In the morning we continued our interstate theme, particularly since I’d messed up with the maps and thought we’d had only 100 miles when in fact it was 200. (For some reason I’d been thinking that Montana connected directly with Washington up here, but in fact there’re neaarly a hundred miles of Idaho in between. Chalk it up to geographical ignorance, and using state-by-state maps torn from an atlas that don’t clearly show the neighboring states). We were looking forward to arriving in Spokane and seeing A., so we mostly put our heads down and motorcycled, covering most of the distance before noon. We had a quick lunch at a gas station and rolled in to Spokane around 2. Pacific timezone!
We met A. and her husband M., who welcomed us warmly and grilled up some steaks to celebrate our arrival. For the next three days we’ll be here, off the bikes, and then we’ll ride just an hour and a half in to Sandpoint, Idaho, where we’ll meet some friends for a few days of backpacking. After that, it’ll be the start of our journey back East.
Here in Spokane we’re about 250 miles from the Pacific Ocean – not much problem to ride in a day if we so desired. A lot of people ask us why we don’t go out there, since we’re so close. They find it really puzzling that we’re not. Neither of us knows quite what to say to them. I guess it might be nice to end the outward journey with a Pacific sunset, to see that beautiful coast, to breathe the salt air and hear the sound of the waves. But the ocean is not our destination. The trip was not simply a lap out and back to the end of the road, to say we did that. Not that destinations aren’t needed. We had one in Colorado, we had one here in Spokane, and another in Idaho; we even had ones in Buffalo and Milwaukee, close though they were to our starting point.
In fact, there are many times in life one can see an obvious endpoint – the top of a mountain, the end of a trail, the length of a certain distance. And it’s one of the unique and most power-granting attributes of the cave man that he will strive to attain such goals. It happens that, regardless of whether the goal itself has any value, the seeking, the single-mindedness of focus, brings its own rewards. Because it is through seeking goals beyond the here and now, beyond the obvious, man accomplishes great things.
But the point of a motorcycle trip is not that of running a marathon, or climbing a peak, or finishing a novel. We are here to free ourselves from some of our habitual behaviors, from our most commonly expressed instincts. We must elevate ourselves above them – not in the sense of being any better off, but in the sense of seeing them with some perspective, and so of coming to better know ourselves. We aren’t very good at it of course – habits of a lifetime are hard to break; but we try.