Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Motorcycle Diaries Part 9: Wrap Up

How do you write about a motorcycle trip so that anyone will care?  What is it that really matters about the trip?  The interesting things, the things you might write about it, the highlights, are not the trip at all but the things that happened a in between what really mattered.  Take my recent trip for example.  Reading my blog you might have got the impression that the trip was one giant string of mishaps.  The string of mishaps, however, was definitely not the trip.  The dark green forests of Oregon  as we climbed over the cascade range from the Willamette valley to Eastern Oregon; the snowcapped mountains that we passed as we rode south into California; the sweeping ride through the high pines and desert of the Modocs; the dry grasslands and pine forests of the California Sierras; the terraced vineyards of the Napa Valley; and the broken rocky shoreline of the Oregon Coast, these were the ride.  Sitting with friends over lunch, over a campfire, drinking rum, cooking, arguing about politics, motorcycles, and girls, these were the ride.  So how do you write about a motorcycle trip?  If I tell you the individual details of each of the roads that we traveled, arguments that we had, rums that we drank, it won’t be interesting.  It was the experience that made the trip interesting not the retelling of it.  If I tell you about the highlights it might be interesting but it won’t be the motorcycle trip.  So what shall I tell you?

Oregon has 48 named mountain ranges.  The Harley shop in Reno doesn’t carry 30 amp circuit breakers but the shop three doors down does, which they buy from the Harley shop.  The KOA in South Lake Tahoe has campgrounds made up entirely of very fine dirt.  Fortunately they also have giant flat rocks on which one can sleep.  California has the best motorcycling roads in the three states in which we traveled.  The Napa Valley has quite a few vineyards for sale.  Interesting.  Krispy Kreme doughnuts
has not actually gone out of business but merely closed their Burlington store.  They were available in California.  The giant drive through redwood tree was actually in Yosemite Park, not the redwoods.  It isn’t there anymore, but there are three smaller giant drive through redwood trees in the redwoods.  The oldest is in Leggett but we didn’t get to go because nobody believed me when I said it was there.  The Oregon Coast is beautiful and cold.  By the time we got the Crescent City we were freezing and all clothing went on for the rest of the drive up the coast.

Paul Theroux once traveled around Britain by the coast.  He wrote about it in a book called “Kingdom by the Sea”.  William Least Heat Moon traveled the United States on the back highways and documented his travels in his book “Blue Highways”.  What they seem to have in common is an ability to both choose and tell the most interesting stories of their trips in a way that captivates their audience.  Perhaps I don’t see the stories that way, or perhaps I just don’t remember them well enough to tell them later but either way I guess my trips will mostly just be part of my memories.  I hope you enjoy the bits I am able to share.


Anonymous said...

California has the best roads? I thought those grooved highways quite annoying on a motorcycle.

heresolong said...

We have grooved hwys here in Wa as well, but didn't see many of them anywhere on this trip. I don't travel on the Interstates if I can help it anyway. What we noticed (and what I also saw when I lived there) was that the roads in California tend to be very well engineered. Perfect banking, well calculated curves, etc. The kind of thing that should be possible anywhere by hiring competent engineers.