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Living Off the Slab Blog

Finding Balance on the Alaska Highway

01/27/2019

As I write this, I am approaching 60 years of age. Like most people in our modern world, I have spent the last 40 plus years chasing the American Dream of owning a home, having two cars in the driveway and of course, a chicken in every pot. The unfortunate thing is, this has never been what I really wanted.

My efforts in chasing after the gold at the end of the rainbow were never about the gold itself, which is probably why I have never been rich. Rather than being interested in the accusation of money, I was always more concerned with what the gold would get me; the ability to have more free time.

I am sure you can see my dilemma, and I am equally sure many of you share this same conundrum. While it sounds simple and seems to make sense that more money equals more free time, the truth is that acquiring and maintaining the funds necessary to have more leisure time, does itself require a large amount of effort along with hours and hours of hard work. Usually, your leisure time is very quickly filled with the demands of your job or vocation. During my younger years, I way constantly making verbal agreements with myself, "If I only work hard for the next five years, I can take the time off to do those things I have always wanted.” The problem is, that like the song says, “Someday, never comes."

I took me until almost 50 years of age before I finally said, screw this, and made the changes necessary to start achieving the dreams I had nourished since I was a young man. For me, that was mainly to travel and see this amazing country.

In order to allow myself to live the life I wanted, I had to make some changes. Rather than constantly chasing after an end results that could never be reached, I realized that I needed to find a balance between working just enough to provide for my personal needs while allowing time to do those things I had always dreamed about.

And that is where a motorcycle trip to Alaska comes in. Every sport or endeavor has its “Holy Grail,” those events or adventures which have transcended from normality to cult status. For motorcyclists, there are several of these once in a lifetime road trips, such as riding cross country, following old Route 66, traveling around the world, or making the pilgrimage from the lower 48 to the wilds of Alaska.

The mileage for this trip will of course vary depending on where you live, but from my home near Boston, Ma this trip is about 6000 miles each way. The path crossed the great plans, climbed the majestic Canadian Rockies and traverses the undulating landscape of the Yukon.

If you choose to take the first step on this journey, you will find yourself riding in 100-degree heat and enduring 50-degree rain-soaked days. Over the course of your journey, you will be elated, invigorated, amazed, tired, sick and in pain, however if you endure, your heart will be filled with memories you can only imagine.

Many take this trip by car or RV, but only a small number choose to expose themselves to the elements and dangers of riding a motorcycle. Those of us who do, understand the freedom of removing your protective cage of metal and plastic and opening yourself up to the whims of mother nature. The smells will fill your nostrils, the sun will burn your skin and the road may even give you kick in the ass, but in the end, you will live an adventure. You will feel and be alive!

Riding to Alaska, is for motorcyclists a sort of Pilgrimage, like talking the road to Santiago De Compostela and the Shrine of St. James. Traveling great distances by motorcycle is a physical challenge of both strength and stamina, but it is also a mental challenge of maintaining focus and being alone with your thoughts. On a long trip, you will undoubtably go through a range of emotions but if open to them, they can be cleansing and healing.

If you choose to embark on this pilgrimage, I encourage you to be open to the music of the road. Let it take hold, let it clear your head. Let it remove your doubts, your fears and your anger and let it replace them with wonder and love. Let it create a balance.

--Craig Ripley

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