Serendipity. A friend was describing some of his happiest accidents, for lack of a better term, on his various riding adventures, and he asked if I could write about mine. Well, I’ve spent this whole week leading up to deadline thinking about this topic and I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint. I’ve not met someone who wanted to buy my valuable vintage bike or found unexpected roads thanks to a conversation with a stranger (ed: Do I sense jealousy?). Instead, I think my serendipitous moments have, so far, been more general — or maybe “overarching.” You see, that I ever decided to ride was, in itself, serendipity. My serendipity isn’t that riding changed the course of an event; rather, it changed the course of my life.
That’s true on small and large levels. By small, I mean, for example, that Tealdo and I have shared one car for eight years now because we both ride. I like saving on a car payment and maintenance (until I look at the seven bikes in the garage and stop myself from making the obvious calculations). By large, I mean that I have had experiences I never imagined for myself, like riding Colorado and the Grand Canyon; riding solo to and from Boise; doing track events with far more capable and very fun riders; laughing myself silly on a dirt bike; and being part of a group (you know who you are) that accepts me just because I enjoy two wheels and likes me for more than that. Without a doubt, what means the most to me as a result of riding is the friends I have made and the experiences I have amassed. Unlike most motorcycles, the people and the memories are irreplaceable.
Take a weekend this past March as just one example of bike-induced serendipity. A friend set up a track day for 10 of us at the Inde facility outside of Willcox. The track day was scheduled forMonday, so Tealdo and I decided a mini-road trip was in order. That Saturday, Ninja, Suzuki and Honda in tow, we hit Benson. And came away with a very disappointed impression of the monastery (yes, I was expecting robed monks and an open gift shop with whimsical memorabilia. I got a dusty, uninhabited, dull campus, although interior of the chapel was quite beautiful.); a humorous taste of laid-back country life via the Horseshoe Restaurant (a nearby birthday boy ordered a piece of lemon cake, which turned out the size of a brake rotor, I swear); and more fudge than necessary, courtesy of Nettie packing up her stand for the day in the museum. High on sugar, we moved on to the outskirts of St. David, where our B&B room awaited. For two people who are not fans of forced B&B mingling, this was a great call. The other guests were in Bisbee for the night and our hosts graciously left us to our own devices — reading, walking the grounds, playing pool and, best of all, grilling ribeye and veggies by the full moon.
The next morning, we had to endure the Loud Cell Phone Talker During Sunrise And Coffee When All Anyone Wanted to Hear Was The Many Birds Native To The San Pedro River, plus his two compatriots regaling us with stories of divorce and Mississippi (I’m still not clear on whether one begets the other. Separate thought: Why are B&B enthusiasts so weird?). But hey, the house-made breakfast was worth it. And then came our turn for Bisbee. Neither T nor I had ever been. So we parked the car in the $5 lot, told the bikes to stay unstolen, and walked around. Until we got bored not long afterward. Bisbee is very cute but there’s little to do besides eat and shop, at least on a Sunday morning. And, sorry, coffee hippie handing out free espresso in the alley — a 10-second pour does not a god shot make.
One expensive and forgettable lunch later, we beat feet. To Douglas. Because who doesn’t like a historic small city you’re not likely to seek out again? No one. Which is what makes Douglas so sad now. Ain’t nothing happening. We drove through a veritable ghost town, where the only sign of life came from the twittering snowbirds gathered in the Gadsden Hotel bar. The hotel is interesting for about 15 minutes, since it’s been through a fire, boasts some unique architecture, houses the Tiffany stained-glass windows and whose marble stairs bear the marks of Pancho Villa’s boisterous horse ride. Still, those factoids and sights failed to hold our attention for long, and we took off for Willcox to meet our friends, via the back roads.
After driving past much tall, dried grass and off-the-grid housing, we made it to Willcox and our motel, where our friends soon joined. Everyone was hungry. And may I set your expectations now — the dining options for Sunday evening in Willcox all rank at about one star, if you’re lucky. Zagat’s and Michelin have no place here. Which is why we landed at a grill-your-own-meat tavern complete with drunken locals and a harried bartender who thaws your steak and cooks your potatoes in the microwave. And where one regular has to hand over his tomahawk to said bartender for safekeeping while he’s drinking, and where another likes to dance with out of towners to Kenny Rogers on the jukebox. Oh, the stories. That night will live in infamy. Never go to a predictable place when you can choose the local hangout. And that’s the joy of going on bike-related adventures with friends. You never know what you’re going to get yourself into and thus need help getting out of (like Nancy’s grip). Once we realized the hour and impending early morning, we zipped back to the hotel, ending the evening with the season opener of MotoGP in the hotel dining room and somehow managing not to tick off the raucous family that had already claimed the area. Because Marquez is unbelievable.
Then, early the next day, with some Holiday Inn breakfast for those who could stomach it, we left for the piece de resistance, the whole reason for the whole weekend: Inde.
What. A. Track.
I got off to a slow start but by early afternoon, I remained in the saddle with little exception. At the end of the day, I did not want to stop. I was loving every second, thanks in large part to some tips from William Russell, who teaches for Desert Road Racing. He encouraged me to take the track with no brakes or body positioning, just to get the feel of the lines and the track through engine braking and normal posture. It worked. Once I relaxed and let myself do my own thing, no longer worried that my fellow riders would stuff me in a corner, and once the caffeine finally seeped into my blood stream (God bless you and your growler of horchata cold brew, Crate Coffee), I cut loose. Inde features tight corners, changing elevation and a fast straightaway (not that my supermoto’d CRF 230 goes any kind of fast, but it’s such a blast). All of that sensory input, with the Dos Cabezas mountains in the background making for distracting scenery, wore me out in the best way. Riding home that night in the car, lulled by In ‘n Out goodness and the purple sunset skies, I felt more happy-tired than I remembered feeling in a long time.
That, dear readers, is an excellent way to end an excellent weekend that would not have happened without the riding impetus. Serendipity? I think so. And just one of the many stories I’ve collected — and just one of the many more I hope to have — because of motorcycles and friends. What are your stories of riding serendipity? I’d love to hear them.