There’s the old saying “Not all who wander are lost.” This is certainly a motto that writer Ron Davis of Eau Claire lives by, especially if he’s out on the road on his motorcycle.
Though it might appear as if any fool can easily get him or herself lost on the road, or really anywhere, losing one’s way consistently on a motorcycle actually takes careful study, years of practice and above all a special, God-given talent for being totally oblivious to how one got anywhere or where anywhere happens to be. At the risk of sounding immodest, I am such a one.
Before I became a rider, I first became aware of my special talent when my dad first took me trout fishing. We separated, he headed upstream and me down, and he told me I couldn’t get lost as long as I stayed next to the creek. After an hour of fighting tangled fishing line, hooks snared in trees, and catcher’s mitt-sized mosquitos, in my abundant 10-year-old wisdom, I decided to head back to the car, disregarding my dad’s instructions and cutting cross country. Within minutes, I had lost sight of the creek and everything took on an alarming state of sameness — no country road, no car, instead, there were lots of trees, swamp and ominous looking thickets presumably that hideous “Creature from the Black Lagoon” which had been giving me nightmares. My talent for getting lost not fully developed yet, I didn’t blunder blindly on, but started yelling for Dad. “Help!” seemed appropriate, and Dad was able to come to a somewhat less than nurturing rescue.
Motorcycling opened a whole new universe of possibilities for honing my talents. More than once I found myself in the bowels of the labyrinth-like roads that snake through Wisconsin’s Driftless Area (a two-wheeler’s mecca). Looking for virgin trout water or the mother of all twisties, I often jumped without hesitation from state highway, to county trunk, to town road, to gravel and — finally — to cow pasture track. I found farmers quite helpful in directing me off their property.
Absolutely the first rule in getting lost is going where you’ve never gone before. This spring, after mentioning I was looking for some new lakes to explore with my kayak, some kindly moto-compadres took me back into an area near Bloomer littered with some of Wisconsin’s more than 10,000 lakes (Cheeseheads are a bit more liberal with the definition of “lake” than Minnesotans). After miles squirming down nameless gravel roads chasing my guides’ taillights through swirling clouds of dust, I began to get suspicious, wondering if these guys were actually bent on playing some cruel prank. Were they trying to get me lost? Please, they could have deserted me after the second turn, and I’d still be out in the sticks subsisting on grubs, talking to a pet wood tick and wearing my bike’s tank bag as a rain hat. Somehow, I kept up, never giving them the satisfaction of witnessing my true powers.
Lately, with an even more finely developed skill at getting “displaced,” I’ve become a genius at turning short rides in northwest Wisconsin into unplanned “detours.” What lies behind these countless forays into the unknown? Some deep-seated, mystical compulsion to liberate myself from convention? The lure of adventure? The famous “living in the moment?” Nah, frankly I’m mystified, as is my wife (never a fan of my exceptionalism). She sometimes calls me to ask if I have any idea where I am. My usual response is “Of course I know where I am, I’m right here!”
MUSIC: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” by Lana Del Rey
“Ballad of Easy Rider” by The Byrds
“Wasn’t Born to Follow” by The Byrds