Awhile back, I answered somebody’s question online when they asked about riding their motorcycle in the pursuit of cleansing their soul. They wanted to some basic tips about taking a journey, and how to make it the best that they could. In response, I gave him ten tips (and a bonus at the end) to help him along. I received his heartfelt appreciation for the words, and we have stayed in touch from time to time since. I thought it would be a good thing to share with others. Even for those that do not ride, I believe that many of the following can apply to everyday life or when soul-searching your direction.
Ten Lessons for the Journey
It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Don’t forget to look around and appreciate what you are passing as you continue towards that end goal. Sometimes what we do not see when we are in a hurry would have been even better to view than what awaits us at the end.
On many journeys, you’ll meet some very interesting random people. On one journey, I met a person who has become a very close friend of mine now for years. It started with a simple “hello” as I got off the bike to pump gas into the tank. Take a second to be nice to another person or chatting with an inquisitive soul; fate may reward you with a lifelong brother or sister.
Ride with a small notepad. You will eventually need it; whether to capture a name, phone number, or town name, you will want to remember something just hours later. Small flip notepads fit into any jacket pocket. Rite in Rain pads and pens allow you to take the notes in inclement weather conditions.
No matter what kind of hurry you are in, document the journey. Take a camera (video and/or still) with you and use it. Years from now, you are going to want to have physical reminders of your memories. Just do not forget to take a moment to actually capture something about your journey as you go. Throw a note on a pink piece of paper and affix to the corner of your windshield as a reminder. Start a blog, like I have here. Write in a paper diary or a electronic journal in Microsoft Word on your computer. Memories get foggy over time; archive the adventure with pictures and words now.
Hydration is critical. Even when it’s freezing outside, your body is losing precious water. Any time you stop for a rest or to get fuel, get at least a few swigs of liquids into you, and preferably a entire bottle. Did you know that around 90% of all headache are caused due to being dehydrated? Tylenol and aspirin are great for headaches by the way, but the water you swig down with them sometimes is what really makes it go away. Back on track here…keep the body healthier by drinking plenty of fluids. Even on timed Ironbutt rides, it’s okay to stop and get a drink and piss when needed.
If you can, install a water bottle holder on your bike. That way the Gatorade or freshly squeezed orange juice is never too far away. Get one of the water bottles with the one-handed openers on the lid. Reach and drink only when safe to do so of course; keep the alcohol away from said container.
Eating is important too. One of the best ways to fight off fatigue is to down an energy bar, or something with lots of carbs or sugar for a quick fix. Trail mix is an awesome energy booster, is very easily stored, and actually tastes great. Make it yourself and you can put in some caramel popcorn that no manufacturers seem to do.
Sleep or rest when tired. Ever come close to falling asleep in your car while driving? It can easily happen on a bike too. You get fatigued and tired from your riding, the jacket you wear puts you at the perfect comfortable range of warmth, and the drone of the motorcycle exhaust becomes a beautiful hum in the middle of your brain. You suddenly realize you are going into a sharp curve at 55 MPH, and slam the bakes. If you make it out of the curve undamaged, it’s time to get off the bike for a while and take a break and rejuvenate the body with some sleep.
Research studies show that even a fifteen minute cat nap can provide up to a 172% boost in performance after doing the same activity for 7 hours. There’s a reason why one of the foreign-owned factories I worked at many years ago had a mandated twenty minute quiet-time break period in the middle of our twelve hour shifts. They even advised people to take cat naps during the time. And it really worked to get you through the last part of your shift, and the manufacturer saw a very beneficial labor spike from their rested workers.
Get the right gear. Whether you are riding for a few hours, or a few months, find the appropriate gear to keep you safe, comfortable, and able to continue. Backpacking ultra-light gear is very expensive, but durable and space saving on a motorcycle trip. Find jackets, boots, gloves, helmet, and pants that will provide the necessary protections you will require.
If your body and spirit are willing, get out of the motels and camp off the bike. One of the best things I have discovered about motorcycle journeys is the easiness of camping out with nature. Bring mosquito repellant and bear spray depending on location. There’s tons of portable cooking gear and methods, all easily packed onto a bike (see tip #8 above about backpacking gear). A decent tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag can provide many years of enjoyment; it costs quite a bit up front, but you get the money back quickly by not staying at that large chain hotel with the nasty continental breakfast. There’s something about waking up in the morning dew and sounds of a forest that just refreshes the spirit in a person.
Remember, it’s about the journey. Elsewhere, millions of others are currently working, sleeping, or fighting with their kids over the fact they aren’t doing their chores. Take lots of deep breaths, really smell that fresh country air for change, and listen to what that wind is telling you as it merges into your soul while you ride.
Take the road less traveled. When everybody goes left, go right. Find what the world offers around that curve over there that nobody else explores.
Just remember: Sometimes you just need to chase the dream that makes you happy for a change, even if it only lasts for a short time. There’s always a tomorrow; but most of us will never experience what our soul seeks if we wait for the next opportunity that may never arise again.