This is a story told by a man who lives and breathes for the life on his motorcycle and who could not imagine him self being resident anywhere else than in the warm western of the United States. Tommy and his group of friends share the same passion for motorcycles and the wild life and spends as much of their time as possible practicing this passion.
Story: Tommy Monette
Photographer: Jack Ludlam
The western United States is a magical place. The vast area I have the luxury of calling home is filled with dense forests, high mountain peaks, rivers, giant lakes, scorching deserts, lush farmland, and just about every type of vista you can imagine. If you travel through the western US, in only a matter of days you could venture from the scorching Sonoran Desert, to the iconic rock formations of Utah’s Arches National Park, and up to the famous geysers of Yellowstone. I, and most of my close friends, grew up smack dab in the middle, in the high Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. Living in such proximity to this great landscape allows us to spend the majority of time outdoors, and the summer months are especially adventurous. The warmer weather allows us to explore our immense backyard on motorcycles, which I personally feel is the best way to bear witness to the majestic nature of our deserts and forests. June is extra special as there is much snow left on the peaks, the rivers are high with run-off, and the countryside is at its most green.
Today is June 16th, 2015. As I put these words down, this month I have traveled 2300 miles on the back of my motorcycle. I’ve ridden through a snow storm, hail storms, rain, heat, and gale force winds. The journey I have been on in the past 16 days has taken me from Denver, Colorado to Seattle, Washington, through the great forests of the Northwest, along the Snake, and Columbia Rivers, and back home to the mountains I love. Motorcycles are a huge trend these days, with ‘builders’ springing up left and right, brands grabbing hold of images that are anything but authentic, and people using the inherently romantic nature of the open road to capture an audience they would otherwise miss. I’m not sure how I feel about all this, but I suppose bringing more awareness to the lifestyle isn’t a terrible thing, as long as people understand that it’s personal, and shouldn’t be a ‘look at me’ sort of activity.
Personally, I’ve found nothing in life to be more cathartic than being on the back of my bike. It is a simple activity, and it gives you so much time for thought and self-discovery. I’ve come to reach many major decisions in my life on the road, and I’ve forged some incredible bonds with people across the country on my motorcycle. I’ve learned how to travel while being on my motorcycle. It has taught me something as simple as how to pack small and light, and for many days. The mental checklist usually runs as such: Power - check, tools - check, clean socks - check, rain gear - check, first layer - check, hatchets - check, machete - check, tent - check and bag/pad -check! Then? You turn the key and go.
The group I usually ride with is affectionately known by the self-imposed moniker, Santa Fe Tapestry. You’d have to know Danny Barone to really understand that, but we will leave that for another story. We are not a gang, we are not a crew, and we are not an MC. We are simply a group of like-minded friends who hunt, fish, shoot guns, drink whiskey, and enjoy spending as much time in the woods as we can. Getting there, together, has never failed to be an adventure. Overpasses have become outhouses, bikes have been stuck in rivers, we’ve all crashed, broken motorcycles, and each one of us has been the punch line to much shittalking by the rest of the group.
We’ve stopped at mechanics’ shops to get parts, to have them look at us and say “you guys rode where? On those?” in reference to some of the old logging roads we take, and we’ve spent countless nights under the stars, drinking and making fun of one another. Handsome Pat tried his best (while we were buried with rain in the mountains surrounding Cucharra) to cut his foot in half with a razor sharp hatchet. We taped it shut, he put his boot on, and we made the hour long ride back down a muddy service road to the nearest emergency room. That night we stayed the in the most haunted hotel I’ve ever set foot in. We’ve cut logs in half with a shotgun for firewood, and if you put any one of us in a no-holds-barred hatchet-throwing contest I’d bet we hold our own pretty well.
To me personally, the hardest part of these trips is when we pull back into town and riders start to peel off one by one - an exit here, an exit there, and pretty soon it’s your turn. You’re alone, feeling content, yet ready to keep going. If anyone reading this is ever in the Denver area and would like to join us, we leave most Sundays from Berkeley Supply, a menswear store located on Tennyson. We hold a very much ‘come one come all’ attitude, and would love to sit and hear your story.