All photography provided by John Connors
Traveling, writing and photographing somewhere new.
I am a curious New Jersey native, truck driver, freelance writer, photographer, and ambitious blogger always planning my next adventure. I'm insatiably curious and find that two-wheeled exploration is what inspires me.
The beginning: Where two-wheeled travel manifested.
Born in Bergen County, New Jersey I have always had the desire to explore what is around me. From my humble exploratory beginnings escaping from the netted childs playpen in the backyard to riding as far as my Skyway BMX bike would take me, I grew older and this inquisitiveness expanded to a much greater area. And with the desire for exploration my desire for two-wheeled, motorized travel also grew.
My family moved a few times growing up, and with the exception of living in Houston, Texas, most of these moves were around the Garden State. In these earlier years, my daredevil persona flourished once I was introduced to balancing and two-wheeled travel. I was gifted a Skyway bmx bike and from there I started racing amateur BMW at tracks in New Jersey.
But it wasn't enough, it wasn't fast enough and I watched with envy as friends would pass me on their "dirtbike" motorcycles and ATV's. I saved up my newspaper delivery money and, against my parents' wishes, secretly purchased my first motorized transport - an early 1980's Honda XR80 that I kept safely chained up to a tree in the local woods free from the well-intentioned berating of my parents. That clandestinely progressed to a larger two-stroke dirt bike motorcycle to a three-wheeled ATV that gifted me with some broken bones and torn ligaments. At that point my hobby was discovered and reluctantly given up until I could pursue this moto passion as an adult.
Adulthood: I can't stay in one place because there is always somewhere else.
Once in adulthood I found myself moving from Toms River, NJ to the "Brick City" Newark, NJ to downtown Jersey City and then to Chicago for a failed attempt at law school. But not all was lost as it is here that I took $900 I had saved and bought my first "real" motorcycle - a 1979 Honda CX500 with the Vetter fairing package. Sinfully ugly to most it was a thing of beauty to me. And it was here in Chicago, while still in law school, that I met a University of Chicago grad student whom inspired me to explore once again. This theme of moving for a girl would become a common theme in my life.
I moved to Boulder, Colorado and to some surrounding communities, exploring the Rocky Mountains and the Front Range. It was here that I experienced my first motorcycle adventure in the form of a misguided undertaking on this old, high-mileage Honda CX500 with the cassette deck and speakers, rear riding lights and scratched up fairing. Our goal was to go to Chihuahua, Mexico, two-up for New Years. Well, it was brutally cold heading down I-25 this time of year and we ended up spending the night in a motel room attached to the side of a gas station in Wagon Mound, New Mexico.
The next day, as irony would have it, after spending the night in a room sandwiched between the men's and women's bathrooms on the side of a gas station, we ran out of gas. A man whom spoke no English attached a rope from this pickup truck tailgate to the front forks of my bike and towed me down the interstate to Las Vegas, New Mexico so I could get fuel. He would not take any money I offered him. Some travel lessons were learned. People are incredibly kind, especially when it comes to travelers in despair. And, secondly, always get fuel when it is possible. Our trip terminated prematurely in Santa Fe where we spent New Years Eve. We never did make it to Chihuahua, Mexico for New Years. This first real moto adventure taught me that it is not the final destination that is important but the experience in getting there that mattered. This lesson is one that still influences me today.
From Colorado I went back to Jersey City, same apartment house, different floor whereby I took up driving a taxi on the 6 PM to 6 AM overnight shift. Why? Because I was curious about this type of life and my maternal grandfather drove a cab in New York City for awhile when he was younger. This side of life interested me greatly. It was something completely different to me and something darkly fascinating driving a cab in one of New Jersey's toughest, urban cities. And driving overnight in this city was that much more foreboding. It was completely inverse to my previous, most recent position of sitting in front of a computer working in WorldCom's legal department in Denver. And the experience paid off in life experience more than I could have ever imagined. My life felt that much more colorful and my inquisitiveness about life grew. It was here in Jersey City where my second motorcycle, a 1982 GPZ550 previously purchased in Colorado, was stolen the first night it was parked out on the street. Although the experience in Jersey City was vivid and unforgettable, driving a taxi was a financial struggle.
While in Colorado I split up from the girlfriend whom inspired me to move to the Rocky Mountains and met another girl. We would live together for a couple of years before splitting up. She went back to her home state of Washington and I returned to Jersey City. While in Jersey City we stayed in contact and a long-distance relationship flourished. During this time I visited her in Tacoma and found it completely different than anywhere I had been since. So with some consistent, over the phone, long-distance prodding by her coupled with my parents' desire to see me lead a safer and more stable life, I packed up my 1986 all-wheel-drive VW Vanagon and drove the nearly 3000 miles to Tacoma where I lived for more than 13 years.
Washington State: Where I desire to incorporate riding and exploring into every aspect of my life.
Washington was magical. The Pacific Northwest is a jewel and it wasn't long before I found my first fast bike, a red and black, tiger-striped 1992 Suzuki GSXR. For the first time I started to ride with a few motorcycle groups, primarily the Cycle Barn Sport Bike Club and PNWriders while commuting daily the 110 mile round trip to work.
The Pacific Northwest was different than any place I had ever been and exploring it fully on my motorcycle was wonderful. From Neah Bay to the Palouse I could never stop finding somewhere new to ride and all the while I was meeting more and more riders. The Vanagon, which blew its motor on the trip out to Washington, was retired and I rode full time, year round without another vehicle. I got wet, I got rear-ended twice and yet I was happy riding my motorcycle everyday. My bike served me the way another person's four wheel conveyance served them. I carried my laundry on the back of the bike to the laundromat, carried cheap and less tasty than Jersey pizzas home, weed whackers, once a guitar and once a large African woman I met on Craigslist. My bike did it all for me. I bought an updated GSXR1000 sportbike and then traded the original GSXR1100 for my first dualsport, a 1993 Yamaha XT600. This first dualsport opened up yet another whole new world of riding and exploring to me. I started taking it solo out to Capitol Forest and Tahuya to ride through the damp, dense forests of Washington.
This exploration off the tarmac would eventually inspire me to purchase my current ride, a 2002 BMW GS Adventure. The idea of doing something completely out of my comfort zone, something unpredictable, possibly careless and without proper reason drove me to make a monumental life change. This was the incubus for the first adventure I had started to plan. A plan that would hinge on quitting my job, leaving everything behind and riding down to Todos Santos Cuchamatan in Guatemala to see the drunken horse races. It all made sense to me and only me.
But that might just be another story.