Motorcycles and Pursuit of Happiness

If you read my last entry in the Lifestyle Journal, I talked about what the IVY Lifestyle means to me.  About the freedom to live your life the way you want to live it.  To experience the things that make you happy.  For me, there’s no better example of that than riding a motorcycle. 

It was February 2011, it was cold as I could ever remember and I was hours-deep into a YouTube rabbit hole watching motorcycle videos.  “This is my calling,” I thought to myself “I’m going to, no, scratch that, I NEED to buy a motorcycle.” 

As soon as the snow melted and I was actually able to go outside without the top layer of my skin turning to a paper-thin layer of ice, I signed up for motorcycle training. 

To this point in my life, I’d driven a motorcycle a total number of one time, and  that one time didn’t end so well.  I was at a Thanksgiving dinner and I was given the opportunity to ride a motorcycle and the only pre-moto ride advice I was given was “don’t worry about it, if you can drive a stick shift and ride a bike, riding a motorcycle is a piece of cake.”  So I hopped on and no less than 2 minutes later I was sitting in a ditch and the bike was still riding down the road without me. 

If a motorcycle is a steel version of a horse, then like a horse, if you fall off, you gotta get back on.  For me, getting back on took place just over 5 years later, but it did happen.

I was going through a lot in the winter of 2011.  Not just the struggles of surviving another brutally cold and dark Minnesota winter, but personal stuff.  The kind of stuff that has you questioning what’s your purpose?  What’s your direction? Is anything that I’m doing really making me happy, or am I just living one day at a time to hopefully make it to a safe and comfortable retirement? 

Was a motorcycle going to give me all the answers I was looking for?  Surely I couldn’t know that on my first “closed course class,” but the first time I shifted from 1st gear to 2nd, something in me definitely clicked.  Although I was only riding 15mph in a wide open parking lot in a small Minneapolis suburb, my mind was already dreaming of open roads and the freedom that would come along with it. 

One month later I was the proud owner of a stock 1981 BMW r65 and two months after that, I was doing exactly what I had dreamed of in that roped off parking lot; a road trip on a motorcycle.  Just me, a tent, and my bike. 

(2011: Fist solo motorcycle trip - Minneapolis to Chicago to Green Bay)

I’ve taken a solo trip every year since (I missed one year due to a broken wrist) and each trip has taught me something new. 

(2016: hard to pull a clutch with a broken wrist)

Whether it be something about myself; when it’s just you the open road and time, your mind has the ability to go places and think through things over and over again until you work your way through it.  I cherish these times every summer.  The opportunity to live on my own schedule, to wake up, go to sleep and eat when I want to.  This is my yoga.  This is my church. 

It’s taught me things about this great country of ours; the diversity and beauty is far and wide.  I love traveling by plane, but it’s not until you are cruising through the mountains of Montana, the vast open fields of Iowa, or the bayou in New Orleans on a motorcycle with nothing but open air around you, do you really get a sense of the greatness that makes up the United States of America.

It has also showed me how much all of us, no matter our background, religion, race or any other “box” we are constantly categorized in, really have in common.  I could go on and on about the people I’ve met, but in order to keep your attention and this entry somewhat brief, I will give two examples. 

The first happened on my very first trip.  My motorcycle broke down in the middle of nowheresville-Wisconsin and I was about 5 minutes from calling my parents to come pick me up when 1 of the 150 people that lived in this small town picked up on my distress, asked me if he could help and proceeded to spend the next hour and half driving me around to all of his friend’s houses looking for the exact metric wrench I needed to pop the gear box open and then bought me some gear oil to fill it up. 

The second example was when I drove from Minneapolis to New Orleans along side the Mississippi river.  I was taking a nap on a bench somewhere in Illinois and a guy sits next to me and asks me about my bike (which by the way, is the exact way most conversations start out when you ride a motorcycle), but then we just started talking about anything and everything.  I no longer remember this guy’s name and I’m sure he doesn’t remember mine, but I remember riding away from that conversation thinking about how, as humans, we have so much more in common than the media, the politicians and the leaders want us to believe.

(2014: Minneapolis to New Orleans on the 'Great River Road)

In both of these examples I intentionally don’t give any descriptions of these people, because it doesn’t matter,  We’re all humans. We all have things that make us happy.  Things that we want to get out of life.  And when we have the opportunity to impact someone else’s life in a positive we, I hope that we all would jump at the chance.

You see, when it comes down to it, the founding fathers of this country figured it out when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we all have the unalienable right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

Can a motorcycle ever give you the things that make you happy?  That’s up to you to find out, but I can tell you this, when I’m heading into a curve at top speed with the wind in my face and nowhere in particular to be, I feel I’m as close as I ever could be to finding happiness.

Here's a video I made in 2015 about how to take the perfect motorcycle road trip.


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