The article “Risk and Reward” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 6/16/2013.
The other day I got a call from my mother telling me she had taken a bad fall, torn ligaments in her wrist, and had hurt her back. She had seen a doctor and was as comfortable as could be and there was not much I could do. I took a ride over to spend some time with her and decided to take the bike despite indications that bad weather was a possibility.
As I made my way over I could see the mountains on the horizon. The sky above me was a spectacular blue with gigantic clouds so thick you’d have sworn they should be making noise as they drifted into each other. Directly over the mountains and in my intended path, was a dark and broiling mass of black and gray thunderclouds and further on I could see a wall of rain.
I don’t know about you, but I love unpredictable and unstable weather, always have. I’m not sure why. In the back of my mind I thought that I should turn around and get the car; but I didn’t. Instead I raced to a high point that I’m familiar with to try and get some photographs before the sun set. I’ve always loved twilight, when things seem to glow; but as you can see from the photo, this was twilight cranked up a notch with the contrast of utter blackness off in the distance. The air seemed to be moving away from me in every direction rather than blowing like wind, and there was unmistakable electricity in the air.
My parents live at the foot of the Poconos and one of my routes to their house goes up and over a mountain on a dirt and gravel track called Smith Gap Road or Point Phillips Road, which at its highest point crosses the Appalachian Trail. It’s full of twisties and steep drop-offs and when it gets wet it can get tricky as the cinders fill the grooves in the V-Strom’s tires. I ride it a few times a year just for a bit of adventure and on this occasion, with the weather looming, it was spooky and memorable.
I’ve never ridden in another country or in exotic locales, I hope to one day and to come back with wild stories to tell; but for now I’ll take my adventure as it comes, even if it’s only riding under the threat of a storm beneath mysterious and uncertain skies. The risks in this case were relatively minor: getting wet, dropping the bike, and sitting it out roadside; but if you risk a little the reward can be great, even if that reward is only a memory and a grin, and the goose bumps that memory invokes. Even on a minor scale, deciding to embark on something and see it through can have profound benefits.
Sometimes rides are epic because of what goes wrong and other times they are epic simply because the experience embeds itself in your soul no matter the distance or duration. Oh, by the way, if you see mom please don’t mention this, she’d only worry.