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Invisible Roads


Jim Ford

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Invisible Roads

 

People ask me why I totally dig Invisible Roads.

 

It's simple. I don't like riding my motorcycle in traffic. Period! How about you? How do you like it when other vehicles upset your groove?

 

Somehow, I got the bright idea to ride the parallel, mostly empty, local roads rather than ride the larger, often congested thru roads when I am going places in my mid-Atlantic region.

 

It was here that I made a few discoveries.

 

These smaller local roads are invisible to thru traffic. Folks are unaware that the roads are there. The more local you go, the more empty the roads become so when I am there, nobody else is there. I have the road to myself -- and that never upsets my groove.

 

I made another discovery: Not only were these roads less congested; they were way more interesting to ride. There were more curves, and around every one of those curves, there was more interesting scenery. Motorcycling became more engaging, more challenging.

 

As such, I had to pay closer attention to what I was doing - all the time. The pavement became a study, those curves became a study, the environment became a study, and smooth motorcycling became a study. I developed a competence and a skill set that made me feel good. I earned those skills and there is a warm sense of accomplishment that accompanies them.

____

 

Sometimes riding Invisible Roads takes longer from Point A to Point B. But here I made my most important discovery:

 

The ride never seems longer - - in my mind.

 

Since riding Invisible Roads allowed me to quite blissfully concentrate on my groove without the distraction of traffic, time seemed to compress into the experience. Time disappeared into a moment. I discovered zen.

 

Invisible Roads are clear of traffic. Now I ride tens of thousands of miles a year on Invisible Roads and thru traffic is never the wiser.

 

Dig it?

 

See you in third gear.

 

Jim Ford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Otherwise known as "gray line" roads by MapSource users. They can be seen when zoomed to 1 mile or less and with map detail set at "Highest".

 

They are great to know for an area that you ride often or plan to ride again (back yard, so to speak), but these roads sometimes turn out to be gravel, dirt, or even non-existant, so don't plan a long day on gray line roads in an area you don't know at all.

 

When I do gray line roads in new territory I usually keep my planned ride a little shorter so I don't feel rushed and I can make adjustments on the fly depending on what I find. The great thing is that when you get back home your tracks will help in planning for future rides.

 

 

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When we go up to the mountains Beth and I ususally seek out the gray (blue highways of past) roads.

I ride slowly and enjoy the views, the roads, the company.

We still ride some of the better known routes, but the focus has shifted and the enjoyment factor increased.

Dealing with congestion is anathematic to me whether it be on Interstates or popular twisties that have too many riders on them.

 

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One of my goals before I kick the bucket is to ride secondary roads through the USA. Completely avoid interstate slabs if I can. I tend to be nostalgic and long for the yesteryear style of life. Much to see and learn from America as it used to be on secondary roads. Historic Rt 66 and 40 are two examples I can think of.

How nice it would be to ride through a small town and not see graffiti.

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No question the gps serves us well as motorcyclists. Recently l have been thinking of mine, a BMW Zumo, as X-Ray Vision. If I am bushwacking Invisible Roads, I usually keep the screen at Most Detail and at .8 miles Range. Configured this way, I can "see" the most detail of any road options ahead.

 

If the entry to a road, never traveled, looks interesting, I'll consult the gps screen. If that road dead ends not far away, I have better information on whether to sniff out that road or not. The gray gps roads, are mostly Invisible indeed to thru traffic.

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I rarely spend much time looking for gray line roads on the fly. I find I have to look at the GPS too much and it takes away from my safety margin if I'm moving or ride enjoyment if I have to stop too much.

I usually pre-route everything on the computer (looking for shortcuts and parallel roads), then load it to the GPS and follow blissfully until something unexpected comes up.

Riding partners don't like the scouting, so I usually do this alone.

 

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I like it but Los Angeles doesn't have many invisible roads!

 

Quite right! In fact, I think they should change the state motto to...

 

"California. Where there's always someone in your way."

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Only back into riding a couple years now. I still don't enjoy riding very long on the Interstate and like traffic far less - of course I can't get away from either completely. I am however finding the majority of my mileage is spent on these invisible roads, especially since riding with Jim last year in TRW.

 

It really helped me to tune my awareness to the requirements of that kind of riding ... and has therefore dramatically increased my enjoyment ... as well as more efficiently increased my experience than had I been slugging my mileage out on the interstate.

 

I agree with Jim in that time does indeed seem to compress despite it perhaps taking a bit longer. I'll also add that I have seen far less police riding these roads than on the hiways and interstates ... far, FAR less. I say that not to imply that I'm wickin' it up down the invisible roads, but I can focus on my pace (whatever that maybe given the environment) rather than trying to crunch miles quickly on the Interstate - and having to worry about radar, etc.

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"California. Where there's always someone in your way."

 

You need to get out more.

There's plenty of open space (roads) in California.

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I live for the invisible roads!

Last weekend It took a friend (on an Honda XL 600) and I, 6 hours to ride 100 miles.

Unimproved county roads, dirt roads, bumpy back roads, and you're right Jim, there was very little traffic killing our buzz. (It's funny how all those SUVs seldom travel the dirt roads they were allegedly built for.)

In the country you can smell the smells, see the sites, and feel alive. On the urban streets you just smell exhaust and hear noisy HDs or rap music blaring out of some punks car.

I have to do some urban riding when I commute to work everyday, but the weekends are mine to enjoy the real roads, the gray roads, the invisible roads.

 

Happy travels,

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Oh I can find mostly-empty swerving roads but I do have to travel almost an hour in what most of you would call wrath-of-God traffic to get there. It is worth it but nowhere near as convenient as when I lived near the base of Woodside Road (think Alice's restaurant) in the San Fran area.

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"California. Where there's always someone in your way."

 

You need to get out more.

There's plenty of open space (roads) in California.

 

True, and I appreciate the fact that I have year-round access to some of the greatest riding on the continent. I just don't like the fact that any day ride out of Los Angeles is bookended by sixty minutes of the most heinous traffic on earth.

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Great way to cross North Dakota, an otherwise boring state to many; Hy 200 between Minot and Bismark runs east to the border of MN and farther in to MN. Even Hy 2 from Glacier Park all across the prairie to the east is more interesting than the interstates. There's lots of these roads all over the continent, and they don't have to be mountain switchbacks. Almost every tiny town has a local cafe, which is a great place for local flavor plus coffee and pie.

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Great way to cross North Dakota, an otherwise boring state to many; Hy 200 between Minot and Bismark runs east to the border of MN and farther in to MN. Even Hy 2 from Glacier Park all across the prairie to the east is more interesting than the interstates. There's lots of these roads all over the continent, and they don't have to be mountain switchbacks. Almost every tiny town has a local cafe, which is a great place for local flavor plus coffee and pie.

 

+1 Hwy. 2 is possibly my favorite Northern East/West crossing of the country.

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+1. I gravitate to the gray lines. Riding the interstate is just uncomfortable trying to "ride ahead" and gets tiring after a while.

 

On the road less traveled, you can see more of the road ahead except around blind curves, and there are fewer idiots thinking they have the right of way due to the mass differential. It is more of the pleasure I seek when I ride. Scenery, flow of me and the bike, focus on the ride not the traffic.

 

See U there!

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