The title for this post just came to me one day last week while I was writing in a coffee shop. I realized only later that it was part of the original title to The Hobbit, one of my favorite books. It’s hard to believe that Tolkien published it as long ago as 1937. Another favorite, not nearly as epic, yet every bit as wonderful a read is The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, which I read nearly every Halloween.
Bilbo Baggins and Harvey Swick both go on their own particular adventures and each book takes you to a place so far from today that you get lost there for the time you spend reading. It occurred to me that motorcycling is like reading a great book, for the time you spend riding the real world ceases to exist. You can get really close to that elusive thing, maybe you can’t name it necessarily but you can ride out in search of it, let it wash over you and try and make sense of it. When you get back you’re not always sure what you’ve experienced but you know it was more than just the roads you traveled; like a dream you wake from that comes back to you in bits and pieces. It’s good and real and necessary to sometimes go just for the sake of going and to find the reasons on the road.
What you really want is to punch a whole in the everyday world when nobody is looking and slip outside (or inside) for a few hours to remind yourself what childhood feels like; to experience some wonder in a place of your own creation where such wonder isn’t something you can buy a ticket to. No, this wonder you create as you go.
Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.” I love that thought and love to indulge in that fantasy of escapism; but I realize that, for now at least, there is work to be done, bills to be paid, responsibilities to be kept. So, while I may not experience adventure on the scale of Swick, Baggins, or Ishmael, riding does let me taste of the fruit of adventure, even if it’s just a road I’ve not been down, a ride alongside a new friend, or one of those indescribably exciting rides in foul weather. I always know I’ve experienced a small part of what bonds all adventurers, travelers, seekers, and motorcyclists. I always know I’ve been there and back again.