There are surely lots of ways to age gracefully. I have chosen to continue a practice that I started when I was young. Although age has necessitated some modification, it continues to provide me with new friends, interesting learning opportunities, and frequently some pretty exciting adventure.
Before I was old enough to legally drive, my brother and I tore down, rebuilt and started riding motorcycles. I immediately became hooked on having wind in my hair and bugs in my teeth. My mother did not openly object to my newly acquired passion but made it clear that wind and bugs would only take me so far in life. She strongly suggested that I supplement that with a little additional education. So, for some years, I traded in my motorcycle for colleg
While in school I met Nicki, who has turned out to be my perfect companion and partner for a little more than 50 years now. We might have settled down and led a normal, contented and happily-ever-after life together. But she loved wind and bugs too.
Before the ink on our marriage certificate was dry we were planning adventures together. Since we both were born and grew up in the Midwest, our first trip had to be somewhat farther afield. So we flew to London, bought a motorcycle at a local shop and rode over 6,000 miles before returning home. Every day was an adventure. With the challenge of remembering which side of the road to ride on, we proceeded to ride our motorcycle through the Alps and even through a busy train station, among many other first-time experiences. We never planned more than one day ahead. We made many friends along the way, and we still stay in touch with some of them almost fifty years later.
There have been more trips since then. We traveled through the South right after the movie Easy Rider came out. One little motel in Georgia refused to accommodate motorcycle riders.
Once a local in an old pickup with his deer rifle in the back window drove up very close to me in a parking lot and stared at me. I tried to remember what had happened to Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in the movie. However, friends were made on that trip too.
One year we both found ourselves in jobs we didn’t care for, so we rode from Chicago to Oregon while stopping at all the national parks along the way. On one memorable night a bear stole our food pack from the table at our campsite. We unzipped the tent to confront the intruder and then decided to just go ahead and share our food with a new friend. We don’t really stay in touch with the bear, but for years we displayed the canvas food pack that he had opened with one sharp claw down the side.
On the same trip we flew to Australia where we worked out a deal with a local shop to sell us a used bike and then buy it back from us after we rode it for a month. We camped in an isolated park one night and experienced a wind storm which blew over our tent to the accompaniment of maniacal laughter outside. We lived through that and made still more friends on that trip.
As we got older our trips became shorter but just as much fun. Then in 2012, while I had the bike apart in our barn, the High Park Fire hit us. The barn was destroyed as was our faithful ride. We had many other things to think about at the time so we decided not to replace the bike.
To be continued...
Wes Rutt is a runner, biker, and woodcutter who spends his free time as the Outreach and Education Chair for the Colorado Tree Farmers. Watch the YouTube video of his “Motorcycle Trip #1 - Laporte Loop” with his commentary on the history of the area.