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Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure

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Motorcycle TourMagazine

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About Postcards from the Hedge

Always on the cutting edge of the motorcycle industry, Bill Heald’s Postcards from the Hedge provides readers with an exceptional look into all things motorcycle. From racing to design to day-to-day riding, Heald has a grasp on it all.

Name: Bill Heald

Current Rides: Honda VFR and V45 Magna, Kawasaki Ninja 500, Triumph Street Triple R

Favorite quote:

The Wand chooses the Wizard Mr. Potter. It is not always clear why.

- Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Rock On

A nearby resident of these parts did a bit of impromptu landscaping, and managed to balance a rock on another rock in a very vexing and interesting manner. It was quite striking, and launched me down a very strange memory wormhole mixing the past and present and touching the very heart of the term “open road.”

Roads are living things, or so I believe. The more remote the blacktop in question the more it seems like a creature that breathes, thinks, and has a soul, or at least that’s the feeling I’ve experienced on many isolated highways. It’s a funny thing: I think it’s safe to say we all love a wildly curving sample of road that winds through rugged landscapes with lots of elevation changes that help us wear the tires out more evenly. But I am also a big fan of the straight ribbon of road on flat, desolate terrain that stretches to the horizon, where you really get a sense of the scope of your journey and literally see the weather coming ages before it actually arrives. Some of my fondest experiences tied to life on the road feature stretches of tarmac like this, and there’s something about these wide-open spaces that helps put my mind at ease. HedgeNew

Why do these open ranges have such a positive effect on me? Hard to say but I do have a few theories. Growing up in Texas no doubt had something to do with it, and once I started riding longer distances I naturally headed west and that meant a lot of West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada riding as I wandered to what turned out to be a three year stint in California. Somewhere during all this time I got really into weather, specifically big storms, for as I mentioned earlier on these wide flat stretches you could see them coming and get a real sense of how big they were and how small a guy on a motorcycle is. Whenever I think about such things, it reminds me of how much I enjoyed riding out in the great wastelands of Nevada (I use the term wasteland in an endearing manner) and how much things have changed since the 80s and 90s when I did most of my more extensive roaming. Whenever I was about to explore in an area where humans and their support services were rare, careful planning was in order. At the time when I embarked on a trip through the heart of Nevada on what was then (and probably still is) called the Loneliest Road in America, there were few services, no real internet, and cell phones (if you had one) were useless outside of most major metropolises (metropolli?). It was a pretty quiet stretch of road, even though I never really felt lonely when the Yamaha Royal Star and I were on it.

This was Highway 50 and in fact still is. And while I seriously doubt it is now strip malls, fast food joints and Dunkin’ Starbucks from Fallon to Ely, I somehow feel it has changed since my quiet adventure, chronicled for a magazine whose name escapes me. The whole concept of being alone has changed dramatically, thanks to our Brave New World of interconnectivity. We’re always reachable now, and by the same token (or microchip, actually) we can always contact somebody. GPS tells us where we are, and the weather can now be observed by radar on our smart phones and not just monitored by the movement of the clouds over the horizon. These truly brilliant resources somehow change things in the mind of the solo traveler, for you know that if you have a problem out there on the desert, help is (theoretically) just a phone call away. Is this a good thing? No, it’s a fantastic thing. It helps reduce the anxiety that’s present on such journeys and leaves you freer to undertake trips that might have made you think twice before.

But I can’t help thinking that, for people like me who remember what it was like to attack such trips armed with considerably less technology, the experience of isolated travel has changed. There was a sense of really being on your own, having to improvise if anything went amiss and really not having a clue what was around the next bend. On the trip through Nevada I mentioned earlier, there were a few roads I was on that seemed far more desolate than ol’ Route 50, and it was on these remote tracks where I observed something that I’ve never seen again (and was reminded of by my rock-balancing neighbor mentioned earlier). The desert and the road were pretty much on the same plane, and as I motored along I noticed I was clearly not the first person to visit these parts. People had taken stones, and created all kinds of messages just off the road in a geological version of dot-matrix printing (remember that?). Naturally after noticing that there where quite an assortment of these things I stopped to examine them further. It was amazing, for there were statements of romance, of graduation, of ultimate destinations and some were just signatures from passing vagabonds. But what was really interesting was many had considerately dated their missives, and some of these creations had been sitting there in the desert for decades apparently untouched. I’ve never forgotten that experience, and how even though I was really in the middle of nowhere I felt a connection to these rock sculptors and could feel a weird presence. With so many going back so many years, I was thinking about what these people must have looked like, what they were riding or driving, what music was popular, what was going on in the world, etc.

Suffice it to say I have never looked at roads, especially ones in places where people seem scarce, the same way since the technology revolution. That strange sense of connection with those who somehow found themselves on what is literally the road less travelled was very welcome, and quite unexpected at the time. Now of course, we’re all about the connectivity. It’s all good, and yet there’s still a part of me that longs for the days when the connection were more ethereal, and less electronic.

BillHeald2012
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