The best trip I wish I had never taken came about as a direct result of what some would call my obsession for motorcycles.
At the time, I was riding a 1977 Kawasaki. If you remember the motorcycles they rode on the TV show "ChiPS," that was the
police model of the bike I rode.
Although this bike was good reliable transportation, I wanted something with more character. This led me to respond to
an ad in the classifieds of the local ABATE (a motorcyclists rights organization) newsletter for a late 60s Triumph in need
of some work.
I called the number in the ad, and after determining that it was worth looking at, checked the prefix for the phone number
and discovered it was in a small town in the middle of nowhere called Harvey, North Dakota.
I was living in Grand Forks, ND at the time and although unsure of where this little town was at, I was, and still am,
always game for a road trip. Upon consulting my work schedule and a road map, I determined when and how I would go. I would
follow Highway 2 to Devils Lake, which although not a booming metropolis, turned out to be the last outpost of civilization
before my destination. From there I would take Highway 19 until it intersected with Highway 3, which would take me straight
On my day off, after a quick breakfast, I was off on my journey. I had been to Devils Lake before (about an 80-mile trip),
but beyond that I was in uncharted territory. Upon arriving in Devils Lake, I filled up my tank and asked for directions to
Highway 19. When I received his directions, warning bells should have gone off immediately. His reply was simply "follow the
main road to the John Deere dealership and take a left."
Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with motorcycle travel, especially through rural states such as North Dakota, or
those unfamiliar with North Dakota, you should know a few things. First, when you are on a motorcycle, you are infinitely
more aware of your surroundings, as your senses are all heightened. As Robert M. Pirsi put it in his book Zen and the Art
of Motorcycle Maintenance, "When you are in a car you are watching the scenery go by; on a motorcycle you become part
You should also be aware, if you have never been to North Dakota, of how vast, desolate and barren a good majority of it
is. It wouldn't be nearly as bad if there were some scenery, but there are quite a few areas there is nothing but horizon,
and if you are lucky, a few abandoned shacks and farmhouses littering the landscape.
I was not so lucky. Upon following the gas station attendants directions and turning left at the John Deere dealership,
I encountered an orange DOT truck going back into town. This would be the last sign of civilization I would see, with the
exception of the steeple of a distant church towering over the trees, that I would encounter until reaching my destination,
around 150-200 miles later.
Now since that time I have moved to Nevade and driven halfway across Montana, through Idaho, Utah, Nevada and part of Arizona,
but even the most deserted areas of any of these states even comes close to the bleak, barren, desolate voyage through North
Dakota to Harvey. After traveling across miles and miles of desolate wasteland without encountering any other life forms whatsoever,
even buzzards circling (which I had visions of), I reached Harvey, called the man who had the bike to get further instructions
to get to his place and look at the bike. Upon looking at it, I determined that it was more of a project than my time and
finances would allow and headed back to civilization. Sometimes the trip can be made or destroyed not because of the destination,
but rather because of the journey itself.
(Written by Wilbert Smith, Janet's oldest son)