Epic Trip 2017

T minus 3 weeks from departure and one of those weeks we are both out of town on work, so really we have 2 weeks to get everything sorted. Odd how it seems like it will never get here and then it’s HOLY SHIT we need to hurry up! The bikes are sorted, we think. They’re Vstroms so we are confident in their reliability (knock on wood). New tires are here for both and we will mount them with about a week to go and scrub them in before we load up the bikes.

I have to still mount another cigarette plug, Voltmeter and USB charger into holes I will drill on the fairing trip up near the dash. We need to actually get everything loaded and ride around for a day to see if we’ve got too much shit, although we’ve really been trying to get rid of stuff and keep only what is needed. Trying to plan for the weather is the hardest part though. Because we will be covering so much altitude we need to be ready for all four seasons in a day. I’m trying to decide if I want to take my Olympia AST or Transition jacket. The AST will be much more waterproof but the Transition I think moves more air through it.

We’ve got comms worked out with our trusty Sena SMH-10 units, and both of us will have good GPS units. My buddy just got a Garmin 390LM off eBay which looks hardly used. However we didn’t research if people had issues with the unit ahead of time, and apparently Garmin screwed up the whole carrier charging setup on these units. A total PITA actually. The damn thing will work fine when he uses the USB charger which is next to the mount charging points, but the mount charger simply will not charge the unit. And going online there are lots of people bitching about it. Garmin will let you mail it back to them and pay a flat $110 to fix the unit, but considering the sheer number of people bitching about this and the fact this unit never even sat in the mount until a week ago, Garmin should do the right thing. So we will have to figure out a plan B for him.

As for the trip itself, we’ve both decided on a few big items. First, we don’t want to try to cover too much ground and turn the trip in to a job. We want to limit riding to ~6 hrs a day at a decent pace, which will be dictated by road conditions. If that means 150 miles a day or 600 miles a day, the geography will dictate pace. As we’ve both wanted to do something like this for a VERY long time, we intend on savoring the experience. Second, we don’t want to be tied to a certain track. So we’ve picked locations we like to aim for as a target to the days ride. Those targets may change as we change our minds on the roads to take. My buddy ordered the Butler maps Rocky Mountain package. These maps, are quite simply, the shit. They are extremely rich in detail and are very obviously created by people who understand riders. We will utilize these as our primary source of navigation, hopefully picking the best roads along the way.

The basic outline of the trip is as follows;
Day 1) Leave Charlotte NC area on or about July 8th. Both bikes will be on a trailer at this point. Drive 13+ hours to first stop at my Arkansas property. Much beer will be drank and cigars be smoked this night. Leave the following morning as early as feasible.
Day 2) Arrive at friends house in Boulder CO. I still have to figure out where he actually is in Boulder, but he’s there and has invited us to stay the night. More beer drank, more cigars killed.
Day 3) Mount up and head out through the CO Rockies. Stopping somewhere north to camp
Day 4) Head out from northern CO with Lander WY as our destination for the night.
Day 5-7) Spend some time in Yellowstone. A place I’ve wanted to visit since I was little listening to my Great-Great Grandmothers stories of when she was younger and went on a trip out to Yellowstone. Or as she called it Jellystone. I remember a story she would tell of when there was an earthquake and she watched the whole side of a mountain fold over, killing lots of people. I think this is what she witnessed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1959_Hebgen_Lake_earthquake
Day 8-9) Head south to Grand Teton Natl park and stay there for a day or two, camping all the time
Day 10) Head south from the Jackson WY area to the Baggs WY area (or into Northern CO).
Day 11) Continue south passing through Aspen, Breckenridge finding a place to camp somewhere in the mountains
Day 12) Head back to Boulder to stay the night with my buddy
Day 13-14) Head back to Charlotte NC and real life (bummer) and wife (Yay!)

So that’s, loosely, our trip. We want to plan enough to ensure it’s fun but not too much that it feels rigid and like a task. Finding enough space to take with is necessary will be a challenge. For example, should I actually take my DSLR or not? These are my problems…stay tuned.

What is it about motorcycling that you like so much?

I get asked this from time to time, and to answer it well we will need to go back in time a little bit…

It was 1977, I was about to start my second grade year and I remember my grandfather, who people referred to reverently as “Coach”, had just passed away a short while before.  I remember feeling sad, not because I knew Coach Hartman, but because my Mom was so deeply sad.  I vividly remember seeing her eyes, wet with tears, expressing such deep sadness and feeling as though I was insignificant that all I could do was try to hug her and pull out the despair she held within.

It was a short while later I remember being in the back of our covered pickup truck with my younger brother, and watching the way the dust filled in the void behind the truck as we sped down a long dirt road.  It must have been autumn because I don’t remember the heat but I remember how dry everything was at this house my parents seemed unusually interested with for some reason.  We soon came to live at this house and I called it home for decades to come.

Growing up in rural central Arkansas was challenging for a boy who dreamed about the world beyond his own.  Watching contrails of jets miles above my head and imagining the inside of the plane and where all those interesting people were going and what interesting things they would be seeing and doing.  As is so often the case we seem to never be able to appreciate the moment until it has passed.  I miss that simpler life and time.

When I was 14 years old I wanted a way to get around and start seeing the world as soon as I could.  Not being able to afford much, I finally found an 82 Honda Twinstar 200 in the classifieds.  My Dad and I drove over and looked and the bike and we were able to negotiate the seller down to what I could afford, $275.  A princely sum to be sure, but what really amazed me was that I was able to own such a remarkable machine for what was really just a bunch of paper.  And so started my love affair with the motorcycle.

It was only 194 cc’s, but I got the most out of each and every single one of them.  This amazing little machine was my ticket to, well, everywhere.  I could go a couple hundred miles on a dollars worth of gas.  It was fast enough to travel on the interstate, since back then the national speed limit was 55 mph (its top speed as far as I could tell).  It never failed to start, and became my trusted companion, willing to take me where ever and when ever I wanted.  I can remember thinking of places far over the horizon that I needed to go and visit.  The freedom afforded me by that little bike was intoxicating.

But what I loved most about riding, I think, was the solitude, the space within my own head that it gave back to me.  It gave me peace and let me enjoy the world as I rode through it.  I learned much later in life that I have ADD.  And as much as I hate writing that, and diagnosis’s in general, I had to accept that it was part of who I am.  It helped me understand the reason I was the way I was.  And knowing was very helpful, but having a way to escape it my whole life was very important.

I’ll sidebar for a moment to explain; as an adult I was extremely driven to accomplish things.  To get ahead in my career, to earn at least X by Y, to be considered better at a thing than my peers, and son on and so forth.  And with that drive also came an intensity that seemed to only burn more intense with time.  But instead of helping me later in life it was causing problems.  I also started to experience long bouts of deep depression that could last a month or two.  Not knowing this was abnormal, I just pushed forward and those around me suffered along with me.

However through a little conversation with a nurse practitioner at my local Dr’s office I came to realize that instead of assuming every diagnosis is a crutch, maybe I should take this a bit more seriously.  I still remember the moment that she explained to me that in an adult brain ADD acts differently than it does in an adolescent brain.  Depression is one of the key factors, she said.  Like intense blasts of air I remember the sensation of relief being so overpowering I began feel very emotional.  Finally I had a reason for this thing that was happening that seemed to have no rhyme or reason.

Adderall  was prescribed and I still remember the feeling of utter bliss.  A feeling I can not remember feeling since I was young.  The ‘white noise’ of my mind was suddenly muted, not silent, but now it didn’t fight for the lead anymore.  It seemed that I saw the world in brighter shades of color and I was a much more pleasant person to be around.  I also learned the strain it had been putting on my wife, the most remarkable person I’ve ever met to date, was significant.  In short, a switch had been flipped, or perhaps a door had been opened.  And it was like a person walking out of a dark cave into the light of day after being trapped for so long.

But this is a motorcycle story, so what does all this have to do with motorcycling you ask?  The thing is when I was young, motorcycling was my Adderall.  It gave me the boundless joy I found later in life in that little pill.  And I’ve never given up on it, unlike Adderall.  While I liked what that pill did for me, I felt medications, for the most part, are intended as a short term solutions.  It gave me the space I needed to re-calibrate my head, organize my thoughts and I weened myself off of it about 6 months later.  I hate pills anyway.  Life is supposed to have a bit of struggle afterall…

So there you have it.  Sayings like “4 wheels move the body but 2 wheels move the soul.” are catchy and all,  but for me, “2 wheels kept me sane and showed my the world.” might be better.  But perhaps they’re saying the same thing…

It’s only a midlife crisis if I am going to make it to 90

I can’t decide on the title for this one.  The one above, or perhaps “Numb and Number.”  A play on the catch phrase Dumb and Dumber, something I feel with each passing day…

3ccca34e05806745289d35844790bd09Blue skies, green fields, dirt roads and a world too big to imagine. A kid growing up in the rural south, life seemed dull and monotonous in it’s simplicity. Things always happened the way they were supposed to happen. People acted the same and the time seemed to pass so slowly that the kid felt like he was going to smother in the hot humid summer air.

Intent on escaping that world he joined the Navy and got out of that little two bit town as fast as the bus would carry him. The Navy exposed him to a world as colorful as he had hoped, people of all walks of life and he learned that while we are all different in many ways we are all also the same in so many.

Twleve years passed, he was married and had a son and daughter. He was out of the Navy now and working in his new career. Spending long hours to excel and move up the ladder, he was achieving all that the kid from the country had hoped he would. New house in the suburbs, new cars and nice clothes. He was successful and felt a sense of accomplishment for these achievements.

But he often thought of that little country boy and wished the world were still big and mysterious. Instead he found a world full of it’s share of hate and vitriol and he began to question his accomplishments. He began to go numb to it all and yearn for a simpler perspective at the ripe old age of 47 (numb & number).

In case you are wondering that kid was me, and as I watch the big five oh train come barreling down the tracks to which I am tied, I am feeling the urge growing stronger every day to simplify things in my life. But before I get too carried away I think I will start with a nice long ride out west.

So me and a buddy are setting off July 10th for 2 weeks in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. We hope to spend the majority of that time in National Forest and camping much of the time.

We both now own well kitted out 1st Gen Vstrom 650s. Neither of us have ever done a trip of this length or scale on 2 wheels. However as a young broke guy in the Navy I rode my ratted out V45 Magna from Groton CT to Conway AR for leave once. It was an epic trip and has been what has been tugging at me ever since to do another trip of similar scale on two wheels.

I will keep this thread updated as we approach the date and head out. I’ve gotten so much from others trips that maybe this one will strike a chord with another inmate.

So here goes, two old fat dudes acting like they are 18 again. What could possibly go wrong?

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