What makes a man leave for four months on a motorcycle?
Perhaps you would rather skip over the Introduction and get right to the chapters with the motorcycles, the wind-in-your-hair stories, the wide-open spaces, the girls and the mountain roads– the stuff we all imagine road trip stories are made of. That is all coming. But first, there are some things I need to tell you.
I rode pillion on my father’s blue Honda Supersport motorcycle as a teenager. We toured the mountain roads of Wales. We sped along the motorway at 120 miles per hour. Sitting on the back, I would hang on for dear life. My father would take off from a traffic light and I would grip him tightly. I’d dig my fingers into his jacket, not wanting to fall off the back. It was scary. It was exhilarating. It usually left me with a ‘shit-eating’ grin. They were special father-son moments. I treasure the memories. They were the moments that gave me the desire to ride a motorcycle.
Many years later, in 2007, I wandered around a Triumph motorcycle dealership in Fort Lauderdale. A gorgeous British Racing Green Triumph Bonneville sat gleaming in the showroom. The classic styling harkened back to days of iconic movie stars– Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando and James Dean. I’d already taken a 3-day motorcycle instruction course and had passed the test. All I needed was the bike. I bought my first (and only so far) motorcyle– the gorgeous green Triumph Bonneville I now call “Bonnie.”
In 2009, unemployed, I set of on a journey having never ridden further than two hundred straight Florida miles in a single day. I had become one of the millions affected by the global economic crisis and a part of the percentage creating the rising unemployment numbers. Having never ridden through mountain terrain or deserts, I decided to set out to discover the United States of America I’d never seen. In a period of 60 days I motorcycled solo across 14,000 miles. During that journey I experienced the wellknown and lesser-known highlights of twenty-seven different States.
I wanted to go again. I waited for three years until the time was right. I thought constantly about where I wanted to go and what the next journey would entail. Frustratingly, an idea for the next great journey never became clear to me. It was all a hazy dream way off on the horizon. I thought about riding around the world, though I didn’t feel ready for a global circumnavigation. I decided I would take the first step at least– I would complete the parts of North America that I had not yet seen.
I looked ahead. In 2013 my son would graduate from university, my car would be paid off and I’d hopefully have no credit card debt. Extraordinarily, I would find myself at a unique point in life– completely free of any reason not to go on another journey. It would be the correct time to embark on another journey of substantial length.
I trudged through daily office life for three years.
Like many of us I felt like a hamster on a never-ending wheel, going nowhere, biding my time, waiting for the right moment to come. Dreaming. Some days were difficult. Some days I wanted to leave immediately– so badly! Work was a miserable struggle, as it was for many of us during the years from 2009 to 2013. There were days upon days of daydream thoughts of “chucking it all in.” But I stuck it out. The years passed, and as they did I realized I wanted to do some kind of “good” with my next journey. My relationship with God had grown. I felt cared for. I wanted to give something back. I just didn’t know how or to whom.
By early 2013 I had decided I would leave in the summer, after my son’s graduation from university and I would complete my exploration of North America. I hoped to head up to Alaska and then complete a life-long dream of traveling across the Trans Canada Highway.
I had not yet worked out the journey’s route, or what ‘good’ I would be doing. Six months before the departure date I knew where I would be heading but not much of anything else. I needed a sudden burst of inspiration and clarity and it was frustratingly not appearing at all.
The motorcycle tour I completed in 2009 was enjoyable because many people had interacted with me via social media along the way. They took an interest in the places I visited. We traded comments back and forth. We bantered. My friends encouraged me and provided advice on places to go. Occassionally they would ask me to visit a somewhere. Sometimes they would ask me to do something fun. My friends came to enjoy my journey as much as I did. I wanted to make this new journey just as interactive, just as enjoyable for us all.
I wanted to raise money for a charity on my new travels. I wasn’t strongly affiliated with one particular organization and choosing one charity to support was proving to be headache. I couldn’t decide. Neither did I have a clearly defined vision of how I could help, whom to help, or when. I was suffering from “dreamer’s block,” if there is such a thing.
I had vague but clear hopes: interactivity, fun, helping, and raising money for charity. There were no specific details, just grand and rather vague daydreaming. I had no idea how to bring all the cloud nine thoughts together in a cohesive, single idea.
Standing on my patio one evening in March 2013, just four months or so before departing, I looked up at the sky for inspiration. I stood and accepted that my brain was incapable of bringing it all together in a single, clear plan. So I gave up trying to work out the details.
When you let go and when you look to God, things happen.
The whole plan came to me like a bolt out of the blue. I smiled. I felt a thrilling burst of energy. The idea felt complete and I knew the plan would work.
The thought that materialized was this: if I couldn’t choose a charity I would leave the choice of charity up to the person donating the funds. Simple! To encourage people to donate I would integrate the interactivity via social media that we all enjoyed back in 2009. I would open myself up to being sent anywhere, to do anything– no need for me to figure it all out!
I would give the person donating money the choice of what I would have to do to secure their donation– ask me to feed the homeless, or help build a Habitat for Humanity house, visit a friend in need, jump in a lake, or ride 400 miles in a day– they would pledge that if I successfully completed their request they would donate funds to the charity of their choosing.
I’d open up my life up to following wherever I was led and in whatever I was asked to do. This is how I would give back– in handing my life over to be used by God as He saw fit.
A carefully pre-planned route wasn’t needed. Pre-planned places to stay weren’t required. I knew that if I handed my journey over to God it would be all taken care of, with no cause for concern, in theory.
In actuality a spiritual walk is not as easy as the idyllic image that initially gives us the feeling of euphoria. I would be taken care of on my journey but it was also true (as with any spiritual journey) that it wouldn’t be a motorcycle-ride in the park.
At the time I had no notion of just how difficult and challenging the Arctic Ride For Dreams would be. The physical effort didn’t prove difficult to bear, it was the events at home that would make the four months tough going. It would be four months I battled through. Growth is not a smoothly paved road. There are usually plenty of potholes along the way.
Many themes ran through the journey to the Arctic as I’ve already mentioned: fun, interactivity, helping, raising money, the desire to inspire and to encourage people to follow their own dreams.
Meanwhile, as I was planning, God was orchestrating His own theme.
In typical fashion the theme was love.
By Andrew Hayward Smith © 2015 All Rights Reserved. Copyright Andrew Hayward Smith. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced without the author’s written consent.