In the summer of 2014 I rode my motorcycle 10,000 miles across the US and back. I took mostly country roads along the way and slept out under the stars. The year before, my Dad’s plans of doing just this were cut short. He died of Lymphoma on Nov 11th, 2013.
Like many other Dads around the world, my Dad rode a motorcycle when he first met my Mom. But when marriage and kids came along the bike was sold. He got himself another bike when I left for college and when I graduated I got myself a bike too.
Our first trip together was West Virginia, followed by the Pennsylvania Wilds and up the East Coast to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
For the first time in our life, my Dad and I became real friends. At the campfire at night he confessed to me everything a typical father might conceal from his son. The truth was that he never wanted to have kids. A few years after he married my mother, she approached him with starting a family on her mind and when he protested, she told him that she must have married the wrong man. That was that. My Dad agreed to have kids to save his marriage. But it wasn’t long after my two sisters and I were born that he realized a fatal error. The woman he married was no longer his wife, she was now a mother.
Stories like this poured out of my Dad and ran through my head as I rode my motorcycle across the US. My Dad had regrets when he died. He complained that he spent his whole damn life in Woodbine, Maryland. He was upset that he hadn’t traveled much and although he was trying to make up for it in the last 2 years of his life, 2 years wasn’t long enough.
With this in mind, I took off on my bike. I left with no expectations, except to ride all day, eat when I was hungry and roll out my sleeping bag when I was tired. I wandered with purpose. I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway to Grandfather Mountain. Santa Fe to Colorado. Durango to Uray and up through Yellowstone and Yosemite, down the coast of California and into the deep South. All the while I was wondering what roads my Dad would have taken, where he would have slept and what he would have been doing. At night, I smoked a pipe and looked at the stars.
Along the way, I met many Americans, young and old who wanted to be doing what I was doing. To hit the open road, escape their reality and welcome the unfamiliar. However, in contrast to popular thought, I wasn’t escaping reality, I was immersing myself in it. I was doing what I had’t properly allowed myself to do for an entire year. I was grieving for my father.
This goes out to you Dad. In the words of Arlo Guthrie, “I don’t wanna a pickle, I just want to ride my motorsickle.”