A teaser on the cover of an old Cycle magazine from April, 1973 caught my eye, about touring. Now 43 years ago is a long time for many of us, but the thrill of the open road that existed then still exists today. Just the engine size, packing ability, and cost to travel have exceeded the grasp of many. But for these two Cycle editors, it was a 4400 mile ride from New York City to Los Angeles via Portland, Oregon taking all of two weeks. No big deal you say, maybe to you on your 1800cc Gold Wing, but theses two rode on a Honda CB 450, and a Benelli 650. How many even know what a Benelli was? And they made it, doing things then that no one, no way would put up with today. Pre-o-ring chains that had to be lubed and adjusted every 300-500 miles, or sometimes twice per day. Only BMW at the time offered the shaft drive. No windshields, a true wind in your face adventure, no saddle bags, just a duffle bag packed correctly, and fill ups every 80-100 miles based on weather conditions. Add in tires that wore out during the ride, a service of both bikes was needed during the trip, read that scheduled service, and today’s touring is much different. But to a recently graduated from high school Honda rider himself, on a 1972 CB 350, this article was everything, and today 43 years later still is.
Bikes, chain life, tire life, and engine size may have changed, but the same heart for touring exists today. And in many ways I tour the same. I still don’t like windshields, cars have them. I have made the move to bags for Theresa and I, removable for when not touring, and my engine size on biggest bike is 1050, our most recent touring bike all of 800 cc, which draws some reaction while on the road from half ton Harleys, Wings, BMW’s, and others who fear the wind in their face, and cannot leave home without taking home with them. But these men on their ride almost put me in a trance for the hour I sat reading it, over and over, for I have ridden in New York City, been rained on in the Shenandoah Valley, taken old US 24 across Kansas, and experienced loss of power at over 10,000’ in Colorado. I have ridden Highway 1 in California, and in Oregon and Washington where it becomes US 101. I knew the roads they rode on, and the pictures reminded me of back roads, old cafes, motels before the chains took over, and once again emphasized the relationship between man and machine, and man and the road. An American Crossing the article was titled, on a Japanese and an Italian motorcycle, no luggage, no windshields, and a lot of fun. I promise you, the new 2016 Thruxton R press bike in my garage is getting ridden today. Yes it is 1200 cc, but with no windshield, I cannot wait to feel the wind in my face, to stop for gas every 120 miles, and to have an American crossing of my own. Without leaving the state...time getting to know the machine and more about myself.
Now I ride enough press bikes so that when I see that bike, the exact one I have ridden tested, I can tell if they actually rode it or not. And for how far and how. It takes time to get to know your ride, that same seat that feels good for 50 miles can make you hate the bike after 100. Or get used to it by the end of a 500 mile day. While others spend an hour packing their bike for the day, when alone my old duffle bag, no wider than the seat, is two bungees away from the 100 mile ride to breakfast. Last week a three day ride of 1100 miles was done without incident on a 2017 Tiger XCx, comfortably and having to never exceed 119 mph. And averaging over 45 mpg for the trip. I find the more seat time I get with a bike, the more we build a relationship, I find what the bike can do , and what I can do, or shouldn’t. A trust begins, and when the low fuel light comes on, I don’t panic, for I know how far I can go on reserve and have planned for it. Using food stops and gas stops to visit with others and making new friends as I ride. An occasional stop for pictures, and back on the road, the reason I took the trip, to ride. A time of fellowship, a time of no phones, of choosing roads sans traffic, they are out there if you look, and of stopping when I want, eating where I want, and looking out while eating at my motorcycle, and knowing it is just the two of us, everything I need is on it, and nothing I don’t. These two guys knew that back in 1973, how many still know that today?
When someone tells me they own a motorcycle, I remark I ride. When I meet those who attend church only, and tell me “I’m a Christian,” I tell them I live the life. When trying to be impressed by someone who has superior Bible knowledge, I remark “I know the author.” And there is a difference, for God is real in my life. More than a memory verse, he is with me always, and reading the article reminded me of how Jesus loved to travel, how he spent his entire life on the road. And why the best testimonies are made there, and at times that aren’t special, but he makes special. A ride through the Loess Hills in Iowa, and you can see God’s handiwork, of hills made from blowing dust. Another ride on Trail Ridge Road at 11,000’, and you can see his majesty. An occasional small town in Nebraska, and you wonder how they get by, and then realize the same God who lives in big cities lives there too. Where churches still dominate the town, and all ages are welcome. Where in the south a few cars may fill the parking lot, while in Orange County thousands of cars will gather for church. But how many cars is he in when they leave? Was the hour destination the relationship with God all they know? Do they endure the teaching of scripture, or do their lives reflect it? When I hear from a man “been in church over 30 years,” I know the key element, the spirit is missing from his life. That his spiritual crossing has never occurred, maybe not by choice, but by lack of desire. Who is this Jesus? may never change his heart, but his religion will or has. Safe and secure behind the windshield known as the church, he never sees the scriptures come alive, he never meets the challenge of life with God, and he needs Jesus, not knowing what he has is not all there is.
Time spent riding has allowed me more time in the Lord. Some are taught to find a prayer closet, dude who lives in a closet? Some evangelize by inviting people to church, Jesus never did, he took the church to them. On the road. Some study to find themselves approved, yet fail the test in the face of adversity. There are times I look back on when I had more faith than knowledge, and faith got me through, the knowledge only confused the issue. How many times have you needed a hug, and got quoted scripture instead? How many times were you hungry and not fed? Thirsty and not given a drink? Ever been lonely, only to find yourself in a crowd who won’t talk to you, after church? Or been upset when your new Easter outfit got dirty, while the guy next to you is just happy to have shoes? How personal is Jesus in your life? Does it show? Do you have to tell me you are a Christian? And do I doubt it if you profess to be one? Jesus told us love is what separates us from the unsaved, not clothes, not the size of your church, not your memory verse log, or even how many times you read through the Bible, just to say you did it. Today try something different, go out and enjoy the day. And as you go, see Jesus in those you meet. Smile awhile, and give your face a rest. Leave the Bible home, he has written his word on your heart. Show love, don’t preach it, for long after your words are forgotten, your actions won’t be. Make your day an American crossing, just you and Jesus, and enjoy the ride. As he wants you to. See more of him up close than any course can offer, see his creation come alive, and find yourself renewed in the spirit. God rested after 6 days, he toured what he had created. Rest and reflect, worshipping the God of love who saved you. Personally, on the road. Jesus is everything you need, and nothing you don’t. How far you venture out and trust him will show how much trust you have for him. How many conversations at a diner in your church clothes have you been part of with strangers? Yet on my rides, God sends them my way to share....for it is true, Jesus and motorcycles, it just don’t get any better. Ride and share today...getting more religion and enjoying less? if you need to sit somewhere sit where you are comfortable.
love with compassion,