Another weekend adventure under my belt and boy what a ride it was. A week ago I was intrigued by the adventures of Ken Fickel, a motorcyclist who decided to cross the United States with $20 in his pocket, a unique story to tell and a nation of citizens to inspire.
I knew I wouldn’t come close to understanding unless I got to experience what it feels like to ride a motorcycle, so I asked if I could tag along on one of his rides.
The weather in northeast Oregon has been completely unpredictable this year, but on the day of our ride you couldn’t ask for a better day. The sun was shining, but not too hot; the wind, that had been blowing for days, had finally settled down to just a slight breeze, so after a little help getting my helmet buckled and some quick instructions on how to ride, we were almost ready to go. I was feeling a little anxious before climbing onto the bike, but I told myself, ‘this dude has 1000’s upon 1000’s of miles on his bike’. After one last comment from Ken… “If you have to hold on, you can’t ride with me,” I was on my way, cruising with Ken…and trying to figure out how to hold on without him knowing I was actually holding on.
From the very first moment I decided to relax and enjoy the ride. Spring in northeast Oregon brings about field after field of crops; alfalfa, potatoes, mint, and wheat were just some of the fields we rode by as the yellow lines of the road kept zipping behind us.
I’ve traveled down a few roads on my own and have seen my fair share of hazards, but I realized how different those hazards can look while on a motorcycle. A cow, a fawn, some rocks, and a piece of metal were all just a stone’s throw away. It was then that I understood fully that the vulnerability factor on a motorcycle is increased significantly; I was glad I was riding with a pro that skirted around each obstacle, seemingly, without a second thought.
The ride was amazing. Each twist and turn of the road held a new landscape to admire. From the rust red rock cliffs along the Umatilla River to the greens, golds, and browns of all of the different fields we drove by. The Blue Mountains wrapped around the edge of the valley in the distance, while a field of green and purple had us driving through the scent of Lavender for miles.
I’ve grown to love the wind lately, it feels healing to me; to have that much wind in my face made me feel ready to face the life in front of me with an entirely new attitude. One a bit more jaded, but more solid then I’ve felt in years.
I was beginning to understand why so many people choose to be motorcyclists, it seems like it would be completely addicting and I’m not completely certain I’m not hooked already. After riding 100 miles with Ken I felt more prepared to hear and understand his story.
After 30 years in sales he decided to leave the button down shirts, the ties and the corporate world behind and cross the country on a motorcycle with only $20 bucks in his pocket.
Of course to do something so bold, as to set out across the nation with just $20 would take more than just the support of his family, he was going to have to find people from the west coast to the east coast that would also get behind his vision.
Ken was fairly certain he could eat corn dogs and sleep under a bridge if that is what it took to get through a day or two….or more. “I knew I could live within these parameters and succeed,” he said.
So he did it, he absolutely did it. He rode from the west coast to the east coast on $20, a whole lot of hope, and on the comradery he found at each and every stop along the way. “I met people who I now consider to be my dearest friends. It has been an amazing adventure. I’ve documented much of the trip with photos and videos. It is amazing the stories you hear from complete strangers as they opened up about their life to me. Then I met a very intelligent individual working at a gas station, it was his second job. This encounter was one of those pivotal moments in life. When I asked him why he was working here he told me he was saving up to take his kids to Disneyland. Right then I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to send this guy and his family on a trip to Disneyland and fix his bike while he was gone, so that when he returned I could take him on his Adventure Ride. That guy is always in the back of my mind while I continue to build this platform that will someday reach a large audience. My goal is to make a TV show, which will give me the opportunity to help a lot of people, like my friend that wants to take his family to Disneyland, or the guy I met that would love to have a motorcycle again like the one he had to sell as a young man because raising kids was more important than riding a Harley.
“The whole reason I left my home on $20 bucks and headed across the country was because I wanted to encourage people that it is possible to do whatever it is they want to do, whatever their passion is, it is attainable.”
My adventure with Ken was coming to a close. I sat on the back of his bike just a mile from my home and I closed my eyes. I felt the wind in my face and let go of every thought I had and just experienced those last few moments. I was completely inspired by his story and his vision for the future. It was one of those encounters that turn out to be life-changing; one that makes me want to strive to become a better person, to go about making the world a better place right where I’m standing. And to think he’s touched 1000’s of people on this journey already that are thinking the same thing as me, and now, after today, I get to be a thread in the fabric of the story of this guy’s life and I find that to be kind of cool.