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Getting Lost

Written by  August 31, 2008

One of my Patriot Guard friends likes to say, “There are no wrong turns on a bike, just a different ride home.” While any reason to ride is good, the best reason is no reason at all. Riding relieves stress, gives us perspective, and, because I am a pillion warmer, allows my mind to wander, which in turn gives my imagination and creativity a much needed boost.

Our “Get Lost” rides, as we have come to call them, have taken us to some very unique and scenic areas throughout this tiny state. From abandoned barns to painted patriotic rocks to strangely out of the way statues, discovering roads less travelled has become a passion that has inspired much of my latest photography. In just the past four months, we have discovered five abandoned old diners, and I am now on a quest to find and photograph as many as I can for a possible future book.

Taking these rides along the back roads is not done totally without a plan. We start off looking at a map to give us a general idea of direction and where we would like to end up. Many times we don’t follow the route we planned because there are so many side roads just waiting to be explored. It is on these that I have found some of the best subjects to photograph. On one ride alone, we found four or five mills, an abandoned house filled with antiques and a very old graveyard with the remains of a stone walled church. We had started out only wanting to find three old mills I had found in a site of unusual roadside structures. It seems the only true plan is that there is no true plan.

If you have an idea of what roads you would like to explore, there are internet sites that highlight and critique roads for motorcyclists. Google “motorcycle roads” and you will get pages of information about what are the best scenic routes, what you might find and the level of quality of the route you choose. If there is something special you would like to see, there are sites that can help you there as well. Whether you like old barns, memorial parks or quaint museums, the internet will tell you where they are and how to get there.

Of course, you should not just suit up and ride, especially if your plan is to be gone as long as the sun shines. Here are some simple reminders to make the cruise as stress free and as relaxing as possible:
First, make sure your tank is full and the bike is in top form. Country roads can get pretty desolate and you may not see a service station for most of the day.
Second, be sure your cell phone and your camera batteries are fully charged. You want the surprises to be in what you see, not what you use.
Third, pack water and a snack. If it’s a really hot day, bringing a drink that replaces your electrolytes is a good idea. Leave the soda and candy at home. Soda, coffee and high caloric drinks don’t truly quench thirst and candy doesn’t satisfy hunger; in fact, the sugar load you get might make you feel sleepy later, and that’s not a good idea while riding. Pack as much water as will fit in your bags or backpack. Besides drinking, it is also good for rinsing your hands or wetting a bandana to cool you down.
Fourth, it’s always a good idea to keep sun block on hand. Even with a face shield, you can get a burnt nose or worse. Apply it liberally to any exposed skin before heading out.

If you have a hard time with your sense of direction, remember the sun rises in the east, by midday it is in the south and then heads west. By paying attention to shadows on the road, you can get a sense of which way you are heading. For example, if it’s close to lunch time and the shadows are on your left, then to your left is south, so you are probably heading west.

When planning your unplanned ride, give yourself enough time to enjoy the experience. The earlier you hit the road, the more time you will have to really see the sights, take photos and just relish the peace. Being in a hurry is counterproductive to the whole concept of getting lost. It is more than just riding aimlessly; by getting “lost” we find ourselves, we rediscover our surroundings and see everyday things in a whole new light. There’s never a wrong turn, only a new way to get back home.

As always, if you have any comments or ideas for future columns I would love to hear from you.

By Louise Reeves