By Dale Spangler
Now that I'm in my mid-forties I look back with a sense of nostalgia on my past experiences. I feel fortunate that I have been able to spend my life around motorcycles and make a career out of working in the powersports industry. As a result, I've had the opportunity to travel and see so much of this amazing country we live in and even spend a few years in Europe. Along the way, I met many great people, some I'm still connected with to this day, others just memories. Regardless I look back with fondness and feel lucky to have been able to experience so many places and meet so many great people because of motorcycles.
When I think back on all of the travel in my life I'm amazed at how many places I've been. After a look at a map of the United States I quickly determined that I have been to every state in the union except Alaska, Maine, and North and South Dakota. To this day I blame all this travel for my love of geography and the study of maps. As a teenager, on the way to the dirt bike races I would break out the U.S. road atlas and spend hours studying maps and wondering what it was like in each small town.
Today, I do the same thing, except now I use Google Maps and I am able to walk down the streets of those small towns, albeit virtually. Map, maps and more maps, it seems I can never get enough of them. I study maps before every vacation so I can get a lay of the land and know where I am going once we arrive. I find that if I'm watching television or reading a book and a town or a country is mentioned I have to hop online and research that place and learn about it. It’s a rabbit hole that often leads to hours of lost time. I've spent countless hours studying maps and geography and I believe it all began because of dirt bikes and traveling to races across the country at a young age. Reading maps was the perfect thing to keep me occupied on the long drives in a time when smartphones and iPads and GPS didn’t exist.
As I mentioned earlier I had the opportunity to spend a few years in Europe, which was the result of a job in the powersports industry. This was the late 90s mind you, pre-EU, when Europe was a bit crazier and border crossings still existed. My first week there I was to travel with a work associate to the town of Brno in the Czech Republic for a World Championship Grand Prix road race. Everything was going fine until we approached the Czech border and were stopped for questioning by armed guards. One of the machine-gun wielding border agents said we owed “duty taxes” in order to enter the country because we had goods in our van that we were going to sell. Luckily my co-worker and mentor Davide knew exactly what to do. He calmly went to the back of the van, compiled a hat and t-shirt care package for each guard, and passed them out. Imagine that! our passports were quickly stamped and we were off and on our way. Come to find out, the border guards knew there was a race going on that weekend and upon seeing our van emblazoned with logos simply wanted free stuff. Davide knew what they wanted and what started as a large sum of taxes due to enter the country ended as a hat and t-shirt bribe! And that’s just one of the many experiences I had during my few years spent in Europe.
Stories like the one just told may seem like stuff out of movies, yet it really did happen. Without my friend and mentor Davide, I never would have gotten through my European experience. He taught me how to maneuver through the complications of European travel, how to be creative and how to think on my feet. I often tell people I never worry about getting lost in the United States after traveling for a few years in Europe—with nothing but a road atlas. The experience permanently changed my outlook (in my opinion in a positive way) and opened my eyes to other cultures, food, ways of living and ways of doing things. It made me want to understand other cultures and taught me to empathize with the way others live regardless of whether it differs from mine.
But the thing I cherish the most as a result of all of my life’s travels is the people met along the way. Countless individuals and families were kind enough to allow me to stay with them in their home, camp on their property, ride on their practice tracks, or simply just share a meal with me. In Europe, these people were proud to show me their hometown and explain its rich history while speaking to me in my native language, “because they wanted practice and get better at speaking English.” I always tried to do my best to show them the utmost respect and appreciate what they shared with me.
My list of travel memories and people I've met along the way is extensive; and the older I get the more I cherish those experiences. Whether it was a homemade southern recipe fried chicken dinner with a family in Georgia, a crawdad boil with Louisiana natives at a race in Texas, or a birthday lunch in Venice with Italian friends, I've met so many kind and sharing people along the way as a result of motorcycles. As a fellow motorcyclist, I hope you will take the time to enjoy the places you travel and the people you meet along the way as much as I have. For those of you I have met along the way, thank you for the memories and experience.
# # # # # # #