Is there anyone out there who rides that hasn't dreamed of going across the country at least once? The picture of the motorcycle and rider, alone on a two-lane highway somewhere out in the American West, is probably one of the most romanticized and duplicated images. There is a good reason for this: We all want to be the guy, or gal, in that picture.
Cindy Douglas, aka Cindy Lou, decided to do just that. On June 7 of this year, she took time off from her position as a hair stylist at Salon Azure, loaded up her 2009 Harley Dyna Superglide, and left on a 7,800 mile adventure that took her through 21 states, several state and national parks, and as she puts it, "100 percent restored my faith in humanity." She returned a month later a little different person than she was when she left, and is already longing to do it again.
"I've thought of going across the country since I was 13 years old," Douglas says, "and this year I decided it was time to do it. My boss wasn't too thrilled about me taking a month off, but we worked it out."
Douglas got her first bike, a Honda 250 Rebel, about 10 years ago. "I retired that pretty quickly and got a Sportster," she says. With her Sportster showing some age and mechanical issues, she decided that picking up a new bike would be a wise decision for a trip of this length: "I didn't want to be broke down, alone, in the middle of nowhere, so that's when I decided to get the Dyna." Luckily there were no mechanical gremlins to deal with. "The only thing that happened was I lost an air filter cover in Illinois, and I stopped once for an oil change. That was about it," she reports.
Douglas' good friend Amber, who also wanted to travel across the country, accompanied her on a large part of the trip, meeting her at predetermined locations. How did it work out with Amber being in a car and Douglas on her bike? "At first we would meet up every 150 miles or so, but that didn't last long," Douglas says. "We got to the point where we just met at certain cities along the way. Toward the end, we split off and went different directions,"
Years ago I had the "pleasure" of riding a bike across Kansas, so I know how boring it can be. Some states you just want to cover the miles and get through them. When I ask Cindy how she liked the flat land of the Midwest, she says that they took backroads all the way across Kansas and Missouri. "We knew the interstate would suck, so we decided to just take the backroads and see what the states had to offer, and we were still able to make it to Colorado in three days," she says.
Of course on any long trip you will eventually hit some bad weather and Douglas had her share.
"At one point I had to outrun a sandstorm coming out of Monument Valley, and in Vail, Colo. it was 35 degrees and snowing, in June!" she says. "I also dodged two tornados. At first I started out looking at the weather every day, but then I thought, ‘Why bother? I'm going to ride anyway.' The weather is just part of it. When the weather gets bad at first you think, ‘Can I handle it?' Then you get to the point where it builds character… but at some point it just gets stupid!"
Picking the best thing about the trip wasn't something Cindy can decide on quickly.
"It was great seeing something new everyday," she says. "Now I always try to look for something new each day, even if it's just something small that I never noticed before. This trip made me more appreciative of what America has to offer, and it also made me realize that you don't really need that much. What you need is what's in your heart.
"Perhaps the coolest thing that happened was while I was in the Canyon Lands. I was sitting at a picnic table and this hummingbird just flew up and hovered right in front of my face. It was so cool. Later, I looked up what that symbolized, and it said that a hummingbird is a spiritual symbol of resurrection, and that they open the heart to be free again. When I read that I just couldn't believe it, because that really sums up what this trip was to me."
When Cindy Lou talks about her trip, it's obvious how much she enjoyed it. In fact, she is already planning her next one. "I want to ride South America!" she says, with a very convincing level of enthusiasm. I have no doubt she can do it.
If you would like to see more pictures of Cindy Lou's trip and read her postings, check out her blog: