It all Started Because of a Wyoming Cowboy


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By: Bill Murphy Category: Background Stories Posted: 16 Sep 2019 Views: 87

Sometimes the most seemingly minor events have an impact far beyond what one would expect.  A comment about my home state by a Wyoming cowboy changed my life quite dramatically.  Let me explain.

In 2003 a friend and I made a motorcycle trip west. The plan was to hit Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and other nearby scenic places, then he was going to head to Spokane to a BMW rally and I was going to work my way back home the long way. And that's exactly what happened, but something was added because of a stop at a small restaurant in Cody, WY.

We pulled up on our bikes and walked in on an incredibly hot day, with nothing green in sight for miles, except the unattractive olive green of dying sagebrush. Taking a table near two locals a conversation soon commenced, as is the norm when traveling on a bike. One man asked where we were from and I proudly said "Michigan". (my home state and a place I love).  He rubbed the stubble on his chin and drawled out something along the lines of "well, I can see why you came to Wyoming - - there really isn't much to see in Michigan is there?"  I was dumbfounded to say the least and went on to explain how beautiful, green, wet, and cool Michigan is and how majestic the forests and Great Lakes are etc. I was upset and probably overdid my response to his remark because it did shut off conversation.

After we departed, into the broiling sun and dust of a Wyoming summer, I grumbled to my friend that Michigan's charms need to be better advertised, especially as far as motorcycling opportunities were concerned. Upon arriving home I relayed the story to a couple other people, including my wife, who said (to deflect any more tellings of the event, I'm sure) that why don't I write a book about Michigan motorcycling, since I'm a native who has been to every possible place in the state as a result of my travels, vacations, work assignments, and at the time over thirty years of motorcycle travels. My excuse of not being a writer fell on deaf ears, and after a month I even convinced myself that perhaps I could give it an attempt, knowing full well that 1.) no publisher would take the book, and 2.) even if a publisher did accept it all that would result is that I'd have a box of a couple hundred unsold / ungifted books in my basement that my heirs would have to do something with.

So in 2005 my first attempt,  Motorcycling Across Michigan, was written, and amazingly two publishers said they were interested. The book did very well, requiring a second printing after just four months, in time for the Christmas book selling season. Three future updated editions also sold successfully. The publisher was of course happy with this turn of events and asked if I was interested in doing a series of books for the Great Lakes region, where I had traveled extensively and had some family connections. And thus the same sort of motorcycle touring books were written for Ohio, (very successful, just a few copies left), Indiana, (no longer available), and Wisconsin (Like MCXOhio, just a few copies still available).

I wrote two history-based books, one about the amazing exploits of some adventurous women two-wheeled explorers circa 1915. And a history book regarding the Vietnam War.

That cowboy's comments literally changed my life. The last fifteen years have been dramatically different than anything I could have predicted moments before walking into that Cody restaurant. 

I guess the moral is - when you hear unexpected knocking on the door go ahead and open it - it just might be opportunity knocking! (but of course then the hard work begins).


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