Motorcycling is Mindfulness

“An hour on the bike is better than an hour with a therapist.”

-Unknown

A lot of us have heard or repeated this quote, but what does it mean? How many of us have actually experienced both the therapist and the knees in the breeze and can talk about the differences? I have, and it took me more than 20 years to figure it out. I’m a slow learner.

An hour on the bike is better, that’s true, but why is it true? We do our thinking on the motorcycle, we feel at peace afterwards, we crave this peace at the first sign of trouble. We miss this peace all winter.

We all kind of know what that quote means. It resonates with us. The simple pleasures of sunshine and the visceral experience of watching the asphalt go by are amazing, the feeling of wind on your body letting you know that time (and miles) have gone by. The feeling of rolling down a street you might have been down a thousand times in your cage, but it’s so much more real and immediate without anything between you and it. The smell of fresh cut grass that you wouldn’t have gotten with the windows rolled up. The sound of people talking on the sidewalk. A feeling of being in the world and not simply going through it.

For some of this, science is starting to come up with “the why”. Humans were meant to see green and blue and brown and thrive in an environment that looks nothing like the cubicles or assembly lines many of us work in; even our houses most likely clash with nature. Why do you think log cabins remain popular? Think about the difference between a primitive shelter or a tepee or a log cabin and your house: when you look around do you see a lot of wood grain and natural colors or a lot of linoleum and carpet and drywall? Why do you think hardwood floors and ceramic tile are so expensive and sought after? Why do you think a log cabin is so romanticized and sought after? We want to be comfortable, but we also want to see the colors and textures and feel the sensations that our ancestors did.

So, no matter what else happens or whatever we figure out about our grey matter, outside-y things are good for us. Still, being on two wheels is unlike anything else and there must be a reason for it.

The reason is that motorcycling is mindfulness.

Mindfulness

Mull that over. Can you drift off into inattention the way you can in a car? No. Are you alone with your own thoughts? Yes. Do you continually feel the wind on your face, the sun on your skin, your knees in the breeze? Yes. Do you notice sensations like smell and sound in ways you would not in a car? Yes. Thoughts and sensations are the contents of consciousness. The simplest action, such as stopping at a stop sign, takes on a significance that’s missing from many of our experiences. You don’t just press the stop button, you coordinate your front and rear brakes, downshift, allow the weight of the bike to lean ever so slightly to the left as your right foot remains on the brake, your left hand pulls the clutch, your left foot holds you up. You are present, moment by moment. The felt presence of immediate experience. Existing “now” in simple actions and the thoughts that gave life to those actions is surprising pleasing.

So why does that basic shit matter? Because it’s your life going by moment by moment, and that used to matter. So many of our experiences in the digitally-assisted world remove us from one, two, or all of the steps and experiences that used to keep us anchored to the moment, to our life. When you ask Alexa to add eggs to your shopping list, your are robbing yourself of context and experience. You perform an action without seeing what else is on your list, without thinking of the meals you’ll make with your family.

In addition to proper mindfulness, this is why the excitement and challenge of packing for a long trip has always made me feel happy and at peace.

When you have to pack your saddlebags and back pack for a 4 day trip, you are forced to remember that Amazon Prime won’t help you on the side of the road if you have to take shelter from a storm.

When you throw some beef jerky in your jacket, you are forced to remember that the things necessary for human life don’t magically appear when needed, and humans took over the planet because of our ability to think ahead and change our environment to suit us. Yet, we did it without a moment-to-moment anxiety storm that rendered us unable to act.

When you have to put on sunscreen at every gas stop, you are reminded that “the Earth” doesn’t give a shit if you live or die and keeping breathing only happens if you are ever vigilant.

When you carry a fix-a-flat kit because you know you’re buddy’s back tire is about to go, you are reminded that humans only took over the planet because we were more powerful in communities.

I have, at various points in my life, been prescribed pharmaceuticals or self-medicated with chemicals. That means: things my doctor prescribed me and over-the-counter drugs like “enough bourbon to not have to feel any emotions tonight”. I have sat with a PhD psychologist who tried to help me figure out my issues. You know what? I will never touch psycho-cocktails again, and I consume in moderation in favor of the only thing that’s actually maintainable and works. There’s a place for the head-shrinkers as we used to call it, but I’ve busted my ass getting to a place where I can look within and find answers on my own.

I meditate every day. Right now I’m on a 420-something day streak. I leave reminders for myself at work in subtle ways. The reminders say “Stop and breathe”. You have to learn the difference between things you think are relaxing and great because they are better than work/chores/screaming kids and the things that are therapeutic because they are allowing you to be mindful.

Mindfulness is Good for You

The health effects of mindfulness are hard to overstate. This is not hippie bullshit, this is what the hard sciences have to say:

  • Reduced rumination ( affects depression and generally stewing on things)
  • Stress reduction
  • Boosts working memory
  • Boosts Focus
  • Less emotional reactivity
  • More cognitive flexibility
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Many other bonuses…

Head on over to a page maintained by the American Psychological Association to read more about the specifics of these benefits. Take a look through that list again. How many people are living on chemical cocktails with the hope of getting some of those benefits?

We all like to read things that we already agree with. Many of us have made the argument to an impatient wife or girlfriend that we had to ride to work through something or quiet our mind to the point where the stress of the work week is no longer haunting us.

This is Two Wheeled Thoughts

Once you understand mindfulness, and how motorcycling is mindfulness, it makes all of your time on two wheels even more valuable. Adding some simple breathing, reflection, visualizations, or resting awareness into a ride amplifies the effects.

You’ll notice that there are experiences that naturally compliment this two-wheeled mindfulness. Experiences like camping, sitting down on a vista and appreciating nature, enjoying primitive cooking. Talking to people all night without iPads or Netflix in sight. Having great moments that you don’t instantly put on social media because you understand breaking out of that flow to get “internet attention” would defile the experience. Simply understanding that a great experience can be cheapened in the rush to instagram it is a huge leap forward.

This is Two Wheeled Thoughts. I rode for 20 years on and off before I began to understand the why of it all. This is what this site is all about. I don’t just throw this shit in people’s faces: a Saturday poker run is not the place to get on a soap box about examining the contents of consciousness and changing our relationship with anxiety or grief.  I am slowly doing the work though, I have a small circle of disciples and like-minded leaders that expands a little bit each year. If you come on a cross country trip or go motorcycle camping with me, you’ll wind up in front of a fire and we’ll be talking about things, getting real. You’ll wind up eating food I cooked over an open fire and taking a hit off my bourbon flask. Every year there’s a couple more people I convince to give me a few days of their time, and afterwards they get it. I hope they go on to show others. I am no guru, just a fellow traveler, and I try to show others that there’s something worth exploring here.

Motorcycling is not a “sport”, or a means of transportation, it’s a brotherhood and a way of life.

– David “Chubby” Charlebois, Executive Director ABATE of Wisconsin

You’ll find yourself at work, months after the trip you took with me, and find that you heart hurts horribly with the need for an experience like this. You’ll look at a calendar, the snow on the ground, and despair at how much calendar-space stands between you and the next chance to taste reality in a different way. To get you through it, practice mindfulness formally.

Motorcycling is mindfulness. You know what to do: go get healthy.

Tomahawk Fall Ride 2018

On the morning of Saturday, September 15th, 2018 my buddy Corvus and I headed to the Tomahawk Fall Veterans Ride & Rally in Northern Wisconsin.

This event is well known in Wisconsin, but I had avoided this event for years. Firstly: big rallys are not precisely my thing. I ride to be mindful, to think, to smell the world anew with no metal cage in between. To be quiet, to see stars. 4,000 bikers descending on a town that’s home to 3,000 permanent residents is not my usual thing. I had also avoided the event because my Wisconsinites consider the event to mark the end of the riding season. This seems pretty lazy to me: warm weather is brief and precious in Wisconsin, but I also have leather chaps, heated gear, and a touring bike with a fairing. I don’t put the bike away until there’s salt and ice on the roads.

I needed to get away, and to see if there was any chance I’d enjoy the bigger rallies like Sturgis or Daytona Bike Week. So I gave Tomahawk a try and the most popular way to do it seemed to be camping at Bubba’s Big Party.

We Rode Up

Many states suffer from being identified primarily based on a small number of well known areas. New York state is known for New York City, yet get out into the country away from Manhattan and you are in a different universe. So it is with Wisconsin: I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and I think of this state as Milwaukee and Madison and maybe Port Washington. Riding through the North Woods in September, though, I am reminded that less than 200 miles from home lies a world of pine forests, hundreds of lakes, and close-knit tiny towns. Were you to parachute blindfolded into the woods surrounding Tomahawk you’d be forgiven if you guessed you were in Northern Canada, Iowa, or really any remote area.

As we ride North away from Lake Michigan where it’s just slightly cooler during the day (and much cooler at night) the trees have just started turning. Every shoreline is a postcard, or at least a Leinenkugel’s commercial. When I think about buying land to wait out the Zombie Apocalypse (which is totally going to happen), I always think about something a little warmer like Kentucky or North Carolina. Maybe I need to give WI a chance.

Bubba’s Big Party

We arrived at Bubba’s campground and it was an unseasonably warm 90 degrees. Once we found out where to buy wristbands for the party and camping it only took us a few minutes to set up camp. Bubba’s campground is 180 acres and we went to the very outskirts of what was already populated. It may look like we’re camping in the middle of nowhere, but over my shoulder is at least 80 acres of tents and campers of all sizes.

I have slightly augmented my camping gear since I last went motorcycle camping. I have added a Thermacell setup and a heavy tarp. The 20mil 6’x8′ tarp is meant to both cover my tent & sleeping back on the bike but also serve as extra protection above or below in a real rain storm. The thermacell setup is a butane + neurotoxin setup that keeps mosquitoes away from you in a 15′ sphere but is not food safe since it’s blasting chemicals into the air. A 20mil tarp is pretty thick and does not fold easily but after a couple of tries I got my tent and sleeping bag neatly wrapped up in it. Add some Rock Straps to that and my bagger became a camper no problem.

TarpRockStraps
I can’t say enough good about Rock Straps, and man am I spoiled by the amount of bag storage in my Victory Cross Country.

CampSite

Riding Around

Anyone who’s ever ridden with me knows I’m likely to get us lost. I ride to lose myself which is both a good and a bad thing. Good: sometimes we accidentally find cool shit. Bad: I space out, I miss turns, and with no visual GPS I generally make a mess of things. I had a chance to consider the performance of Corvus’ new 2019 Ultra Limited with the new 114ci Milwaukee Eight in it. Damn, I need to ride one. We sat down at a bar half an hour away in some random direction (West?) and after hanging out a while decided it was time for food.

LaRosas
A bar… somewhere…

We sat down at The Thirsty Giraffe because we’d passed it before and “Ribs, broasted chicken, and prime rib” sounded really good. You can also tell from the road that it’s on a little lake and there was seating out back. Northern Wisconsin in September can really be amazing.

ThirstyGiraffeFront

BackofThirstyGiraffe
The view from the back deck of The Thirsty Giraffe.

We had a great meal here, especially the broasted chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. After a meal we checked out the vendors on site at Bubba’s, but I wanted a patch and they were out, so we headed downtown…

Downtown

Having mostly done research online and word of mouth, I thought Bubbas party was the Tomahawk rally. Uhm, no. There are plenty of private parties during this event, and by all accounts the private parties are the way to stay, but the rally proper is downtown. If you’ve seen one Midwest Rally I suppose you’ve seen them all, but I never get tired of rows of bikes and live music. You can’t beat Northern Wisconsin prices either. Where else can you get get two cans of beer for $5 ?

If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, you know I try to collect a patch from every trip away from home. It took looking at quite a few vendors to find a Tomahawk 2018 patch and luckily they were also sewing them on there, so I didn’t need to do a drunken sewing job. Corvis decided he was going to start sewing memories on his vest that night. Despite being a life-long biker, he threaded his first mementos on that night.

Back to Bubba’s

We parked the bikes at the campground and headed to Bubba’s big tent. My music tastes are all over the place but I love live music so I had pre-determined I was going to have a good time at this party despite not being familiar with the bands (or so I thought).

The highlight of the night was a group called Little Texas. They were tearing it up, putting on a great old school country/rock show. When the lead singer said “Ok, now we’re going to play this song that was one of our first hits…” they rolled into something I somehow recognized. Sure enough, “What Might Have Been” is a song I grew up with. Wow! Just like you sometimes stumble onto a great watering hole when you get lost on the bike, I went to Tomahawk and stumbled onto a childhood memory from growing up in the South and absorbing my parents’ country music radio station. There was actually another band after Little Texas, and not that they weren’t good performers, but man it had to suck following this act.

I don’t put my bike away after the Tomahawk Fall Ride as many Wisconsinites do, but I’ll make this weekend every year I can swing it.

Heading Home

Since there were bikes coming and going at all hours of the night and I had a dozen cheap/watery beers I naturally didn’t sleep for shit since I was either woken up by baffles or pissing in the woods all night. We packed up fairly early and rode the 200-odd miles home. I came away with a new appreciation for the state I live in, and I got very nostalgic looking at the back of my vest at the Tomahawk 2018 patch I’d had sewed on the night before. I started riding in the late 90’s but I’ve only been collecting patches for a few years; I look at this vest and realize “Holy shit, that’s a lot of fun.” Each patch is a memory that helps me through the cold Wisconsin winters. I’ve got it good, and if things keep going on as they have been I’ll be able to look back and not be ashamed that my life lacked adventure. Get out there and get after it.

VestTomahawk2018

Back to the Dragon in 2018

In about two weeks, myself and between 2 and 5 other folks will be heading out of Milwaukee towards the Smoky Mountains. This route has become a sacred journey for me.

Last year, I set out from the Wisconsin Dells with the intent of making yet another trip to ride the 129 and the Moonshiner 28. This was the trip that I made instead of going to Devi’s Tower with Bart.

Tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico pushed enough rain up into the Southeastern US that I got stranded in Knoxville, TN. I’m not a fair weather rider, rain is a part of life on two wheels. I pack rain pants and I don’t bitch about wet boots. But… There’s a difference between “I got wet” and “I can’t see my front wheel let alone the cars in front of me…”. I finally pulled over to the side of  75 north of Knoxville, I scooted Red Sonya in front of half a dozen cars that were already on the side of the road with their flashers on because it’d be less likely that I got mauled by a semi who didn’t see my bike. When I put down the kickstand, the water on the side of the road was running hard and up to my calves. This is what happens on a road trip, and the good and bad of having no plans and no reservations: I clearly wasn’t going to make it as far as I’d hoped but I’m fine sleeping on a picnic table in a rest stop or riding overnight on a decent road. I waited until I was feeling bored and checked out the radar: when it looked like I could scoot out in between thunderstorms I got ahead of the rain and stopped in northern Knoxville.

This was an important night. I found a motel and a restaurant. I came back to the room and I started thinking about how different life would be if Bart was still alive, the toll it had taken on me in just two months. I started thinking about the right and wrong ways to deal with losing a brother. I thought back to some Psych 101 level techniques and realized that writing letters to the dead would be perfect for this situation. The headspace of two months and 1200 miles finally let me fill in some gaps in my thinking. I sat on the balcony in my underwear, swilling 32 oz cans of local brew while local couples got into fist fights over who took the last cigarette and tried to imagine a future where I could take trips like this and not miss my brother; where I could heal by writing letters that living people would perhaps read, but the primary recipient was beyond reach.

The next day, it was clear that a 300mi wide storm was going to keep me from getting through the Moonshiner 28. Maybe if I’d gotten up an hour earlier, but it was still dicey. I did not have my tent and my MSS with me, so the idea of being stuck somewhere between Deal’s Gap and Walhalla, SC on roads that are treaturous in the best weather was not appealing. Maybe I should have tried: what’s better than a story of camping on your bike in the middle of nowhere? Still, I was not in a “level” frame of mind, and I knew I had friends in Nashville I could see. I turned West, and still had treacherous rain storms all the way to the music city. I had lunch with a good friend, stayed the night in Shelbyville, KY and toured the Four Roses distillery the next morning. I had nearly 2000mi of solo time and I am better off for it.

But I need to get back.

The weather in Robbinsville, NC shows thunderstorms every day for the next 14 days. I have to hope these are “spotty”. I’m coming back and I don’t intend to be defeated. I want to buy land in Western NC some day and I need to start scouting. Less than two weeks, I’m coming back.

A Kinship with the Sea

I’m sitting by the ocean in the Caribbean, thinking.

Mrs. Roadrunner is amazing for any number of reasons, but particularly useful to a biker that spends a lot of time in his own head is being easy going. I come and go and all she asks for is that we find ourselves on a beach from time to time. And so, I find myself on a beach in mid June.

I was sailing across deep blue water when I looked down at the side of the ship cutting through the waves, our velocity clearly visible as we quickly left foam and debris behind. Suddenly the blues and greens of the sea were juxtaposed in my vision with black asphalt and white stripes that disappeared one after another. I had never before considered the kinship between the mindful freedom-seekers: some in wooden boats and some on two wheels.

As we packed to get on a plane and head down here, I got grumpy as I always do at the mere thought of air travel. You can’t carry a bottle of water, take off your shoes and belts and prepared to be groped or naked-x-rayed with the full blessing of the government. Herd yourselves like well-dressed and well-behaved cattle through these lines and hope you and your possessions get where you’re going without incident. I never feel this way before heading out on a bike trip. I’m excited to pack, excited to start, and never worried about weather or mishaps. I’m in control: maybe I booked a hotel, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I change my mind and take radically different routes.

This feeling is Freedom.

Freedom comes with the responsibility to act. If I break down, I have the tools to fix minor things or patch a tire. I can sleep in a rest stop if it’s dark and raining and there’s no rooms to be had. I eat whenever, I start and stop whenever, I get where I’m getting.

We know that the romanticized images of Pirates/Buccaneers/Free spirits shown to us by Hollywood are greatly exaggerated in their scope and longevity. Jack Sparrow probably never existed, and the heyday of men like Blackbeard was briefer than the history of the American V-twin. It’s easy for some bikers to understand. These men were outlaws. Many of them, we can imagine, turned to piracy not out of a desire to harm but because they found themselves unable to function in the role the world had for them. Some, like the rum runners and moonshiners that would inherit their mantle in America years later simply found that the “legitimate taxes” extracted at the point of a gun were just too much. Many, no doubt, were simply thieves and murderers unworthy of our adoration.

Back to the freedom. The wind on your face. The sunset on the horizon, racing towards it or away from it as you see fit. Doing only as much as the responsibility to act demands, only as much or as little as your crew agrees to. Spending a lot of time away from “normal” life, and treated suspiciously like gypsies when you hit town. Accepting that a life without luxuries won’t be understood by most, and that doing without those luxuries enriches the spirit. Grateful when you find yourself traveling with a few like-minded folks who understand.  Existing in the moment as the foam disappears behind you, sometimes existing just a little outside the law. Yea, this is something a biker might understand.

Lost Power in an April Snowstorm

It’s April 15th in Wisconsin, and it’s 30 and snowing. It’s not unheard of, but it’s pretty rare. We’ve had enough ice and incredible wind that we lost power at 7:30pm and they don’t think they’ll have it back on for several hours.

My kids instantly bemoaned the loss of the internet and their screens. I had work to do for Abate that had to wait. Within minutes, though, we had lit candles and were talking.

We had 8 candles lit. I wonder how many people even have candles in their house.  Matches or lighters? Bottles of water or canned goods in the basement? Does your family talk, or would an hour of no-internet quiet time be really uncomfortable?

As I prepared to tell ghost stories Mrs. Roadrunner had the idea to get some dessert for the kids at s nearby restaurant that had power, so we left, and it was DARK. Most of us are so used to light pollution that s truly dark night is shocking. A tremendous number of kids have never seen, and may never see a starry sky.

Our Technology filled world isn’t without bugs. It doesn’t always work, and when it does work it can ruin our relationship with the universe: hot and cold, light and dark, noise and silence. It creates families who can’t endure a moment of silence together.

Get outside, make a campfire and tell stories , get away from the city and look at the milky way. If it’s warm, do it on a motorcycle. Leave almost everything behind and come back richer.

 

 

Lessons of the Hermit

I often try to explain to my friends the benefits of a motorcycle trip, especially one that involves camping. What’s the appeal, what’s the benefit of downsizing life to fit into what you can carry on the back of a bike? What do you get in exchange for showers, ready meals, and all the magic electricity provides?

Turns out, quite a bit. I recently came across this article that discusses a famous hermit who lived alone in the woods for 27 years. One of my favorite quotes is this one:

Knight entered the forest because there was no place for him in modern society.

To be clear, I’m not describing myself that way. Not exactly. I definitely need a lot more solo-time than most people could understand, but I am still glad for human interaction when it comes. A lot of bikers might feel like no one gets them, they’re only understood by other bikers. At the same time, the fact that life on two wheels gets you outside may be a bigger part of the puzzle than we currently realize.

The Hermit’s is an interesting story, but the real paydirt are the books and studies referred to in the article. People are doing the science to prove what many of us already know: Being outside, seeing green and brown makes us happier and more creative. Being by large bodies of water makes us happy and content. Not only are they proving these things with stress physiology and chemical tests, but they are quantifying it: you need to look at a tree for at least one minute to feel more generous, 5 to 30 minutes in the park improves health measurably.

The science matters because it makes the positive effects of being outside a hard fact and not just hippy tree-hugger shit. That makes it easier to make the case for others to get outside, and harder for the government to do things that would put our national parks and the roads that get us to them in jeopardy.

Who knows, I’ll be there’s a study about the positive effects of wind in your face. Let me know if you need a test subject.

Bike Camping

One of the things I absolutely love about riding bikes is bike camping.

When you ride, reality is in your face in a visceral way you forget about if you go from your house to your car to your job. If you don’t ride a bike, drive a convertible, or take a long walk from where you park to where you work, you get so isolated from reality you don’t recognize it. Think about it. In your cage do you smell someone’s smoker or burning leaves? Feel the humidity on your face? Hear the sounds of someone running a circle saw in their garage? Do you smell fresh cut grass in the summer? Can you smell when it’s going to rain or feel the pressure changing? 100 years ago everyone could, now we just know when Game of Thrones is coming.

I love all the gadgets in my house, but like Edward Norton said in Fight Club, the things we own end up owning us. There’s so much shit to worry about you can’t sleep at night. But on the motorcycle, a lot of that falls away. As long as I have my key and my saddlebags are latched, I’m good. Not much else to worry about. Sunscreen during the summer because I burn superfuckingeasy.

So on the bike you are:

  • Unencumbered
  • Experiencing nature with your sight and ears and nose
  • Making vitamin D through your sunburned skin
  • Loving life

Now, add camping to that. If you don’t like camping, you probably won’t like motorcycle camping. Go somewhere else, this post is not for you. If you do like camping, imagine the joys of camping but with even more minimalism, and the camping starts before you even get to the campsite.

In the summer of 2015 my brother and I decided to experiment with camping gear. We both settled on variants of the military sleep system. It’s a rain proof bivy with two bags inside it. Properly configured you can sleep comfortably in 90 degree weather or -30. Because we’re middle aged and cranky we also brought a tarp in case of torrential downpour and a self-inflating air-pad each. No tents or anything like that.

We headed up to Lake Wazee, Black River Falls WI.

Now as I’ve mentioned before and I’m sure I’ll mention again: I like food. I like to eat. There is no situation in which I can’t overdo it on food. So campfire cooking is a fun challenge for me. I have made fucking awesome meals for 12+ people with two cast iron pans, a pair of tongs, and an open fire. Even with my generous saddle bags, though, space is at a premium when bike camping. I settled on one folding-handle Coleman skillet and just a few supplies:

  • A handful of charcoal to help our firewood
  • A handful of wood chips because: wood smoke baby
  • A simple tongs
  • 1 simple chef’s knife
  • tiny jar of olive oil
  • tiny saly & pepper containers
  • a few feet of aluminum foil, folded

We found a corner grocery store with steaks, mushrooms, and some broccoli. By making a smoke-collecting hood out of foil I was able to get some wood smoke on a couple of bone-in ribeyes and use a tiny amount of olive oil to cook up some mushrooms and broccoli. We sat in the dirt and ate like kings.

Now, we came to the campsite and dropped off some of our gear before going grocery shopping. This meant I had room for beer. You may notice that my Victory saddlebags are a touch more generous than your standard Harley bags, but I believe they are both water tight. I’ll just say that while saddlebags are not meant to be insulating, they hold enough ice to keep a lot of beer cold for a long time.

If one were to pack towels one could enjoy a lot of ice cold beer and safely haul their gear the next day. If you’re in Wazee, like we were, you should have a towel anyway because the swimming in the lake is fantastic.

We had a great time eating, drinking suds, warming by the fire, and talking while the stars wheeled overhead. The only downside was we underestimated the mosquitoes. The mozzies were all over the place like white on a rice-filled paper-plate in a snowstorm. While they didn’t bite me through the bivy, they could smell that I was there, and the flying around an inch from my face kept me awake. Despite having polished off a respectable-even-for-Wisconsin amount of beer the night before, we were up and out of there at 6am to escape the torture.

Still, my brother and I talk about this as one of the best times we’ve had. We were only 150 miles from home, it was only one night, and we didn’t go to some amazing destination like Pike’s Peak or the Dragon’s Tail. But we rode. We smelled the countryside. We ate a simple meal cooked over hot coals, drank cold beer, and talked about whatever men talk about under the stars until we fell asleep. There was no 4G LTE there. I couldn’t live blog this on Facebook as it was happening. Someone in a nearby campground asked if we had iPhone chargers and we just laughed. This was a perfect reboot for the brain.

Bike camping is the best.