I am typing this with hands stained from road grime and leather dye, tanned dark by a week in the sun on the back of a motorcycle. I’ve just returned from traveling nearly two thousand miles of backroads and small towns in the American south, crisscrossing the Appalachian mountain range and seeing places and people that don’t make it onto most maps. Towns that seem untouched by the modern age, vintage Coca Cola signs on the sides of full service gas stations on the edge of a tobacco field. Attendants look on with a mixture of wonder and mistrust as a half dozen tattooed nomads roar into their backwater village, thirsty and burnt, facemasks and bandanas stiff with sweat.
They sometimes ask “where are you from?” Or, “where you headin’?”
I answer the first with “back there,” jerking a thumb over my shoulder, and the second with “nowhere,” “anywhere,” or “everywhere.”
We are not out here for any other reason but to wander. To experience the camaraderie that comes from time spent outdoors with people you give a damn about, away from the wear and tear of “the daily grind.” Waking up and jumping in a mountain stream, rinsing off the miles, the bullshit, the aches and pains of the modern world. Sharing some laughs before mounting up again and tearing off to somewhere else, no real plans, no destination but forward.
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget how much we need this. This adventurous spirit is what drove those who came before us, and its also easy to feel that there is no adventure left to be had in a world where everything is discovered, mapped, GPS’d, Googled and so on. That the world has become small, boring, civilized.
This way of thinking is quickly dispelled after hundreds of miles of places you’ve never heard of. Close calls with outlaw motorcycle clubs, hanging out in caves in a landscape that looks like another planet; surfing at sunrise on an empty beach, watching the stars emerge from the top of a mountain millions of years old and feeling its power beneath you, massive and ancient. Falling in love again with the landscape you’ve come to take for granted, and sharing that with old friends- these things are where our new frontier lies. The rediscovery of our own spirit of adventure, and the understanding that it can take many forms, but we have to go out there and find it. The sedentary life is not life at all, merely a waiting room before death.
Carl Sagan said it eloquently:
‘For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us… edgy, unfulfilled. Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten. The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. We invest far-off places with a certain romance. The appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game—none of them lasts forever.
Your own life, or your band’s, or even your species’ might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.’
A lot of folks have plans to get a career, get married, have kids, prepare for retirement in a little house somewhere. My only goal at this point in life is to assemble a war rig which will serve as my mobile command center, swear in a few outriders, longrifles, berserkers, tech-witches and motomancers- and roll fast and far into a brave new world.
Out on sunbleached rock and windswept road we will bear witness to desert nights under lonely stars, moon rising over ghost towns in the Wyoming winter, our mechanical wagons and iron horses circled up and the fire blazing somewhere in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
We will traverse the country for the sake of movement, of fully enjoying the moment itself, rather than being swept away in our plans for some vague and tenuous future. We will attribute value instead to sights seen, hidden places discovered, realizations had, and challenges overcome through will, ferocity and solidarity with those we have chosen to spend our days with.
There is a great deal more to say, but I won’t spoil my plans by giving them all away, and this isn’t a blueprint, but a suggestion:
Go outside, pick something barely seen on the horizon, and go for it. Take some friends if you can, otherwise, do it on your own and find some new, more adventurous ones on the way. You don’t have to be gone for a week, or a month,or year. Sometimes a day or two will suffice to inject new blood into your veins, rekindle some of those coals that have lain dormant for too long.
If you’re headed somewhere, you’re headed in the right direction. Keep on looking for the good stuff- the excitement, the love of life and the lust for more, friendship, camaraderie and the meeting of new people to share your stories with and to hear theirs. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, and one that should be lifelong.