Buffalo Alice and The Enchanted Highway

21 August 2015

I learned a lot today. I learned about the world’s largest buffalo, welded sculptures, and the tangible presence of the massive wildfires in the interior northwest of the United States. I learned about the peculiar musculature of spiders, the desire for security and corresponding fear of surveillance, and that magicians Penn & Teller have a moral code that no audience member should leave their shows believing something that is untrue. I learned that my injured knee still hurts after somewhere around hour five on a motorcycle, that every group of friends at a campground has someone who is much louder than the rest, and that many people are still struck with disbelief by a person leaving their comfortable home behind and traveling a great distance for no greater purpose that the journey itself.

I learned all this while riding with Buffalo Alice, perhaps once of the most inspiring road signs since the one that guided Steve Martin in L.A. Story. Inspiring for me at least. Perhaps others have created their own stories after seeing that sign. Met their own intangible entities. Or merely noted the sign and moved on. For me, Buffalo Alice turned into a riding partner, a conversationalist, the arbiter of my playlist, and my muse for the first day of #WorkFromMotorcycle. She became the incorporeal manifestation of my desire to not watch another movie, to not play another video game, to not just sit and watch life pass me by.

While not technically the first day of the trip, I’m considering today (Friday, August 21st, 2015) as the official Day One of #WorkFromMotorcycle. Day one of my working sabbatical. The traditional (secular) sabbatical is typically a complete break from work to prevent burnout, pursue knowledge, or gain a greater perspective of the world. While these goals are definitely core components of my reasons for this trip I also feel the desire to stay engaged in my day-to-day work. I enjoy the problems we are solving, the people I interact with, and the difference we make in the world. I just need a shift of perspective; a new lens through which to view the world, my work, and most importantly, myself. Many of the conversations I find myself in of late have directly or indirectly touched on the subject of new thinking or challenging one’s self or change. Change because things are stale. Change because something hurts and I need to move on. Change because that is how I learn and grow. One of my favorite science fiction films from my youth was Dune and there is a quote from that film that has always moved me:

Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.

Oh yeah, and that part about Buffalo Alice being the “arbiter of my playlist”? Impressive. I usually ride on long journeys to music. Songs I know and love or new music to explore. Buffalo Alice would have none of that. She insisted on pausing the music and queueing up a series of podcasts I’ve long neglected. Humor, science, politics, the natural world. Ten hours on the road with ten hours of cerebral content and time to think. Time to introspect. I recently tweeted a passage from an article I read on Medium. It was a quote from Blaise Pascal:

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

That is one of the reasons why I like riding so much. It is time that is solely my own. While the world exists at high speeds around me, I am in my own space where no one else can be. You really have nothing but what’s in your own head to keep you company. Well, that and ten hours of podcasts. Listening to them is very different for me that listening to music. I am hyper present when consuming and evaluating information. Incredibly aware of my surroundings, my thoughts, my feelings. It feels like a manual transmission shifting firmly into gear. I start asking questions about the world and about myself in response to the stories I hear, the facts that are presented, the opinions shared. I feel actively engaged in shaping the road I walk rather than letting it be shaped by chance and circumstance. Which really is what this whole trip is about. Shaping my road.

I’m glad to ride with Buffalo Alice on The Enchanted Highway.


Originally published at blog.hardlyneutral.com on August 21, 2015.