By Michael Stodola Special to Published May 16, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Travel serves dual benefits:

  1. It expands your perspective, it reveals truths about yourself and it reboots the routine of your everyday. Some of the views along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee and Alabama give you hope about the world.
  2. It also gives you a greater appreciation of home. The absence of loved ones and a familiar bed make coming back a wonderful event. Especially after witnessing some of the flood- and tornado-damaged scenes of Memphis.

Our 1,700 miles on the road gave us so many rewards.

Several "thumbs ups" out car windows, turkey vultures soaring against blue sky, the obnoxious waitress with the Korean husband, hush puppies and catfish, BBQ, gas station BBQ, running into the entire cast of "iCarly" in Memphis, laughs, Beale Street, beers, scotch, about 48 prom couples, four weddings, flooded neighborhoods, fried green tomatoes, shotgun shacks and a misty St. Louis Arch.

The most significant view in my book was the formation of cycles in front of me and in back of me. Feeling part of the pack was both comforting and bolstering. You know that your back is covered. You know that if you get lost, you're still not alone. It all may seem like conformity, but you're also completely accepted as your own, distinct person.

Many people set out on trips like this to find a little Zen – to understand something about themselves and the global perspective. And I guess that I was no different.

The deepest truth I found though was something my mother used to tell me, "It's only as much fun as you want it to be," or "It is what you make it." The very best trips I've had weren't reliant upon the events within the trip or certain qualities of the destination. It's what you make it. Come rain or come shine, your own attitude defines it as good or bad.

I've been re-reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and my favorite line addresses this very idea: "The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there."

I hope to ride with these gents sometime soon. I'm a believer and now feel like I can ride anywhere, at any distance, confidently. And it's something that's at the heart of ALL road trips as well as the Harley-Davidson brand – Freedom.

Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.