What have you got in your saddlebag? Look down in the bottom. Some old plugs long void of spark. Maybe a few receipts for an overpriced impulse buy at the local H-D dealer. Did you really need that Harley coffee mug or that Harley underwear? If you look really down deep, you may find some old maps, all dog eared and stained with God knows what. I found a few in my saddlebags recently. They have sat dormant in the musty bowels of my leather saddlebags for a few years now and I literally inherited some of them from my Dad. Some, I bought over the years after needlessly passing exit after exit thinking, “I think I know where I am”. Wrong. Sorry Yvonne, you were right again. These maps have served me well and I almost feel guilty having neglected them and their legacy. I have finally given in to the great GPS craze. I have GPS units in my cars. I have a unit for my bike. My phone even has GPS in case the return trip from the bathroom suddenly stumps my sense of direction. It is truly a sad day. Shame on me.
Gone are the nights before a road trip, sitting up at the kitchen table with anxious anticipation, pouring over maps and charts and mileage calculations.
Gone are the fresh coffee stains on my $6.00 map, pencil sketches along an intended and exciting route. Gone forever. I miss the old days. Maybe because I remember my dad planning our little summer vacations with old maps at the kitchen table. Nobody flew on an airplane to a vacation back then. At least no one in my neighborhood did. I recall fondly my first “map lessons.” I could not have been more than six or seven. Dad and I sitting up in the kitchen. A can of Budweiser perched at map’s edge. Blue Marlboro smoke curling up from the ashtray, filling the room with that sweet smell of childhood. Dad would let me slug down a few bitter gulps of warm Bud when Mom was off putting my sisters to bed. Ahhh, childhood memories. And there we would sit. Mapping out the shortest or the fastest or most scenic route to far off and exotic destinations. Crazy places, like Jersey or if the plumbing business was particularly good that year, we could go as far as Pennsylvania. I’m not kidding. Kids complain today because the flight to Disney is too long, or the X-Box screen is too small in the 70 ton SUV. Cram six people (and a dog) into a Fairlane 500 with no A/C and 12 pieces of luggage and you’ve got yourself a road trip baby. But I digress. Maps, yes maps.
There we would sit. Like real men. Using the legend to figure distances, times, routes and all kinds of fun stuff. Now, when I plan a road trip, I start with Mapquest. I then plug in the GPS on the bike or in the car and confirm on the mobile unit what the laptop already told me. No paper required. No unfolding a moldy old paper map at a metal-legged kitchen table with kids at my elbow. Boy I feel like a real heel. Gone are the days of “seat of the pants” navigation. What have we come to in this world? We have forgotten what the old biker adage states, “It’s not so much the destination, as it is the journey.” (Harley Corporate will probably sue me for using that one) I remember when I was a kid that the vacation was not so much where we went, but how we got there. My sisters and I all got together last week at Kerry’s (little sister) 40th birthday and all the memories of those vacations were from the “to” and the “fro” of said trips. All hammered out on a series of paper maps, either the night before or as we went. Hell, if we had a GPS unit, Dad probably would have hit somebody on the head with it just to shut us up!
My next road trip is in June, a quick jaunt of a thousand miles, here to there to here, wherever there turns out to be. I think I’ll dig out the “vintage” Rand McNally and check out a route. Unfold it all at the kitchen table, push back the dog ears and find an ashtray to hold the corners down. Warm up the coffee still sitting in the pot made this morning. My Dad would call that “cowboy coffee.” He would be proud. Don’t fool yourself. I am not going to leave the GPS home. I’m waxing nostalgic, not stepping back to the Stone Age. Perhaps we could start a new kind of biker rally. People go to all kinds of biker rallies nowadays. HOG rallies, ABATE rallies, Bike Week rallies, camping rallies, vintage rallies. How about a “mapless” rally? Sounds like a good idea, but I don’t suppose anyone would be able to get there.
Well, signing off for now. Ride strong, ride safe and in the end make sure you ride home.