The World on Two Wheels: My Top Five Motorcycle Rides on Earth (so far)
I love motorcycles. Period. I tried to think of several creative ways to start this article to demonstrate the depths of love I have in my heart for motorcycles, but nothing could be simply more true than the fact that I love em. Cars -ok, buses -eh, planes –cool, trains -pretty sweet, -ships awesome, motorcycles -badass no comparison sweetest f*****g way to travel on Planet Earth. In my world that is it and that is all. For those that know me, this fact about my life is no mystery; I sleep, eat, and breathe motorcycles. My first tattoo was of the logo of my motorcycle club on my arm. Get the point by now? I love motorcycles.
Some people think motorcycles are dangerous and I agree to a point, but so is walking across the street, eating fast food, and driving a car over 50 miles per hour. Life is dangerous. Hell, some people think traveling is dangerous. In the immortal words of Evel Knievel, “Where there is little risk, there is little reward.”
Riding a motorcycle goes hand in hand with traveling for me, because like traveling it is an experience, it is a mode of traveling, and like traveling for me it is spiritual. It was on the back of a motorcycle that the Shameless Traveler was born on an epic journey over 4,000 miles and halfway around the United States. When your ride, the wind goes around you, but the spirit of the world moves through you and you feel it every time; one with everything.
So in honor of the glorious invention that is the motorcycle I will now tell you my five favorite places I have ever ridden (so far).
1. Mini-Gobi Desert, Mongolia
I had some pretty intense experiences in Mongolia; I sat on cliffs over-looking mountains, saw an exorcism, saved a baby horse, and visited Genghis Kahn’s old stomping grounds, but for 30 surreal minutes the local shaman whose tent I was sharing let me borrow his motorcycle for an impromptu ride. In completely unrestrained fashion and with no roads I shot out straight into the desert under the setting sun. Riding past dunes, camels, wild horses, and shepherds I became one with the terrain. I can still see those purple mountains in front of me even now.
2. Baja California Peninsula, Mexico, Federal Highway No. 1
Pacific Coast Highway 1 could be one of the most beautiful rides in the U.S. if not the world, but once you hit the border in the south and it becomes Mexico Federal Highway No. 1, that is when it gets interesting. Traffic suddenly disappears as you put some distance between yourself and the border and before you know it you’re all alone tearing ass past 500 ft. cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean on your right and the green luscious hills of Mexico riding shotgun on your left. Riding my buddy’s Ducati Monster I found the absence of speed limits no problem as long empty straight-aways lay before me. The smell of the ocean will eventually drag you off the road and onto the beach, but this is a ride you’re going to want to do more than once.
3. Shanghai, China
One thing that proves true, again and again, is that you will meet some extremely awesome people while traveling, some of the best in the world. Have no doubt. While backpacking solo through Shanghai I met a very cool French guy, in where else, the French Concession neighborhood. Over a couple of beers I began to tell him about my motorcycle withdrawal since I’d been traveling and how I couldn’t wait to get back on two wheels. In an unfathomable act of trust and goodwill this gentleman, a resident of Shanghai, told me he had his motorcycle out in front of the bar and would have no problem with me going for a little joyride through the city under two conditions; one, don’t get caught riding by the Chinese Police and two, bring the bike back in one piece. Before I knew it I was cruising down the streets of this megalopolis with the futuristic towers of the new capitalist China illuminating the hazy night sky gold above me. It was amazing…amazing that I ever returned that bike and didn’t just keep going. I don’t know what ever happened to that guy, but he’s got some seriously good karma somewhere.
Vietnam, the road between Da Lat and Nha Trang This was a hard one, because ALL of Vietnam was amazing. I had some of the best, craziest, and most technical motorcycle riding of my life there and I find it hard not to drool when I go back and look at pictures of the landscapes I traversed. But if I had to pick one part to ride again, and there are many, it would have to be the road between Da Lat and Nha Trang. Starting from Da Lat my long time riding buddy Mark, also known as The Peach, and myself set out on a ride that would later be known as “the ride of the endless smile.” Literally, the whole ride we both just had big dopey smiles of euphoria on our faces. As we set out from the old French colonial architecture of Da Lat we moved through roving green coffee plantations and up further and further into the mountains. The road connecting us to Nha Trang was new, so new that it wasn’t even fully completed. Additionally, not many people knew that it even existed yet which means we mostly had it all to ourselves. When we hit the top ridge of the mountains and started making it to the other side what awaited us was an endless view of Vietnam that stretched out for twenty miles below us. God was in the building, everything felt supernatural, and with the giddiness of little kids we raced our tiny, yet supremely awesome Honda Win’s down what seemed like an endless cauldron of switch back turns and paradise lost views. The ride down seemed to never end and that was not a problem by us. Once we finally reached the bottom we encountered hours of rice paddies and tropical plains until ultimately we reached the blue ocean and a coastal breeze that welcomed us like old friends. We ended that epic day the only way we could, by eating a spitting cobra.
5. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana, U.S.A.
There are moments in life that provide for suprahuman experiences. These moments are constructed out of a combination of things. Someone once said, “I’d rather be riding my motorcycle thinking about God than sitting in church thinking about my motorcycle.” Well this combination of things keeping me from church was my Kawasaki motorcycle, the sunset over the Rocky Mountains, and an aptly named road; the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Before I ever was the traveler I am today there was an experience that altered my view of the world forever, and it was this one. First off, Glacier National park is my favorite national park in the United States of America, which makes it one of my favorite natural environments in the entire world. This fact was only heightened by the decision, after some advice from a wise old rider, to ride up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The fact that I rode it at sunset proved to be one of the finest coincidences of my life. This road literally snakes you back and forth right up to the top of the Rocky Mountain Range. Along this ride you will pass herds of a 100 head of elk, you will pass mountain goats and bears, you will quite literally feel like you are riding into Heaven, or in this case into the Sun. After the long ascent I finally reached the top and the timing was that of perfection. What I set my eyes on was a vision unlike any other, the Rockies were on fire. The temperature in the mountains drops quick when the sun goes down and this causes a sort of vaporous transition of the snow on top into the sky. As I watched the sun set on the mountains, this evaporation caused a distortion of the light. The end result was a deep red illumination that bled into the tops of the mountains and blended into the sky above so that you could not tell where the mountain ended and the sky began. The only way to describe what it looked like was that the mountains were on fire. This moment changed my life. I had never seen anything like this before, I hadn’t even fathomed that something this miraculous could even exist. And at that moment staring at those mountains I realized I had to see more, I had to venture out, I had to travel across the world, because I knew then that there had to be other miracles out there I hadn’t seen yet. And over ten years and 3 continents later I know I was right.
Until next time, keep riding- ST
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