Tag Archive: joy

Company Along the Way

The article “Company Along the Way” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 09/15/17.

“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.

Along Route 66 East of Kingman, Arizona

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.

Hoover Dam

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.

Old is New Again

The article “Old is New Again” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 5/23/17.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

—Henry David Thoreau

It’s early February and I haven’t ridden much in weeks due to weather, but I have kept myself busy with other motorcycle-related projects. I find myself at a crossroads physically, dealing with the still lingering side effects of Lyme disease and nerve pain associated with a spinal stenosis flare-up. This while I watch my mother undergo chemo treatments without complaint. Compared to her trials, mine seem miniscule, but when you’ve self-identified as an athlete for most of your life and then are no longer able to, it’s a difficult transition.

I wasn’t raised to complain, but pain is pain and causes limitations that you can’t ignore forever. Once you’ve raised a child and buried a parent, however, life loses some of its ability to knock you off your stride. I do find myself having to adjust course, redefine myself, and accept some new physical restrictions, though. Thankfully riding isn’t one of them; but the time I would normally have spent working out has been replaced by remodeling my home and, of course, tinkering with and upgrading my motorcycle. This year’s additions included LED headlights, engine guards, grip pads, tank pads, and a peg lowering kit.

Zen MotorcyclistLast summer I replaced a worn-out chain and sprockets and, rather than throw the old parts out, hung them on a pegboard in my garage in a pattern that resembled a sort of misshapen face: the draped chain formed a wide smile beneath two dirty, mismatched sprocket eyes. I started thinking it’d be a pleasant diversion, and a nice addition to the home I’m decorating, to make something from the parts. A clock seemed like an obvious choice.

I’ve never considered myself particularly crafty, and if you’ve read any of my old blog posts you know that my history with tools is at best a humorous one. I found the clock-making process, however, to be cathartic and motivating. I figured I’d either end up with something original to hang in my home, or a mess of a conversation piece to hide in the garage and laugh about over a beer and to remind me of a pleasant distraction during a particularly stressful winter.

I’m happy with the way the piece eventually turned out. I’m glad to have had a few hours every other day over the weeks it took to finish it to focus on creating something unique, rather than dwelling on mom’s impending treatments and my own nagging pains. The welcome distraction of cleaning and painting, finding the right clock movement and perfect curved glass to cover it and the materials to hold it all together, served as a metaphor for me. Though the parts may be worn-out and past being useful in the manner intended, they needn’t be discarded and can, with a change of focus and intent, be put to another use: to start over and live a second, previously un-imagined life.

The clock I made now hangs in my sunroom. The chain and sprockets it is made from propelled me some 15,000 miles over the better part of two years. I’m sure each link represents a dozen memories from that time. Several people have told me I could make them to sell, but the value to me isn’t in what it might be worth but rather in what it represents. By craftsman standards I’m sure it would be considered amateurish at best. Just like motorcycle riding though, the lasting value is never in the arriving, in the completion. The lasting value is in the process; in how much you change, reflect, and grow along the way and in what memories the effort leaves you with. In the words of Henry Miller, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Regarding my recycled timepiece, I will always see far more in it than there is to look at. This may even become a winter ritual. When the weather warms, I’ll get started on the next recycling project, maybe a pendulum clock this time, or a lamp of some sort. I can’t decide; but I’m in no hurry. It’ll take another 15,000 miles or so to get the parts ready …

The Road Not Yet Traveled

The article “The Road Not Yet Traveled” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 7/31/17.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  -The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

 

When I started blogging for RoadRUNNER five years ago or so, I used the title “The Road Often Traveled” for my first few posts. Commuting by motorcycle was what I thought I knew something about, so I borrowed and butchered a line from Robert Frost’s 100-year-old poem. I often heard it referred to as “The Road Less Traveled,” but the title is actually “The Road Not Taken.”

I recently had a phone conversation with the head of marketing for a sports eyewear manufacturer. It turned out to be an unexpectedly in-depth conversation not only about how I started riding but also writing, as well as my professional career path. It got me thinking about the Frost poem and about how decision leads to decision and one path leads to another. After a bit of research, however, the poem has come to mean something new to me.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “the road less traveled” used to sell everything from cars to vacations, to self-help books. You’ve seen it inscribed on mugs and on inspirational posters. While Frost’s poem is easily one of the most searched pieces of literature ever written, it is also one that is almost always misinterpreted.

The poem speaks of a traveler coming upon two roads diverging in a yellow wood. In most cases (car commercials, for instance), the words are used as a celebration of rugged individualism and people boldly choosing the path that not many do; but the poem isn’t about that at all. Rather, it’s about reconciling our decisions later in life, looking back and coming to terms with our choices long after they’ve been made. As the poem says, both roads are equally worn and there is no difference between them—a fact many eager to push product always miss.

Frost initially wrote the poem to poke fun at his friend, English critic Edward Thomas, who had the habit of regretting whatever path the two happened to take during their walks in the countryside. After coming across this fact about the poem, I felt better about it. I had always thought the poem somewhat sad, since the narrator says he would speak of his choice of direction many years later with a sigh. I’d always thought that sigh meant that he’d lament having not chosen the other road, that, given the chance, he’d want to go back to see how things might have turned out had he chosen otherwise.

As a motorcyclist, I can point to the specific events that prompted me to start riding, of choosing that “road.” I’ve written about them often in the last few years. In the broader sense though, I’ve given thought to the other “roads” I’ve taken in life. Recently my friend and coworker Brian asked if I’d ever thought about what career path I might have chosen if I hadn’t pursued computer-aided design. As is the case with my decision to start riding, I couldn’t help but smile and say, “No, actually, I am where I’m supposed to be.”

The decision to begin riding motorcycles was the most natural I’ve ever made. I needed my brother’s company after our father’s death. To look back with a sigh and imagine having not decided to ride isn’t a question at all—never was, never will be. Truth be told, I can’t think of a path I’ve been down that I’ve regretted or would choose not to go down again. You are the sum total of the roads you’ve traveled, and if you love yourself (and you must) then you must love those roads, those choices that made you who you are. Rather than an arbitrary choice to be re-examined with a sigh years hence, I’ll look back on riding, as I do now, as a liberating decision that expanded my circle of friends and created a vehicle of expression for feelings that might otherwise have gone unexpressed.

Riding itself can be seen metaphorically as “the path less traveled,” and, my friends, it certainly has made all the difference. When I hear advertisers get Frost’s poem wrong, I have to laugh. More than 100 years later he’s still having fun with us while at the same time making us think.

Wherever you find yourself on your road, I hope that you are looking ahead to your next choices and content with those already made. After all, that road, your road, really is the road not yet traveled.

The Means To Notice It All

The article “The Means To Notice It All” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 9/22/2016.

This past Mother’s Day, my girlfriend Erica and I rode to a farm not far from my home that she had lived on for a time. We were visiting the owner, Sally, who Erica had grown close to during the time she spent there and who she’s remained friends with ever since. As I approached on the cycle down a long, narrow, winding gravel driveway and under an idyllic train trestle, I spotted horses and donkeys in the fields, chicken coops and tractor barns, all the stuff of a working farm. The sky wasn’t looking so good, but it was a May day, I’ve ridden in the rain before, and besides, the dark clouds and winds created the kind of weather I’ve always loved riding in.

the-meansSally, a strong, no-nonsense woman, appeared to be close to my mother Mary’s age. She actually reminded me a bit of my mom. A bird had made a nest in a broken light fixture on her porch and laid eggs. Sally saw to it that the switch to the light was disabled and a sign was posted warning visitors to use the side door lest they suffer the wrath of a mother protecting her young.

I sat on the floor as we spoke, petting Sally’s huge, fleshy-faced English Mastiff. We covered a lot of topics. Sally is sharp, up-front, an avid reader, and direct, the sort of person I love talking to. I got the feeling that with her there are no games or fear of offending, just smart conversation. Eventually the talk turned to motorcycles, and (more…)

The Best Lessons

The article “The Best Lessons” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 07/19/2016.

4-16-zen-400x264I have a tendency to meet people at the supermarket when I take the motorcycle for my weekly supply run. I like the looks I get carrying my grocery bags and helmet; people wonder where I’m going to put everything. I’ve written before about others feeling at ease walking up to me when I’m dismounting or packing my purchases in my saddlebags. I’d like to think it’s my countenance that puts people at ease, but I think maybe it’s just the bike that draws them in. I’ve had interesting (and occasionally bizarre) conversations with complete strangers who always part by telling me, with a smile, to be safe. I love that aspect of motorcycling.

I recently met a young aspiring rider who works for the store where I do my shopping. I was packing an eight-pound bag of dog food into my side case and heard Wow, that thing is huge!” from behind me. The young man thought my V-Strom was a big bike, which made me smile.

It’s not that big a bike, tall maybe. The luggage makes it seem bigger than it is. He went on to tell me with wide, enthusiastic eyes that he was planning on getting his first bike. He was thinking a small bike to start, despite his friends’ insistence that (more…)

To Each His Own (full text)

The article “To Each His Own” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 03/15/2016.

In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day—or to celebrate each special day.”

—Rasheed Ogunlaru

I’ll admit I was at a bit of a loss regarding this column. I had the “bones” (as I like to refer to the overall theme), but the structure was lost on me. Then, I visited my dentist, and by the time I left his office, I had the rest of the column in place in my mind. Today, for once, I was happy to have visited him.

3-16-zen-e1458047262598-772x472Sitting in the chair, our usual banter somehow turned to base jumping and paragliding while skiing. My dentist recalled a documentary about an athlete who had lost several friends to these same endeavors. Moments later, I’m shot up with Novocaine, and the ridiculous (and uncomfortable) plastic prop is placed in my mouth. It was then that my dentist and his assistant made the not so obvious, yet all so predictable, leap to discussing the danger of motorcycles. As if on cue, the obligatory statement comes out about how we have responsibilities to our loved ones to give up such dangerous pursuits. I couldn’t respond. And it irritated me (more…)

A Story Worth Living

A Story Worth LivingA Story Worth Living just isn’t worth seeing (and certainly not worth paying to see). I considered deleting this post but instead thought it a better use of my time to advise readers to avoid it.

Eight day camping trips do not equate to “Epic adventures”. Talking about story might be fine for a podcast but this movie was billed to the motorcycle community (including flyers I received in recent purchases from motorcycle parts distributors) as an adventure film (including enticing lines like “…can we get off this mountain…?”). What it amounts to is a disjointed, wordy mess that tells no story at all. I’m insulted as a motorcyclist that I was duped into paying $14 to see what I can see better versions of on youtube for free. The incessant talking about (rather than showing) the adventure had me squirming in my seat and wanting it to end. What little actual riding footage there is in the film seems to be the same repeated shots and totaling very little of the actual film, although if you like awkward cigar smoking shots there are plenty of those. Near what seemed like the end there is an interminable bull session in which the “actors” talk about the “adventure”, this went on so long I actually turned to a friend and said aloud “they have to stop talking now”.

I’m all for adventure but why do admittedly inexperienced beginner riders need heavy BMW800’s with fully loaded panniers if they have support vehicles following them for most of the trip? 1,000 miles in eight days (a lot of which was on pavement) just doesn’t qualify as epic. I’m at a loss to understand how this film was green-lighted for wide theatrical release by sponsors once they’d seen the final cut. This film felt forced, contrived, badly scripted and the religious overtones were uncomfortable and out of place; although it’s been admitted the deception was a deliberate attempt to dupe the riding community into hearing “the gospel”. I’ve never walked out on any film, let alone one about motorcycling; but this was very nearly my first.

In response to the growing criticism the producers are offering refunds here. (Note: I’ve received my $42 refund).

ADVrider or Long Way Round (the claimed inspiration for this film), Dream Racer or World On Wheels are better places to go for examples of motorcycle adventure.

 

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