A long day’s ride of nearly 400 miles between Mesa, Arizona, and Socorro, New Mexico, was filled with a wide range of observations and experiences. They all begin just miles outside Mesa, but not all of them had to do with motorcycling.
Usually when you ride long distances on a motorcycle, you tend to fill time with random mind games. For me, it’s guessing how many seconds before I reach a distant object, singing every Beatles song by track order, or recalling every kid who attended elementary school with me. Today was different. I rode the Apache Trail which, in addition to having an alien landscape that could be used in a sci-fi film, presented me with the challenge of riding on dirt. Well, to be fair, it was a dirt road – but it the key word is dirt and so it demanded my attention.
First of all, I’m a pretty good rider and a safe one. No tickets, no fines, no accidents. But I also have no experience riding anything other than a paved surface. So for 22 miles I replayed a two-part mantra. The first was that despite my usual tendency to daydream, I was definitely in the moment. I recited ‘What’s now – what’s next’ to remind me to stay focused on only the things that mattered. This seemed to work and after a dozen miles it dawned me when I realized nothing could go wrong — provided I didn’t let it go wrong. So the second stanza of my mantra was ‘Trust myself – trust my motorcycle.’ As long as I did what I needed to do, I knew my bike would do its part. Just as I was designed to be a safe rider, the Yamaha Super Tenere was designed to get me through times like this.
When I cleared the final curve and saw a line of pavement leading to the high walls of Roosevelt Dam, I was elated. That single stretch of dirt that shot me up hills and spun me around switchbacks and narrowed to impossibly thin passages reminded me that even if I have been riding for 38 years, there’s always something new to learn about motorcycling.
It’s been a long day. I’d love to stay awake for a few more hours and detail each scenic vista and overlook we saw. But the ground we covered was too monumental to encapsulate – and pictures will tell a better story — so let me condense the day’s experience into this single observation. As I rode from Datil to Socorrow and saw an endless unbroken landscape that disappeared on the eastern horizon. The horizon I was heading towards.
What dawned on me was that each mile behind me also meant I was one mile closer to my destination. It’s like life, actually, where rewards don’t come unless you consistently put in the effort to earn those rewards. Today, all of us were putting in that effort; riding longer than we will again on this trek, and riding harder than we will again, and doing all of this so that, in just over a week, we’ll have honored Cannon Ball Baker – and ourselves – for accomplishing something truly epic.