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American idle

By Terry Roorda

When the impulse to hit the highway comes, but the inspiration for destinations doesn’t, the concept of the “theme ride” is the ticket. That’s what I figure, anyway, and with the riding season now full upon us I’ve taken to doing some brainstorming and compiling my own list of theme rides for the months ahead. You’re all familiar with this concept, of course, and a number of my selections are nothing novel, starting with the basic “retracing” themes. With these theme rides, you retrace some historical or culturally significant route like, for example, old Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Barbara. That’s a good one, and so is retracing the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Saint Louis to Astoria, Oregon. Then there’s Eisenhower’s 1919 reconnoiter of the Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco, the Trail of Tears route from Tennessee/Georgia to Oklahoma, and the route of the Pony Express from Independence to Sacramento—which is also the route of the star-crossed Donner Party, so that one’s a twofer.

With these mainstays, I figure I have the retracing pretty well covered, and I’ve started adding the next category of theme ride, which I’m calling the “checklist” rides. Some of these are familiar, too, like visiting all 60 National Parks, and all 30 big league ballparks, but some are more whimsical like dropping in at every Dew Drop Inn, sleeping at every Shady Rest Motel, and eating at every Kountry Kitchen. That’s a pretty good start on the riding season, I’d say, but for good measure I’m adding a couple of madcap copycat rides, like visiting all 800 and some odd Harley dealers, which legendary road-dog Panhead Billy Burroughs pulled off, and posing the bike in front of every county courthouse—all 3,069 of them—like esteemed moto-scribe and renowned distance rider Bob Higdon did. And as a season finale, I’ve concluded my list with a ramble over the entire length of the Pan American Highway.

At this point you’re probably wondering how in hell I could possibly find the time to do even a couple of these odysseys, much less the lot of them, and the answer is I don’t. I have a job. But I sure know a bunch of guys who apparently do, because they don’t. And I’ve compiled this to-do list for their benefit—and mine.

Retirees. They’re smug, they’re idle, they’re everywhere. At this point in time it appears that just about every single one of my old riding buddies has given up their labors and taken up feckless leisure. How in hell did this even happen? Back in the day, it was accepted fact that no biker would live to see 50, much less retirement. It was a point of pride, actually, and an article of faith; it was an unspoken pact that said, “Screw the Man. We’re all dying young. So there.”

But as it turns out, we’re all a bunch of damn renegers, and now I’m contending with retired bikers who, as you might imagine, have not moved to a fairway-side condo in Scottsdale. They haven’t moved anywhere, and when they move at all it’s just to ride over to my house and badger me to go riding. Any day that the sun shines, there’s liable to be the fateful knock on the door and one smug slacker or another standing there expectantly, assuming I can just drop whatever the hell I’m doing and join them, and that’s gotten irritating. They know I’m not retired. But they also know I’m a writer, and since that’s not, in their view, any kind of a real job, I should be available at any moment of the day, any day of the week, to come out and play. It usually goes something like this:

“C’mon, Terry, grab your gear. We’re burnin’ daylight.”

“Dude. I’m busy. Some of us still have to work, you know.”

“Whatever you say, bro. I can wait. There any beer in the fridge?”

“Yes… I mean no… I mean, seriously, I’m swamped. And, seriously, you need to get a life.”

“Been there, done that. Now I’m retired. So you wanna go ridin’ or what?”

That’s a typical exchange these days, and of course I want to go riding, of course I want to blow off work and go capering across the countryside from bar to bar in giddy dissolution but I can’t. The best I can offer my boon companions is my ambitious list of theme rides to give their idleness some seriously time-consuming direction, and myself some space. I figure by the time they’re back from Tierra del Fuego I’ll be ready to take a break. And what’s more, I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around the whole retirement deal. That’s for old people, and, frankly, I haven’t even decided yet what I want to be when I grow up. I’m getting closer, though. Right now I’m leaning towards travel agent.

It’s all right here in the diaries.

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