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Andy Goldfine essay, from 'The Riders'

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    Andy Goldfine essay, from 'The Riders'

    The smaller and more obscure a road is, the more interesting it usually will be on a motorcycle. This size/interestingness inverse proportionality is well known to experienced riders. Motorcyclists naturally want to find out what is just over there, on the other side of the horizon, and around the next few bends in the road. We do this again and again, often via ever smaller and less crowded roads.

    If enough reasons exist to get from wherever we are to somewhere over there, a small pathway will first develop, which, over the course of time as more people want to go there, will become a larger road. The more travelers, the wider and straighter a road will become. At one extreme are superhighways with as many as eight or more lanes in each direction, and at the other end of this spectrum are endless squiggly, seldom-used, single-and-double track trails. The genius of every motorcycle ever made is its unique ability to help us traverse and enjoy this entire range. No other motorized vehicle is able do this.

    Road networks develop in ways similar to the branch and root systems of trees and the evolved meandering pathways of river and circulatory systems. Mathematicians sometimes describe this natural branching using algorithmic formulas for fractals, and riders experience it more directly whenever they choose to head off down roads that become successively smaller and less commonly used. Thus, roads that don't seem to go anywhere important often make for very desirable journeys on a motorcycle.

    I'm located in the north central part of the United States, and from here to the West Coast it's about 1,800 miles (2,900 km) by road or about 1,500 miles (2,400 km) by air on the shortest-distance great circle. Covering this distance are three more-or-less parallel and reasonably comparable routes: Interstate 94US Highway 2, and Highway 200. From top to bottom on a map, US 2 runs near the US/Canada border, Highway 200 does the same roughly 50 miles (80 km) farther south, and I-94 crosses similar country about another 100 miles (160 km) lower.

    "I-Ninety-Four" is the newest. It connects largish prairie cities like Minneapolis, Fargo, and Billings with a smooth kind of efficiency appreciated by engineers, accountants, long-haul truckers, and drivers with places to go and things to do. This road is about speed, safety, and making good time. At the other extreme is the much older "Two Hundred" that connects countless little farm and ranch towns and is occasionally intersected by even smaller crossroads and driveways, each unique. Lastly, "US Highway Two" evenly splits this difference in traffic, average speeds, roadway age, safety, and architecture.

    The Interstate (aka "Freeway") is about as straight, flat, and smooth as is humanly possible to achieve. It comes complete with a wide, nicely mowed, grassy median separating the opposing lanes, of which there’s always a minimum of four, so it's usually simple to safely pass other vehicles at any time. Its paved shoulders are extra-wide, and 50 feet (15 m) beyond them is a sturdy wire fence to help keep local wildlife out of your way. There are no stop signs; all crossroads involve bridges, underpasses, or on-and-off ramps. You simply lock down your bike's throttle at the chosen speed and this endless slab of near-perfect pavement supports you and your bike until the machine needs gasoline, or you get hungry and thirsty, or you need to pee. The magnificent Great Plains pass by in the distance and produce an effect that is simultaneously awesome and soporific.

    Highway Two Hundred is at the other extreme. With a few exceptions, there's little traffic and you'll find only two opposing and fairly narrow lanes the entire way. The endless prairie, foothills, and mountains begin a couple of feet from the edge of a slim gravel shoulder and extend in every direction to the far-off horizon. There's no median and no wildlife fences. You are right in the environment. Along one side of this ribbon, an infinite row of evenly spaced telephone poles has been planted. Every so often you'll notice a hunting bird perched atop one of them. Each of 200's small towns, motels, roadhouses, and gasoline stations is slightly different, and between them every few miles are occasional lonely-looking ranch mailboxes. You'll also occasionally see someone out walking, riding horseback, or bicycling. Those you may stop to talk with will be polite and sometimes a little quirky.

    The quality of 200's pavement is generally very good, but during the spring thaw, a few low places may be a bit flooded. You'll see mountains, forests, rising foothills, small streams, rolling prairies, near-endless billiard-table flat areas, and great expanses of naturally variegated terrain: the Great Plains up close. Occasionally there will be a required 90-degree turn at an intersection in the middle of nowhere, so if you want to remain on this highway, you need to pay attention to signposts. Even out there with almost nothing else around you, it's still possible to miss an important turn.

    Sometimes more than an hour will pass without seeing even one other vehicle, and it's easy to run out of gas if you don't stop to fill up where you need to. Though this road (like all roads) can be cannonballed, taking 200 usually means riding about 600 miles (966 km) each day, which makes either reaching or returning from the West Coast an easy three-day project. Both directions are a ride you'll remember.

    It doesn't take a genius to correctly guess which roads deliver the best riding experiences. When you have the time, it's nearly always the road less taken. Enjoy the ride.
    My pronouns are she/hers.

    To ride is to live.

    There, and back again. (photos from the epic journey)


    '88 Hawk GT (Rekka)
    '07 Shadow 600 (Gremlin)

    '90 Hawk GT (Fireball/red-tailed hawk) RIP

    #2
    Great article and so true.

    When I attended the MotoGP races at Laguna Seca back in 2005/2006 with some buddies of mine, we rode HWY 1 from around Monterey down to Cambria. Coming from AZ, where twisty roads are few and far between, that was heaven. However, as spectacular as HWY 1 was, it was the tighter less populated roads a little bit inland that still really resonate with me. Roads that are barely the width of two cars with zero traffic and constant turns. Sigh...
    ASMA #139

    Comment


      #3
      Great read, and spot on. I'm in search of a few more twisty paths locally to enjoy for this year's rally. I'd stumbled across one heading up near Watkins Glen, but need to find out when NASCAR will be running there. We do NOT want to be anywhere near the drunken NASCAR crowds on our bikes.
      Flock of Hawks | '13 Tacoma | '69 Falcon (currently getting reassembled!)
      I've spent most of my money on women, beer, cars and motorcycles. The rest of it I just wasted.

      Comment


        #4
        Damn that essay is singing to me - clouds parting, angels singing.

        Whenever I see a winding road sign (or something similar), I like to laugh maniacally, like some sort of villain then take it at a moderate pace (typically 5 - 10 mph over posted speed limit).

        I'm on the hunt for my unknown (to me) routes; I'll be checking out IL3 while I head my way to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.


        Last edited by owl; 06-16-2021, 04:06 PM.

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          #5
          Very boring roads around me. Interesting roads are at least 2 hours away.
          Brian - Richland, WA
          1991 Hawk GT
          1997 VFR

          Comment


            #6
            There are 6 fun corners on my entire island. I’m just running the clock out another 2 years and will leave New England forever.


            My 2 favorite roads: Blood Mountain in GA


            NC 181 from Morganton to Jonas Ridge. This is the road I learned to ride on,went up and down it all day every Saturday and Sunday I could from when I was 16 to 22.



            Downhill on 181 in 1998

            Comment


              #7
              Originally Posted by joel View Post
              There are 6 fun corners on my entire island. I’m just running the clock out another 2 years and will leave New England forever.


              My 2 favorite roads: Blood Mountain in GA


              NC 181 from Morganton to Jonas Ridge. This is the road I learned to ride on,went up and down it all day every Saturday and Sunday I could from when I was 16 to 22.



              Downhill on 181 in 1998

              Looks like a blast... rippin!
              Don't spend money and buy, spend time and learn.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally Posted by joel View Post
                There are 6 fun corners on my entire island. I’m just running the clock out another 2 years and will leave New England forever.


                My 2 favorite roads: Blood Mountain in GA


                NC 181 from Morganton to Jonas Ridge. This is the road I learned to ride on,went up and down it all day every Saturday and Sunday I could from when I was 16 to 22.



                Downhill on 181 in 1998

                They actually made some corners in a couple places in my area.....I'm gonna mount knobbies.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally Posted by behindthetimes View Post

                  They actually made some corners in a couple places in my area.....I'm gonna mount knobbies.
                  They did. Daytona, Jennings, Homestead, Palm Springs... I'm sure there are more.
                  Don't spend money and buy, spend time and learn.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    You all need to come to my end of the continent. We have miles of amazing roads!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally Posted by DavidR8 View Post
                      You all need to come to my end of the continent. We have miles of amazing roads!
                      I grew up in New England.My Pop raced Snow Valley Gunstock....Tompson Bridgehampton...the Airport track at Daytona...... We had goat paths and twisties.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        if ever enigma needed a larger font size it's now. too much eye strain for me to read the small print.
                        "It's only getting worse."


                        MY rides: '97 VFR750, '90 Red Hawk, '88 Blue/Black Hawk, '86 RWB VFR700 (3), '86 Yamaha Radian, '90 VTR250, '89 VTR250 (2), '73 CB125, '66 Yamaha YL-1

                        Sold: '86 FJ1200, '92 ZX-7, '90 Radian, '73 CB750, '89 all-white Hawk, '88 blue Hawk, '86 FZ600, '86 Yam Fazer 700 , '89 VTR250, '87 VFR700F2, '86 VFR700F.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally Posted by squirrelman View Post
                          if ever enigma needed a larger font size it's now. too much eye strain for me to read the small print.
                          I just look at the pretty pictures.

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