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Southern Rail: Information overload

By Robert Filla

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It was back in 1978 when I first mentioned to my riding buddy Blackjack that I wanted to go to Daytona. He’d been before so I thought him perfect for some insight, pointers for the ride over from Texas and which must-not-miss events should be included for a BWV (Bike Week Virgin). Especially since this would most likely be my once-in-a-lifetime chance to go. After some thought, Blackjack surmised it was an adventure worth repeating and decided to come along. What ensued over the next few months would be comparable to the stratagem of the world’s greatest military commanders. Since we were both typical bikers of the 70’s (broke and riding not-quite-pristine Shovelheads), economics came into play, dictating camping for the entire 2,000-plus mile round trip.

Millennia before the advent of the Internet, we utilized a road atlas listing campgrounds along the course. One of us managed to score a complete directory of all the Harley dealerships in America and we used it to plot possible routes along the Gulf Coast. We constructed a chart, calculating mpg, miles per day and gas costs. How many days would it take to get there and how much do we allow for food? The chart’s beer-cost column was scrutinized with exceptional care. And then once we arrived there was Main Street, the Ormond Strip, the Cabbage Patch, the Speedway, Ponce Inlet—a dizzying list that absolutely had to be completed in full. We were slowly pinpointing every aspect, every possible mishap that lay in wait to destroy our perfect trip. And then… the ol’ ladies found out about the ride. And they wanted to go. Throwing the chart out and starting all over was the only alternative. And, of course, the chart got bigger—much bigger with more maps and brochures that included scenic sights, campgrounds that featured the luxury of hot showers and the need for additional pee breaks. And, of course, in the end we never went at all, halting all plans just a week before our targeted departure. Not the girls’ fault; can’t blame them. We simply planned it all wrong. In the end, we “planned” it to death.

It’s a deceptive trap, that “once-in-a-lifetime” roadblock. You’ll probably only go to Italy once so, you have to see everything. You want to have a six-month-long, major road trip around America before settling into a career; the ultimate Jack Kerouac experience. That Caribbean trip will only happen once so you have to make certain you chose the best cruise line, the perfect island, the ideal resort. So you plan and calculate and scheme. And then you plan some more. You conduct a tremendous amount of research, educating yourself about a destination to the point that you are better versed in the subject than the residents who live there. And when you get there (if you get there), the place you dreamed about for so long is not a mystery; there is no discovery to be had, no self-realization. (And if travel doesn’t change you, then you’re not doing it correctly.) In this age of instant knowledge, this over-education concerning travel is rampant. Travel blogs and destination websites will prime you on everything from what’s a fair price for a ride in a moto-taxi to how many rolls of toilet paper to expect in your loo.

My first long-distance ride to a major rally turned out to be a few years after the failed Florida trip. It was 1983 and was a spur of the moment thing. On a Wednesday I thought, “South Dakota would be fun.” That Friday, after I got my paycheck, I quit my job and pulled out around midnight. No pre-trip checklist, no map, certainly no cell phone or any type of emergency backup plan—just me and the ol’ lady. And we were aboard that same non-pristine Shovelhead. But the non-preparation made all the difference this time around.

We tented along the way, stumbling across obscure mom-and-pop campsites; little hidden treasures. When we arrived in the Black Hills, we stayed at such a spot. It was one we had heard about from a fellow camper on our way north. Just word of mouth, no Internet or travel guide, but it proved to be ideal for our needs. Back then there wasn’t much in the way of event guides so we just followed the other bikes through the region and, in doing so, discovered Sturgis and Deadwood, Mount Rushmore and Iron Mountain Road, the buffalo in Custer, the beauty of Needles Highway. We saw it all, and enjoyed it all with no preconceived ideas, no expectations, no deadlines or goals—exactly the way motorcycles were meant to be celebrated.

The effect of an over-researched, all-or-nothing mentality can be crippling, squashing the very spirit of biking. Just pick a road, any road—the adventure that is revealed, your adventure, is almost always the one you create. See ya in Daytona.

 

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