“Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Looking for adventure
In whatever comes our way
Gonna make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space
I like smoke and lightnin’
Heavy metal thunder
Racing in the wind
And the feeling that I’m under
Gonna make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space
Like a true nature’s child
We were born
Born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die
Born to be wild
Born to be wild”
Written by Mars Bonfire, performed by Steppenwolf.
“Firing all my guns at once.” Yep. “Gonna make it happen.” I certainly try. “Born to be wild.” Seems so. Accordingly, this crazy “Equus Asinus” crossed the Canadian border with his own brand of “heavy metal thunder” and “racing with the wind.” Okay. I confess the working title to this little story was “Unbridled Spirit” then became “Flight of the Silver Wing.” But I got accused of being “lofty” recently, so I can’t have that. “Lofty” is easily the most unusual term ever applied to me. Wild Ass International it is. Firing all my guns at once is the seed for another blog topic to come soon. I have one speed. It shows an “O” on my brain control panel. Most of my life I thought that meant “On.” Nope. It’s “Overdrive!”
Over the last four days I suppose I was a little on the wild side. I rode 816 miles to Canada and back on my Honda Silver Wing to visit my daughter Valerie and her family. Not 815 and not 817. 816. Why? Because I could. From a visual and especially experiential point of view, my spirit was truly unbridled as I roared wide open on the highway, cruising speed–average of 85 mph, top speed 102. It’s not a joke.
“I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair”– Evel Knievel. He is right. There’s something about it. Something so blasted therapeutic. An unmatched sense of freedom with a healthy dash of danger. Hmmm. Healthy dash of danger. Did I just create an oxymoron? But it’s so true. You may quote me. I love the thrill of riding. I’ve told many friends that riding a motorcycle makes even a trip to the grocery store a vacation. It does. I can’t explain it.
I worked on getting my bike ready for cross-country all winter. Changed the windshield, got a large top-case trunk, a tattoo, a wallet with a chain on it, a genuine sheepskin anti-monkey butt gel seat pad, a doo rag just like Kaptain Robbie Knievel’s, a throttle rocker gadget to keep my throttle twisting hand awake, new riding boots to cover my ankles and provide great tread for backing up, a full check out at the Honda dealer, and my very own “The Donkey” helmet. Almost all of that is true. Well, it all is true from a certain point of view. Oh. “Monkey butt” is a common biker condition the cowboys used to call “saddle sores.” Think “baboon rear end” and you’ve got it. TMI? Sorry. I thought I heard you ask. I avoided the sad state of affairs having to do with a bright red simian posterior. I know you worry about me.
No, I would not actually ride on the highway dressed like that photo. I probably wouldn’t go anywhere dressed like that unless there was a triple-dog-dare involved. And I don’t really carry that wallet with a chain. Then again…
I started my journey at home in Elmhurst, Illinois. Rode to Schererville, Indiana and watched one of grandson Brayden’s baseball games. My first 50 miles. Next up was a night ride…my first long distance one in the dark. I rode from Northwest Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Once I broke the gravitational pull of Chicagoland, it was dark and peaceful. Quiet and even eerie at times. Almost like the “explode into space” from “Born to be Wild.” Just me and a few 18-wheelers. We had an understanding. I get the left lane.
I’ve ridden motorcycles since high school, and not always as they were intended to be ridden. This Honda Silver Wing is easily the best engineered one I’ve ever owned. While I wouldn’t try ramp-to-ramp jumping over a caged tiger, Coke Zero trucks, or an old rusted pickup on it, this is a great bike. Evel Knievel said, “Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it.” Yes sir! My bike wasn’t built to be airborne. But perfect balance, very comfortable, nimble, stable, quick, practical, quiet (sorry, Harley fans…I don’t need that trademark noise to have fun!) and an absolute blast on two wheels. So different from a few years ago when son Ben and I rode our bikes to the Honda Hoot in Knoxville. On the bike I had then, a bright yellow Honda Nighthawk 750, I prayed to catch every red light so I could stand up for a few seconds. So uncomfortable. And Ben’s crotch rocket was worse.
The night ride was very exciting and very cold! I took along two coats…one a summer Honda racing jacket padded for crash purposes but also perforated to let the wind flow through. Fine when it’s hot and I’m moving. It wasn’t hot. I also took my winter weight jacket.
The bike’s combined storage space under the seat and in the top case is actually comparable to my Mustang’s trunk. Not really, but close. Plenty of room. Yet even my winter weight jacket wasn’t enough. Chilled to the bone after the first two of a four-hour ride. Less fun but still incredible adventure! Stopped for gas and something to drink. I sat outside with a very manly Dr. Pepper 10, marketed to men with not one utterance of the word “diet” on the bottle. We manly men don’t diet after all. Took one drink of the frosty liquid and quickly realized increased shivering was not an award for my biking bravery. Stuck it in my trunk. Did you know they originally advertised Dr. Pepper as a hot or cold drink? The label looked like a clock face and said “10, 2, and 4.” So I needed to heat up my Dr. Pepper 10. The sweet chemicals may have exploded, taking out the hot dog roller grill section at the Speedway station, sending corn dogs flying like little wiener war missiles. Many would cry. For the good of all, I drank it cold.
Back on the road. Just so you know, I am a safe rider. I took my advice from an unusual source. “Riding a motorcycle on today’s highways, you have to ride in a very defensive manner. You have to be a good rider and you have to have both hands and both feet on the controls at all times.” – Evel Knievel.
Amen, Mr. Knievel. I’ll follow your lead. I got to my Kalamazoo hotel around midnight. And promptly turned on the heat.
Got up early for the remaining 3-1/2 hours or so to Sarnia, Ontario. Told the helmet story to a couple of admirers at the Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar. What…you don’t know the helmet story? Google Valentino Rossi “The Donkey” helmet. Great story. The helmet suits me. And it’s bright and colorful. All about visibility on the bike. Back on the wide open road, great Michigan scenery, but still so cold! Probably low 40’s. Hung out in a gas station for a half hour drinking hot chocolate.
Important! Regarding sneezing while wearing a helmet….don’t.
Crossing the border is always interesting. It’s usually more difficult to get back into the USA than to get into Canada. I got to Port Huron, Michigan, directly across from Sarnia, Ontario where Valerie’s family lives. There’s a toll booth, then a big bridge, then the border. I paid the toll and started to head for the bridge. The Americans stopped me! Never happened before. Two armed guards stood directly in my path with the universal nonverbal “Stop” hand signal. They seemed a bit incredulous about the whole thing, looking at me, my bike, my donkey helmet, my sanity. Asked lots of questions about my trip, why I was riding, where I was going, etc. Made me feel a little dangerous. I liked it. Over the beautiful bridge to the Canadian border. The Canadian agent asked me to de-helmet, gave me a quick study, asked if I had any machine guns in my top case, and let me go.
I headed straight to Valerie’s school to attend a World Issues Fair she was directing. This was an extra-special bonus for me…to get to actually enter Valerie’s world. She has told me stories of her students and I was going to get to meet them. I shivered for an hour though, thawing out while walking around with her as she heard her 6th grade students present their individual projects on child abuse, world hunger, water pollution, endangered animals, and micro finance (that one surprised me coming out of a 6th grader!).
I wound up wanting to bring one young man home with me. Valerie teaches in a somewhat underprivileged school district. One of her students’ father is in prison, she told me later. He presented his project well, but I could tell by how he responded to me…his teacher’s father…that he missed his dad. I connected with that kid as I often do. So easy to empathize with the ones who have father issues. I couldn’t bring this little guy home but I am planning to look into becoming a Big Brother. That’s him below.
Once at Valerie & Tim’s house, a different kind of fun began! My unbridled spirit quickly began receiving unbridled love from three very special kiddos, my daughter, and my son-in-law. I sure don’t see these five enough, but when the kids see me, the reception I’m given humbles and delights me. Pure, unrestrained, unconditional love. It is so very sweet. They actually celebrate! “Hoogas” (my word for hugs) and “I love you’s” flying everywhere. Soul balm. Thank you, Bryce, Austin, and Grace. We had a great time…shooting air guns, riding on my bike, going to the movies, and playing video games. I even won one. Sorry, Austin. Thanks for being a good sport! I love being a granddad.
I had a super time with Tim, Valerie, Bryce, Austin, and Grace. Valerie even made my favorite cake…the renowned family “Milky Way” cake constructed using molten Milky Way candy bars. Except in Canada, where you can’t actually buy Milky Way bars. No, I’m not kidding. The candy thing is very intriguing. Same companies mostly…Nestle, Mars, Cadbury, but lots of different candy bars. And no stinkin’ Milky Ways. She made do with the Canadian “Mars Bar” which is very similar to our beloved Milky Way. I’ve been fascinated with subtle differences between our two countries. The candy thing baffles me and I love to bring home something from there I can’t buy here…giant, and I do mean giant, Mr. Freeze pops. These things are about the size of one of Gracie’s legs. I give ’em to the kids and their core temperature drops ten degrees. I love them too. The kids and the freeze pops.
And then there’s McDonald’s Canada. On one of our rides, Gracie and I went to McDonald’s so she could get a Happy Meal. Last trip, she carefully explained to me that “Happy Meals don’t always make you happy, Grandad.” Awestruck by her matter-of-fact yet profound observation, I asked why. Evidently she made that discovery when she did not receive the exact toy she required in her box on her last trip. Of course. This time, moderated happiness. At McDonald’s, I ordered poutine. Right off the menu. French fries wallowing in brown gravy with cheese curds. A Canadian delicacy so popular they sell them at McDonald’s. I had to get those to offset the damage I had done with the Dr. Pepper 10. Another note…poutine requires a fork. Just a friendly head’s up from one who knows.
I forced myself back on the bike late Sunday afternoon. I left Valerie’s with my love tank filled to overflowing. Getting back into the USA was a breeze. I rode four hours and stopped again in Kalamazoo. The next morning, more helmet stories at breakfast and I headed for home. Only one scare on the entire trip. It happened in Indiana about 50 miles from home. I hit a huge pothole after just dodging one right before it…road debris and potholes are among the greatest dangers on a bike. I got a huge jolt and my new windshield cracked. No fall. No flat tire. Angels. I like ’em.
The return trip was warm and comfortable. Great riding weather.
Last weekend, I got my motor running. Headed out on the highway. Raced with wind. Fired all my guns. Exploded into space. Made it happen. And got loved for just who I am, an equus asinus on two legs. Lots of good think time. And I sang as I rode. One song from the old “Evel Knievel” movie starring George Hamilton. I always sing that same song when I ride any distance. “It’s called, “I Do What I Please” by Bradford Craig.
“You say maybe I’m crazy
I say “Maybe so”.
Who cares whether you’re out to lunch and not my friend,
when you go?
So I do what I please
Hang it out in a breeze,
I just do what I please with the greatest of ease
I do what I please
I just do what I please
Ain’t got no R.S.V.P.
Like the birds and the bees (If I likes what I sees)
I do what I please.”
What’s up next? Hmmm. No acting roles in my immediate future. I think I’ll try boxing. Why not? If George Foreman can do it, so can I! One last word from the cycle sage Evel Knievel, “If you don’t know pain and trouble, you’re in sad shape. They make you appreciate life.”