by Bill Hufnagle
aka Biker Billy
How many of you are old enough to remember the song by Dion entitled “The Wanderer”? OK, so it was released in 1961 and I was only a small child when it was new, yet this song managed to reach out to me decades later and find a special relevance for my heart. While the song is mostly about Dion moving away from commitments to pretty girls in his car, it still spoke volumes to this biker and his wanderlust.
Years ago I had a large touring bike that I rode endlessly; it’s gone now, a victim of divorce. Back in the day, I toured across the United States and all of the lower provinces of Canada on that bike. Yet for all of the miles I racked up on long-range journeys, I am sure I put on more miles just wandering around within a few hours of my home. One summer I stumbled onto this song in a collection of oldies that I bought on cassette and it became an instant favorite. I connected with it so much so that I had The Wanderer pinstriped on the trunk of that bike.
See, I love to ride. I don’t need any destination or place to be going; just two wheels, a tank full of gas, a few hours of free time, and I am outta here. Much like the song says, I wander around and around, cruising through small towns, farmlands, and mountains. Never stopping long enough to make any commitments, just to buy gas, a cold drink, and wander off again. Does this sound familiar to you? Go look in the mirror and if you have the soul of a biker, you will see that spark of wanderlust in your eye.
That wanderlust leads us on those much anticipated and fondly remembered long tours. It has also caused me to ride in ever-widening concentric circles of exploration from the base camp that my garage is. Each time I moved, it began again, that wandering around, riding every local road I saw just to find out where it led. I mean, you just gotta know where those roads go. Don’t you? In short order of moving into a new home, I would know the local roads like the back of my hand. In my Jersey days, the series of moves were always headed farther away from the big city and traffic and toward the areas I loved to wander in. It was only a matter of time before I knew the whole northern part of the state by heart. Creating an endless play list of roads that I could shuffle in ever-changing order, I wandered away the day, the weekend, or any amount of time I had free.
Like a favorite passage in a much-loved piece of music that you rewind to hear again, I would wander to certain roads just for a particular curve or set of curves and ride those repeatedly, purely to enjoy the thrill. You’re smiling now, aren’t you? We all collect those special discoveries from our wanderings and revisit them on our bike or in our daydreams. We wanderers collect trophy roads, and while we share some, we hoard others like moto-pack rats lest they become crowded and the charm is lost.
My most recent move has placed me in one of the places I wandered through repeatedly on long-range tours. I am still in that collecting stage here in my beloved mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Some areas are already tattooed in my mind, yet there are roads that still need to be explored . . . aahhh, so many roads and so little time, just the way I like it. The circle will grow ever wider until I know the roads better than a local. Although it will take longer these days with my schedule, I look at it as making the fun last longer.
The joys inherent in this micro-discovery of an area are making me reconsider how I plan my long-distance tours. I used to just start with an open slate and a long-distance goal like, say, ride from New Jersey to Los Angeles, head to Canada, and then ride home; or, take a few weeks and roll through vast areas and see the broad strokes of the natural landscape, sampling the local food and folks wherever any day’s ride ended. That is wandering on a nationwide scale, and I am sure I will do that again. Yet now I think I want to try picking a place and spending a few days tracing the concentric circles of exploration from a base camp there. I can’t live in all parts of this great country in one lifetime, but maybe I can get to know a few more parts like the back of my hand. So, if you see me riding, seemingly aimlessly, in your neck of the woods, I am not lost; I’m just being the wanderer.
Bananas are not one of the first things to come to mind in a discussion of hot foods, but this hot-rod dessert will convince you otherwise. John Dalmas hit the mark with his Viewer Recipe Contest ingredient suggestion of bananas. I love a challenge, and this was just the thing, a chance to put the fire where you would least expect it. Just add these to your next banana splits and watch your tongue burn rubber to get to the ice cream.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 fresh habanero pepper, stemmed, seeded, and halved
4 ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the habanero and sauté for 1 minute. Add the bananas and sauté for 2 to 4 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Turn the bananas over and sauté on the other side. While the bananas are sautéing, move the habanero pieces around them; this will help make them all equally ballistic.
Discard the habanero and serve warm with some whipped cream or ice cream as a counterpoint to the fire in the bananas.
Makes 4 servings
Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2005. Recipe reprinted with permission from “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” published by Whitehorse Press, Center Conway, New Hampshire copyright Bill Hufnagle 1995, 2004. Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” and has authored three cookbooks. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can acquire autographed books and also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.