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“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming– “Wow! What a Ride!”

— Hunter S. Thompson

“Where you headed and where’d you come from?”

It’s the common question we get in parking lots across America. Then they spot our license plates and look at us incredulously. “All the way from Florida! On these things?”

The motorcycles never fail to solicit chat from strangers, they approach any where we stop. Perhaps it’s the idea of adventure they spark in folks, or just the smell of raw open road on their muddy chassis. They come with a sparkle in their eyes, vicarious thrills in their steps. It can be awkward for two introverts who prefer an empty desert camp to a party. But it’s a great opportunity to get out of our shells and remind us of the good sport of human chatter. Many more come to simply welcome strangers, travelers, to their little part of the world. This is one of the infinite benefits of traveling far off the trafficked expressways that bypass towns in favor of fast food chains and rest stops. As if highway travelers should be quarantined from the towns they pass.

Talking about ourselves becomes boring once you do it enough times and so we try to shift the focus. We hear of past motorcycle adventures, or the adventures of sons, daughters, fathers. We hear of dreams never seized and of beloved motorcycles sold. But the one thing we hate to hear is of accidents. I can’t imagine why people feel compelled to share with us some horrible motorcycle accident in the midst of our motorcycle journey. I suppose it is not all bad we leave reminded to be even more cautious than before. But we also depart with the heavy threat and thick gloom of impending disaster all around us. The Najavo never discuss the Long Walk – the Trail of Tears, because they believe it is bad luck to recall such things, to bring them back into the world of the living.

The bikes are unique. Our home made racks, the dusty beat dry bags we use for luggage and the maze of straps. On top of that our invaluable nets which catch anything that won’t fit or might leak. Open quarts of oil, grease, the bear spray, a canteen of water, a rain suit, spare gloves. It’s a sloppy mess, borne of months of packing and unpacking until it just works, regardless of appearance. I envy the neat hard luggage of other motorcyclists. The convenient clean lines of square aluminum cases stripped clean of the drying socks and old oily rags that hang from our bikes like badges of a lifestyle. Before we even began we vowed to approach this journey more like a lifestyle than a trip with a beginning and end. We resigned ourselves to simply living on the road, off the back of a motorcycle, destinations be damned.

The soft luggage has another benefit. When the trail gets rough and the bikes tumble the soft cases act as cushions to the fall, no bent rack hangers, no busted hinges. We simply tape up the few holes that appear from a particularly hard hit and continue on our way.

The PVC racks I built in Florida are a marvel to behold. They are beat to death, cracked, broken but stubbornly functional. Pieces have fallen off – been taped, clamped and screwed back on but overall they prove durable and easily repairable. We never waste a day in search of a welder. I can rebuild the entire rack at any hardware store with a hacksaw blade, some glue and cheap piping. The entire assemblage would horrify any meticulous BMW owner. You know the type. I saw a listing on eBay from an owner who claimed he had changed the oil after every ride. That guy. The guy you want to buy your next bike from but don’t necessarily want to go riding with. And I honestly feel that my motorcycle, despite what it has endured at my hand, is a happier bike. Freed from the stables to roam the earth, it, like me, will live perhaps not the safest of lives, but the best.

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3 thoughts on “The strangers come

  1. I never know if you read these replies or even get them. Just wanted to say I thought this was a thoughtful and interesting segment, very nicely written and a pleasure to read!

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