Josh Sirlin is in love with his 1948 Panhead. And with freedom, adventure. And so, the creative director of the Black Bear Brand went on a trip through America’s Wild West. To escape all noise and experience the rawness of nature from the seat of his bike. Always at his side: Josh’s Big Pilot’s Watch.
The sun is coming up, it’s 9 degrees, I’m on my 20th kick, trying to turn over my bike when bam, it backfires and starts! It’s the 4th day of this adventure. I’m at the Grand Canyon. A tingling feeling travels through me; I’ve let go.
It’s deep into winter here in the Pacific Northwest and it’s been raining for the last 40 days. I’ve had my head down designing in my home studio for weeks and I’m restless. I’m starving for inspiration. Black Bear Brand and its designs are an extension of my experiences. I’m driven to experience life, get touched by nature, learn, to be pushed and to endure, to have an affair with uncertainty… to ignite my love for living. Dreams of the West and of hitting the road are overtaking me.
My restless, roaming spirit does not allow me to remain at home very long. It’s time to travel, to see and touch the world, disconnect and reconnect. It’s time for another adventure on my 1948 Panhead. This was my first bike; my introduction to motorcycles. If one can love an inanimate object; my bike is that. From the seat of my 70 year-old chopper my senses are alive and my sense of presence is unwavering. In a car you are simply a passive observer, watching the world go by through another screen. On my bike everything I see and feel is magnified, intensified and becomes a part of me. These are the experiences that fuel my creative quest.
My Big Pilot... is always on my wrist; it’s an extension of me. I don’t run any gages on my 1948 Panhead, no spedometer or even turn lights; it is barebone with just a headlight and tail light.
While riding my bike I become fully present. I connect with everything around me; escaping the noise of technology and the digital world. My Big Pilot is my only “instrument”. I immerse myself with everything I see, feel and experience; my only concern outside these things... is time.
Charging and making good time is critical when you’re fighting the weather and shorter days of winter riding a 70-year-old chopper!
Tracking Through the Cascades
As I take-off the bike is running strong; there’s a light rain with breaks in the clouds exposing a bright blue sky. Today is a perfect day. I’ll venture through the Cascade Mountains as I navigate towards Utah, evergreen trees line the highway that splits the rugged terrain. This passage has been the primary east-west route since 1915, and has long-served as a conduit for people and goods between the east and west sides of the mountains. Even though I am from here and have been crossing over this mountain pass for more than 30 years, the feeling of excitement overtakes me everytime I cross it; the towering peaks that pinch both sides of the freeway, the wet and cold air, the trees and shades of green.
Riding through Utah
The day starts a couple of hours before the sun comes up. The wind is whipping, it’s bone chilling cold, and the air is an icy dry. My bike is running perfectly; unfazed by the frigid temps. The vastness of Utah has an eerie but calming feel with a landscape that is plastered with neutral colors. A quietness takes over. Thoughts escape me as my mind begins to slow down, 20 degrees jamming at 70mph; the chaos of the mundane world is gone… This is when I fall into the moment, become totally present, and the 1st step in my creative exploration really begins. I’m on my way south into Arizona.
Cascades - “I’m driven to experience life, get touched by nature, learn, to have an affair with uncertainty”
Cascades - “Experiencing the West from the seat of my bike is my perfection”
Cascades - “The world is yours to explore”
Cascades - “Connecting with life and this magnificent world from the seat of a 70 year-old old chopper is like falling in love”
Utah - “The West, I love it, it is wild with adventure”
Utah - “The chaos of the mundane world is gone”
Utah - “The West has a natural disposition, an essence of no regrets”
Utah - “The vastness of Utah has an eerie but calming feel”
Utah - “Until you cross the bridge of your insecurities, you can’t begin to explore your possibilities”
The Sun Comes Up at the Grand Canyon
The sun is coming up, It’s 9 degrees, I’m on my 20th kick, trying to turn over my bike when bam, it backfires and starts! It’s the 4th day of this adventure. I’m at the Grand Canyon. A tingling feeling travels through me; I’ve let go and I’m present in the moment. I’m overtaken by the size and the colors of the landscape... how crazy beautiful the natural world is. The creative journey is at full speed; I have escaped all the noise and I’m free. Few words properly describe the magnitude of the Grand Canyon, it is magnificent. A feeling of how small I am is blaring all around me. A mile-deep gorge brings a beautiful perspective of what rugged and enduring mean. The sight is powerful, the feeling it gives me is powerful. The color, the depth, the textures you see, are so impactful you feel them.
The Sun Sets in White Sands New Mexico
There is a sense of mystery in the White Sands. It is resilient, tough, strong, and harsh. I am overtaken by a feeling of limitless freedom. The landscape is untamed and triumphant over struggle. My feeling of adventure is colliding with calmness as I ride. This world is magnificent and feels just as it should right now. The colors are battling throughout the day; starting with everything being opaque as the sky fills up with bright, vibrant color contrasting the quiet, soft monotones of an off-white desert that is dry and pure. The changes and conflicting combination is killer!
Riding south as the sun sets I’m overtaken in the moment. This is what it’s all about, my mind is calm, wind at my face, open road ahead, sun setting at my back… Wild - unknown and beauty all around me. I’ve been touched… been affected. The West is romantic and it exudes an essence of freedom. I love it. It is wild with adventure, it has an essence of no regrets; it is rough, and has a natural disposition. All the cliches of the Wild west are what I love; its wild history, freedom, adventure and untethered harshness. Freedom... That’s what it’s all about.
Grand Canyon - “I’m lost in the moment… time has stopped”
Grand Canyon - “How crazy beautiful the natural world is”
Grand Canyon - “A feeling of how small I am is blaring all around me”
Grand Canyon - “Best thing I can do is go... experience life and live my dream”
Grand Canyon - “I have escaped all the noise and I’m free”
Grand Canyon -“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit”
White Sands - “I feel alive, present, and at a perfect peacefulness amongst intense chaos”
White Sands - “The landscape is untamed and triumphant over struggle”
White Sands - “My feeling of adventure is colliding with calmness as I ride”
White Sands - “There is a sense of mystery in the White Sands”
White Sands - “The creative journey is at full speed”
"We are meant to explore this earth like children do, unhindered by fear, propelled by curiosity and a sense of discovery. Allow yourself to see the world through new eyes and know there are amazing adventures here for you."
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