Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About On The Mark

Having piloted a motorcycle for many years, Mark has many thoughts floating in his helmet and he's ready to share them with us.

Name: Mark Byers

Current Rides: 'Honestly, his stable is in such a constant flux that we can't keep track of it. If you need to know, just ask him.

Favorite quote:

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

- Winston Churchill


As I write this, we’re in the biggest worldwide panic I have ever seen. The shelves are devoid of toilet paper, hand cleaner, and cleaning wipes. It took an hour for Betsy to check out the other day with some basic foodstuffs. Businesses are shutting down and people are worried. It’s no wonder: the television and internet are just chock full of all kinds of coverage. Social media is just packed with “information,” some decent and some just outrageous. The tinfoil hat community is well represented. Who knows what the truth is? The two single most important things I know to do are also the most basic and sensical: stay away from a lot of people and wash my hands frequently. Well…duh. Welcome back to kindergarten.

The last time the media was this hysterical, it stressed me out so badly that I needed a break of some kind. Conveniently, I had a big trip planned - an Ironbutt ride of 1,000 miles in 24 hours to the wedding of an employee to be held in Madison, Wisconsin. I deliberately don’t ride with any audio input other than that generated by the bike and nature and my inner voice, so I was looking forward to the peace and quiet (or as quiet as it can be at 70+ MPH on the interstate on the seat of an R1200RT). I left all the rancorous polemic behind and got on my bike at daybreak. Sixteen-and-a-half hours later, I was at my hotel in Madison and I felt great.

Oh sure, I was a little tired physically, but mentally, I was refreshed. The absence of input, other than the scenery and the ever-changing situations required to navigate a better portion of I-70, took away the forcing function of the news. I was so refreshed that I walked from the hotel down to the University of Wisconsin campus to have beers with the wedding party. It was awesome and that experience made me realize the restorative, healing power of a long motorcycle ride. In one cycle of long, July daylight, I went from stressed to blessed. I suppose I could have taken some kind of pill, but the road and the ride was all the Valium I needed or wanted. Maybe I should apply for a patent for “Roadium” or “Ridium” or the like.

The other motorcycle medicine I’ve used successfully in the past has been maintenance. There’s a great comfort in the absolute control offered by doing something that makes as much sense as partially disassembling a motorcycle and putting it back together better than it was before. A simple oil change can be a tonic. Adding a farkle can be an injection of satisfaction. A new set of bags - an antidepressant: “Pack-sil?” There’s a massive calming influence brought on by the creation of a new sense of order; however, I urge caution at the tasks chosen because a missing or stripped fastener can introduce stressors of their own. Stick to things that are easy not to make a mockery of and leave the hard stuff for another time.

I’ve written before about the order-influencing action of organizing one’s toolbox. Putting the sockets neatly in their holders in the socket drawer is my equivalent of raking the sand in a Japanese Zen Rock Garden. The universe comes into greater order when the wrenches all face the right way and in the right order and the screwdrivers alternate positions with military precision. When the rest of the world is dissolving into complete chaos, one can turn to the toolbox for a sense of order and peace. You might even find the ever-elusive missing 10mm socket. There’s nothing like seeing your sockets arrayed in tight, neat formations like the Terra Cotta Army of Qin Shi Huang, waiting to assault the next project.

I don’t know how long this thing we’re experiencing may last. Betsy and I have a saying we use when we’re out on the bike and the weather turns, or we get up on the last day of a rally and realize we have a long, cold, wet slog home: “It is what it is.” There’s nothing we can do about it, so we put on our long johns and Gore-tex outerwear, pull up our “big-boy britches,” and get on with it. There’s no sense complaining or worrying. Sometimes, you just gotta ride and the ride’s the juice. The ride’s the thing. The ride’s the…Ridium.