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.