Living Off the Slab Blog
It's All About the Smell

In 2019 I was fortunate enough to take a 11,700-mile cross-country trip over the course of 58 days. This adventure was in celebration of completing my 60th trip around the sun. Over the course of this two-month excursion, I wanted to meet as many of my YouTube followers as possible and in the process, turn the camera on them, to hear their motorcycle stories. This turned out to be one of the most rewarding parts of my travels.

Like most bikers, I admit that I am a "gear geek." I love to browse and talk about the latest models of two-wheeled conveyance and/or gear to hit the market. But these items are simply tools used by the rider to take their individual motorcycle or travel journey.

The journey is not simply the physical act of moving from one place to another. Rather, it is an internal odyssey taken by every solo traveler who throws a leg over a motorcycle.

On my journey, I asked my fellow travelers to explain their love for riding, and of course they mentioned feelings of “freedom” and of “being at peace.” They also noted the intent and mental focus required to ride a two-wheeled steed; helping to block out the rigors of daily life.

But what I found most interesting, was that to a person, they all mentioned the importance of olfactory stimulation; yes, smells.

Smells of honeysuckle, of pine, of the ocean, of freshly cut grass or the clear refreshing scent that often comes after a thunderstorm. But pleasant things were not the only smells mentioned. Of equal importance were the orders associated with the “cycle of life,” as one rider put it.

Yes, I am talking about riding behind a garbage truck or passing a semi hauling chickens. Equally pungent are corn fields after a fertilization cycle and of course dairy farms.

Most people would find these experiences repulsive, things to be avoided, and in a car, you might not even notice many of them. But on a motorcycle, they are part of the immersive experience.

For me it is that all encompassing experience which drives me to return again and again to the open road. Riding in an automobile, you are just passing through, but on a bike, you are part of the environment. It surrounds you, envelopes you, challenges you and nurtures you.

Zion National Park is probably the best example I can think of. I had the pleasure of driving through in an automobile back in 1990. It was a fantastic trip that my then girlfriend (now my wife) enjoyed very much. However, returning in 2011 on a motorcycle was eye-opening.

Traveling through in a car, you see the beauty but in a real way you are insulated from it. On a bike however, you feel small. The rock formations raise on all sides, reminding you just how immense this incredible creation we live on, really is.

It humbles you.

The vast majority choose to insulate themselves from the unpleased or difficult things. But we travelers seek it out. Be it bumpy roads, rain, blistering heat, or unpleasant smells. It is all part of the adventure.

Ride safe my friends!
--Craig Ripley

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