Friday, August 29, 2014


THERE are a lot of definitions for the words; Comrade, camaraderie, comradeship...

When I first heard the word decades ago, I thought of the Soviet Union and communism, and indeed the word does apply.  Comrade Khrushchev, comrade Trotsky, comrade General!

North east BC near Chetwynd
It also means friendship, close relations with those of similar interests or pursuits,and allies.

Over the decades I've traveled by motorcycle, I have met many such "comrades" both men and women.  They didn't all have to be riders no sirree Bob... some were just very interested in the way we traveled and some would have liked to emulate us.

I have mentioned several times that the public in general looks upon us as rebels, freedom riders, organ donors, somewhat out there... and to some extent we are.  While running Motorcycle Training courses I would remark to students that motorcycling is not for everyone.  It needs skill either inherent or learned, it requires a very defensive yet somewhat aggressive posture, a certain bit of foolhardiness or bravery, take your pick, and a ten gallon hat (helmet) of common sense.

Part of my former fleet at Silver Springs

Take for example a case in 1974.  I was nineteen, riding my BMW to the west coast to visit a couple of friends I'd met in Fort Mac.  It was late June, the ride down highway 63 was actually pretty good, and with over a hundred miles of gravel that could turn into soupy muck in no time, pleasant that day.  Of course, there were few motorcycles of any type in that era actually traveling.  This was pre Gold Wing days (yes its true, there was long distance travel prior to GL 1000's and we for the most part, camped.  I carried a 3 person tent, complete with poles, a bulky sleeping bag and a ground sheet and air mattress.
Yup. its a lonnng ass way!


My first stop over on the road was at a campground just south of Jasper town-site.  It hadn't been warm but I did have a full face helmet (unusual at the time) thick gloves and a decent riding suit.  I'd pulled off the highway and camped very close to the road, no more than 100 yards.  Overnight it snowed!  Lots of snow, about a foot.  The first indication beyond the shivering was the roof of my tent had collapsed to virtually nose height, prone that is!

Enjoying some late day sun after a long ride from Long Beach to Baja

I looked outside and the camp road was completely covered with the white stuff, but fortunately highway 93 was clear but wet. After clearing the snow off the tent and bike I packed up and (still) shivering started a reluctant R 60.  It was often necessary to both kick the engine and use the electric starter at the same time, it testament to BMW Bosch electrics of the day.  I stopped at Columbia Icefields for breakfast and coffee, lots of coffee I might add, and marveled at the glacier which extended in those days, very near to the access road.  Two guys on Norton's with open face helmets, no goggles, gloves or gear, who were making the loop Edmonton/Jasper/Banff/Calgary and home seemed impervious to the near zero temperatures.

Yamaha power compared to Donkey power, somewhere in Albania

I had a very unpleasant ride in cold, windy and wet conditions that forced many off the road early.  Arriving at Beaver Creek campground in the BC Rockies, I found no empty spots.  Fortunately for me on my third go round hoping a tent site would miraculously open up (no such luck) a guy in a Winnebago Scout, Chief, Brave or something, invited me to use the tent site.  I gratefully accepted.  I could not get the Primus gasoline mini stove to flow fuel into the burner, my hands were as cold as icicles, and my site mate invited me in to heat my water over his cook stove.  This poured over that 1st gen freeze dried food was like wet sawdust in my gizzard!  I have related their hospitality before, an American couple from Florida driving this massive RV and towing a similarly massive air stream like aluminum trailer behind.  We talked about our modes of travel and how dissimilar they were,  prior to me forcing myself outside into my sleeping bag, while they slept on a 'real' bed with a 'real' heater to keep the chill away.

Firestorm in the Rockies

I met them several times on the way to the coast, mostly at gas stops, at one of which he showed me into his trailer, where a BRG* XKE Jag V 12 was parked.  I was so envious!

I don't know if he ever took up motorcycling, after all, I was a youngster at 19 and he was an old guy probably in his mid thirties...!

Somehow, because we were both road users and of his genuine interest in bikes, we had become, comrades.

Having fun on the Trunk road.

These days, giving a road salute could possibly tire out your left arm, there are so many comrades on wheels, it still is an amazing fraternity.

I've never really been too critical of what people ride.  I myself have owned several hundred bikes.  Race bikes, trials bikes, dual sport bikes, Adventure bikes, cafe racers, scooter and mini bikes... There have been Honda's, Harleys, Ducs, GSXR's, FZR's TZR;s TDR's and virtually everything in my garage at some point or other.  Yes, I know there are riders that believe their mount is the best, so be it... to me even with the differences of opinion, we are all brothers and sister of the throttle. 

We're all in fact,comrades.

*British Racing Green

Riding mate for a day!

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