On the back of the bike

I’m making wishes left and right with my head tipped back as shooting stars fall on both sides of the bike. Orion’s Belt, the Southern Cross and a spiral arm of the Milky Way are unmistakable amongst the billions of brilliant stars above as we ride through the cool New Zealand summer night air on the way back to our Airbnb. A day that started with executing Plan B is ending as one of near perfection….

Travel, especially international travel, has always been a family value. It gives you a perspective on the world that cannot be had otherwise. It forces you out of your comfort zone and makes you feel alive as nothing else can.

Doing it on the back of a motorcycle adds a new dimension—exhilaration!. While I grew up with a penchant for adventurous travel, I did not grow up with motorcycles. Melding the two didn’t happen until I was an adult and started dating a guy who grew up in the American Southwest riding dirt bikes for sport and pleasure. When I first started dating Brad, I was open to the idea of romantic day trips on a motorcycle, but weeks-long, international travel on one? Now that was a whole new ball game for me. How would I ever pack for such a venture? Surely it wouldn’t be comfortable!

Our first trip was a bit like wading into the water to see if the temperature suits before diving in headfirst. We headed to Easter Island, a remote Polynesian volcanic island. There we rented a Yamaha 250, which was our only mode of transportation around the 63-square-mile island. The bike was a wee bit of a rough ride for me as a passenger, but we never had far to go, so it easily served its purpose. I enjoyed the sensations of riding on the back of a motorcycle—the smells, the wind, the vibration as well as the ability to travel on beaches, through water, down narrow dirt roads and through herds of wild horses on the road.

I was ready for a longer ride. On our next trip, I discovered the sublime celestial canvas above that becomes visible once the sun has gone. We lingered longer than planned in El Bolson, Argentina, a small town in northern Patagonia. When we left for the day ride from Bariloche, the weather was balmy so we left our cold-weather gear behind, thinking we would return well before sunset. An air show put on by an Andean Condor and views of an ice-blue glacier along our hiking trail that day kept us in El Bolson later than we planned. On the ride back to Bariloche, I learned the importance of always being prepared with proper gear. As the temperature fell, I kept watching the clock, the kilometers to go and doing the math in my head to figure out how much longer I would need to endure my current circumstance.

Then I tipped my head back. No longer was I focused on the temperature; how could I be? It was hard to be anything but enchanted while bearing witness to the nocturnal masterpiece blanketing us as we wound our way through the Andes.

It feels good to be scratched by nature—to hear and feel the wind, the rain, to smell a pine forest and elderberries, to hear water cascading down a waterfall. Somehow, all dopamine-producing sensations. Pair them with cutting through the air on the back of a motorcycle and you’ve got nirvana.

When a small group of riders gathered in a hotel lobby in Aalesund, Norway, we were instructed to share how long we’d been riding and what we liked about it. There were several other pillion riders in the crowd, so I was eager to hear what they’d say.

“I ride my own bike at home, but when we travel, I prefer to sit on the back, that way I see more. I have less responsibility,” a woman from Iowa confessed.

“I’ve always loved to ride on the back. Never wanted to ride my own bike. I see so many things he doesn’t see because he has to keep his eyes on the road. I rather feel sorry for him sometimes and think I’ve got the better end of the deal,” a pillion rider from New Zealand disclosed to the group.

“I love to take photographs from the back. I get some really good ones,” a Swiss rider new to motorcycling shared.

Plan B that day in New Zealand became necessary because the day before, the remnants of Cyclone Fehi lashed the west coast of New Zealand with wild weather causing “slips,” flooding and downing power lines. Many roads—the very roads we planned to travel—were impassable.

….Mt. Cook appears off to our right, its snow-capped peak contrasts brilliantly with the bright blue sky, I frame it up in the viewfinder and snap away. Nothing obstructs my view or commands my attention other than the Southern Alps and the wind rushing over my body.