There are hidden gems of accomplishment and achievement that often go overlooked because they don’t come with degrees and titles. In Ventura County, stories such as Mark Fargo’s solo motorcycle riding may not be all that unusual, but when it comes to fulfilling personal ambitions (we all have them), Fargo’s dedication can be an inspiration.
While his 16,000-mile journey may be complete, he’s still making the highways an endless adventure.
VCReporter: Tell us about life in Ventura County.
Fargo: I have been a Ventura County resident on and off since 1960, moving from Sherman Oaks. I’m a Buena High graduate in 1971. [I’ve had] various careers but retired two years ago at 63 from teaching social sciences in the Oxnard Union High School District for 17 years and before that three years at California Youth Authority. I was also a DII tennis player out of Ventura College and coached at Channel Islands and Pacifica High.
How long have you been riding motorcycles?
I’ve only been riding motorcycles for five years and the last three on the open road. My first ride was on a BMW 650 scooter covering 33 days and 7,259 miles. I always ride alone, as you can see by the hand-painted wolf on the sides of my current ride, the 1200 cc Yamaha Super Ténéré, which also is inked on my left shoulder to elbow. I decided a long time ago that I was not going to be a “GPS, fully loaded, just add two doors and call it a car” motorcyclist. I have cruise control but sometimes I’m riding sun up to sundown and one time up to over 700 miles. My Yamaha is a dual-sport so going off road is not a problem like it is for most bikes. I often find myself looking at my 8-inch by 11-inch Thomas Guide to help me navigate my “no itinerary, no reservation” mantra. I’ve gotten lost quite a few times but I have also found some real gems to photograph in doing so, like a grass tennis court and 65-foot wagon wheel sculpture in the middle of an Iowa cornfield.
What has been your greatest road trip endeavor?
I just completed a 16,235-mile trip. It was coast to coast but didn’t make it about how many states I rode in. I camped when appropriate and did day rides from my XOA campsite. A lot of locals give you the skills when they see your gear, etc., and have been very useful, like gas station people, in providing non-iconic sites, which is what I like to shoot.
From June 26 until Oct. 13 (110 days), I had an incredible journey. Over 16,000 miles, over 12,000 just from Portland alone from Aug. 21. Three oil changes, two popped headlights, one set of new tires in New Hampshire to save state taxes, two lost hats (bummer), two hours dishwashing, three hours mowing one lawn, 10 days camping, five days riding in the rain, 10 days riding over 450 miles, six days over 500 miles, 10 different states of old and reacquainting friends letting me recoup for a few days, and this pile of mail I’m not looking forward to the next few days. Thank all of you and especially Maggie, my mate for life, for giving me the freedom for sharing this journey.
What were some interesting situations you encountered?
I have way too many stories, mostly positive, about our country’s changed norms but once I got stuck out in an Indian reservation off the 20 east in Nebraska via a muddled detour and was chased out by a pack of protective dogs.
What have you learned so far about solo journeys?
My philosophy is to have a destination but not a plan, necessarily, on how to get there. I travel a lot of two- and four-lane highways and byways and usually only use interstates to hoof it to somewhere if it’s just time to get home. My last week from the coast of South Carolina had five straight days of over 500 miles. I paid the price as my 65-year-old body told me to now get a custom seat to continue my new adventures. Costs vary between $50 and $150 a day including camp sites, cheesy hotels, gas and meals. On this last trip I was lucky that many of my fellow (Buena) Bulldogs live in other states and I got two to three days of relief from those long days. I used that hospitality to do local 100- to 200-mile day trips. I once ended up in a city park with some fellow riders avoiding the lightning storms that filled the sky. Some riders I’ve met just camp along the road in some buses. The 50 east out of Nevada is not one of those roads I would do that. Stone silence for hours while trying to get to Utah.
How many trips have you made?
I’ve done about six trips ranging from 3,000 miles to the latest, which was over, as you know, 16,000.
Why did you decide to get into riding now, at this age?
Not really influenced by movies or books and I have always been adventurous even in my relationship the last 18 years with Maggie, who is still teaching and supports my desire to travel the country. She is not interested in riding on the back and I am more of an individual who needs his space at times. No mid-life crisis here, I just wanted to utilize my time better as I got older. I hitched Europe at 19 for six months from Scotland to Turkey, which made me grow up quickly.
I wasn’t responsible enough as a young man and probably would have not survived my need for speed as a youth.
I ride for the ride and you won’t see me at Sturgis or Daytona, etc. I don’t care for the crowds and some of the things that happen there. I have done some very challenging rides like Beartooth Pass out of Yellowstone and Ouray in Colorado. My real love for the road is also the daily photos I take as they exemplify my Motorcycle Haiku thought process. Ride it, record it and pin it with haiku to me leave the experience itself with no filters, photo shopping, etc. My anthology, the third in a series of chapbooks, will be out by the end of the year or after the holidays.
You [make] a lot of mistakes learning how to be a road warrior, like rain gear, because it can rain anytime, anywhere at any time; duct tape; extra rope or bungee cords. You learn how to tweak your bike and upgrade tents, etc., to make life easier on the road. I love it and haven’t owned a car for over 18 months.
Mark Fargo documented his solo motorcycle journeys in haiku with two books available on Amazon and his soon to be released, The Art of Motorcycle Haiku, out late January. For more information, contact email@example.com.