Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

Why Plan B is for Better

I love making plans. Well, not big plans, like life, the future or anything along that line. No… my particular passion is road trips.

For many years my two favorite authors were Robert Parker and Rand McNally and when faced with a few empty hours I can usually entertain myself looking at maps, unusual destinations and the roads that will lead to them.

But, over the years I have found that the Scottish poet Robbie Burns’ saying “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry” is never far from the truth.

(That line is from the poem To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough. According to legend it was written by Burns after he was plowing in the fields and accidentally destroyed a mouse's nest; just a space filling tidbit of knowledge for you)FWPlanB

Anyway, I was recently plotting out a couple of routes for an early October run, down along the coast. First to Chincoteague, Virginia for their annual Oyster Festival which has become part of almost every year for the past 20, and then further down along the coast. Plans being to head over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and then onto Nags Head, Kitty Hawk and a few days in Ocracoke, North Carolina.

All things were working out nicely. We like to keep things in and around the 250 mile mark for daily travel if we can, especially if we are planning on mostly backroads, and the many stops for photography, exploration and sight seeing that occur whenever Shira and I are traveling. (If you have ridden with us you know how annoying we can be about this)

Over the many seasons and thousands of miles we have found that more times than not, our meticulous Plan A will be usurped by a quickly formed Plan B.

It is the way of the universe. Man makes plans and the universe laughs.

When I include Plan B, let’s realize I am talking “major” Plan As to Plan Bs. Not just a closed road or a detour - that happens all the time and is scientific certainty with us.

I mean more along the lines as you saying “Ruh Ro”- time for a bit of stepping back and thinking it out sort of thing.

Looking back at some more memorable Plan Bs (sometimes they can run much further into the alphabet) there are just a few that stand out more than others and one in particular:

The Colombian Road of Death

It is not really called this – but you will see where I am heading - keep reading.

We were riding along a precipitous mountain road coming out of the Andes and down a road that was quickly becoming steeper as we progressed.

Coming around a bend we started seeing commercial trucks pulled to the side. As we began the last pass toward our destination for the evening, the parked traffic was overwhelming; much like the road was overwhelmed by the previous night’s heavy rains and the deep, heavy landslide that brought thousands of tons of mud, rock and debris burying the highway.

We made our way to the head of the line and were met with the barricade and a bevy of machinery that was at the Herculean task of clearing the road.

The only alternative way to the town was a three-hour romp back around the mountain and then along the river. Or, was it?

We spotted a number of locals, mostly on foot or walking bicycles, who were coming up from a quickly bulldozed ½ lane road that was cut along mountain below the highway about an hour before. We asked about running the bikes through there and were pointed to the sign that said MUERTE.

My Spanish is no muy bueno but I know what muerte means.

Ya think? Time for Plan B.

Using judgment of which my mother and close friends would be proud, we decided “we can do this.” Well, a few of us did.

Shira, using some crazy pretzel logic, came up with her own Plan B, which involved me doing this twice - once with my bike and once with hers.

As usual her logic was Vulcanesque.

We did make it and later that night celebrated our badassery and our Plan B.

This brings me to another place and time where a choice needed to be made. I was sitting alone in a large and opulent suite at a resort in New Jersey attending a BMW media introduction that was surprisingly held in the Garden State.

When I first heard of this jaunt I thought the words Havana and Cuba were mentioned, yet here I was about 30 minutes from home.

Oh well, I hope the California journalists found our region scenic, very rider-friendly and lots of fun to ride.

While killing time I was bouncing back and forth between cool things to do along the Outer Banks and to see what Hurricane Matthew was going to do and where he planned to go that weekend.

I was thinking that I might be pondering a Plan B already.

We never did have that story about the Outer Banks, rather it became a tale about touring along the Ohio River and points west as we went for Plan B.

And, you know what, many times B stands for better.