Wednesday, October 24, 2012

B2B: Camaraderie

One of my favorite things about the trip was all the fellow riders I met! It seemed like every time we stopped for gas or lunch there was someone to talk to about bikes. Sometimes they would approach us, sometimes it was a mutual "hey there" across the gas pumps, and sometimes I even was the one to approach people. That's a big leap for me, usually I'm like "I don't want to bother them, they look super cool, they wouldn't want to talk to me". But I guess having the ice breaker of the bikes, and the "swagger" of being a) on a mega-ride and b) a woman on her own bike, gave me the courage to walk right up to other riders and start chatting.

The Bonneville especially was a conversation starter. The Bonneville model has been around, in very similar form, for more than 50 years, so there's a lot of people who had one when they were younger, or their brother had one, or they've still got one, and they're happy to talk to another Bonnie rider.

There were so many great people I can't even remember them all, it was just this awesome bass line underlying the whole trip.

Some of the highlights:

Tijuana, Saturday night: The local motorcycle club, hanging out in front of the palatial Jai Alai stadium. We missed the group ride by one day, but talked bikes with a couple of the guys and ended our evening with the happy lesson that riders are the same everywhere.

Roseburg OR: The Vietnam vet whose brother had a Bonneville. We talked about the sad state of affairs with the VA system.  And the gas station attendant who used to have a bike but lost the spirit for a while after his dad had a bad moto wreck. He helped stand my bike up after I tipped it over on a tricky driveway, then chatted for a long time about 'getting back on the horse'.

Tijuana, Sunday: We were in the line to come back into the States, probably a couple hours away from the border. A driver in the next lane rolls down his window and starts talking to us in Spanish, then laughs sympathetically and and switches to English. "You're in the wrong lane!" Oh shit. "Motorcycles don't wait. I have a Bonneville too, and I ride up in SoCal all the time. There's a much shorter route to the border." What, yay! We ended up six cars back from the border, after a memorable ride through the "backstage" of Tijuana. Bonnie riders FTW!

Somewhere in south Washington: The group of guys coming back from a long weekend ride along the Columbia showing their buddy the area (Elsner, I got to show off that I knew where White Salmon was!). Got some local knowledge about when to start worrying about frost and snow (not quite then, but soon after). These were the first people I approached, and it went so well it gave me the courage to keep doing it.

Baldock Rest Area, south of PDX: So many people! The family on their way to get pumpkins from the Roloff Farm. The pristine classic Goldwing that passed us again later, with a wave. The couple who are MSF instructors, have bicycled the Oregon Trail, and invited us to stay with them next time we're in their area. Let me tell you, telling MSF instructors about your trip feels a lot like telling your teacher about your crazy science project in the garage: when they react with enthusiasm it's like "whew, ok, even the teacher's on board", validation and a little relief. We wish we'd met them the second day of the trip rather than the last, we could have really used the boost when we were second-guessing the plan!

Somewhere in Nevada?: The guy on the sport bike, our radar detector ;) Super nice guy, another of my "be bold and approach people" successes, we talked bikes for quite a while, none of us really wanting to get back out in the wind. I wish I'd gotten his contact info, he was cool to hang out with.

The Drive-Thru Tree, northern CA: The Canadian couple with an even crazier trip than ours. They sold everything they owned and set off on a pair of dual sports to ride first from the Maritimes to BC, then turned south headed for South America. I think we made them a little nostalgic for their first trip. It was really nice to meet more long-distance riders our age, and to pick their brains a little.

On the road, everywhere: After years on a scooter, I'm now adjusting to having my Wave returned now that I'm on a "real" bike! But more than that, it was the thumbs-ups, the cars pacing me to wave and grin, the guy on the chopper throwing me the horns, the little girls waving with big eyes, the fellow woman rider who missed her turn because she was distracted by waving to us. I felt both the thrill of camaraderie and the pride of being a woman on her own bike, out there holding my own through bad weather and long miles. Riders are riders, no matter where they're from, the language they speak, or the bike they ride, and the camaraderie of the road is a real thing.


  1. I think I got less attention because most people couldn't tell what my bike was under all the luggage and carbon fiber wrap.

    "Is that some sort of Ducati?"
    "No, it's inexpensive and reliable."

    1. I think you got less overt attention because your bike looks bad ASS and people were intimidated by your coolness. Or testosterone-y because of your coolness.

      You think I'm joking, I'm totally not. Refer back to my first paragraph :)