Old Man Harley Camping

Well, shit! As a shakedown ride, I really felt ‘shook down’!” These were my thoughts as I wearily pulled the Harleyi back into the shop were I stored it. It was past 9:00pm, and I was bone-weary tired and drained. I’d put in nearly eight hours of riding on the Harley. Probably more exhausting was the high anxiety I felt this morning as I was packing my gear on the Harley. This shakedown trip had been to the nearby (140 miles) Congaree National Park just southwest of Columbia, SC.

It had been a long time—25 years+—since I had put in those kind of miles and time on a motorcycle. I used to regularly do 500-mile days on my long trips. Now it looked like 300 or so was my limit. This getting old sucks! But, it’s like my dear old Dad used to say, “It beats the alternative.” Yep.

I was thinking of another trip out West this fall. Looked like I needed to rethink that for around 300-mile days, not 500 miles based from what I had learned today. I wanted to go to Navajo country in New Mexico’s Four Corners area and visit the Navajo/Anasazi National Parks per my interest in Plains Indian culture and spirituality—background research for another book project. It was 2000 miles out there and then another 2000 back, plus maybe 500 while out there. Instead of five days to get out there, now we were talking more like seven days. I would be camping all the way, with a motel room only every few days.–a budget issue. Sigh. At this age, was I really up for such a long, hard adventure—and on the Harley? On the other hand, why not? I was retired, spending my time gardening, do projects around the house, doing Zen and Unitarian Universalist stuff, and course, writing. These with an occasional adventure thrown in.

Adventures were the spices in my life: life without adventure was bland and boring; a dull meal indeed! To be clear, my adventures were not of the adrenalin-junkie type—i.e., high octane stuff like mountain climbing, sky diving, or high speeds. They were long trips out into nature on Harley, bicycle, and camping; or intense Zen meditation retreats, Native American Vision Quests and sweat lodges. All with a spiritual twist. I was always glad to get back home when they were over and slip back in to my more Clark Kent, everyday lifestyle of chopping wood/carrying water. As for writing, I was working on my third book now and had three others on the drawing board.

What can I do, adventures call me, even as an old man. My Old Man reasoning (and daughters) said, “Dad, take shorter trips around here. There’s all sorts of places to go.” True, we have all kinds of state and national parks within a few hundred miles, many in 100 miles or less. BUT, my inner voice protests, “That’s not our desert!,” then scowls and growls. My heart and inner-voice (subconscious) are called to the desert mountains of the West. Sigh. What’s an old guy to do?

I was trying out my daughters’ suggestion on this trip, which was a shakedown for one for my 75 birthday I wanted to do to the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge, some 321 miles away. My daughters are my ‘check-in’ voices of rational reason and common sense, along with my old horse therapy buddy, Carl. All three of them are very practical and down to earth. None of them are called to adventures. They are the stay-at-home types like their mother. Although, Carl, in his younger years, was quite the adventurer on both bicycle and motorcycle. He outgrew his though. My trip this time was a test of their hypothesis—as well as a shakedown ride. It been such a long time since I had done one. Packing for camping on a motorcycle was a lot easier than for a bicycle, as I had done last year. It was also a way to test the waters, so to speak, for the longer trips to Okefenokee in two weeks, and perhaps, New Mexico in the fall—could I still do them?

It seemed every time I turned a corner these days, I was reminded that I couldn’t do what I used to do like I used to do it when I was younger. For example, riding/driving at night now. I hated riding the Harley at night anymore. I could still do a car okay. My cataracts made the glare from the oncoming headlights uncomfortable, and my eyes didn’t adjust as well to the bright lights. On a motorcycle you really needed to be able to see!

That said, the ride in tonight after dark hadn’t been that bad. A pleasant surprise, especially considering how fatigued I was. I had no trouble getting through Greenville or Easley. Divided highways most of the way so that the oncoming headlights weren’t right in my face.

Then there was my decreased stamina and endurance. Despite my best efforts, working out, and active physical and mental lifestyles, I could only slow aging down a little. That said, I could still do most of what I have always been able to do. It is like Tobey Keith’s song says, Not as good as I used to be. But I’m as good once, as I used to be. I was in good shape for an old guy.

Other than that, the trip had been a great ride. A great day even. I mean, the Harley had performed beautifully, the weather had been good (cool but no rain), and I was still alive and kickin’(a.k.a., alive, unhurt, walking and talking, etc.) It had definitely been a shakedown ride—and adventure! I had learned a lot. Stuff you couldn’t figure out without getting out and doing it. An experiential approach.

I’m big on the experiential side of life: Times running out, Old Man; the Clock’s ticking. Experience what you can before you can’t. Try it and see. Even my mental health counseling approaches had been mostly experiential: horse (equine-assisted) therapy, hypnotherapy, eco-therapy. I quickly got bored in sit-and-talk office therapy sessions. Often we would go for a walk out in the woods and talk—walk-and-talk in nature sessions.

As I processed the experience from my trip over the next few days, I realized in that one nine-hour period, I had learned several critical things, none of which I could have thought/reasoned my way through. I felt more confidence about being able to make the Okefenokee swamp, canoe-camping trip. It was to be my 75the birthday present to myself. Last year’s 74th birthday present to myself had been my bicycle tour, and I had done that—well, more-or-less.ii


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