On July 26, I was invited to give a talk at Bobs BMW Motorcycles in Jessup, Md about my time on the Cannon Ball Centennial Ride which I took part in from Dodge City, Kansas to Battery Park, New York, New York. A long time family friend, Dr. Garret Hyde, offered to record it.
I feel terribly self conscious about this. Now, gritting my teeth with trepidation, I am making the videos of the presentation available.
It's a one hour presentation divided into 5 parts.
I worked on the presentation until nearly 2AM the previous night and as a result did not have a chance to give it a dry run through. So this was done cold-turkey.
After the fact, I realized there were so many themes I wanted to tie together which weren't tied together to the degree I would really have preferred.
During the ride, talking to Gary McKechnie who created a wonderful series of blog entries about the ride along with companion videos (my bike can be seen in a couple), I mentioned that I thought that what actually happens on a ride, during an event, or a time in life, is far less important than what it means. What can we learn from what we are seeing?
I pre-occupied myself with this thought as I rode across the country with a diverse group of people from backgrounds so different than my own.
Of course, any ride involves thoughts of risk. The risk of falling. The risk of injury. But there are other risks and how we respond to those risks will determine if what we have is just another ride or maybe a great adventure.
The focus of the ride for most was the story of Cannon Ball Baker and what he accomplished 100 years ago in taking a 7 hp Indian motorcycle, which at that time was little more than an over-glorified bicycle with a motor, across the country on a record breaking run. It was a great accomplishment if one considers the hardships he had to endure covering so much distance across a largely unimproved country. There's the old saying that, "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." But there is also another perspective that makes history even more personally relevant. As times change and "new normals" arise we have found ourselves in an era where it's often considered "too dangerous" to take any risks let alone ride a motorcycle across the country, even given all the safety equipment and other gear we now have available to us. We live in an age ruled by fear. "Motorcycles are too dangerous." many say. There are those who would like to see the driver removed from cars "for safety". Looking back and hearing these stories of so long ago reminds us of what we were once capable of, of how we used to dream much bigger dreams, and how we did not shy away from those dreams for fear of the risks involved. There was a time when people looked to the moon and dreamed of going there.
There were also the stories of these riders 100 years later, which for me were in many ways more inspiring. Their stories are worthy of a good telling as well. There were champion racers. There were adventurers who had ridden motorcycles on every contintent. There were those from industry. Listening to a few stories, I was amazed to hear the kinds of challenges and adversity these men have endured and overcome. Accidents, pain, or life threatening injuries did not dampen their spirit. At each point, when they fell, they got up again and continued on. After listening to some of these stories, I felt a little self-conscious thinking about the little challenges I've faced and the toll they've taken on me.
There was also the theme of age. At 46 years old, I was one of the youngest members of the ride. Watching these riders, one a grandmother on a GSXR 750 no less, was an inspiration. I have often commented about how old I feel. I've always felt old. I've listened to 21 year olds tell me they feel old. I've even wondered how many more times I would be able to go cross country. Then I join these riders across the country and see what they can do and suddenly I don't feel so old. I feel embarrassed.
Why do we feel old? It dawned on me that we cannot imagine how we are going to feel tomorrow. We only know how we felt yesterday, what we used to be able to do, and compare it to today. Tomorrow is an unknown so of course we feel "older" than we ever have. A big theme for me from this trip was not to fall into the trap that dreams die with age. As long as we are breathing we can still strive and seek as long as we do not yield to the inconvenience of age.
And finally, "There's something about motorcycle people." she said early in the trip and that observation became a theme of its own. Once the helmets are on and the kickstands are up, we are all just motorcyclists and there's something about that regardless of whether you are famous race winner, a titan of motorcycle industry, or just a random stranger, the motorcycle and what it means to us all brings us together in a way that few things in life do.