People who ride motorcycles tend to do so with one or more friends. There must be a pack mentality that I’ve never acquired. It’s the same way with horseback riding. I call them “sheep riders.” There is nothing wrong with riding in groups if you want a social experience, but I think they are missing the real enjoyment in riding. I prefer to have my social experiences in a relatively stationary environment and reserve riding for my own selfish enjoyment.
I have spent many hours on the back of a horse, and likewise on a motorcycle. While I have ridden in groups, I much prefer to ride by myself and can say unequivocally that going solo is an entirely different and more moving experience – no pun intended.
When I ride my horse in a group I tend to ignore my horse as long as he’s doing what I want him to do. When we are alone it is a much closer and more satisfying relationship. My horse and I give each other our undivided attention and can relate to one another without distraction. While riding horses or motorcycles by myself I am able to focus on the environment and absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the world around me.
The motorcycle ride I took today is a good example. The mountains of Colorado create a beautiful setting for any kind of ride, and nature is always ready and willing to make it a more pleasant experience if you are paying attention – even on a motorcycle. The only thing I don’t like about riding my motorcycle is that I have to leave my dog Nina at home. Having her with me on a horseback ride is more fun for her and doesn’t leave me guilt ridden.
I started down the gravel mountain road from my house and immediately encountered a deer that was not accustomed to seeing motorcycles. She walked to the side of the road and watched me with curiosity as I slowly passed her. Further down the road the Jefferson Ground Squirrels (I call them road rats) were doing their suicide routine of running across the road right in front of me. I’m not sure why they do that, but it results in many of them being squished on the road. They are also not familiar with motorcycles and many of them stood up on their little hind legs along the side of the road to watch me pass.
As I was dodging cow pies deposited by a herd of cattle that a rancher recently moved down the road to a new pasture, I noticed an eagle sitting on a fence post along the road. He or she was keeping an eye on the ground squirrels and hoping to make lunch of one of them. This eagle was not the golden eagle that I am used to seeing. This was a bald eagle, and the first I’ve ever seen around this area. As I passed it slowly spread its large wings and lazily launched itself into flight – looking even more impressive than before.
Slowly making my way along the 12-mile stretch of gravel road between my house and town, the horses and cattle that I passed all stopped to watch me. They never do that when I’m in my truck. I was a one-man parade for all the animals along the way as I headed towards civilization.
In town I stopped for gas and heard someone holler my name. It was JD Davis, a local Ferrier who was in town for lunch. We talked for about 15 minutes and he sat on my bike to see how it felt. Another friend of his came by and asked why I didn’t have a Harley – as if there was really no better bike to have. I said that when I bought my Suzuki 1400 back in 1992, it was half the price of a Harley and half the maintenance, and that in the 12 years that I’d been riding it, all I had ever needed to do was change the oil and filter. He nodded and said no more about it. He probably has a Harley that is broken. I also figured him for a sheep rider.
I rode out of town to the east and spend the next 20 miles looking at mountains rising into an array of wispy cirrus and small puffy cumulus clouds scattered across a beautiful blue sky. The sense of freedom and independence one gets from a 70 mph ride down a gently curving stretch of pavement is wonderful and unmatched by riding any other vehicle. I recalled my days as a pilot in the Air Force and the first time I broke the sound barrier. It was on a day much like this one, and I had been up there, by myself, with the same type of sky and clouds. Life is good.
My next stop was at the guest ranch where I had spent many summers leading guests on mountain trails and introducing them to the magic of the mountains and horses. One of the wranglers, Jenna, wanted a ride on the back of my bike. Jenna is 22, attractive, and over 6’ tall, so I temporarily forgot about my preference to ride alone. We rode up to Ute Pass, which provides one of my favorite mountain views. For the 30 minutes that Jenna was on the back of my bike it was a much different experience than riding alone. She was a distraction, albeit a very pleasant one, and a responsibility I don’t have when I ride alone. I had mixed emotions when we said goodbye.
It was late afternoon as I headed toward home. Typical August weather for the Colorado Mountains is sunny in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon with scattered thunderstorms. That is the weather 95% of the time. Also typical is that many showers never make it to the ground. The air is so dry here that the rain evaporates before it gets to the surface. I could see a half dozen such showers scattered over the 40+ mile views.
Coming up my driveway signaled the end of another wonderful ride, but for my dog Nina it was the most exciting part of the day. It doesn’t seem to matter how long I’ve been gone, she always acts as if I’ve been away for years. As I parked my bike I noticed that one of the showers just south of me had managed to make it to the ground and there was a beautiful rainbow framing my view of the valley – a Hollywood ending for a very nice day in the mountains. But wait – I was scheduled for ‘a social experience in a relatively stationary environment.’ I was meeting some friends for dinner and pool playing at the local watering hole. “Come on Nina, get in the truck.”