What’s In Your Head on a Long Motorcycle Ride?
I’m getting ready to launch off on another long solo motorcycle ride. This one will be about 2500-3000 miles in length, to Los Gatos via back roads in eastern Oregon and back up the coast on Highway 1 and 101, with some freeway slabbing at the beginning and end. Should take ten days, with three or four days in Los Gatos for family and friends.
The first thing you need for a long ride like this is a positive feeling about yourself and your life. You’ll be spending many, many, hours cruising along, and your head will wander where it will – especially in areas where the roads are not challenging you to the max.
“When the helmet drops the bullshit stops,” The concept of this is to eliminate all of the frustrations and worries from your life when you get on the motorcycle. They can wait for later. Ironically, you will discover the solution to problems eating away at you by going for a ride and NOT thinking about them. When you return, refreshed and relaxed, the solution is often obvious.
I’m not actually sure I’m the creator of this line, although Wikipedia says I am, but you simply cannot be 100% focused for 12 hours a day when you are all by yourself and there is no traffic, no deer or other critters wanting to dispute right of way, and nothing but passive scenery rolling by.
I love time spent like that.
Although I’m always paying attention, the mind does tend to wander, and that is usually OK. Sometimes I halt this by doing a “play by play” out loud in my helmet, describing the road, the conditions, and any threats I can see. A few seconds of that yanks me back to attention.
Then there is music. Everyone loves music! I’ve written frequently and at (probably too much) length about the lack of wisdom of using headphones to listen to music. I also don’t want phone call connectivity or any other intrusions coming into my head.
I’m not that great an athlete, and I cannot afford to “give away” any of my rider assets, such as concentration on the task at hand and visual focus. It stuns me that so many riders think there’s nothing wrong with adding such intrusions into their skulls, so perhaps I am… wrong.
Nah – can’t be.
There is a better way. Actually, several of them. Forty five years ago when I first began to take long solo rides, there were no small portable music players, cell phones, or any other of the techno-ephemera we take for granted. People who wanted to listen to music mounted speakers on their two wheeled land yachts and cranked up the volume to overcome wind roar and engine noise. This had the effect of blaring your musical taste to anyone within 100 yards or so, which seemed to me rude and stupid. Still does.
Instead, I would play a few of my favorite records over and over again in the weeks before the ride. Some of you young whippersnappers may have to Google “records” to learn what these antiquated objects were. I would “seal in” several songs, and on my trip I could play them back in my head whenever.
A favorite album (now on a CD) is “Alive” by the Kenny Loggins band, recorded in 1979 or so. I’ve listened to it so often I can play back most of the two CD set any time I want. Your taste and choices will differ, I am sure.
The advantage of this is that when something occurs to grab your attention, the “music” shuts off immediately. There is no switch to locate or volume control to turn down. Such inner music is also less likely to take over your ride to where you’re riding to the song and not to the road. Case in point: my friend who holed the crankcase on his BWW GS in a crash. He was riding faster and faster on a winding dirt road while listening on headphones to “Highway to Hell.”
Last summer I picked up a new technique on my ride to Minnesota. I learned that I could sort of hum and growl at the same time in my throat and make a sound in my head remarkably similar to a French horn! For some reason I latched onto “Back Home in Indiana,” which has never sounded better than inside my helmet with my inner French horn, with all due respect to Jim Nabors. Then I branched out to other songs, and even began “composing” with my new instrument.
There’s a line in the movie “Dead Poet’s Society” where the boys have gathered in their secret cave to read poetry, and one of them brings a saxophone and rips off a not very talented solo. One of the others asks “Why the saxophone?” and he replies “Because it is sonorous.”
“Sonorous” is exactly the tone you can create in your head with guttural humming of this sort, and your helmet becomes a concert arena, but not an intrusive one.
This year I’ll employ a new concept, and I’m laughing about it already. The evening before I leave we will attend a free concert in the park in Kirkland to listen to an “ABBA tribute band.” Once that is set in my head I’m going to “Mamma Mia” all the way to California with my “Dancing Queen”!
Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!
Copyright 2015 David Preston