. Blue sky above, leafless trees ready for Spring and starting to bud out. There is no other traffic. It’s just me on the motorcycle on the road, rolling along at a moderate pace. The road twists and turns into the valley to follow along the river lined with trees. The sun shines down, casting shadows of trees on the pavement. Music only in my head seems to create a music video, perhaps a piano solo or maybe a guitar. It’s euphoric.

There is a Zen quality to a simple ride. To be a part of the environment. To sense the presence of something bigger than myself. To feel a part of that harmony that we are connected. For we are.

A simple ride? There’s nothing really simple about it.

See you on the highway.

Brent

V-Strom and Givi Luggage

Riding season is just around the corner, and I hope to do much of my Ohio River Towns photography project on the motorcycle. So, I needed to equip the bike with sufficient luggage to make it utilitarian.

I have always liked the Givi brand of motorcycle luggage. They are rugged and good looking. Secondly, I love the way you can use the same mounts to put different bags on the bike. Below is a great example of how that looks. First, the bike without bags.

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You can see the new engine guards and the luggage mounting racks on the rear. Next, is the set of smaller bags I purchased when I first bought the bike. Givi E-22s. These are great for around town and running small grocery errands. I have used the smaller bags to go camping, also.

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What about a top case? I decided to go with the Givi Trekker series of bags. The 52-Liter top case will hold a lot of stuff like camera gear and audio equpment, and it doesn’t look too bad with the E-22s—just a slight difference in styling.

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Or, how about riding with just the top case. Many do. Without the side cases, it’s a narrower profile.

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For the bigger loads, such as motorcycle touring and/or extended camping, the full set of Trekkers will do just fine—52L top case and 33L side cases, better known as panniers.

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That’s some serious load-hauling capability. Still, it’s best not to try to carry everything. Think backpacking or minimalist motorcycling.

See you on the highway … along the Ohio River.

Brent