Thursday, June 1, 2017

~ Beartooth Pass ~


“You become what you think about all day long.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.     

~ Robert Griego, Yellowstone National Park ~

His name is iconic, especially in the world of motorcycles, and beyond.

Perhaps, we took the same trails across Montana.  He pursued quality, and me, wildness.  He rode a Honda Super Hawk, 305cc, and I once rode the Yamaha Cross Country Sport, 305cc.  In the day, I raced against his bike and it was faster.  But speed is not what he wrote about, rather he spoke about movement.  His energy was in pursuit of something unique, something that he wanted desperately to find - he called it quality.

He camped along the trail, traveling a simple life, allowing his motorcycle to connect with the world.  All of his encounters added to his mission.  He saw poor examples and great ones.  He focused on the great ones, often trying to convince his son about the better road to follow.  His travel was usually alone, time for him to talk with himself.  He camped lightly on the land and tuned his bike along the way, something he did well.  He often attempted to use the same motorcycle logic to tune his thoughts and often getting stuck in meaningless dialogue, or so he thought.  “Quality, but what is it,” he said.

Montana's Beartooth Pass is directly in front of us.  He spoke about going up this mammoth pass at 10,947 feet, but we are going down the steep zigzag switchbacks towards Red Lodge.

Ruben Griego, Beartooth Pass
He is here, I feel it.  I feel so alive.  The coldness is replaced by the immense wild, landscape.

Today, I am riding a Yamaha Road Star with ample power driven by 1700cc.  Yet, he rode a Honda 305cc and his ride seemed surreal.  I say that because his son was on the back of his bike, and their camping gear was strapped on the back of his motorcycle.  I can not compete with that, and only hope to experience some of the things he might have seen on his cross country trip.  He paints a picture that puts me right there with him.

We are approaching Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area where I once worked.  We lived in Fort Smith and loved being among the Native American, Crow and Cheyenne. 

The Bighorn River is perhaps one of the best trout fishing spots in the world.  There are two inexpensive campgrounds on either side of the river.  On my last trip, my nephew Ruben spots a large black bear running along the shore on the other side of the river.  We do not know why she is running, and then, 100 yards behind are three little bears trying hard to catch up.  In the wild, they must learn to move like this when their mother is ahead of them.  Perhaps, there was a male black bear around or worse a mountain lion.  Today, their little legs would be tired but they learn a valuable lesson.  A nice distraction as I continue reading his book.

Robert Griego, Bighorn River

Robert Griego, Bighorn River


Ruben Griego, Bighorn River
Bighorn Canyon is not far from Beartooth Pass as the eagle flies.  I know how rugged this land is, so I continue to read his words with admiration.  He is riding double, going up and over Beartooth Pass on his bike with spitting snow; I have been there.  I feel the coldness.  What he sees is incredible.  As I turn the pages of his book, I want to say to him ride on.  However,  I know the coldness around him will slow him down.

The words on the page now tell me that they are in Washington.  Their buddies have returned home and he and his son continue to pursue their dreams.  Both struggle with the miles and their thoughts but in the end, they realize that they fulfilled their dreams miles ago, maybe over Beartooth Pass when life was simple -- cold with breathtaking views.

I once took a trip with my son from California, across Arizona, into New Mexico.  

Without really knowing it, it was on fathers day.  For me, it was magic.  We rode, camped, and the land looked similar to what he traveled.  The ride was special and allowed me to finally finish his book.  I've been reading his book for many, many years. 

Older now, I think I know what he was trying to tell me.  Life is about living in the moment, even when changing the spark plugs on your motorcycle.  Accomplishing any task with creativity and passion, doing the very best you can, and then some. You need to feel the wind on your face, feel your bike, I mean really feel it, and allow it to move you from one world into another.  A biker knows what I mean.  Then there are those time when the machine will not move or is in need of immediate mechanical attention.  Self-reliance is knowing that we can do more than we imagine when it comes from our soul, our heart.  Don Shula once said “It’s the start that stops most people.”

"Think about the kickstand," I tell myself.  A simple piece of metal.  It is attached to your machine and your left leg automatically kicks it into place to do its job.  It holds the weight of the bike.  It rests in perfect harmony until you raise it up.  We all have such things that hold us up, even when the weight is heavy.  Think about it.  How often do we acknowledge this simple fact in life?  It could be a friend, family, religion, nature, or your machine.  Logic, creativity, and soul apply to everything in life.

Robert M. Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, knew this and much, much more.  He is an outstanding ambassador to the motorcycle world and beyond.  Towards the end of his book, he writes “We do need a return to individual integrity, self-reliance and old-fashioned gumption.  We really do.”  Thank you, Robert Pirsig, for your words of inspiration. 

You were right all along. 

The self is more important than the machine.  Yet the machine helps move our soul.  Without the kickstand, the machine falls repeatedly.

For me the soul and machine provide balance, all in the pursuit of wildness, even if only within myself.


Montana's Beartooth Pass

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