Tag Archive: RoadRunner

RoadRunner Magazine articles

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.

More Alike

The article “More Alike” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 3/27/17.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” —”Human Family” by Maya Angelou

There are times when the deadline to finish this chronicle sneaks up on me. I am by nature a procrastinator and work better under pressure. As it happens, I’m writing this one from a hospital waiting room as my mother undergoes a biopsy. She’s been in remission for 16 years now but her doctor recently discovered a mass that has us all concerned. I, of course, rode the motorcycle here.

My mother has been an example to me that being kind and compassionate is more important than being right. She, more than any other person in my life, is the reason I am so concerned with riding safely; so that the woman who taught me love and kindness never need hear that I’ve been injured. I have no interest whatsoever in causing her pain.

I’ve taken a bit of a step back from social media of late and feel relieved to have done so. Kindness, at least online, seems to have taken a back seat to contention, argument, judgment, and sadly, the reposting of fake news. It’s something I see and hear little of among the motorcycle community, at least those I ride and trade emails with. The previous RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend was completely devoid of that kind of tension, even in the midst of a politically polarized year. Motorcyclists usually leave such things at home and simply enjoy each other’s company.

We tend to lean toward the good, toward positivity and open-mindedness. Whether that is true of all motorcyclists or just true of those I call friends is of little consequence. The important and lasting thing is that the vehicle itself, and its transformative nature, seems to promote positivity rather than the negativity it can be so easy to fall victim to. When in each other’s company, we discuss our children, our spouses or significant others, our travels, our trials, our griefs, and joys, and not our political or religious affiliations or our resentments and social grievances.

So, as I sit here and wait to talk to my mother’s doctor, the silliness of carrying around angst of any kind seems to melt away much as it does when riding. My only concern today, right now, is smiling toward and sharing a kind word with others in the waiting room. Sometimes hardness hides hurt; sometimes we’re just so guarded we need the other person to smile first, and I kind of like being that person.

I have a friend, Quinn, who I’ve seen disarm complete strangers with kind compliments and a wide smile. It’s funny how such small gestures can lighten someone’s load and bring them joy. I’ve seen her do it on several occasions. That Quinn is 10 years old serves as a lesson to me that our perceived differences are learned; we aren’t born with them. We could all stand to be a bit more like her, a bit more concerned with smiles and seeing commonality than in identifying difference.

I’ve always disliked labels; they are an all too easy way to define someone, and too often we allow them to stop us from connecting with others. Everyone has a mother and no one wants to sit where I’m sitting now, having just sent her, fearful and fragile, to undergo a procedure with such hateful potential. As sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, we all share the desire for our loved ones to be home, healthy and happy. As motorcyclists, we just want to share the road and the experience with each other. We’re lucky—we have the bike as a commonality. I can’t help but think though that it shouldn’t take a sport to connect with people whom we may not otherwise agree with ideologically. Maya Angelou’s “Human Family” says what motorcyclists, in my experience, feel and exhibit innately. “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

When I see mom in recovery I’m going to read it to her. She’ll love it, because she lives it, and is the kindest person I will ever know. Ride safe, my friends.

 

Better Shared

The article “Better Shared” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 1/30/17.

To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with. —Mark Twain

 

As I sit down to write this, summer is over and we’re well into autumn. I try to ride all year here in eastern Pennsylvania, but from late fall until spring I have very little company on the road. Fall is a time when, on solo rides, you recall the trips of the past year. Today I was thinking about riding at the RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend this past August, and of one route in particular.

It had been a while since I’d attended the Touring Weekend and I was happy to be back helping out, meeting new people, and catching up with Christa, Florian, and the rest of the staff. I loved the journey across my home state to Bolivar, PA, although it was smoldering hot with temperatures near 100. No matter, I had four days to do nothing but ride, have fun, and talk motorcycles.

On the second day of the event I had the opportunity to ride with Yuval Naveh, who writes RoadRUNNER’s “Motorcyclist’s Guide to the Galaxy” series. Yuval is a software engineer, avid rider, and friend to everyone he meets. We were also roommates for the duration of the weekend. On this particular day we ended up in a group with three other riders and the five of us set off in the blazing sun to do the Flight 93 memorial tour. If you’ve visited the memorial in Shanksville, PA, I’m sure you found it as moving as I did. I didn’t expect to be as affected as I was; but walking on the path the plane took and reaching the viewing platform I was struck by the beauty of the place. It was hillier than I had imagined, breezy, and beautiful. I could smell summer in the air, and the wildflower scent carried on the wind.

That such obscene and inhumane ugliness could happen in such a place really affected me and I felt nothing but sadness. I heard my friend Yuval say quietly, “beautiful, very respectful,” and we spoke about the tragedy that took place there as well as others he had lived through in his native Israel, where, sadly, such things had happened more often.

 

Out on that platform overlooking the crash site I had a sense that everyone felt a similar sadness and so the smiles among strangers came easily. Everyone spoke softly, respectfully, conscious that this was a place to share and process grief for people none of us had known but whom we nonetheless hurt for. Sometimes just being in the presence of others feeling the same confusing rush of emotions is a great comfort. That’s certainly how it was for me.

When we rolled out on that bright, cloudless day, I was happy to be with our group but also thankful to have the silence inside my helmet for a while to make the transition from sadness back to the joy of the ride. I was glad to have visited the memorial and rode away moved but grateful for the day, the weather, the trip, that evening’s dinner with new friends. I felt eager to experience whatever came my way. Visiting a scene of such tragedy has a way of inviting joy, or at least making you appreciate life in a way few other things can.

A few hours later we passed an idyllic, calm lake, so we stopped for a break. It didn’t take long for us to agree that a swim was in order, so (with consent from our female companion whom we didn’t wish to offend) we stripped down and jumped in to cool off, scaring away a pair of fishermen in the process. After a few photos and some time to dry off we hit the road again.

Miles later and with a storm closing in on us, our GPS systems failed one by one. One failed to charge and the others routed us in circles. As the storm engulfed us we took refuge under a bridge for the 10 minutes it took to pass and for the sun to return. Then we were off again to find our way back home. What made this ride memorable was the range of situations and emotions the five of us (who for the most part had never met each other until that day) experienced together. We went from the excited anticipation of a day of riding, to sadness at the memorial, to quiet reflection, to the childlike joy of jumping into a lake, to getting lost and caught in a storm.

The ride reminded me of why we do this; why we ride firstly and why we seek out others to ride with secondly. It occurred to me that two things are most certainly better when shared: sadness and joy. One is to be divided, and the other to be multiplied.

 

You can never prepare for what may come your way during any ride, but that’s part of the fun. On some you find out more about yourself, on others more about those you’re riding with. Mr. Twain was right, but his sentiment can be extended. Whatever you experience in life, be it sadness or joy, is always better when shared.

 

Teammates Old and New

2016_class

DeSales University Hall of Fame Class of 2016

The article “Teammates Old and New” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 11/25/16.

A few weeks ago I received an email from the athletic department of DeSales University, which I graduated from with a degree in mathematics way back in 1987. I was to be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at a banquet in late September during alumni weekend. The news came as quite a surprise given that nearly 30 years have passed since my graduation. I ran cross-country while at DeSales and achieved some success that helped (along with the efforts of many others) establish the foundations of a program that has since become a force to be reckoned with. I am honored to have been selected, and it got me thinking about my team and the times I spent running in the woods around that idyllic Center Valley, PA, campus.

Initially, I was a bit melancholy at the thought that it was the last team I was ever on. After graduation I ran other races and dabbled in biathlons and triathlons, mud runs, rock climbing, and fun runs, but never again had that sense of team that I’d had during my college days. I missed the shared activity and nervous excitement of a long training run or upcoming meet, missed the elation after winning as a team, each doing his part and getting the job done as a unit. But then I thought about motorcycling and the ways it has given me back some of what I miss about my college running days.

When you’re on a team with someone, especially a team centered around running, you spend a lot of time side by side clocking countless miles (I calculated having ran a minimum of 6,000 over the four years I spent at DeSales) talking about life and love and, in our case, some tragic losses. You become more than just teammates and often forge bonds that last the rest of your life, which is certainly true for me.

It is the same with motorcycling. I ran a riding group with nearly 200 members for a few years and while I did I realized I felt many (more…)

To Feel Normal Again (Full Text)

The article “To Feel Normal Again” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 05/03/16.

I believe that half the trouble in the world comes from people asking ‘What have I achieved?’ rather than ‘What have I enjoyed?‘”

Walter Farley, author of The Black Stallion

I’ve always loved movies with first-person narration, one character telling a story and his thoughts about the events. I’ve quoted The Shawshank Redemption before and recently watched it again during the El Niño-inspired storm of the decade here in southeastern Pennsylvania. A favorite scene is the one in which the main character, Andy, negotiates for his crew to receive three beers each in return for some accounting work done for a guard. When others question Andy’s motives, the narrator says, “. . . me, I think he did it to feel normal again, if only for a short while.”

Winter RideThe analogy stuck with me, as so many things do, and I thought about riding and the places it takes me that have nothing to do with the stuff of daily life. Normal, for me, is that space where I am one with the task at hand and thinking of nothing else, and that’s certainly true of riding. Normal is the place where (more…)

When My Ship Comes In

Zen-Motorcyclist_DSC_3658-772x625The article “When My Ship Comes In” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 10/25/15.

One of my father’s catch phrases was “when my ship comes in.” What he really meant to say was “We don’t have the means to afford it now, but one day we will.” Mr. Bud was a Navy man who, after his discharge, worked one job for the rest of his life. He was a mechanic with forearms like Popeye from turning wrenches for a living. When you’re a child you don’t know anything about income, class, or (more…)