Favorite Rides & Destinations

Fall 2017

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Page 96 of 97

Exhaust Note WAKING UP OUTSIDE of Albuquerque in November of 2004, I had never heard of an Iron Butt ride. So I strapped my saddlebags and my red-tailed hawk on the back of my Honda Shadow 750 and rode the last 989 miles to home, 11 miles short of a SaddleSore 1000. I had vacated my job in California as a biological consultant, opting to work for a few months as a falconry instructor in Vermont before devoting my time to real estate investment. Departing in June, I wasn't sure how Manuka would feel about the road trip, but after hitting an 8-inch-deep pothole while crossing the Mojave Desert in 115-degree heat, I pulled over and opened the window of her giant hood (that's a box, with a hawk in it) to find her, beak under wing, asleep. She maintained a laidback aplomb through everything that flustered me—getting buffeted by semis on rough Arizona asphalt, pushing bike, bags, box and bird for a mile after running out of gas in Oklahoma, falling over during a fuel stop in Illinois, getting pelted with hail in Iowa. Then there was the fellow at a stop in Pennsylvania who peeked in Manuka's window and said he'd never seen such a fierce- looking fighting cock in his life. Hours later she still looked offended. Hawks can hold grudges. Manuka and I hunted and taught in Vermont until November, then we rode and hunted our way west to visit master falconer and hood maker Paul Domski in Albuquerque. Once again, Manuka took the long journey in stride. When I pulled over to warm up and steady my nerves after dodging semis on an Oklahoma freeway that was gradually disappearing under sleet, I looked in her giant hood to find her—as usual— asleep. On our final push toward home we logged that 989-mile day. Manuka missed getting her Iron Claw pin by 11 miles. Two cross-country rides on a cruiser with a hawk as a passenger convinced me to replace the Shadow with a BMW adventure bike. A Happy Trails tail rack made lashing down Manuka's giant hood a breeze, and taking her off the beaten track to go hunting became a lot easier too. Learning how to handle my new bike off-road was an unexpected turning point: in less than two years, I had stopped training peregrines and started leading adventure rides for a local BMW dealer. Over the past decade I've led rides and taught classes on a monthly basis, meeting hundreds of two- wheeled enthusiasts along the way. I've always felt honored to have relationships with birds of prey. My life feels richer for them. Every day out with a hawk is an adventure. Now, I'm part of a thriving motorcycle community, and I feel the same about my relationships with the men and women I've met as a rider, guide and instructor. They're the sort of kind, fun, supportive folks who are always up for an adventure, and they're less likely to sleep through it. Perhaps I'll meet you on one of our monthly rides, or we'll just pass each other on the road. I'm the guy who waves like Spock: Ride long and prosper! BY LAINE MACTAGUE STRANGE PASSENGER www.FavoriteRidesAndDestinations.com | ridermagazine.com PAGE 97 FALL 2017 ISSUE 02 / VOL. 02

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