Back in the '60's Honda had a jingle "You meet the nicest people on a Honda." Well there is something about riding on two wheels that attracts the attention of others.
I often ride alone and at a recent rest stop in Montana, a trucker came up to talk with me when Tim Looney rides up on his 1955 Military Issue Royal Enfield motorcycle. As the pictures shows, there is a reason why Montana is called "Big Sky Country." Absolutely drop dead gorgeous! I often stop for a nature break and just to get off my bike and stretch out a bit. Some of my days on my recent 6,000 mile trek across the United States, kept me glued to my m/c seat for as many as twelve hours - some people think "how can anyone sit on a bike that long?" The answers are: a) take breaks often b) the exhilaration of riding on two wheels and c) the liberating feeling of accomplishment. Every day when I get off my bike safely, I have thoughts of thanks and gratitude for my Higher Power keeping me safe. There's a lot to go wrong on a bike and I'm not talking mechanical but certainly it's up there on the list. The top perils are objects flying off vehicles - retread tires off trucks. buckets flying out of the back of a pickup and four legged animals running in front of you.
BUT the "rush" outweighs the "risk" for me. I know I'm a little on the manic side but somehow my HP gave me this gift to really embrace life. I think the other part of the equation is seeing one too many people I knew get sick and die or get killed that I'm focused on keeping a few hundred feet in front of the angel of death as long as I can. I'm not obsessed about dying but really do focus on the passion of living - survival is a natural instinct for humans and animals alike - it's one of those inert built in features our Creator included in the design of being a living organism.
I used my FLIP video camera to interview Tim - what a kick! As I'm asking his last name and not getting it, Tim uses his index finger and uses it to draw imaginary circles around his ear to convey to me that he's nuts! But not really nuts and I'll tell you why . . .
Tim is a retired printer. As our world becomes smaller, it turns out Tim was a part of one of our suppliers - The Drum Line that does a lot of printed notebooks and writing pads in Arkansas.
Tim's in his early sixties and has been riding all his life. His 1955 British Royal Enfield is really a 1999 reproduction. You see, when Britian dominated or controlled India as one of it's colonies, there was a production line in that country making these bikes. When India gained it's independence, it inherited the Royal Enfield factory and production line. So the folks in India just used the existing infrastructure to keep making these bikes the same way they were made in the fifties.
Now, modern motorcycles are made to not breakdown and to feature things like anti lock brakes and fuel injection to keep you humming down the road and safe. Not so with the Royal Enfield. It's a single cylinder 500cc engine with a chain drive instead of a drive shaft, like my BMW K75.
My cruising speed through the Montana Highways is, well, I don't want to say but Tim cruises at 60 miles an hour. He does carry a cell phone but only turns it one once a week because he promised his daughter he would. He has rebuilt every part of the bike and knows what to do when it breaks. He's rebuilt the transmission and engine - he knows how to find top dead center to adjust the valves and timing. So maybe Tim looks like a Looney but he is not. He carries spare military green gas and oil cans on his bike. The British bikes are notorious for throwing oil and Tim's is no exception. It features a Lucas electrical system, which Tim refers to as the "Darth Vader or Dark Side" electrical system - they're notorious for shorting out and such.
But no matter where Tim has been, when the bike breaks, he knows what to do. One day the rear wheel stopped turning - the wheel bearing seized up. He didn't freak out nor did he call Triple A. Tim was in the middle of no place, so what did he do?
He put his bike on the centerstand, removed the rear wheel and then hitched a ride into the nearest town and got lucky by finding a shop that just happened to have a wheel bearing that would replace his existing. Then he was back on the road again. One other fact - modern cars and bikes are fuel injected - this means they'll perform well in most altitudes. When Tim travels over mountain passes such as the Rockies or Oregon Cascades, he has to reset his Carburetor just so he can make it through the pass.
You won't see Tim at the Sturgis rally - "it's not like it used to be," says Tim. Today it's just a bunch of yuppies and wannabies who trailer their bikes and stay in high priced hotels just so they can tool around on their bikes and then put them back on their trailers and take them home. That's not a direct quote but sums up in a nutshell his thoughts on Sturgis.
Instead, you may see Tim tootling around on secondary roads as he makes his way back to Arkansas, using his National Parks pass to camp along the way. Tim's the real deal. He's self-sufficient and reminds me of the Cowboy who with his horse is able to survive the various elements of life and land.
About an hour has passed - I look at my watch and need to say goodbye - I'm expected back home. My wife, Annie has been gracious enough to let me take my epic voyage in the middle of my life. I'm glad I'm not riding the Royal Enfield, as cool as it looks. I'm grateful that I've got my magic carpet that will wisk me home to safety, one leg at a time.
I learned on my trip that there definitely is more out there than just work, work, work. Flip side, without WWW there would have been no trip, trip trip!