Logic Problem: Thirteen people, on five motorcycles followed by two cars, are traveling from South Dakota to North Dakota. A sleeping bag on the fourth bike in line comes unfastened and falls off. The rider on the fifth bike hits it, and it pops loose the spring on his kickstand.
Question: How many members of the group does it take to fix this problem?
The Math: One to pick up the offending sleeping bag and stash it in a car. One to gouge open his hand on the kickstand spring. Two to pick up the bike after it tips over. One to hold the bike upright. One to walk along the shoulder of the highway looking for a piece of wire to tie up the kickstand. One to find some rope in the trunk of a car for the same purpose. One to get a water bottle and wash blood off both biker and bike. One to provide tissues for drying the wound. One to find the first-aid kit and apply bandages. Six to offer sympathy and moral support. Two to take pictures. One—at the end of the trip—to figure out that if you pull the kickstand all the way up it relieves the tension on the spring enough so you can easily replace the spring with one hand.
Answer: Nineteen. If that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s probably because you weren’t there.
I’ve never made a road trip with bikers before. If you want to get really technical about it, I still haven’t, since I was among those in a car instead of on a motorcycle. I did, however, learn several things about traveling on a motorcycle.
For one thing, you don’t just hop on the bike and head down the road. You check such things as the tire pressure. You put on your protective chaps and jacket. You check to make sure all your gear is securely tied on or locked in its proper compartment. You put on your helmet. You lift the bike off its kickstand. You climb on. Then you head out. It’s a bit like traveling in a small airplane—you do all the safety checks first, every time, because they matter.
The other thing I learned is that, on a motorcycle, the journey matters more than the destination. Having someplace to go is just an excuse to get out on the road. Riding is the whole point. (That, and stopping at every place between Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and Belfield, North Dakota, where it’s possible to buy ice cream. There are more such places than you might think.)
We did, by the way, also enjoy the destination—Medora, in the North Dakota Badlands. Teddy Roosevelt ranched here for several years in the 1880’s. His neighbor the Marquis de Mores founded the town (named for his wife), built a packing plant and a hunting lodge, and lost a fortune trying to ship processed beef east and west. The museums are interesting, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is spectacular, the people are friendly, and the Medora Musical is terrific entertainment. It’s a great place to visit—even if you don’t have a chance to get there on a motorcycle.