Pole Barns – From the Seat of My Motorcycle!

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

In my first year of architecture school at the University of Idaho, Robert M. Pirsig’s 1974 book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was required reading for one of my second year architecture classes. The book describes a 17-day motorcycle journey from Minnesota to California.

1986 Yamaha Venture MotorcycleEarlier this year I completed my own 17-day motorcycle journey (or 6500+ miles) – riding my 1986 1300cc Yamaha Venture Royale from Newman Lake, Washington to Browns Valley, Minnesota – the long way. Beginning in Washington, I headed north to overnight in Kimberly, British Columbia. The journey to the “first stop” at Browns Valley went across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, before heading south across North Dakota.

From there, the journey really began – starting on the west side of Lake Traverse in South Dakota, through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan (the lower portion), Ohio, back across Indiana and Illinois, then on to Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and back to South Dakota.

The trip, as most are, was a learning experience, and I will share some of the insights about pole buildings gained along the way. I did see a clearly noticeable difference between the farmlands of Canada and those in the United States. In the U.S. we have lots of collapsed, or partially collapsed, old wooden pole barns – I do not believe I saw a single one north of the 49th parallel!

What is being missed out on – is a literal gold mine of recyclable materials. Wood can be easily reused and there are a plethora of businesses on the internet which will not only purchase old barn wood, but will also take down the old buildings and haul them away!

If nothing else, the fallen pole buildings make farmsteads appear unsightly – it reminds me of old cars which are run until the wheels literally fall off, whence they are abandoned.

Today’s modern pole barn building technology – centered upon the engineered post frame building (notice the emphasis on engineered, as opposed to “seat-of-the-pants”) with modern pressure preservative treated columns and prefabricated metal connector plated roof trusses, will result in far fewer “tear downs” over the next century.

Hang along for the ride, my 4844 mile loop across the Midwest was if anything, most interesting. My next “several” blogs will outline what I found as I checked out pole buildings – Midwest style! See you tomorrow~!

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