The Brother and Sisterhood of Riders

Story by Stu Seaton// Photos by Stu Seaton
November 1 2008


There are many modes of mechanized transportation in both first and third world countries. If one was to research which mode of transport affects the most people you would find that the common elevator commutes more people to and fro than any other type of mechanical transport. An elevator: Up and down, no corners, few windows and always good to the last drop. So when was the last time, that while riding an elevator did you ask any of the occupants, “So, where are you from?” Aside from some wry looks and ‘get away from me’ body language, you may get a sullen answer from one of the more adventurous occupants “Fifth floor, Wood Gundy…” Putting elevators aside, bicycles, cages, trucks, skateboards and most importantly motorcycles have their own pecking order of being the most used. Even though all different modes of transportation have their own eclectic footprint, it is motorcycles and their riders who own the wonderful niche of unrestrained communications—lock, stock and barrel.

Picture yourself getting out of a cage in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Another cage has parked beside you and the driver is getting out. As you near each other you ask, “Where are ya from and where are ya goin’?” I’m sure that if you get a response it will be an ‘are you nuts’ look followed by an elevator venue mumble, “Main Street, gotta get diapers”.

Now picture the exact same scenario, only you’re getting off a bike and the other person is doing the same. “Where are ya from and where are ya goin’?” The response, “Oh I’m just local, gotta get some diapers, how about you?” “I’m from (fill in the blank) and I need this gizmo to tighten up a what-cha-ma-call-it.” “Hey, I saw one of those. Isle 14, my buddies bike did the same thing…”, and the conversation begins.

During this year my brother John and I rode and gabbed our way across Canada and back and never once were we shunned by another rider. I swear that the simple fact that you’re on two wheels allows you to strike up a conversation with any other rider about pretty much anything and some encounters turn into lifelong friendships. We were sailing on a BC Ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, there’s a bunch of us hanging around the bikes as we get under-way and the typical ‘where from, where to’ conversation starts up. This fellow by the name of Michael Galbraith who’s returning from what sounded like a pretty good party in Vancouver finds out that we’re heading into Victoria to spend some time with my son and daughter-in-law. “Well, there’s no doubt about it, you’re staying at my hotel”, he states. Turns out he looks after security at the Best Western Carlton Plaza in downtown Victoria. When the ferry docks he leads the way and we come to find that he’s arranged to have our bikes stored under lock and key in the loading dock area of the downtown hotel. The hotel staff can’t do enough for us as we unpack and slog up to our room in grimy riding suits. Later on that night he checks in with us just to make sure everythings A-Okay and suggests a bunch of places we may want to check out. Thanks Mike! We’ll be back!

On the same ferry we chat with Masaki Nishiola from Japan who’s riding a Honda that has more stickers of places visited than paint, I really couldn’t tell you what the Honda model was, but I’m sure if you peeled back the Mongolian or Peru logos you’d find a model name. Masaki is a teacher from Japan who will take a temporary one or two year elementary school teaching position—living in a ‘shoe box’—as he saves up his dough and then takes off to who knows where on his trusty Honda. He proudly points out where a reindeer poked a hole in his saddlebag when he was in Norway. He speaks great English and was full of questions about where to go and what to see. No fewer than six other riders were describing places and writing down town names, directions and telephone numbers for him. If he was looking for solitude in the Great White North he could forget it as it looked like his travelling and social schedule was filling up fast. Timmies, teaming with local riders, seemes to have a natural attraction for a bike plate that was from somewhere else. “Ontario, eh?”, would be the opener, then the next predictable line always blew me away. “Yup I’m from Barrie or Mississauga, moved out here ten years ago, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back”. I’m sure that 99% of all the riders we met were once from somewhere in Ontario. It made me wonder if anyone is actually born in British Columbia.

On the road was the other place that the brother/ sisterhood of riders stands out like a sore thumb. Because I’m BMW inclined, I usually travel with a little bible known as the BMW Anonymous book. It’s a little book that inside has the look of a phone book, minus names, just places and telephone numbers. The idea is that if you need assistance in Pago-Pago, you just look up the place and under it there will be a few numbers and a code for what kind of assistance may be available from other BMW riders. I’m listed in it and I’ll guarantee that if my phone ever rang from a stranded rider, I’d do anything in my power to help out, however from what I witnessed on the road there’s really no need to depend on the little book. If we pulled over for anything we could be assured that the next rider along would be stopping or slowing down with hand gestures that left no doubt: ‘Are you okay?’

Motels are another bastion of camaraderie, especially cheap motels that have rooms entering off the parking lot. This is where you’ll find that anytime after about 4 p.m. riders start piling in for the night, they all grab something to eat and then something good happens. Picnic tables or whatever are dragged together, out comes the maps, some cold beer, maybe a bottle of wine or three and the conversation takes off. “This route—Ohmygawd you should see this here, and over here is…” Everybody is scribbling notes like a lunatic or playing with their Garmins to nail down the next bunch of way-points. ‘What are the best places to see?’, ‘What’s the road like?’, ‘Any construction and how bad is the road?’. There’s also the restaurant thing, I swear all riders are driven by good, and preferably cheap food. “We stayed here and they have this Alaska King Crab night on Thursdays, oh yeah, and the…”, or the odd, “Whoa, Bud, don’t eat there; we’re just getting over that one, Bernie’s been hitting every rest stop for the last seven hundred klicks.”

Then there’s the ‘farkle’ show. We were in one motel that by 9 p.m. had about twenty bikes tucked away and a bunch of American riders wheeled in enroute to Prudhoe Bay. Talk about Touratech’d bikes. If their base machine cost 25K, I’m sure they had another 25K of Touratech stuff attached, I’ve never seen so much titanium in my life. They had guards that protected their guards and were quite anxious to describe every nut and bolt. I have a stock R1200GS Adventure and aside from a couple of stickers, my bike looked positively naked, which actually suits me fine because I know how hard it is to pick an empty GS up let alone pick up one wearing that much stuff. Who knows, maybe there’s a hidden Touratech jack assembly that sets everything back on two wheels again.

No matter where we went, if there was another bike within yelling distance you can guarantee that about two minutes later there will be a bunch of riders gabbing.

When was the last time you saw cage pilots do that? Riders. God bless ’em all. MMM

Ride Safe. Ride (very) Far, Stu


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