Monday, January 15, 2007

The List

Lately, I’ve been thinking about The List. A lot.

At night, I go to sleep thinking about The List, and often, when I awake, the first thing that comes to mind is The List. At lunch, it’s not unusual for me to pull out The List and let my thoughts linger at each entry. Considering. Cogitating. Wondering. What have I done lately on The List? What will I cross off The List this year? Anything in the top five? Top ten? What will I add to The List?

The List is something that came about last year as I began writing a chapter on trip planning; this for a book that was to become The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel (2007, Whitehorse Press). I’m a goal-oriented person, so I’m always making lists of things I need to do, then I check them off as I’m done. Mick Jagger may never find satisfaction, but checking off the last item on a long list of to do’s works for me every time.

Anyway, as I wrote about trip planning, I started to tell other riders that they needed to come up with some riding goals. Where did they want to ride? What did they want to achieve? Then I realized something. Before I could tell anyone else about setting goals, I needed to do it for myself.

So, I did what comes naturally. I made a list. I think of it as The List, that is, all the motorcycle journeys I want to take and the roads I want to ride before my ticket gets punched.

No one fully understand how it works, but the power of lists and goal-setting are well documented. When you have a clear mental image of something you want—a new bike, a better job, more opportunity to travel—whatever it is, small or large, that directed thinking puts the mind in motion, consciously and unconsciously directing you toward achieving that goal.

As I started building my list, a few of the “big rides” came to mind immediately. Cross-country journeys, riding famous roads like the Pacific Coast highway, Beartooth Pass, and the Natchez Trace. I’ve driven many of those great roads, but that doesn’t really count. They went on The List.

I added a few trips that interest me personally. Having written extensively about riding in the Appalachians, I’ve always wanted to trace those ancient mountains from one end to the other, a journey that would stretch from Birmingham, Alabama to the edge of the continent on the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec.

I even added some old favorites like the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’ve ridden every section of the Parkway at one time or another, but never end-to-end in one single trip. That’s like hiking the Appalachian Trail in segments (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Sure, you can say you’ve done it, but it’s a different experience than taking it all at once. Riding the Parkway. Start to finish. It’s on The List.

What’s that you say? What about foreign destinations? Oh sure, I have a bunch of those on the list, too. I can’t pick up a motorcycling magazine these days without adding a half dozen new entries to The List.

In fact, that’s the only one problem that I can see. Every new trip idea begats two or three more. That means, of course, that for as long as I’m able to ride, I’m sure I’ll never finish every journey I have on The List.

I do know this much, however. I plan to die trying.