“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” —William Butler Yeats
I’m currently suffering from jet lag after a busy few days that included taking an Uber 50 miles to purchase and ride home a Triumph Street Triple, then packing, dropping my boy Spud at the farm, and catching a flight to Las Vegas. My hastily thrown together plan was to fly to Las Vegas, rent another Street Triple, and ride to Hoover Dam and the 300 miles or so to the Grand Canyon; one man-made and one natural wonder, both of which I’ve always wanted to see.
I picked up my Triple in Vegas and, with help from Dyllan, attached a charging port under the seat to charge my cell phone … which, a few hundred miles later, I realized was lying somewhere along Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman, AZ, due to a combination of speed, wind, and lack of a rubber strap on my RAM mount.
The South Rim of the canyon on Saturday evening was very crowded. I made a plan to wake before dawn Sunday, ride the two miles back to the rim, and enjoy it in silence before heading west toward Vegas. I took a few quick photos but then put the camera away. I was more interested in being there than in recording having been.
Sunday morning was a cold ride, but the sight that greeted me was well worth the early wake-up call. There was no wind, no noise but the random bird chirp, just me and the colors of the canyon. I’ve always loved sitting near the ocean for the same reason I loved standing there that morning. As out of control and random as life can seem, it’s calming to be in the presence of something so ageless and unalterable.
My ride back took me through Kingman, where I met Chris, who helped me replace my lost cell phone, and in the process mentioned that he wanted to get his first bike but was afraid his youth and need for speed might be a problem. The best advice I could offer him was to get good gear and wear it, develop a skill set, and gain confidence in his riding before trying to go fast.
Returning my bike, I met Michael, in town on business, who had rented a BMW F 800 GS for the weekend. We shared a ride, after which he showed me photos of his home in Austria and talked about hiking, riding, and traveling in Europe. After returning the Triple, I took another Uber downtown, driven by a friendly woman named Victoria. In our 15-minute ride, we covered such topics as our work histories, our thoughts on how employees should be treated, and what I should see on the strip on my last day. I also stopped to commemorate the trip with a small tattoo added to my sleeve by V-Rod, who, while inking me, told me stories about a friend of his who owns a Hayabusa.
What struck me during this trip was how often in our day we have the opportunity to ask someone’s name, where they are from, find out a little bit about them, let them tell their story. People want to tell their stories, and if you show the slightest, honest interest, they will. Everyone wants to matter, to be noticed—not for having done something necessarily, just for who they are. We all like connections, though I think we often forget they are possible in our everyday comings and goings, as we hurriedly pass each other by, anxious to get somewhere else.
Unlike the Grand Canyon, we won’t be here for eons; we have but a handful of years to figure out why we are here and to help others figure it out too. This trip taught me that even in a place as fast-paced as Las Vegas, there are opportunities to connect in meaningful ways with complete strangers and to make the world a bit smaller in the process. I’ll never forget riding in solitude for hours and finally seeing the Grand Canyon. But in recalling this trip in the future, I’ll also remember the few minutes I spent with those mentioned here as well as the dozen or so others I met but didn’t mention, who made it even more memorable; people who could’ve simply just done their jobs, but instead offered more, exchanging small pieces of themselves in the process.
In recounting my stories of lost items to my friend Grace, she said, “You left a lot out there.” “Yeah,” I said, “but I brought more back.” No one ever really travels alone—you may leave alone and return alone, but there’s always company along the way.