Minimalist Motorcycling

This piece also appeared in the autumn 99 edition of The Fraterniser

I like to travel alone. Company is nice too of course, but being alone on the road with your machine is unique. No-one else to think about. No-one else's fuel/food/fag/photo/sore bum/full bladder/lost gear/breakdown stops. Go where you want, when you want, as fast or slow as you feel like. Stop when it suits you. No schedules, priorities, or imperatives - except your own.

This type of touring is both simple and challenging. Pick a time when most of the caravaners and day trippers will be at home, and burble into the sunrise with a few essentials. Minimalist camping gear is desirable, as it gives you the option of free accommodation. Personally, I resent being charged to roll out my swag at caravan parks. I figure if a person has any rights at all in this life, surely one of them is a patch of dirt big enough to sleep on. Besides, caravan parks are boring. It's a lot more fun roughing it.

As the sun begins to sink on your first day's ride, you look for somewhere to sleep before it gets dark. A side road, a dirt track, a clearing. Condoms and beer cans - not here. Another side road, another dirt track. A creek with grassy banks. Too exposed, and too close to that house. Move on, slowly, sensing the terrain like an animal, feeling for possibilities. At last, at dusk, a compromise. Enough time before dark (torches attract attention) to set up the swag and dig a tin of something out of the saddlebags. Rehearse your spiel for a "Hoi, you can't camp here" situation. Lie back, listening, and await the mysterious night.

Aching body complains of hard ground. Fatigue wrestles with the senses, alert to every sound and smell and every lump in the ground. Fatigue always wins in the end, but sleep is light. A pre dawn mosquito attack, then, as the light begins to gather, a solid hour's sleep. Awake stiff, but refreshed. You've made it.

Breakfast. Where to? Maps - dots with names. Pick one that sounds nice, an hour or two away. Get supplies & fuel. Chat with a rider at a servo. Any local sights to see? Lunch at a pub - this town or that, it doesn't matter. Conversation with the barkeep. This is the life. What could be better than a lesuirely amble through the countryside, meeting the people and seeing the sights?

The best thing about travelling alone is that you're free to change your mind, to follow your mood. Sometimes meeting the people and seeing the sights is not what you feel like. Sometimes that primal urge to just go - anywhere, as far and as fast as possible - takes hold. You focus totally on that single imperative - movement - and all else falls away. Minimal stops - fuel & food, ask about cops. Sorry, can't chat. Have to get back to my wind tunnel, with the landscape sliding past and the drone of the motor numbing my mind. You are not real to me, stranger. Your world is a dream.

But you have to stop eventually, and ask, what is this place, apart from some name? Where have I arrived? Another anywhere, another nowhere. Then why the flight? To be moving, detached, free. To be lost. "...he wished he were far away, lost in a deep, vast country where nobody knew him. Somewhere without language. Or streets." *

In the morning, the contrast between night and day is stark to the senses, like a bubble bursting. Yesterday seems like a feverish dream. Maybe it was. But today is cool and bright and fat with possibility. Where to? Maybe nowhere. Maybe home (no, not yet). Maybe the coast. Yes, the sea would be nice...

* From the film "Paris Texas"

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