Editor’s Note: When Matt Hinkle came on board to share some cool bikes for sale with you, he mentioned that he had purchased an airhead GS that I had featured months before. Whenever I hear that, I always want to share a “Bought on Bike-urious” story with y’all, so I asked Matt if he wouldn’t mind telling us how it went. What follows is a great tale of his first ride with his new-to-him BMW. Enjoy!
My trip home from Texas, told with a lot of help from Google Maps.
By Matt Hinkle
Almost exactly a year ago, I saw a gorgeous bike on Bike-urious. I’m now proud to say I own that motorcycle.
I love the character of the older bikes, but find the newer bikes to be less temperamental. While there is tons of data to support the theory that the newer BMWs are less reliable than the old ones, I’m not sure I totally agree. My R90 can get ‘emotional’. We’ve just come to accept that occasionally it’ll want to run a little bit differently. Maybe that’s my lack of mechanical ability, or maybe that’s just the way they are. Nevertheless, I thought I might be able to find a sweet spot between the two, and when I saw Abhi’s post, I thought maybe this bike could be just that.
It was an unusual sale. By the time I decided to go check out the ADVrider post, the seller had started to wonder if he really wanted to sell. I contacted him and suggested that we stay in touch and that if he changed his mind and wanted to get rid of it, that he would let me know.
I had all but forgotten about the bike by December. It was actually my dad that told me I needed to go get it. I contacted the seller, and the negotiations began.
The former owner, Don, was always a gentleman, and I couldn’t have asked for a more knowledgeable former steward for my motorcycle. It turned out he had been a race mechanic for many years before going into tech. The bike was in impeccable conditions and I immediately knew I made the right decision. He and his wife were especially gracious and even allowed me to stay in their guest house. As the listing says, the bike was located in the Austin area but they had a lovely home that felt so isolated from civilization with a wonderful view. I was so glad I got to meet him, his wife and their dog.
As a side note, I think before I left I was starting to get fatigued from the election that is obviously still raging on. I once rode through the small towns of Alma and Fairplay, Colorado and remember standing on the main thoroughfare through town and thinking to myself how incredible it is that place and Calle Ocho in Miami could somehow wave the same flag. I think the bitterness and vitriol of this race really bothered me. I’ve never seen my country so divided, and I think it was weighing on me that we find ourselves in a state where we can’t seem to agree on anything. I didn’t know how, but I knew this ride would help me see America in a different light. I think I was also hoping for some revelation on who to vote for in November and maybe a renewed sense that everything is going to be ok. I don’t want to get into the politics of what’s going on any more than that.
My goal before I left was to try and ride as much of the Gulf coast as possible. Before I left, I was doing research and actually noticed the Gulf Coast is longer than the coastline of California, Oregon and Washington. My plan was to ride from Austin to Galveston, then New Orleans, Pensacola, Apalachicola, Sarasota, my home town of Fort Lauderdale, and then pick up some friends and head to Key West. I didn’t have a GPS or even a map actually. I navigated huge parts of it by phone and earbuds.
The next day after breakfast, shipping parts back to Florida, a few minor tweaks of the bike, and packing the saddlebags I was off. I should have taken the advice of my hosts in Austin and spent time riding the hill country, but I didn’t which is something I will regret for a long time to come. Enough time had passed that it was now mid-morning and the 350 or so miles he laid ahead was just more than I wanted to tackle on my first day on a new bike. Instead, I decided to trust in my phone, and ride through Austin on my way to Circuit of the Americas.
Within a few miles, I was beginning to think I made a mistake. The route was fine, but I had begun questioning if this was the right bike for me. I was really expecting this motorcycle to perform much more like my oilheads than my airhead. It was a lot less power than I was expecting, the front suspension liked to dive if I hit the brakes, and I immediately regretted putting those two big touring screens in a box at the UPS store as the wind above 55 was much worse than I was expecting. The thing I missed most was an overdrive gear. I think it would have made a huge difference. Don had warned me of this ahead of time. As I was pondering whether I made a mistake, someone in a CRV pulled out in front of me. I hit the brakes and the front wheel locked up. I kept it upright, but thoroughly scared the living hell out of myself. I decided to pull into a gas station, fill up and assess my options. I was angry, and I looked at the beast I had just bought and realized I couldn’t take it back. I realized it wasn’t fair to Don after he held it for me for months so I could finish tax season. I realized at that gas station, everything I read about the bike online was totally accurate. The bike does only make 60 horsepower, it’s not great at speed, and is meant for riding the Dalton Highway more than Downtown Austin. I thought to myself that if I get it back to Florida and still don’t like it, I’d sell it and hopefully only be out my trip expenses. I knew I had to soldier on, and I’m really glad I did.
Unfortunately, the tour of the circuit lasted much longer than I was willing to stay, and the best photo I got was from the fence standing outside. I asked the tour guide where the gift shop was, and he responded, “Downtown Austin”. Well, I guess that key chain just wasn’t in the cards. As I was walking away, he called out to me and asked me what I was looking to buy. I said I just wanted to buy a keychain as a trinket of my trip. He reached into his pocket and took a Circuit of the Americas keychain and bottle opener off his personal set of keys. I was amazed by the generosity of this man, and I think the story of how I got that keychain is better the keychain itself.
Before I left Don, I told him I wanted to stop and get some barbeque. He told me not to bother with Austin itself, but that I had to go to Lockhart, Texas. Before I tell you this part of the story, I need to tell you that before I left, I re-glued the soles of my old Doc Martens back together and had hoped for the best. Somewhere between Don’s house and Lockhart, the adhesive had melted and unbeknownst to me the soles of my shoes were literally coming unglued. Don had told me to go to whatever BBQ stop in Lockhart had the shortest line. I got off the bike in front of Blacks Barbeque. As I was trying to get the bike on the centerstand, I tripped over the sole of my shoe as it folded underneath my foot. I fell, and so did the bike. Without a doubt, this was the low part of my trip. I put a minor scratch on the cylinder head, but what bothered me more than anything was that Don had done such an amazing job of keeping this bike in pristine condition and I’ve already damaged it within a few hours of ownership. To make matters worse, I struggled to get it up with all my luggage. A group of college age girls rushed to my aid. I think that was my knockout punch. I hobbled into Blacks, humbled and depressed wearing the only shoes I had left, my boat shoes. The barbeque was probably terrific, but I was in such a beaten down state that I don’t actually remember it much at all.
I learned the value of packing all the heavy gear you have down low that day. I brought entirely too much stuff with me. Too many tools, and things I never ended up using. I went to the Lockhart Walmart, bought a new pair of boots, repacked my stuff in the parking lot, and hit the road again. I soldiered on for a few hours until I saw a McDonald’s. I decided to pull in and take a break.
I was sitting alone, drinking an ice tea and staring at my phone when I was approached by two young kids that appeared to be brothers. They asked me if that was my motorcycle outside, I smiled and said it was. With giant smiles and wide eyes they told me how much they liked it. The older of the two boys seemed genuinely disappointed though when I told him no, it wasn’t a Harley Davidson. I could immediately feel my mood changing. I always love the questions kids ask you. One of the boys asked me if this thing on the table was my motorcycle helmet. I noticed the Star Wars shirt one of them was wearing and said, “No, I’m actually a TIE fighter pilot.” In unison, they said “NO YOU’RE NOT!” I took my helmet, and put it on the younger of the two boys. Welcome to the dark side, kid. A few minutes later, after some high fives it was time to go.
This is actually my favorite picture of the trip. I think these are the experiences that make traveling by motorcycle so worthwhile. The people you meet in strange places along the way, the scenery, the smells. The smile on this kid’s face helped me remember why I didn’t just ship the bike to Florida. It’s the highs and lows, and the challenges that sometime make this worthwhile. Black’s Barbeque was nice, but the most memorable stop of the day was a McDonald’s in a town that I can’t remember the name of. I haven’t toured as extensively as many of you guys, but I once had a friend on ADVrider tell me that where you go or how long you’re away from home doesn’t matter as long as you’re having an adventure. This was my adventure, and it was time to embrace that.
I got back on the bike and kept riding. With a better frame of mind, I just decided to push on until I saw water. As a Native Floridian, for reasons I can’t explain I just feel better near a body of water. I continued on to Surfside, Texas and was greeted by the ocean.
I continued on down the beach road, riding past all the houses on pilings with the Gulf in the background for another 50 miles. The ocean made for a welcome sight. By this point in the day, I was tired. Had I been on a tourer, I think I would have been fine. When I pulled into Galveston, the sun was setting and I think I made it there just in time. Don had warned me ahead of time not to ride the bike at night. The headlight is especially weak, something I still haven’t remedied. The rest of the night was fairly forgettable.
I woke up the next day on the west side of Galveston. If I could give you any advice, stay in the section closer to the pass to the east. It’s a beautiful old Victorian town that I’d love to explore more some day.
As I was pulling away from this stop light, for some reason my iPhone chose Born in the USA as the song to start the day. The sun was just coming up and I started to be excited about this trip again.
As I tried to get out of town, I was trapped by a breast cancer 5k. What seemed like an endless supply of women trotted by in pink tutus. I got on my phone and looked at other options, and was able to make my way to the ferry across the pass and was especially glad I did.
On trips, I always have something go wrong, and today was no exception. I was taking pictures of the scenery when I accidentally dropped my phone. Despite the heavy duty case, the screen shattered into a million pieces. I now had a barely usable phone I was using to navigate and the screen was shot. Of all the useless things I decided to bring on my trip, a backup paper map was not one of them.
Somewhere around the time I crossed over into Louisiana, In fact it was crossing over the bayous and back roads of Louisiana that I named the bike Angela after Mrs. Merkel. In that moment I realized I had come to appreciate this bike. Nobody ever names a motorcycle they regret buying.
The rest of the day was uneventful. I pulled into New Orleans, got a hotel room near the French Quarter, got dinner and came back to the hotel to adjust a few things on the bike. I popped the seat for the first time and opened the case that houses the tools. It was chocked full of tools the previous owner had left. I felt very lucky in that moment. I no longer felt like I had bought the bike, but inherited it. Almost as if it was dearly loved by Don but he allowed me to take it home like an heirloom Parker shotgun or a vintage Rolex Daytona your grandfather gave you. I think this was when I finally loosened up and put the angst of the first day behind me.
The way my schedule worked out, I had 24 hours I could spend in one spot. I chose New Orleans over Austin. My thoughts on New Orleans are definitely mixed. I’ve since decided I need to go back and spend more time there before I really form an opinion.
I woke up the next morning, a Monday, and had Bourbon Street entirely to myself. I’m happy to report that on a Monday morning at 8 am, it still smells like urine. I guess nobody should be surprised.
I had been to New Orleans once in college, but that’s an entirely different experience. Seeing it now, 10 years later through a different perspective was interesting for me. The best analogy I could make for New Orleans would be this picture:
I’ve never seen such incredible architecture with such incredible poverty interspersed. I first saw it when I was riding into town and noticed a number of tents under the overpass that leads to the Superdome. It amazed me that we play the Superbowl every couple of years a few yards away from what is essentially a homeless neighborhood. The architecture is incredible. The sights and history are remarkable.
But as incredible as the French Quarter is, it can also be incredibly off-putting. Imagine a classic Ferrari Lusso that sat filled with moth balls for years at a time. There’s something to see everywhere you go…and a few yards away will be a stark reminder of how hard life is for some people. It’s a strange juxtaposition. I walked close to 15 miles that day, just so I could at least say I tried to see everything I could. My only regret was not trying to go to Preservation Hall.
My time was short in New Orleans, but I knew I still had a lot in front of me to see. I left early the next morning and knew it was going to be a long day. My next stop was Pensacola Beach.
My navigation was easy for the rest of the trip because with few exceptions, I was only on two roads- US90 and US98. Luckily for the rest of the trip, I pretty much followed my nose and with the water to my side I always knew what direction I was headed. That’s much tougher to do in Texas.
While I saw some interesting sights in Louisiana, Mississippi really surprised me. In fact, I can say that of all the towns I passed through, Pass Christian, Mississippi was one of my favorites.
There’s a stretch of road on US90 through Pass Christian that is just jaw dropping. It has the sugar sand beach and the gulf on one side and giant southern mansions on the other surrounded by giant oaks.
Pass Christian really had a charm all its own. Of course I don’t know anything more about the town than what it was like to ride through.
As great as this stretch of coastline is, there isn’t much to see once you get to Biloxi other than a Waffle House that overlooks the Gulf; which I’m guessing is considered the height of luxury in Biloxi.
The Mississippi coast obviously isn’t very long, and you’re in Alabama before you know it. I had questioned whether I should do the Natchez instead, but figured it might add another day or two. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t do it. Even the parts of 90 that are inland are nice, and Mobile is an interesting city to ride through. The Gulf region of Missippi and Alabama really felt like they had their own flavor, separate from Louisiana, and different from Florida. I’ll admit that at times I felt out of place in Texas and Louisiana. Not so in Mississippi and Alabama. Maybe things would have changed if I had let it be known I was a Gator. The riding through this region isn’t like doing the Million Dollar Highway, or Deal’s Gap, but it’s relaxing and scenic.
I guess now’s as good a time as any to talk about how my feelings changed about the bike. Like many things in life, it’s important to manage your expectations. It’s worth mentioning that it ran flawlessly the entire way home, and still is. Any incidents that happened were of my own doing. One big improvement happened when I was able to stay on US 90 through the tip of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama into Pensacola. Without needing navigation, I was able to switch to earplugs and because the windscreen is so short, the wind noise was much more tolerable. I don’t think I would have been able to navigate New Orleans or Austin using just the map, so I’m glad I had my makeshift navigation system, but the earplugs on those roads really helped me relax and enjoy the trip.
What the R100GSPD is not is a R1150GSA. I think any shortcomings I perceived on the first day were things I should have anticipated. Before I bought the GS, the bikes I’ve ridden the most were an R1100R, an R1150R, an R1200RT, and my R90/6. I’ve also done trips on rented bikes (Ff800gs, R1200gs, and a Multistrada) but by far the experience is most closely related to my R90. I really expected the R100 to ride and feel a lot like the oilheads. It doesn’t. It’s a 1970’s design that was installed in my bike 20 years later. The Airhead family and the Oilhead family are like apes and humans. Very similar genetics, but still eons apart. I spent a lot of time on the RT before I left, and I’m sure locking up that front wheel on day 1 was a direct result of relying too much on ABS at home. It rides and feels like a big airhead…which obviously shouldn’t have surprised me because that’s what it is. I also had to remind myself that the reason I bought this bike over a similar R1150 was that I wanted to learn how to be a self sufficient mechanic and I knew this was a better place to learn to do that. My bike is the last year of the airhead engine. As of right now, I have no plans on ever selling the bike. Once I began to see it in the right context, I realized it’s like a 110 lb Labrador retriever and you can’t help but love it. It’s simple. It may not have the performance of a newer bike, but it has charm and it never wants to disappoint you.
I pulled into Pensacola Beach that night exhausted, but finally feeling content with my trip. I grabbed a quick dinner and caught up on old episodes of Bojack Horseman on the iPad. I don’t know why I felt so good being back in Florida. Maybe I just felt a little closer to home.
I woke up early the next day, and if you’re ever in the area, I really encourage you to do exactly what I did.
Wake up early, and go to the Gulf Islands National Seashore and find a park bench and stare at the water for a while. I was there at 7 am and had the entire beach to myself.
This was my easiest day of riding, but also my favorite. I only rode about 150 miles to a small civil war era town of Apalachicola. There are a lot of interesting sights along the way, once you get past Panama City and Tyndall Airforce Base.
After you pass Tyndall, you’re greeted by a stretch of little Florida Gulf side towns. For miles at a time, it’s the water on your right, and the way I picture South Florida in the 20’s on your left. As a native Floridian, I always feel like I was born into the state at least 75 years too late. When you talk to older people reminiscing about the 40’s and 50’s, they usually describe paradise. Low cost housing near the beach, low crime, an abundance of jobs, not a lot of tourists, and an abundance of friendly people. Things have obviously changed in Florida since I was born in 1983. It’s estimated a thousand people move to Florida a day. However, riding through these wonderful little Gulf towns is like hopping in a time machine. Things are simpler, people still wave at each other, and you see real estate overlooking the water that you know is going to be worth 10x what it costs today. This is what’s known as the Big Bend region, because it literally connects the panhandle to the peninsula.
One of these great little towns is Apalachicola, and was my next stop. Apalachicola is a fishing town south of Tallahassee, but hasn’t really changed at all in 100 years.
I stayed at the world famous Gibson Inn, which is an old bed and breakfast that has survived by hosting people like myself, curious what Florida would look like if it wasn’t for Walt Disney and the Mariel Boatlift. I got dinner that night at the bar in the lobby of the hotel. It’s a fascinating old place, and as the locals come and go you begin to feel like you’ve entered Mayberry.
After dinner, I decided to walk the town of Apalachicola and find something interesting.
The epicenter of most old Southern towns, the cool old Courthouse.
Does your town have an armory?
As I was walking around downtown, I somehow stumbled across the Confederate Graveyard. I’m actually really thankful to Google, I’m not sure my iPhone really captured how this place felt. A team of Disney Imangineers couldn’t make a graveyard feel this old, and scary. Hopefully the street view photo does a better job.
I dare you to find a creepier place.
2Nd Florida Calvary, Confederate States of America.
I must have spent 45 minutes walking the graveyard, taking photots, and studying this place. I actually help put on a haunted house every year with my Rotary club, so I really did my best to take in every detail.
Right on queue, as if this place didn’t already seem like a Hollywood movie set, here comes the graveyard cat that may or may not have been a human in it’s former life and was transformed into a cat and forced to protect this graveyard to pay for his sins. That’s probably not the case, but I’m not ruling it out. He really didn’t like me taking pictures.
I woke up early the next day and started riding east again. This stretch of 98 is one of the most interesting roads in Florida. Unlike many roads in our state it has some turns, follows the gulf for several miles, and then turns inland.
However, shortly before I got to Wakulla Springs, I had my only real close call of the trip. As I was riding along, one of those giant turkey buzzards flew across my path, and I hit him doing about 75. I honked, and did everything I could to dodge him, but hit him straight on. This could have obviously been a disaster. My only concern (other than him hitting me and knocking me from the bike) was that he not hit the fragile oil cooler on the crash bars. However, of all the places he could hit, he hit the headlight guard. I was completely unscathed as was the bike, he did a barrel roll onto the side of the road where I assume he was eaten by his buddies. I shrugged it off and kept going.
The rest of the day was boring and uneventful. I guess I should have found better places to rest up, but the only place I stopped on my way to Saint Petersburg was Crystal River.
South of Crystal River, through Tarpon Springs was stop and go riding and really took it’s toll on me and the bike. At times, I could really feel the heat radiating from the oil cooler. You crawl through the suburbs of Saint Pete, and don’t see water for miles. There has to be a better way to get through this portion of the trip, but I’m not aware of one. You get to use 275 though, and cross Tampa Bay. (Street view)
This leads you into one my favorite area of Florida, Bradenton and Sarasota. (Street View)
To me, Sarasota perfectly ties Florida’s past to it’s present. It’s everything I want in a town. It’s gorgeous without being ostentatious, and if I could move anywhere in Florida it’s likely where I’d settle.
I had been having trouble the last few days. I’m not sure if it’s because I was dehydrated, or because I was just fatigued but my right shoulder and arm had been cramping up for days. The owner of the bike before Don had installed the cruise control that you use by adjusting the tension on the throttle, but I was afraid to try and use it. However, I knew crossing the state was going to be tough. I stopped at Hap’s Cycle in Sarasota and looked for one of those throttle rest devices.
That’s where I saw one of the new Zeros. Abhi, if you ever need someone to do a review of one of these, I humbly accept. Yellow is not my color, but damn they look fun. I’ve heard they’re a blast too.
Hap’s only had the style with Velcro. I must have used it wrong, because I couldn’t get it to stay in place. Although I had planned on riding south along the Gulf and then crossing over the old Tamiami Trail (the old Miami-Tampa route) through the everglades, I decided against it at the last minute. I had two buddies waiting for me in Fort Lauderdale and I didn’t want to hit the wall the next day on our way to Key West. The cramping started getting really bad, and I eventually had to stop on US27 to try and stretch and drink some water.
As long and boring as it gets.
After a few stops, I made it to Clewiston. I grabbed lunch and ended up zip tying that throttle gadget on in an effort just to make it home. I still kept having issues, and ended up stopping again in West Palm Beach. I made it home a little bit later.
I had already tried to cancel my last leg of my trip to Key West. By this time, I was tired and didn’t feel like spending 2 more days on the bike. Unfortunately I already had a reservation I had paid for and was nonrefundable.
My friends Jared and Alex were nice enough to patronize me and join me on this last leg. The last time I rode to Key West with Alex, we happened to be there the same weekend as “Beerfest” and to this day Alex swears he found a secret speakeasy strip club. This has since taken on mythical status like a Unicorn that does calculus. Since that last trip though, Alex has gotten married, bought a house and had a kid. Both guys are good friends of mine and in retrospect I’m delighted I got to spend this weekend with them.
The parts had come from Austin while I was away. While I could have used the windscreens while I was to the north, I decided to not mount it on my way south. The reason is that this time of year in Florida is unbearable without a little bit of wind flow. In the end, I decided I just had to grin and bear it like I did several times before. I’m not sure I had any choice, but the cramping had really started getting bad. Before I got to Miami, I was already in pain.
No motorcycle trip to the Keys is complete without a stop at Alabama Jack’s in Northern Key Largo on Card Sound Road. Like many places in the Keys, Alabama Jacks was once a place only visited by locals…and now is filled with tourists.
Alex obviously finding his elbow very interesting.
View from the dock looking out towards the mangroves.
As a strange coincidence, my dad was actually returning from a trip to the Keys himself, so we met up and he gave me his opinion on the bike.
Riding through the Keys is an incredible experience the first couple times you do it. However, a lot of it is a two lane road by design. The residents of the Keys didn’t want a highway running through their back yard on the way to Key West. This means it can move really slow. That’s bad news for a guy that’s been cramping up for days, especially when it feels like 100 degrees in the shade. The good news though is that there’s a lot of great places to stop. One of the best is in Marathon, Keys Fisheries.
Still staring out over the same Gulf of Mexico I was back in Pensacola.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Keys, and I have no problem admitting it. On the way down I’m usually saying to myself, “You have to move here.” On the way back, I’m usually saying, “Get me the hell out of here”. There’s no place else like it in the world, in more ways than one. The people that choose to live there are a different breed. That’s not to say they’re good or bad, it’s just a different way of life.
The rest of the trip to Key West is a memorable one. If you know your history, you know that most of the road is based on Henry Flagler’s railroad. You still see remnants of the railroad like this old bridge. Before Flagler built the railroad, the islands were all very isolated. In fact, people living on Key West would often go to Havana for the weekend because it was easier to get to than Miami. Key West has always appealed to me because I love Florida’s history. No where in Florida has history like Key West. When the shipwreck industry was big, Key West was actually Florida’s richest city; probably by a large margin. The first millionaire in Florida lived in Key West. I would give anything to be able to live in Key West in those days before the tourism just took over. It was a grand place filled with interesting people.
Maybe the best reason I decided to go to Key West is that it’s where the Gulf meets the Atlantic
In making my reservation, I made a fatal error and booked it for the wrong night. This not only meant I came to Key West for no reason, it also meant I dragged two other guys down with me. The only place we could find a room was on the wrong end of the island and had to take a cab to Duval Street. We tried to make the most of it though. We grabbed dinner and then started walking around. My goal for the night was to make it to a few of my favorite bars. There’s no shortage of places to go in Key West, but I’ve always had the best luck going to places a little off the beaten path. The first stop was The Porch, a tiny bar tucked in behind some trees off Caroline Street. Without a doubt though, my absolute favorite place is The Green Parrot.
The Green Parrot is the best dive bar on earth. It’s just that simple. They have the best music on Key West and it’s far enough off the beaten path that you never feel like you’re surrounded by people on vacation. While I had a beer at The Porch, by the time I got to the Green Parrot I was dead on my feet. My friends allowed me to go back to the hotel, where I think I was probably asleep within a minute of my head hitting the pillow. Not the night I was hoping for, but I had pushed pretty hard that week.
The next day was a lot like the ride down. A scenic ride in the heat with some stops thrown in. That included breakfast at the Sunset Grill.
All in all, I think I did about 1500 miles. The bike was flawless the entire ride. Aside from a tiny bit of knocking under hard acceleration (passing), I haven’t noticed a single problem. The transmission is a typical BMW transmission, but I had already gotten used to this. I’ve really enjoyed it and been riding it a lot since. I did another 200 miles on Sunday without issue. I’m in the process of learning to do the splines and will probably do the first oil change at the same time. This will be my first time dealing with the $2000 O-ring. In very un-German fashion, I have to remove a tremendous amount of stuff like exhaust pipes and skid plates just to access the filter.
Did my trip give me new perspective on the race? Yes and no. I knew going in that it was naïve to think I might have my faith restored. One thing I saw is that there’s a million different facets of America and we can’t put blinders on to that fact. I hate to say it, but I think a lot of those facets are decaying. I saw a lot of small towns that only had one place to eat- McDonalds. Those towns usually had a ton of old storefronts and infrastructure that had been slowly rotting for years at a time though. Each different map I posted above is like it’s own ecosystem. Many of those ecosystems are just dying. I’m a registered Republican and I still haven’t decided if I can vote for either candidate. The only thing I did decide on my trip is that I refuse to vote against someone.
I think what I will remember most are those two kids I met at McDonalds on my first day and the Confederate gravesite in Apalachicola. America isn’t great because Park County, Colorado and Calle Ocho wave the same flag. America is great because we choose to wave the same flag. The only thing that unites each of those ecosystems is that we choose to be Americans. Seeing those graves marked with the Confederate States of America is a stark reminder that a split America is a self-destructive America. More than geography or an economy, America is an idea. The idea is that a 32 year old man of German decent and a couple of Hispanic kids can meet in a McDonalds and laugh about stupid shit; then the man can write about it and send it to an Indian guy. In the end, we’re all equal. The race still weighs on me, but I feel stronger today that allowing politicians to divide and manipulate us should just be unacceptable. We shouldn’t allow partisanship to come between us. We need to learn to agree to disagree, and debate without fighting. We need to be open to new ideas, and always challenge the way we think. We need to understand that who we are is as diverse as the places we live.
I still like looking at that picture of the kid with my helmet on. The look of joy on his face just makes me smile. I think we’ll be ok.