Monday, October 12, 2009

The People You Meet on a Motorcycle

On my recent trip around Ohio and W. Virginia, I found out again that my motorcycle is an introduction to some very nice people.

On my second day out, it started raining mid-afternoon, and since I had already had a full morning and partial afternoon of fun exploring, I decided to head more or less straight to my hotel. That hotel was a strange little historical hotel in the little town of Pennsboro, W. Va. Kind of a combination hotel and ministry center.

After cleaning up a bit (both the bike and me), I walked down to the only restaurant in town. As I'm walking out of the restaurant, up pulls a pickup truck with a couple of KLRs in the back. They guys in the truck had noticed my bike parked in front of the hotel, gone inside to ask about the bike, then come down to the restaurant to find me. Mike and Doug (I think it was Doug) just wanted to talk bikes and I ended up being invited out to Mike's house, about 10 miles out in the country, to "hang out".

Mike is an interesting guy and so is his wife, Kay. First of all, their home. To get there, you take a narrow country highway, 2 one lane paved roads, and a narrow gravel road about 10 miles out of town to get to their driveway, which is itself more than a mile long and winds alongside a run (creek). At one point, you splash through a tributary creek before getting to their 215 acres of ridge and bottom. By the time we got there, it was getting kind of dark, so these cabins, which don't do their home justice, are simply internet shots appropriate to their home.

To build their house, they found two, 19th century, 2 story log homes and put them together into a modern home of, my guess, about 2500 square feet. Imagine two houses something like the first picture put together in a 'T' shape. The construction was 'v' notched logs like the 2nd picture with a traditional root cellar and barn as separate out buildings. The rest of the evening was spent in Kay's warm kitchen sitting around a rustic cooking island telling stories. Kay is an artist with a little studio above the root cellar.

Of course, they built all this themselves. Some of the stories were about the land and building the house. Some were about ice dams and floods on the creek. And some were about motorcycles and trips. Mike is a true rider. He came back to motorcycles in 2004. He bought a brand new KLR and between his trips and commuting 80 miles a day to work, he has more than 70,000 miles on it in 5 years. Kay has a KLR too, just with fewer miles. Mike also rides a Triumph Tiger 955 and says its fast but not as good on the dirt roads as the KLR since it only has a 19 inch front wheel.

Mike's most recent trip was this summer. To get to the Taiga Road, you ride north up the east side of James Bay. Then you turn North East on a dirt road that goes for about 300 miles of deep gravel to a massive hydro electric dam. Mike even talked the workers from Hydro Quebec into letting him ride on top of the dam and, thereby, getting as far north as you can go by road on a motorcycle. Of course, once you've done that, there is nothing to do but turn around and ride back.

Mike wasn't done though. After he got back to pavement, he rode south for a while and then turned east until he could ride across the Labrador Highway to Goose Bay, another 500 km of gravel road. By that time, he was running short on time off from work, so he turned around and rode back across the Labrador Highway and home to W. Virginia. The whole trip was, 5 weeks, more than 1000 miles of dirt road, and probably about 6000 miles total. Mike said that he liked to travel light. Just a change of clothes, a small tent, sleeping bag, and an air mattress. Oh, and a few tools, just in case.

As I said, you meet some pretty interesting people on a motorcycle trip. And see some nice old cabins along the way.


  1. I've had two KLR's but didn't keep them very long. I was under the impression that owning a KLR is very much like joining a cult (or buying a Harley).

    It would appear that your story confirms the KLR-cult part: A stranger shows up in a small town; he's immediately sought out by others of a similar mindset and taken to a rustic building far out in the woods and further indoctrinated in the cult.

    He returns to civilization to tell others of fantastic stories of interstellar or at least international travel, perhaps in hopes of drawing other innocents in.

    Turn away, Jac, run! Buy a Caponord before you find yourself spending the winter trying to make old Army ammo cans into panniers for the KLR-mind control machine!

  2. Interesting. I've never thought of the KLR as the basis for a cult. After all, Mike was the first person that I've met that actually owns a KLR in 6 years of riding. I ride alone most of the time, unlike the Harley crowds, and when I do ride with someone, its usually a BMW.

    But you do remind me that I need to post about the Aprilia rider that I met. Not a cult exactly, there aren't enough of them, but certainly some sore of religion.

    This all reminds me of when I lived in California and spent time in Rancho Sante Fe. I met lots of nice people there including a group that was renting a really nice mansion and liked purple cloth. Later, I heard that they left Earth to travel the universe on a comet.