Motorcycle riders consist of one or more of these types: Off-road dirt bike riders; street riders who commute to work and school; Sunday afternoon riders showing off, making noise, and scaring old women and children; high-speed race track riders; and long distance touring and adventure riders. I tend to fall into the latter category, although I aspire to all of the above (except I don’t really want to make noise or scare anyone which is why I ride a BMW).
Long distance touring is addicting. For me, it began in 1972 when, after resigning from the U.S. Army in Germany, I toured most of Western Europe and Morocco, North Africa, for 4 months while neither sleeping in a real bed nor eating in a real restaurant. Back then every country had its own border guards, currency, and unique driving regulations. Franco was still dictator of Spain, and Tito ruled Yugoslavia with an iron fist. There were very few riders on BMW motorcycles touring outside of Germany, and certainly no one who looked as scruffy as I. It was great; I loved every minute of it!
After a long hiatus during which I raised a family and pursued a busy professional career, the urge to hit the road is back. The urge never really left; I simply suppressed it with great difficulty. A coast to coast trip in 2013 whetted my appetite, and now as I study other opportunities I realize there is a world-wide community of like-minded men and women enjoying the open road on motorcycles across horizons unlimited.
Horizons Unlimited is actually the name of a long-distance riding community made up of folks from around the world. It was initiated by Grant and Susan Johnson of Vancouver, Canada. At least that is where they call home when they are not somewhere else in the world. They created and maintain a website by the same name and organize rallies for the community in lots of places including India, Virginia, Morocco, Germany, Ontario, Ireland, Montenegro, Bulgaria, to name a few between April and July 2015.
It was cold and foggy when my riding buddy Bennett and I motored off toward Holiday Lake 4-H Camp near Appomattox to attend the Virginia Horizons Unlimited rally. We set up our tents before it rained and then enjoyed interacting with some of the nicest folks I ever met.
It usually goes something like this:
“Hi, where are you from? What are you riding (kind of motorcycle)? Where are you touring this summer?”
Eventually you get around to what they do in real life, or did, before they retired, or simply decided not to have a “real life”.
Curtis, a mid-forties guy was an 8th-grade science teacher on sabbatical heading for a trip around New Zealand. He was new to long-distance riding and was all ears. Bill, in his mid-70s and a long-time rider rode down from Alaska after selling his construction company. He was a wise man with much to share. Rose, in her mid-thirties and less than 100 pounds, just traded in the too-heavy bike her brother gave her for one she could pick up when necessary. She was a sculptor from Charlottesville, VA, in the process of remodeling a defunct church building in which to live and work. She loved this new motorcycling sport and was at the rally to learn as much as she could.
Doc and his wife Karen two-upped from near Daytona, FL, which is where they retired. Doc owned many motorcycles including BMWs and Harleys and was especially proud of a 1916 Harley he had recently restored. He was a jovial guy with beard and pony tail, not the image you conjure when you think neurosurgeon (he was, for real). For a final example of a typical participant there is Alex, a 20s something medical student from El Paso, TX. He took a leave of absence from medical school because he couldn’t resist the urge. He has never looked back. He now makes tons of money promoting and selling his high adventure videos. Click here and watch a sample (I am sure he could be a good medical doctor someday, but it probably won’t happen).
These folks, from all walks of life, were drawn together by their love of long-distance riding. They covered the spectrum from just getting started to having completed multiple trips around the world. The rally was about sharing, learning, and telling stories about our common passion—the adventure of riding motorcycles on the open road.
On the way home from the rally on an absolutely glorious spring day, Bennett and I were reminded that we needn’t go to some exotic place in the world to experience a great ride in a gorgeous environment. The James River Gap as it cuts through the Blue Ridge Mountains was preparing for a springtime flush.