Today’s post is a guest post. Garreth “Soup” Slone grew UP in Germantown and was a Pollyanna Kid. He lived right across the street from me. Two years older, and much wiser, he taught me a great deal growing UP, and we had fun playing ball – yes I did once or twice – tag, hide and seek, and bike riding.
Soup was a rock and roll fan from the beginning, he had curly hair, Beatle Boots, and a Fender guitar. I was a tad jealous.
We’d stayed in touch through our parents after he moved away, and only talked rarely. After ‘discovering’ my blog, we’ve caught UP again. When he told me about his ‘big adventure’, and excellent one I might add, I said, “You need to guest post, the class of 1968 would love to know all about you.”
And he did, so…here it is.
Soup’s Big Adventure:
The Big Adventure
It was something I always wanted to do. But when I would talk about it, people would ask, “Like a bucket list thing?” And I’d make some lame reply because to me, “bucket list” means “about to die.” Well, I may be 62, and I do want to see Jesus, but I don’t necessarily want to meet Him in person today!
From the time I was a kid in Germantown I’ve liked adventure, risk, the unusual. I learned to ride two-wheeled powered vehicles on John Corcoran’s Moped at age 14. At 16, one of the hosts at “The Village” teenage nightclub in Miamisburg where our band (John Corcoran’s and mine) was the house band, taught me to ride his BSA 650 Lightning. Then at 17, my brother and I bought a brand new Suzuki T20. After college and after moving to Akron for a “good job” at age 25, I bought a Yamaha RD350B (still miss that one) and a Cessna 172 airplane. I tried parachuting back in the solo, big canopy days, and we camped out on plane trips (stretch a piece of plastic over the wing, stake it down, and throw a sleeping bag under it). Adventure mixed with a little danger, or the pretense of danger anyway.
After I got married at 26, Toni (my wife and fellow pilot) and I bought a Yamaha XS750; two motorcycles and an airplane (and a lot of debt!). Years later, after the kids were born, I decided to sell the motorcycles as too dangerous, and when we needed a house, the plane was gone, too.
Then life settled in. I was traveling through the 80’s with a band and making albums while working a job; too busy for flying (or at least for airplane ownership) and motorcycling, so I didn’t miss those things too much. But in the 90’s our 11-year-old daughter was killed in an accident (the lowest point of my life) and in the 2000’s my brother died of cancer. And I started thinking again about life, death, risk, managed risk, and adventure; if not now, when? And since I can’t even protect the ones I love most no matter how cautious I am, why not try to enjoy every day? Grab hold of every second and wring every bit of joy out of it…
And so I eventually got back into motorcycling, and almost at once I became a long-rider. I found I liked being alone inside my helmet as I took solo trips to Nashville, The Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway, the Tail of the Dragon, The Crooked Road in Virginia, and so on. Sometimes Toni rides with me, and sometimes she rides her own motorcycle, and sometimes I ride with others, but I enjoy solo riding the most. I always wear full riding gear and a helmet; “managed risk,” as I’m not into the “no helmet and T-shirt” thing. And I’m not really a “group rider.” I find the aloneness is refreshing; I sing, pray, think in that aloneness; just me and God.
But I always thought about the BIG ADVENTURE, weeks on the road…alone…seeing America. My band, back in the 80’s, had played Las Vegas and St. George, Utah a number of times, and I shot a movie in Las Vegas and Gallup, New Mexico. Yet I had never seen the Grand Canyon, just an easy drive away. We played in Sun Valley, Idaho, but I never drove on over to Yellowstone. I’ve traveled to many countries for my job, but I wanted to see these American places I’d missed, and seeing them on a moto trip is DIFFERENT than by car. You experience the travel differently; every smell, every change in temperature and precipitation, whether there is gravel or water, the quality of the road, all have a direct impact on you, your decisions, your ride. Your senses are on high alert, as something like a goat crossing the road (happened three times!) let alone a bison or bear, pumps adrenaline into you much faster when riding than driving. Note that you RIDE a motorcycle; you don’t DRIVE it – pet peeve.
So finally, I did something I never had done before. I went to my boss and asked for three weeks off in a row. And since I work for a European company where long vacations are normal, he said, “I’m surprised you haven’t done this before.”
So on May 27, 2012, immediately following church that Sunday, I left on the Big Adventure. I could tell you all about it. But that’s not the point. It was MY big adventure. I rode to Mammoth Cave, Nashville, the Grand Canyon, Historic Route 66, Santa Monica and L.A., Las Vegas, Zion National Park (NP), Red Canyon NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Salt Lake City, Idaho Falls, Jackson WY, Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP, The Little Big Horn NP, Sturgis SD, Mount Rushmore NP, Crazy Horse Mountain, the site of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, The Badlands NP, Custer State Park, The Black Hills…I got to visit our son in California, I rode through a snow storm in Yellowstone (in June!); I was cold, I was hot…I experienced it…I saw America: The majesty and beauty, the vast deserts and plains, the mountains and rivers. And the sad depression of Indian reservations. I met fellow moto adventurers; Americans, Germans, Frenchmen, Canadians. All of it significant. All of it enlightening. All of it deeply moving.
And when I reached the Ohio border on June 13th in the early afternoon, it was the first time on the trip that the temperature was perfect; not hot or cold, and not a cloud in the sky. Welcome to Ohio.
The next day after arriving home, 6,373 miles later, I was at the hospital when our first grandchild was born…
…a new adventure mixed with risk, as the Big Adventure continues. I love it!
p.s. Zola, don’t print this for Hazel, she doesn’t know he has a bike. Some things never change!