I’ve been planning this trip for, oh, about 6 months I guess. I know I’ve been going over it in my head for a while. It’s how I begin to prepare. There’s a lot that needs done and preparing to be alone is a big part of it.
There is logistics planning. How long will I be going? Where will I start? Where will I end? What will I take with me? Where will I sleep? What will I eat? Where will I poop? What will I do if I’m broken down (me and/or the bike) in a remote area with no cell reception?
There is physical prep. Tune the carb, double check my gas mileage: Some sections will be sparse on filling stations. Inspect the wear parts and decide what will last and what needs replaced before I go. Carefully choose my tools for trail side repairs. Collect my gear, pack it, load it, and ride it: I need to make sure the gear isn’t too much weight, rides securely, and isn’t obstructive to my riding positions. Get the physical maps and GPS files, cache the map tiles, and practice using the tech.
Logistics and physical prep require thought and effort, but that’s not the hard part for me. I’m going to be… alone. I mean, really alone.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for about 35 years. Most of the time, I ride by myself. But, its usually just an afternoon or a day before I’m back home with my family. This time, I will not be returning tonight, or tomorrow night, or next week. I will be out of comms, and I will be in foreign land. I’ll interact with other people I’m sure, but I’ll be on my own. I think this will be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
I enjoy alone time on my bike. It’s almost like meditation. Many times I start a ride with chaos and noise in my thoughts as I mull over the things that are going on in my life. You know, the usual stuff like work stress, family stress, worries of the future, regrets of the past, or if I’m lucky maybe just a new tune that dug a hook in me, on loop. After a while, it fades. The wind wipes it away. The steady drone of the motor provides a steady foundation. The changing scenery pushes out my preoccupation with where I am not, and replaces it with the wonder and excitement of here and now. It puts me in the moment. It is meditation.
Alone is really great. It’s really frightening too. And for good reason: It’s dangerous.
If I’m riding along and cross a low water bridge like the snot covered one in in the Shawnee Forest that took my knee for two years, and I dislocate that joint again, and I’m in a cell dead area, and I don’ t have much water left… I’ll be in serious trouble. I’ll have to cull my inner strength, keep my wits about me, and push ahead.
When I am truly alone, I am at the mercy of my own abilities. I don’t have the support structure of other people looking out for me, knowing when I need help, and helping me when i need it. Nobody will know when I’m missing, nobody will know when I’m in trouble, nobody will come looking for me, and nobody will come to my aid. I succeed or fail, soothe or suffer, live or die, by my own hand. That’s freedom, isn’t it? Alone is dangerous because I am not invincible and my ability has limits.
When I am truly alone, freedom manifests itself when I make decisions without concern for, or consultation with, anybody else. There is no discussion of when to set off, when to stop, which way to turn, or how fast to go. I do not benefit from and I am not subject to the efforts or will of anybody else. I only have what I make for myself. If I can’t do it, it won’t be done. If I need help, too bad. If I’m lonely, I can only look within.
When I am truly alone, there is nobody to share my experience with.
There are obvious risks and hardships in being alone, but besides the physical aspects of it, there is a psychological one too. Humans are social creatures. People’s own identities are molded in no small part by other people. What happens to a social creature when it is removed from social interaction? I don’t usually interact with strangers, and I’m curious if I’ll seek it out.
I know I’ll see new things on this trip, and I’m coming to realize that some of that will be seeing something new in myself, because I’ll be alone.