So it’s official, I traversed the USA, along with my dad and cousins and a bunch of mentors and new friends. We were reminded along the way just how courageous (and maybe a tad insane) Adeline and Augusta truly had to be to do what they did 100 years ago. 2016 is a different world, and a different USA. I was worried about being bombarded with crappy news about elections and guns as we made our way west, but weirdly we were kind of immune; every time we stopped in a town, people wanted to talk about the ride. About motorcycles. About women pushing boundaries. About people doing something because they believed in it. There wasn’t a whole lot of extra time for other conversations, and there wasn’t a lot of interest in watching the 11 o’clock news.
This bubble of positivity definitely had an affect on all of us, I think. The ride was cathartic for many, for a host of reasons. And the message we carried was delivered successfully to those who may bring it farther, electing to take a risk or empower themselves because they witnessed what we did — if we can, they can.
I’ve spent so much time traveling outside the USA in the past six years on tour with CHERYL in Europe and the UK. It was very important to get a non-American perspective on the world, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. However, I’ll admit I’d kind of forgotten that yes, there are indeed some things worth seeing (and saving) here on American soil. Things are fucked in a lot of ways, of course, but maybe if we all just spent a bit more time out in the open, outside our comfort zones, we could find some more common ground.
(Aside: I will say that going through all the “I” states was kind of sobering. I cried in my helmet somewhere in Iowa, having intense thoughts about how privileged I am. Not only to be lucky enough to do the ride [or to get born in the place/time I was born], but also to be from the Northeast, to have received a great education, to have had the chance to explore the world. People from my region tend to look down on this region, which is essentially a factory for the rest of the country. The people here are “salt of the earth” types, but they’re subject to what could be interpreted as contemporary serfdom, tasked with doing our dirty work. Us in the Northeast can choose to reject the military / agricultural industrial complex, but no matter how you slice it [unless you’re a carless hermit living off the land in the Yukon], you are participating in this machine and its fallout. It’s not the fault of the people here, it’s the fault of our government. And good ole’ supply and demand, of course.)
That’s the beauty of a motorcycle — you aren’t isolated from your environment like you are in a car; you’re part of it. You are not in a padded box filled with things to make your life easy. You aren’t distracted by phones, music, food, or other people. You aren’t separated from the rider next to you by two panes of tinted glass. Your world on the road isn’t curated to fit your lifestyle; it’s received, hopefully with a large serving of humility and acceptance, knowing that there are some things we can change, and other things we cannot. And certain situations which require negotiation.
There are nice people here. In the middle of nowhere. Who don’t want to shoot you or condemn you for your beliefs. Who speak to you with respect, even if they don’t understand you. There are other sweet people here that you can ride alongside every day and get along with, despite the fact that they have different beliefs than you. And there are amazing people that you will never forget, who stand outside time as road warriors — at one with their machines — some armed with nothing more than a flip phone and a map, and will show you roads you never knew possible.
That last group have been TRUE MENTORS on this trip, and without them there’s no way I could have done this. I’ve mentioned some of them in this blog, but here’s the whole list…
Bob Van Buren (MY DAD, BVB!)
Bob & Becca Cross
Sue Slate & Gin Shear
Sarah “SeCCRet” Moreau
Mary Beth Quinn
Zandra Charbonneau & Helen Berry
Johanne Laverne & Tina
… and all the other riders that I was lucky to ride with, and honored to now call my friends!
THANK YOU ALL FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.