The Half-time Head-clearing Harley Adventure: Summary

On April 7, 2003 I departed on a journey: the Half-time Head-clearing Harley Adventure, alone on my Harley FatBoy.

Stats:
* 4 states (CA, AZ, NM, NV)
* 13 days
* 3,216 miles
   - the equivalent of riding from San Francisco to
      New York City, then continuing another few
      hundred miles out into the Atlantic Ocean
* 100's of smells
* 95 journal pages
* 7 rolls of film
* zero accidents or mishaps
* a lifetime of memories
* one helluva great adventure.

On the HHHA, I saw much of the Southwest up-close and personal, from the rough coastline of central and southern CA, to the rocky and sandy Sonoran desert of AZ, to the alpine mountains of northern AZ (watch for elk!), to the square patches of parallel-lined crops in central California.

I traveled on superhighways (I10 across the southern route, I40 across the more northern), parts of historic Route 66, and many two-lane country roads; in the up-and-down tight-and-twisty curves of the mountains, the flat straightaways of the vast desert, and the stop-and-go of villages and cities.

I experienced small towns with Spanish/Mexican roots (Calexico, AZ and La Mesilla, NM) or Native American flavor (Hopi, Apache, Navajo...), and medium-sized urban areas (Santa Barbara, Tucson, Albequerque, Las Vegas), each with their own, distinct personality.

I crossed the continental divide, the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers, bits of the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain ranges, and the Hoover Dam, among other things.

I saw saguaro cactus, the painted desert, ancient petroglyphs, old pueblos and missions, various bluffs and buttes and mesas and canyons with alternating gold-and-rust-colored horizontal striations, a forest of joshua trees, and freight trains snaking thru barren and empty countryside.

Among the noteworthy fragrances were: freshly tilled earth, ocean spray in Malibu, eucalyptus trees along the central coast, mountain pine in New Mexico, desert sage, cut hay drying in the sun, hog trucks headed for market, fresh-squeezed skunk ...

I rode thru the soaking warmth of the sun and the beautiful desolation of the Arizona desert, in the dreary rain up a mountain south of Las Vegas, thru a raging snowstorm and bone-chilling cold at 7700-feet altitude near Flagstaff, thru 80 MPH wind gusts in Mojave, CA that had me leaning off the bike like a human outrigger fighting to stay on the road, the salty ocean spray along the southern California coast, and thru the rich, fertile green of CA's central valley farmland.

I had spiritual moments, like the one riding into the rising sun east of Yuma, AZ. Or riding over the rolling hills thru picture-perfect vineyards and pastureland on my way to Paso Robles, CA.

Or coming over a mountain pass to see orange shafts of the late-afternoon sun breaking thru the clouds and illuminating the valley floor below me east of Bakersfield, CA. Or when asking for divine strength and protection in a rough spot.

I attended Arizona Bike Week in Scottsdale, met interesting people (locals and those just passing thru) in most every place I stopped. Plenty of folks were curious about my journey, wished me well with words of encouragement or a thumbs-up, and I swear I saw more than a few looks of longing from older men whose dreams went unchased when they were younger and healthier and that are now forever lost to time.

I enjoyed hours of quiet solitude and used the peace and tranquility for plenty of reflection ... On what's important in life, and what's not. On the world's great civilizations (as our country is at war), what makes them so, and what legacy they've left for future generations.

On great and successful leaders who have stood the test of time and history's unrelenting backwards gaze. On the art of knowing when to push forward thru challenges and obstacles with sheer force of power and determination, and when to fall back, regroup/replan, then persevere forward, methodically and purposefully.

Being reminded that how we react to difficult situations and adverse conditions builds more character and proves our true mettle much more than does our behavior during the easy, effortless times; and that those tough spots are the ones that we'll remember and appreciate and apply ahead throughout life: they're our defining moments.

Reconfirming the adage: It's the journey, not the destination.

Vowing to apply more of this to real life.

I arrived home this weekend: sunburned, wind-whipped, bug-splattered, nicely thawed, with sore shoulders and hands, road-weary, and contented.

I brought with me memories of the excitement and the tranquility, of the natural beauty, the harshness, and the diversity of the huge country out there waiting to be explored and experienced, increased self-confidence as a result of overcoming real hardships and fears, a great appreciation for family and friends who supported and encouraged me from a distance, and a sense of deep pride in the accomplishment of a long-held personal goal.

Best to you on the road ahead.

Mark Yolton

see the pictures