13 Days Until I head off to Alaska: Motorcycle Riding as a Spiritual Experience.

For me, motorcycle riding is a spiritual experience. I don’t plan it out, it just naturally happens. In less than two miles of hitting the countryside a feeling of gratitude comes over me. Gratitude for the countryside I’m riding through – whether plain or magnificent – and gratitude for the things in my life: family, friends, my job, my students, and of course Big Red, my Harley. I don’t wait on the feelings to come, I don’t anticipate them, or start them off with a little prompting. They just naturally descend on me like the satiny dew that covers the morning grass. Did the grass conjure the dew up? Was it waiting for it? Nah, it just appeared when the grass wasn’t looking, leaving one blade to say to the other: “Hey, guess what’s back?”

Once the gratitude arrives I start expanding it to things I see and smell: the fresh mowed grass, the colors of the sky, the drifting oyster colored clouds that sometimes remind me of Eeyore, that old leaning barn with the rusted tin roof, the brown horses grazing in the buttercups, the crimson clover looking like strawberries on a stick, amidst the uncut roadside wildflowers. Then I start praying for family and friends, the ones I like and the ones that have really pissed me off recently. Fortunately, there’s not too many of the latter. Lovingkindness has to travel down both sides of any divided highway. Then I just center into riding. Sometimes it’s like the bike is standing still and the road is rushing underneath, the trees running beside me on their tiny, spindly legs. Other times, I’m accelerating and listening to the staccato thunder of the engine, or I’m leaning into curves trying to find that sweet perfect balance of speed, gear, lane location and leaning. Motorcycles will teach you, or else you’ll fall off them, that the only way through curves and problems is by leaning into them. It’s an act of faith to lean into them, and coming out on the other side is a gift of grace.

A Cold, Healing, Heartful Ride

At dusk, riding home on Big Red, the alluring scent of the purple wisteria, mingling with the aroma of the wood fires almost made me dizzy. The skyline wore a peach-apricot glow with cloudless brilliant blue above. The sun chased alongside me through the trees. A train passed under the evening rising mist. It was cold but I didn’t care. The sunlight was retreating and cool shadows and fog had started to claim the road. The cars had their lights on as they hurried toward the future. I was fine riding through the present.

I’d left home this morning not quite realizing how cold it was. It was 41 degrees (5 Celsius). I’d forgotten to charge the batteries on my heated gloves so my hands were freezing. I had to hunker down at the Hardees in Adairsville and warm my hands and soul with some coffee. My heart was already warmed from the friction of gratitude rushing through me. Away from the music and news reports, enveloped by nature and especially the newly blooming dogwoods, it’s really hard for a boy not to feel grateful on a motorcycle. Even if it’s cold.

Last Rides. When Will Yours Be? Alaska Trip Planning

Last Rides. When Will Yours Be? Alaska Road Trip Planning.

Just in the last week there have been 4 motorcycle wrecks in this area, caused by drivers not paying attention. No one died, yet, but one fellow lost a leg and things are not looking well for another.

Whenever I ride I do think that this might be my last one. I’m not morbid about things, if anything it helps me to practice gratitude and stay in the here and now. I pray for folks and give thanks as I ride through the beautiful countrysides.

It’s 46 days until I head off on my trip to Alaska. I’m starting to get more excited and more nervous.

You can see my rough trip plan mapped out here: http://www.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm?user=kierk1&tripid=861555

I’ve started gathering up the things I want and will need. Too early to start collecting bags of peanuts, sticks of beef jerky and granola bars though. I’m working on the bigger items now.

I’m waiting on my passport. It needed to be renewed and I sent it off in February only to have them send me back my photo and tell me it wasn’t correct. I had my glasses on.

Bought a new tent. Picked a Marmot Tungsten 1person Tent. Got good reviews and looked light and easy to set up, with extra space to throw my pack in. I’d been using a 3 person tent for a few years. Big enough to accommodate my stuff and any girlfriend’s. But the girlfriend’s gone, bless her heart, and I need to travel as light as I can.

Urban Survival Gear X-6 Tactical Flashlight, a great flashlight, waterproof and has self-defense aspects. You can blind someone, strobe light them or wop them over the head (Japanese kubotan) if they won’t leave you alone. Oh, and you can see things really well with it.

I also got a new knife, a Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ with an SOS kit. It’s the biggest knife they make and has 33 functions on it, though I’m not sure I’ll need the fish scaler. The SOS kit has everything you need including, matches, a mirror, and an international distress signal guide. It’s even got a compass in case I get lost and the odds of that are high! (Remember on my last cross country trip I crossed the Mississippi River 5 times just on the way to California?)

I also treated myself to a Saddleback laptop bag. It can hold my tablet (Asus) and keyboard and fits nicely into my saddlebag.

I’m working on my route. Interstates are allowed on this trip. So far my rough plans include heading to Nashville, then Champaign, Illinois, Bloomington-Utica-Rockford, then Madison, Wisconsin, then Minneapolis, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota. Even I can’t miss North Dakota!  That will be about 1300 miles and should take an easy 4 days. But I’m open to alternatives. Might want to see Fond du Lac, Wisconsin again, where I taught for 4 years and see the house for the homeless where I used to volunteer.

No GPS for me. I like the adventures that come with getting lost. And getting lost I most assuredly will.