Community Commentary Further: Death Valley Brotherhood | Thoughts on Motorcycling

Further: Death Valley Brotherhood | Thoughts on Motorcycling

Further Motorcycle Column VII

Further: Death Valley Brotherhood | Thoughts on Motorcycling
Ultimate MotorCycling’s Jonathan Handler

If we analyze the adage that you never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office, we might say that not only does the ownership and use of a bike help keep us sane, but the time we spend around them with friends may be even more beneficial.

Friends give us a forum to air our likes, dislikes, and concerns about life. They become our de facto shrinks and allow us to contemplate our problems, along with our successes, from new perspectives. As wonderful as motorcycles are, having close friends to share them with is better, and healthier.

Further, taking a moto journey with pals can be a cathartic experience, as one is immersed for days, or longer, with people who will laugh with you, listen to you, understand you and, with no hesitation, call you on your stuff, such as misguided thoughts or negative energy that may lead to errant actions and decisions.

When I read other writers’ lists of Top 10 Best Rides, I invariably start making a mental list of my top choices. I find myself mulling over memories of rides with friends in grand, exotic places surrounded by twisty roads. Trips to Monterey, the Pacific Northwest, Texas Hill Country, and through the Old West come to mind. Instead of finishing that list, I usually end up thinking about my perennial #1 favorite in the U.S., which is our gang’s spring-time jaunt to Death Valley.

To me, nothing can top this ride. I love the sheer grandeur, other worldliness, geography, terrain, desolation, colors, magnificence and, of foremost importance, time with a close-knit group of people who have known each other for years or decades. They make it fun and help us keep a balanced outlook. Sure, many routes can rival this, but the combination of empty open spaces and the closeness of the friendships eclipse just about all other experiences.

After an over-the-top dinner the first night, lubricated by copious amounts of adult beverages, we often start with bawdy jokes, analyses of the ride and every thrilling curve, close calls, and sights we can remember. We take pictures and, generally, the talk can turn more serious to include topics like business, as well as personal problems. Solutions are offered and raw nerves are soothed.

Later, we head a few miles away from any lights and lie down on the still-warm highway undulating through Death Valley. There isn’t a vehicle in sight, nor does one pass during our time on the road. Like magic, we hear the sounds of animals, water, and the wind that were not noticed until we opened up and let them in.

We all lay prone on the double yellow lines and stargaze up at a universe that is so crowded with heavenly bodies that one has trouble believing this is the same sky that we see at home, obfuscated by the big city lights. There is a healing energy flowing and the silence is a balm for the nerves. That silence never lasts long as, inevitably, one jokester or another weighs in on some ridiculous concept designed to fill us all with laughter. And laugh we do.

We laugh, we reminisce about past times, and we share fears and problems. We offer solutions and views not previously considered. We genuinely care for each other, and sanity flourishes amid the desert flowers and our roommate’s snoring.

Invariably, we all return to civilization dirty and tired, but with a sense of peace, accomplishment, renewal, and a complete recharge of mental energy. Although anyone can do this just about anywhere, it requires one or more friends to help take us out of the mental places we occupy and the psychological barriers we all suffer in the course of life— just like riding around the roadblocks the ADV guys ignore on Wildrose Road.

Column from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.

2021 BMW R 18 Classic First Look: Touring Motorcycle (9 Fast Facts)

Hot on the heels of the 2021 BMW R 18 First Edition comes the 2021 BMW R 18 Classic. BMW goes for the touring...

2021 Yamaha YZ250F Review (13 First Ride Fast Facts)

We rode the new, upgraded 2021 Yamaha YZ250F at Glen Helen Raceway for a first ride impression. We were fans of the previous YZ250F, so...

2021 Monster Energy Supercross Schedule (Super Tuesdays and more)

The 2021 Monster Energy Supercross schedule is now public. Due to the government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the schedule is unlike any seen...

2021 Yamaha MT-09 First Look and All-New (18 Fast Facts)

All-new from the ground-up this year, the 2021 Yamaha MT-09 gets a new motor and chassis, along with a full suite of electronics. Let's...

2020 Yamaha Super Ténéré 1200 ES Adventure-Touring Test

The Yamaha Super Ténéré story begins with the TT500 off-road enduro machine released in 1975, and the XT500 dual-sport model the following year. These...

2021 Aprilia RS 660 Review (18 Fast Facts From the Canyons)

The long-awaited and much-anticipated 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is finally here. Slipping into an under-served niche in the motorcycling world, it is a high-tech...