Confluences of events are only notable if something really good or really bad is the result. This confluence was not only timely but positively life changing for six of us who were at crossroads in our own individual journeys.
During one of the worst winters in memory for citizens of Boston, riding motorcycles should have been the farthest thing from our imaginations. But, much like everything else, we often want what we can’t have. As the snow drifts extended upward to the emotionless gray sky of winter, images of twisting a throttle and straightening the winding roads of unfamiliar territory took over my consciousness.
If I can’t ride today, I can plan to do so tomorrow! So, I sent the following e-mail to five of my friends :
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 8:53 PM
To: Piglet, Tiki, The-Wrench, Sled-Dog, Adam
Subject: The Ride of a Lifetime
I’m starting this string to kick off some light Sturgis planning. Long (…) email below. I need votes from everybody to see which one we do. I’ll start planning now if you’re all in.
On the string we have the six of us.. Most of you know each other but the important thing is we all ride American.
General outline and one option keeping in mind that Sturgis is August 5-9, 2013.
Sensing pure frustration and urgency in that call to arms, the responses came quickly and definitively. The answers were all a resounding “YES.”
Among the five of us, two had recently moved from Boston to Los Angeles. One was a recent father. One was recently married, and another recently engaged. It was clear that for all of us life would be changing over the next year or two. We would all have levels of uncertainty but one thing was certain, if we were ever going to put life on hold for two weeks living off of beef jerky and Red Bull, it would have to be now!
We spent the next six months meticulously planning our journey. With two people in the Midwest and four in Boston, we would have to think through the logistics of a starting point. With the West Coast being new territory for us all, launching our ride together as a group from Malibu seemed like the only answer. After a bit of consternation, internal debate and fear of losing our man cards, we realized that shipping our Harleys to a friend’s house in Malibu would be the best solution to maximizing the trip time. It would be the first time our bikes had seen the inside of a trailer since rolling out of the factory after their respective births. We would be trusting a total stranger with some of our most beloved possessions; trusting this stranger to safely deliver the bikes 3,021 miles across the greatest stretch of land ever assembled. A week later we received word from Piglet that the bikes had arrived in the same pristine condition as their temporary imprisonment began.
We had one week until memories would be made on adventures that wouldn’t soon be repeated. The trip plan would include a ride from Malibu through Death Valley to Vegas, Zion, Bryce, Salt Lake City, Jackson, WY, Yellowstone, Sturgis and back through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Packing suggestions were circulated among group members as some said they would bring the tools, others suggested bringing their DSLR camera while I would bring the standard Moleskin black leather notebook to journal the trip. Piglet obsessed about his apparel, not knowing if he should pack for the heat to greet us through the desert of Death Valley or the mountains between Leadville and Aspen Colorado’s Independence Pass. As the dialogue continued, the mapping, journaling, photography, packing suggestions and general ridiculousness evolved into a Facebook page with the six of us sharing travel logistics for the imminent trip. We forgot to close the page and before we knew it, random people were following the Facebook page. First a handful, then a few more. Slightly embarrassed, we hastily sketched a logo and placed it at the top of the page. We decided that we would entertain our 15 or 20 fans and document the journey publicly under the name “The Beantown Baggers (BTB).” This called for our own shirts; after all, we were now magazine magnates!
By the time we landed in LA, BTB had a hundred fans. They were all envious of our plans and wanted to share in the experience. They commented on our posts, made route suggestions and helped compile lists of “must see” locations. We hadn’t built just a magazine, we had activated a community! On August 3, 2013 our first live ride post would launch telling the story of what the community called “The Trip of a Lifetime.” We wrote, snapped photos and communicated with the readers as we rode 5,000 miles over two weeks. By the end of the trip, over 1,000 people were reading our articles and communicating with our writers several times each day. But it wasn’t the sheer number of readers that showed us that we were onto something special, in fact it was when Sled-Dog’s victory broke down 300 miles outside of Sturgis that we saw people really come out of the woodwork. We had to wait roadside for several hours before pushing off and arriving Sturgis at 4:30 in the morning. Over the next three days at the rally, countless people approached us and said things like “We were following your troubles on FB and if you didn’t get to Sturgis by morning, our friends were going to get a truck and pick up the broken bike.” Amazed that anybody was reading in the first place and more so that they were actual humans we would meet, it was clear that this community needed a place to live and Beantown Baggers would provide that home.
Just a few years later, more than 50,000 people continue to take interest in our rides, events and adventures. More importantly we have learned that despite the larger community following our collective lives, the bond among six riders has lived long beyond the 2013 trip and has transcended the roads, the chrome, and the notion of Beantown Baggers.
My only regret from the months leading up to the 2013 ride was calling the experience “The Trip of a Lifetime.” As it turns out, this was one wild and memorable set of experiences that has led to many, many equally memorable miles during the following years. We are already planning our next massive trip.