I've been back from this epic road trip for over a month now, but I feel the high that it provided me has just now lifted and I can genuinely reflect on the totality of the experience.
The Route: Orlando, FL to Los Angeles CA via Missouri and Colorado and back to FL by way of Arizona, Oklahoma, Mississippi and the rest of the southern states.
The Group: Two Lilies/Team Twisted Nipz (Kristen Lassen and myself), one spirited FMX rider (Jimmy Hill, or otherwise known as @hillsack) and one Portuguese transplant/mechanic extraordinaire (Pedro Costa aka @reckless_portugal).
Inspired by our quest to trace Jimmy's and Kristen's motorcycle legacies back to their roots, we would call this journey The Heritage Run, and little did we know the weight this name would hold by the end of it all.
When Jimmy arrive at my house, he was fresh from doing some demos in South Africa and his presence finally brought up the weight of the trip to come. Now Jimmy has been riding bikes since age 3, but he had never ventured to transfer his skills to the pavement. A devoted adventurer, he got his endorsement, scored a sweet Chieftain from Indian Motorcycle and was ready to go.
Kristen was to be our guide; she's been making cross-country trips since she was 17 under the wing of her father. This trip challenged her in new ways because now she had three others with whom to share the legacy and wisdom of distance riding.
Her achievement was no small one. To put it bluntly, this trip kicked major ass. We rode the glorious twisties to the summit of Pike's Peak and treasured the Million Dollar Highway. We battled the great winds of Kansas and drank in the beauty of the Arizona sunsets. The route was perfect.
While we are all made up of atoms, matter and other science-y things, it's the intangibles that define one individual from another.
Life on the road, especially on a motorcycle, for any length of time really shows you what you're made of.
There were days where we endured temperatures above 120 degrees, testing our abilities to keep true to the course, and nights where were couldn't even layer enough gear to cut through the thick chill of the darkness. Your sanity is truly tested, even more-so when you are also tasked with maintaining the dynamic of a group of friends.
I was certain we would come back with at least one rift between the quad, but whatever cuts were dealt, healed with a bond unbreakable. I will not deny that it's nearly impossible to live with other people and never have a disagreement, but it is possible to humble yourself enough to realize that you can learn from others and hopefully return a better version of yourself: one fused with the humility that admitting wrong can provide. We rolled into Orlando with a tone of sadness, knowing that this meant the end of our era, but reassured that we now exist with our own brand of dialogue, like that of a family.
I now receive messages from those who have decided to take their own journeys on the road and unleash their nomadic spirits. My heart warms each time I see someone writing this chapter of their motorcycle diary. Your bond with your machine will never be stronger, you skills will never be more tested, and you will come back with a rejuvenation of spirit like no other.
Kristen told me how addicted to this life she had become, and how I would feel the same once we shut our engines off for the last time. I never understood the depth of that thirst for mileage until this trip had ended. Already we are looking forward in time to our next opportunity to traverse this great country.
To those of you who are doubting your ability to tackle a trip like this, DON'T. Your love for the road will overcome all obstacles you may face, and the benefits of what an expedition like this can do for your physical and mental wellbeing far outweighs the risks of the road, in my opinion. Seize any opportunity you may find for a journey, may it be long or short, and never look back.
I could write a novel about each city, and more-importantly, the inhabitants who opened their doors and hearts to us in ways that reinstated my pure faith in the camaraderie of the motorcycle community, but I won't attempt to do them all justice in a single blog post. So, instead, I will let me summarize our undying gratitude in a salute to our newfound friends and family.
To Heather (another Lily) and Kevin in Atlanta, GA, you were the first stop and one of the most memorable. You set the tone of true hospitality and we are forever in your debt.
To Abbey and Jake of Nashville, TN, we are forever in love with your spirit and that sweet Honda Mini-Trail. To Yve, that dinner ranked as one of the highest of any meals we had in the entire month of traveling, and by far had the greatest company.
To Blip Roasters and The Piston Annies of Kansas City, MO, you brought life into the city and enchanted us with your free spirits and kindness. WE WILL BE BACK.
To Virginia and Jay of Denver and all of your beautiful clan, you are even more wonderful in person and embody the true spirit of motorcycling. We are in love with Colorado, and with what the two of you bring to its landscape. See you very soon.
Mr. Chris Tedesco of Temecula, CA. While we were only there for a hot minute, you were warm and genuine and understanding of the weariness of road life. Keep kicking ass, and we will see you out there on the road. P.S. Todd Potter (but really Ashleigh) make killer vegan food. A-freakin-plus!
The Great Blake Shipman of Oklahoma City. Jesus Christ, man, you packed a week's worth of laughs into less than 24 hours. You are talented beyond belief and we appreciate you sharing your little oasis with us.
The Hill Clan of Walker Basin, CA. Where do I begin with the depth of our gratitude? Getting a glimpse into the origins of Jimmy and where the dynamics of his personality began was a privilege and delight. You live in an oasis amongst the vast rush of California life. You preserve the original values of the frontier and have a family foundation that is unshakable.
The Lassen family: forever-giving, hardworking, wholeheartedly-American. I have been in love with Kristen's tenacity and genuine nature since the day we met. After tracing her roots back two generations, it all makes sense now. We are so grateful to have met so many of you along this journey.