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

The End of the Offer

You know that trip of which I spoke? The one of which I wrote in the column titled “The Offer,” where I was supposed to do a cross-country bike delivery from Maryland to Seattle? I didn’t go. As it often does, life intervened. As the days rushed into autumn, I came to the realization that if I didn’t go soon, winter would close the passes through which I’d have to ride and unless I wanted to detour through Arizona, I wouldn’t reach Seattle. A day job with limited vacation and the Backroads Fall Foliage trip left me with little choice but to find an alternative. But, sometimes things happen for a reason.

My buddy Doug is a fine rider - he and his brother used to campaign flat-trackers at venues all over the US, wearing steel shoes and sliding the fire-breathing bikes with no front brakes around dirt ovals. Somewhere along the way, he became an Emmy-winning filmmaker (after being a Pulitzer-nominated photojournalist embedded with the Marines in Fallujah). He followed multiple political campaigns and Presidential elections by riding his ’09 Kawasaki Versys. He also rode it up the Dalton to the North Slope of Alaska, so I was pretty certain he could take an ’09 Yamaha VTX-1900 to Seattle for me.

I knew if I went, it’d be a hurried trip designed to make time rather than memories. Sending a pro photojournalist of Doug’s caliber on the trip meant there would be a plethora of amazing photos to go along with the ride. He needed it more than I - to clear a busy mind full of realities that needed clearing. After a little discussion, and a swift kick in his shorts from his wife and daughter urging him to go, he signed on.

I prepared the bike as best I could, installing RAM mounts for a GPS and cell phone, reinstalling the production footpegs (the aftermarket footboards dragged badly), and making sure there was a heated clothing plug. That was about all I could do with the machine, other than throwing the saddlebags and sissy-bar bag on. I couldn’t do anything about the straight pipes the owner put on, so I filled a ziploc bag with 19 sets of foam earplugs and handed it to him before he departed. He would need them…

I followed his trip like a mother hen, hanging on his every FaceBook post, text, and PM. He blazed through the first couple days, knowing the real photos would come from the West. He jokingly called the Midwest “the great corn maze” and at that time of year, it was true. He found rain - and flooding - in Iowa and had to detour around some washed-out bridges. His photos were still outstanding and became even more so as he reached the Great Plains and beyond. He found plenty of antelope, buffalo, and elk to photograph against incredible backdrops of sunlit grain.

At Devil’s Tower, he fell in love with the prairie dogs, at least until he found out that their droppings draw rattlesnakes like flies (to eat the rodents that eat the droppings, along with the odd prairie dog or two). The nadir of his trip came at Yellowstone, when three things happened: the weather turned cold, it rained and then snowed, and the tenuous connection the mice had eaten in his heated gloves finally broke. I could hear the pain in his words as he described riding the big cruiser 3 miles, dragging his feet flat-tracker style, as he negotiated the snowy road coming out of Yellowstone. In the rain. With no heated gloves.

In Idaho, he found family, beer, trout, and better weather and his attitude improved, going from “where can I find a rental van” to “I’m riding this thing to Seattle!” And ride it there he did, delivering the bike unscathed to a grateful owner who got him a ticket so he could be home in time for his wife’s birthday. Sometimes, things happen for a reason and good things happen to good people. Both Doug and the owner are what you call good people.

So, I missed the trip. I would love to have gone, but “adulting” involves making hard calls. In this case, however, I still got a lot out of it. My buddy got his bike, my other buddy got an amazing, head-clearing trip and a TON of beautiful photos, and I got to live vicariously through Doug’s travels. Besides, who knows where those photos will turn up…