Danny Graham is washing his clothes in a motel room sink in Canada, talking fondly about the huge bugs on the windshield and the smell of roadkill in the evening air. He pauses, chuckles a little and says, "Just don’t call me crazy, OK?"
What’s crazy about a guy riding a motorcycle 400, sometimes 600 miles a day all summer long? It’s an American dream.
On Friday, Graham, 67, CEO of well-known Hawaii company Graham Builders, set out on the second phase of his quest to complete the "Triple Crown" of motorcycle rides, which will take him across the continental United States from the Mexican border to Canada and from California to Maine. He’s on the bike eight to 12 hours a day, traveling with plans but no reservations. "Nothing like having to ride 100 miles more to find a hotel room after thinking you were finished for the day," Graham says.
It started in 1999, when Graham bought a Harley. "You know, trying to find yourself, second childhood, all that," he jokes. After going around Oahu more times than he could count, Graham started looking for bigger challenges.
He hooked up with the Southern California Motorcycle Association (www.sc-ma.com) which sponsors rides across the country. He found he loved the open road, the time to think, the intensity of the experience that you just don’t get traveling in a car.
"The rain, the bugs, the cold, the heat. You ride through temperatures from 40 degrees to 188 degrees."
In May, Graham did the first phase of the Triple Crown, a ride called "Four Corners" that starts in San Ysidro, Calif., near the Mexican border, goes diagonally across the continent to Maine, south to Key West, Fla., and then back up and across to Washington state. Graham covered 12,000 miles in 19 days on his BMW.
On Friday, he started out in Regina, Canada, to ride a 3,000-mile course through Arizona to the Mexican border. He’s done trips alone before, but this time he’s riding with five buddies from Hawaii.
Then, later this week, Graham will attempt the Parks Adventure ride, covering 8,000 miles to visit 24 monuments in California state parks.
It’s not a race, it’s all about getting there. "There’s no excuses if you break down or get sick or get lost. You either finish or you don’t."
On previous trips, he collected souvenir magnets wherever he traveled. "But after you reach about 200 magnets, you think, ‘What am I going to do with all these magnets?’" Graham says. Since then, he’s taken some pictures on the trips, but mostly just brings home memories.
It’s not like he’s doing this for a prize. "In the end, all you get is a plaque. No money. But you have the personal satisfaction of saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve done it.’"