​​​3 Things that Influenced My Long Riding

Everyone has their idea what long riding should be.  To locate the roots of my long riding you have to go all the way   back to my first motorcycle.   When I was 14, young men in Prattville  rode motorcycles because it relieved their parents of the burden of having to drive them anywhere.  Bikes were looked at as a bridge between bicycle to car.  For those guys, soon as they turned 16, a car was all they lived for and they forgot 2 wheels.
But for a select few, it was only the beginning.  Some  are just plain born with a wanderlust seed inside, and many things can cause that seed to grow and flourish.    The seed can lie dormant many years, until something makes it pop and bloom.    The long ride seed lied dormant for many years, but the Honda 70 turned out to be the water and fertilizer to bust it open.

I had the bike  but 2 weeks, and the first time I took it down the highway I knew  I loved being in the wind.   "this is FUN, but can a guy ride to distant places?"  I began to ride my little Honda all over Autauga County.

In those early years the items below helped cultivate my style of long riding.

 ​I'm sad to report the passing of Michael Parks aka Jim Bronson on May 10, 2017.  I saw the clip on my MSN news feed when I signed on. 

​Few things have influenced my life as much as "Then Came Bronson."  Yes, I knew it was fiction, but the spirit of the TV series was real.  I can trace my idea of Long Riding back to the Bronson.  I did add my own spin, but the core of my Long Riding came from Bronson.

​Michael Parks was a all round good guy.  After reading of his death, I took the Honda out on a 100 mile ride over the same roads I've always used to lose myself for a couple of hours.  The very roads a 15 year old once rode pretending to be Bronson.

  1-The TV Show "Then Came Bronson." -  In 1969 Bronson hit the air waves,  it came on Wednesday night, and and I never missed a episode.   I had to watch it real time because no such thing as a DVR.   I made sure I had complete control of our 19 inch, black and white, table top TV.   This was a show as the trailer use to say, "about a man, a motorcycle, and America."   Bronson was played by Michael Parks, who portrayed him as a quiet, unassuming guy, who didn't talk much, but most of all he was a good guy who just wanted to go places, see things and meet people.

The music in the show always seemed to fit the scene and the mood, and I just couldn't get enough of it.  I  even caught myself using some of his catch phrases.   My girlfriend would become somewhat disjointed by the fact I had to be off the phone by 9 to watch Bronson.  It caused us problems.  I would daydream through English class thinking about the day I could ride my motorcycle anywhere I wanted with no one to answer to.  What a feeling that must be I would tell myself.  

I now know what that feels like and its every bit what I thought it would be.   The show only lasted one year, not because of bad ratings but a deal could not be reached with  Parks to continue the role.

 ​2-  Cycle Magazine, April 1973 Issue, the article "An American Crossing.​​

This magazine article  fed  the flames of wanderlust in a young teenager.   I read it a thousand times, over and over.  It was written by Phil Schilling, a then assistant editor for the magazine, and it was the story of a cross country ride (NY to LA) made by himself and friend that also worked for Cycle as a photographer. The ride took place in 1972. They rode a CB 450 Honda, and 650 Benelli on this "tour." Both twin cylinder bikes, that at the time were kind of forgotten in this early era of superbikes.

Great black and white photos caught the essence of their trip.  They started at Cycle's NYC office and ended in LA, over many of the roads you read about on this website.  Like the Skyline Drive, US 50, through the Colorado Mountains, and down the California Coast via Big Sur.

Looking back on their "tour" through the prism of my own vast Long Riding experience I see now it was not that big a deal.  Here you have a couple of guys, sleeping in motels every night, riding motorcycles that if they even had a hint of trouble, a bevy of factory reps would swoop down to the rescue, and never mind it was one way, they were not riding back east.  No, they would fly back.

It was fun reading how the bikes used oil on this little trip, each a quart or two every 1000 miles or so.  Strong headwinds once dropped their mpg to around 30 mpg, both had small gas tanks and they could never get the fill ups coordinated.  When one needed gas the other didn't. They were stopping for gas every 80 miles or so.  Phil told the woes of frequent chain adjustments.  Chain technology was not what it is today.  He wrote the Honda had to be adjusted twice a day, and bikes buzzed to the point the Honda shook loose the taillight, and the Benelli's speedo died halfway.  I can vouch to how buzzy the 450 Honda was.  I rode a few way back when.  Funny how we take modern bikes for granted these days.

But Phil did a fine job of describing what a long ride can be about.  Of small towns, challenging roads, bad weather, and interesting people. 

Somehow the magazine got away from me sometime in the early 80s.  I tore the house up looking for it, but no luck. It really didn't matter because I knew the text and pics by heart, but still it would have been nice to have it.

I forgot the precise year and month so internet searches had to be kind of broad.  Search engines used in my early attempts not what they are today, and that didn't help.

Flash forward to a few months ago. I finally decided to try again to see if I could recapture the long gone issue of Cycle.  Perhaps now the search algorithms would be good enough.  But I still had the problem of what exact issue I was looking for.  I knew it was early to mid 70s so tried 1974.  I searched "Back issues of Cycle Magazine" and found a lot of hits, but had no means of filtering the results down.  I got lucky.  One joker seemed to have ALL the issues of Cycle, early to mid 70s, each accompanied by a cover photo.  "If I see the cover I'll know it."

I went through all of 1974 with no results.  I went to 1973, starting in January and went down the order I stopped on the April issue.  The cover was not as I remembered it, but it was close enough to cause me to stop and look. I zoomed in on the image, finding this on the cover; "Touring-Cross Country."  "That has to be it."  And sure enough one of the thumbnail images included the opening scene of "An American Crossing."  I finally found it.  I sent the man 15 dollars and took possession a few days later.  I was a happy man.

And when it arrived I read it in the same amazement I did as a 18 year wannabe long rider.  My memory of those paragraphs were spot on, even after 35 years.

 ​  3- Road Rider Magazine article, November 1975​​

Road Rider was one of the classic motorcycle publications. Unique in it was entirely dedicated to Long Riding. Magazines of the time were a little bit of everything.  They tested road, and dirt bikes, and other articles related to each.  It was rare when they ran a touring article such as "American Crossing," but Road Rider had a couple every month.

The editor of Road Rider was a man named Roger Hull, and in this particular article he told his story of riding to every place in the USA and Canada with his name - "Hull." He found 8 in total spread all over the map.  He started his trek in California and ended several weeks later after a 13,000 mile adventure.  His storytelling and pictures made me feel I was along for the ride, and I borrowed things from his style of writing for my own use in my trip journals.

He even found Hope Hull, Alabama, located 20 or so miles south of me.  When I read the article, I rode there to see in real life a few of the locales he took snapshots of.

Roger rode a HD Electra Glide, that at the time was under the AMF brand.  Things were really bad for HD at the time and they almost went out of business.  Build quality in HD under the AMF leadership was terrible, the bikes were constantly falling apart.

I don't know what happened to Roger, he was in his 60s at the time of his ride report. so I'm almost sure he is deceased.  If he only knew how his article would inspire a new generation of long rider in a few years.  I hope my web site can do the same.