Summer Vacation, Part I

I just got back from the first half of vacation. Why should that interest you, you ask? Well, I travel to some exciting places and meet some interesting people.

For example, I spend the last several days riding my motorcycle around the Black Hill of South Dakota—well, me, three of my friends, and about 150,000 other bikers. The locals call it the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally®, I call it Riding in Someone Else’s Backyard™. In case you’re interested, this is my Ride.

(C) 2019, JJ Shaun
My ride, packed and ready to go.

What does my vacation have to do with writing? A lot, actually.

To begin, riding a motorcycle at eighty miles per hour for hours on end gives one a whole lot of time to think. With the drone of the wind and engine in my ears, I need to ignore the monotony. Otherwise, it’s one hella dreary day.

I think about my different characters, how they handle the world, and what kind of challenges I can throw at them. I worry that my writing isn’t good enough, that my stories are flat, that I won’t succeed. You know, all the insecurities that most writers face.

A lot of people tell me how dangerous it is to ride a motorcycle. Well, so is driving a car, walking across the street, and going to Walmart to buy school supplies for your kids. As a writer, I appreciate whatever visceral experience I can get. It doesn’t get more visceral than riding to my vacation destination. The neat part is that we combine camping and riding without breaking the bank on lodging.

(C) 2019, JJ Shaun
Our home away from home for the rally.

We look forward to this trip because we can let our hair down and experience the freedom of the road. We’ve traveled through some of the most scenic country America has to offer and would visit more of it if we had more time and money. So far, the longest continuous trip we’ve made was twenty-eight days and five thousand miles, back in 2014. That was an excellent adventure.

Over the last eleven or so years, a group of friends has taken up to two weeks to climb on our motorcycles to visit the various National Parks across the western United States. While our group has dwindled from eight to three, we have managed to visit Mesa Verde NP, Yellowstone NP, Yosemite NP, Glacier NP, and Grand Canyon NP, just to name a few.

One reason we like to visit the Sturgis rally is that bikes are everywhere, and we get to listen to the song of our people—the roar of a motorcycle.

(C) 2016, LS Chambers
Black Hills Harley-Davidson during Rally week, 2016

Another is that we meet some fascinating people. We are considered “regulars” at our favorite breakfast spot in Rapid City, SD (the staff wouldn’t let us leave until we shared hugs around with a “see you next year”). People of different creeds and backgrounds stop and talk to each other—even though we are all strangers—because our mutual hobby brings us together. We have friends that we only see during that time of year. Unfortunately, we missed some of our friends this year.

Part two of our vacation starts later this week. We are heading to Vedauwoo, Wyoming for a few days to ride ATVs and hang out with more friends. This time under the Wyoming sky, far enough out of the city that we should be able to see the stars with clarity—providing the clouds avoid the area.

See you next week with pictures of some of the wonders of the Vedauwoo formations.

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