Gravel Roads

gravel-roads2The article “Gravel Roads” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 5/12/2013.

I’ll bet you thought this post was going to be a technical article about how to handle a motorcycle on gravel, right? Fooled ya, technical articles aren’t really my thing. I’ll leave those to people with more experience and ability than I. The title of this post is actually taken from a song entitled “True Love Travels a Gravel Road” written by Frazier-Owens. The song is about a relationship standing the test of time and how it is strengthened through adversity and struggle. Elvis made it famous but I prefer the cover by Nick Lowe. It’s a beautiful song and got me to thinking, as many things do, about a similarity in motorcycling.

I was thinking back to those first tentative rides. On my way home from having passed my MSF beginner course, and on my first day as licensed motorcyclist, I dropped my bike onto the center line on an incline in a curve with traffic coming the other way. It was scary, but every time I tell it I get a laugh when I refer to the “hysterical mom strength” I used to lift it again quickly.

Motorcyclists like to sit around and tell those stories, at least I do. We don’t tell the stories of cloudless skies and straight, flat roads, beautiful though they may have been. We tell the stories about dropped bikes, torrential downpours, wrong turns and mechanical failures, or of the first time we experienced reaching, panicked in traffic, for the fuel reserve switch. Motorcyclists and mountain climbers delight in telling tales of adversity. We all have stories of having endured and overcome.

Some people have their first epic catastrophe and quit riding altogether, others are strengthened by them and are emboldened to learn from them and thrive in spite of them. As the song says “Love is a stranger and hearts are in danger on smooth streets paved with gold, true love travels on a gravel road.” There’s also a quote I came across recently that reads, “a calm sea does not make a skilled sailor” and “straight roads do not make skillful drivers.” Each can be applied to motorcyclists.

Nobody enjoys suffering through an epic event while it’s happening; but time allows the experience to find its spot among the feelings, memories, and emotions that define why we ride. It sure is fun to sit around later, share the tales with other riders, laugh at yourself and each other, and share the bond of that experience that unites us all. Ride safe, and share a story if you care to…

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