The Journey

What happened

Hunter S. Thompson
Last time I wrote, I told of how I got my motorcycle license at age 18, but thereafter never rode. I had gotten my certification in a place with bad weather most of the year and I had neither the money nor storage space to own something I would have used so very rarely.
When I was 22 years old I left Minnesota for the slightly better weather of Northern Nevada, but married a woman who had a strong idea of who and what she wanted me to be. What she did not want me to be was one of those guys who zips around on a motorcycle. She was convinced I would get myself killed. And I wasn’t able to convince myself she wasn’t just a little bit right. Especially when she and I lived in San Diego, California.

San Diego is conducive to riding about 360 days a year, but it is home to countless military bases, which means a lot of people who make bad decisions involving motor vehicles. You may have heard that motorcycles have killed more U.S. Marines than IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. It is misleading statistic because the issue is not really with motorcycles but Marines. People who are trained to fight and die are, by nature, not going to be too precious about their own mortality.

San Diego has some horrific highway accidents. But the reason for those accidents is usually the vehicle operator rather than the vehicle. This kind of splitting of hairs, though, offers little help in the face of a wife’s opposition. The issue was buried and forgotten. But then a few things happened.

When I was 30 years old I moved to southern Wales, where it almost never snows and where the roads are smaller and the traffic generally slower than in the United States. When I was 33 years old my wife left me. When I was 34 years old I drove from Minnesota to Texas and realised I love my home country. A few months later, I met and fell in love with a girl who was far more willing to accept me as I am, rather than as she wants me to be. When I was 36 years old I read Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

Part of being American is holding the innate (and admittedly ridiculous) need for freedom. That’s a word that gets thrown around a lot and I think it manifests differently for each individual. For me, part of being free is having the ability to get up and go, the ability to roam. In Britain I have no car – just my feet, my bicycle and public transportation to take me places. That’s not enough. I am not free. I am not myself.

About three months ago I realised all this. The source of my unhappiness became clear. And it became clear, too, that a motorcycle could save me.