by Victor Wanchena
Exploring is a natural habit for a motorcyclist. It’s probably because there isn’t another vehicle better suited for exploring both urban and rural terrain like a motorcycle. Poking around unexplored city streets and parkways or wandering down little used rural byways is a fabulous way to spend your two-wheel time. I’m not sure where this desire to wander into the unknown comes from. I suppose it’s just part of the natural inclination of a rider to be adventurous. We really are a breed apart. We desire to ride a road that might go somewhere, or nowhere, for no other reason than because it’s there. This mindset is not very different than that of mountain climbers. Tackling self-imposed challenges with the only reward being a sense of pride and the ability to say yeah, I did it. For many, the journey is its own reward.
The real beauty of this adventure seeking is that it is available wherever you are. No need to fly around the world to find that peak to climb. No two weeks living in a tent at a 17,000-foot base camp eating yak jerky and sticks of butter. Open your garage door; fill your tank and you’re there. There are roughly 11 million miles of roads in these grand United States, enough to keep anyone busy for a lifetime.
Multi-state rides to wherever the front wheel is pointed are certainly fun. For me the West and the Great White North have the most draw. I like it when the locals have a different accent than me. But the time and energy needed for trips like that come only a couple of times a year. So instead of pining for the open road, I find the best of what this area has to offer. Urban areas often are full of odd side roads or parkways ready made for urban adventure. The Twin Cities boasts a fantastic group of parkways that are all interconnected. Known as the Grand Rounds, you can ride over 50 miles of scenic parkways without ever leaving the city proper. I happened to take a ride early this year with a few people around a section of the Grand Rounds. They were amazed that such a gem of a ride sits in the middle of an urban area.
Another great love of mine are the lovely gravel byways in the outer fringes of the metro area. They wind through farms and fields, sometimes going nowhere. It’s tough to beat a late evening ride through these undeveloped spaces. Often bypassed by all but the most adventurous, it’s amazing the scenery found when the pavement turns to gravel. My very favorite are the “Minimum Maintenance” roads. These are truly roads to nowhere. The nicest ones are rough gravel, but some are literally over-grown trails. They are often posted “travel at your own risk”. That sounds like a recipe for fun to me.
Too many riders shun any road that doesn’t sport good pavement. Why? Even a heavily loaded touring bike can negotiate all but the most backwoods goat paths. Granted, a light dual-sport makes the perfect companion on trips where pavement is uncommon. But knowing what you and your bike can handle only makes you a better rider. An adventure doesn’t require thousands of miles, just a spirit of exploration.