Too often we define a trip as going from point A to point B. The goal being to get from one place to the other as quickly as possible. But, a journey is all about what is along the way.
This is one reason I dislike traveling on freeways. You go too fast. You spend most of your time focused on the road and going around trucks. The vast world around you is no more than a blurred landscape sliding by your car window.
I like US Highways, state routes and little country roads–farm to market roads. They are slower, more interesting, quieter. I also prefer to travel by motorcycle. The car takes you out of the environment and detaches you from what you might see. On a motorcycle, you are IN the environment. You see, smell, hear, feel, everything around you. That’s important in a journey.
When you stop for fuel or a stretch, other motorcyclists are automatically friends. The usual greetings involve your destination, your routes, what you might have seen. Language, ethnic, and nationality barriers disappear as you compare maps or statistics of your rides.
But, when you are riding, you are alone. Alone to absorb the views, the smells, the heat, the cold, rain and hail. To experience. You aren’t detached. You aren’t separated from the experience, you’re part of it.
I like passing through small towns, sometimes making a stop at a local cafe filled with local people. I enjoy eavesdropping on the conversations about family, work, crops, weather. Sometimes, I just invite myself into a group and listen to their stories. They are people. Part of the landscape. It’s amazing how often folks welcome your participation.
No matter how desolate and uninteresting some places may seem, someone lives there. Someone makes a home, works, raises a family, finds value in that place.
Some places are surprisingly beautiful. Bonneville Salt Flats qualifies. The first view arriving from the west enthralls. Intense white of the vast flats, the azure blue of the little lakes, the brown of the distant mountains. Stunning. And, yes, they are flat. The Flats are so large, you can stand out in the middle and I swear you can see the curvature of the earth.
Yes, it’s salt. A result of a natural process of the seasons that saturate the ground, exact the salt, and dry out to the huge flat basin. And, yes, it is fun to go fast on it.
I live most of my days at about 2,600 feet elevation. I just spent a few days riding roads that didn’t drop below 5,000 feet elevation. How amazing is that? The terrain changed constantly from desolate desert, dry lakes, and long, straight, stretches of road, to twisty routes up a couple of thousand feet to a pass, and then back down again to huge basins that were once the bottoms of shallow inland seas. The Great Basin.
There was a storm. Thunder, lightning, rain, and hail. I had no shelter, so I just experienced it. I was in the moment and rode through it. What else can you do? I was dry again in a few minutes.
You find these things in the journey. The small delays, the inconveniences. They happen. Like the time I saw thousands of little white wooly clouds spread across a plain of sage and cheat grass. I slowed. Out on the plain were two old style sheepherder’s wagons. No longer pulled by horses, but by pickup trucks. The sheep men still used dogs and cared for their bands. I paused while a small part of the flock got ushered away from the road. I traveled on.
It does no good to get frustrated, the sheep are in no hurry. It’s all part of the journey.
But, it’s always good to come home. Home, where you can recharge and review the experience. Where you can share it with family and friends. Most do not understand the depth of the experience, or the impact it had on you. But that’s okay. You experienced it. The journey.
It’s yours to keep.