Traveling on a motorcycle provides a sensory experience that can’t be duplicated riding in a car, and that is just one of the reasons to ride, Hillsboro resident Shelby Dirks said on a Friday afternoon that was excellent for a ride.
“Being on the open road, being able to smell all the smells,” he said. “You see things a lot more when you’re on a bike.”
Dirks’ interest in motorcycles began early.
“When I was a kid, I would go on rides with friends and absolutely love it,” he said. “It isn’t for everybody, but when you get on one cruising down the road, it really gets in your blood.”
He got his first dirt bike while he was in middle school, and bought his first street-legal motorcycle while he was in the Air Force. That first motorcycle was a 1987 Harley Davidson 1100 Sportster.
While he currently has a 2004 Harley Davidson Heritage Softtail Classic, he said his answer will stay the same when his mother asks him what he wants for Christmas — a new motorcycle — although it never works out.
“I’m sure I’ll give her the same answer this year when she asks me,” he said.
Dirks said he always looks forward to weekends when he can go out for a ride, whether locally at Marion Reservoir or Marion County Lake, a little bit farther to Cassoday or Marquette, or for a weekend getaway to Table Rock and Branson in the Ozarks.
Todd and Diane Carpenter of rural Marion appreciate the sensory experience of riding as well, but the social aspects of motorcycle riding play just as big of a part in their interest.
When traveling, strangers always take more of an interest if you’re riding a motorcycle, Todd said.
“They want to visit with you, it’s amazing,” he said. “And not just motorcycle riders. It just seems like people are more friendly.”
Children are especially fascinated when they see a motorcycle, he said.
There’s also a special kinship among motorcycle riders, Diane said. During a trip through Colorado, they encountered a group of bikers they had never met before. One of them didn’t appear prepared for the heat that day and was sweating profusely, and the Carpenters gave him a couple of bottles of water from their cooler.
The stranger kept asking them to let him pay them back for the water, but they wouldn’t let him. Finally the man relented after Diane asked him whether he would have accepted payment for the water if the situation had been reversed — he said he would be more concerned about their well-being than the price of a couple bottles of water.
Dirks also talked about a bond between motorcycle riders.
“With other bikers, it’s like one big family,” he said.
Diane was a late arrival to learning about the fun of motorcycles. Todd grew up riding dirt bikes and trail bikes, but it took him nearly 20 years to convince Diane to ride with him.
“I was scared of motorcycles,” Diane said. “I thought, ‘No, that’s not for me.’”
Then, in 2004, he finally convinced her to go on a trip with him to Las Vegas riding on a Honda Goldwing. Even before that first trip was over, Diane felt comfortable and safe enough that she could take a nap while behind Todd on the motorcycle.
In the years since then, they estimate they have put about 100,000 miles on a series of motorcycles, including their current 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 LT.
“It’s the only way to travel,” Todd said. “The journey is two-thirds of the trip. We don’t go to Arkansas for any other reason than to ride the roads.”
Two-lane county blacktop roads are ideal for riding motorcycles because they twist and turn and have more interesting scenery than highways and interstates, Dirks and the Carpenters all said.
“I love taking the back roads,” Dirks said. “I don’t cruise the interstates.”
The Carpenters said they wish Kansas had more good county blacktop roads. Oklahoma, Missouri, and Georgia are a few states with excellent roads for riding, they said.