In some ways it seems like I just got back from the big trip a few moments ago. In other ways it feels like I've been "away", in other words "home", for far far too long. I am officially underway and am currently hanging out downstairs at Josh's house in Woodbridge typing on this kickass new ultra compact notebook I got, a ThinkPad X100E, specifically for this purpose.
As soon as I reached for my tank bag, I was immediately pulled back to the time when I was Out There. It was a strange surreal moment where it felt to me that this moment I have spent "home" was merely a stop over and where I really needed to be, where home is, was out on the road. I've struggled to find the motivation to write but as soon as College Park is in my rear view it becomes easy. I'm tired as hell right now. Actually I'm exhausted. I had trouble sleeping last night, but here I sit, scotch in hand, typing away.
Duncan and I met Josh at the Total Control course we took in May. In Total Control you learn to apply racing techniques to road riding but not for the purpose of going fast, instead for the purpose of making you a safer rider. The concept is that learning race inspired techniques will provide you with more options for handling the bike when Bad Things(tm) happen. I found the course to be extremely valuable and look forward to taking the more advanced course at some point in the future. It was a relatively small group and Josh was definitely one of the better riders. We got to talking a bit and you could just tell immediately he was "one of us". Given how well he could ride, how well he could control his bike and how balanced and mature his attitudes towards riding were, I was very surprised to hear he had only been riding for a couple of years. Typically if you get into riding this late in life, Josh is about my age, you don't pick it up that quickly. Both Duncan and I were impressed. I have to admit I'm glad we stayed in touch. Josh is good people.
While I was in Kansas City I conspired with Angela to put this trip together. Originally it going to be a bunch of us. I've been calling this the "Angela Inspired Deal's Gap Trip". Unfortunatetly, life happened and Angela and Mike are not able to make it. Bummer. Phil and Geo also had conflicts and can't make it. In the interim, Josh had mentioned an interest in going. It turns out he's never done more than 200 miles in a day and has never done an overnight trip. As I've mentioned before, riding styles matter and traveling that far can stress even the best of friendships. It's been an interesting experience talking to him and answering questions. You don't realize how much you know about a subject until you try to share it with someone else. This should be interesting.
I noticed on facebook that an old friend had just completed a six month trek on foot and has started to write a blog. She wrote a post about diet and how human beings are designed to move. Of course, whenever I embark on a trip by motorcycle I think about risk I take. But I got to thinking if maybe the risk of riding a motorcycle might actually be less than the risk of sitting at my desk not moving day in and day out. How many people do I know who have had heart attacks and strokes as a percentage of all people I know? How many motorcyclists do I know who have gotten hurt as a percentage of all motorcyclists I know? I have the sneaking suspicion that the percentages of the former are greater. Josh and I talked about this for some time this evening after I arrived.
Some time ago, my business partner in our little stock market software company, Anatoly, mentioned he would be interested in how I pack so much stuff on a bike. I had intended on writing some huge description but have somehow never gotten around to it. It felt weird to me to pack up only a subset of the gear I took cross country. It's only a 5 day trip so I really don't need much, but still I thought I'd try to document what I take because I told Anatoly I would.
For this trip I'm packing three bags. I have a tank bag, which as the name implies, is a bag that attaches to the gas tank. Typically you put things in the tank bag that you need while you're underway. It's right there in front of you and is as a result easy to reach. I keep my wallet, keys, cameras and electronics in the tank bag along with some maps.
Because the motorcycle can be subject to some harsh movements, I try to mitigate the impact on my electronics by layering a large Aerostich microfiber towel down at the base of the bag. Originally I used this towel for camping, but it leaves countless microfiber strands on you, very annoying. But it acts well as a base. My thinking is also that if any water gets into the bag the crazy absorbant microfiber towel will wick it away. I'm not sure if my logic holds.
On top of the base layer of the towel I put my notebook itself protected in a padded case. I carry an ethernet cable with me because some places still don't have wifi. On top of the notebook I put the 75watt inverter I have. The inverter converts DC power to 120 volts AC and is useful for running low draw AC devices such as a battery charger. On top of the inverter I put the little 12V distribution box and I run a power line to the GPS I have on top and another one to my cellphone charger.
I the helmet cam next to the inverter and the first aid kit to the rear. I have a plastic bag filled with usb cables, battery chargers for my two cameras, a battery charger for my phone and a USB card reader and spare 4gig usb card.
In the top mesh compartment I keep a paper atlas and a couple of maps of the Smokey Mountains.
In the left compartment I keep the indestructible camera along with water proof mits and the rain cover for the tank bag in addition to a microfiber lens cleaning towel I use to clean my sunglasses. I also have some faceshield squeagies.
In the right compartment, I keep the camera tripod, the camera telescoping wand and the Sony Cybershot camera. It's easy to reach there and I've gotten pulling the camera out to shoot something quickly down to a science.
In the forward compartment I keep pens, change, and a flashlight along with lighter and some odds and ends.
The replacement GPS goes on top of my tank bag in a waterproof clear bag. It's a total kludge. I use a sock to prop the GPS up so I can see it while I ride. At some point I'll have to come up with a better mounting system.
All packed it looks pretty clean.
I carry a few repair pieces in a small plastic bag.
- a few hose clamps of various sizes
- duct tape
- heat resistant tape (for coolant lines)
- wire ties
- epoxy paste for doing all kinds of road side repairs
In the left saddle bag, since I'm not taking any camping gear with me on this strip, I'm keeping all my clothes, food, and drink.
I apparently failed to take a photo of everything carefully displayed. One thing that I regularly forget is to carry a water proof stuff sack to put dirty clothes in. On so many previous trips I had failed to do this and the funk of dirty laundry gets into everything.
In the right tank bag I keep my riding gear. It goes in the right bag because when you put down the kickstand on the left you can quickly get into it.
The contents of the right bag go with me no matter where I go, even if it's just a day ride. These include:
- a wool sweater
- a fleece jacket used as a liner under my transit suit
- long johns
- an electric vest
- Plexus plastic cleaner and a terry cloth towel for cleaning my face shield.
- a liter water bottle
- water proof socks
- a mini-compressor for pumping up tires.
- a fuel transfer pump for moving gasoline from one bike to another.
- cold weather mits.
- a neck "gator" for keeping wind off your neck when things get crazy cold.
- two pairs of sunglasses.
- a quart of oil
In addition to all this, I have a compartment under the seat at the rear of the bike where I carry:
- tool kit
- owners manual
- tire patch kit
- spare headlight bulb
- spare bulbs for the rest of the lights.
- a "buddy tow" strap for pulling disabled bikes with.
- a BMW plug to plug jumper wire.
- an oil filter wrench.
All packed up the bike looks pretty clean:
I don't expect I'll do more than 1500 miles on this little trip, not that it matters.
And I did put a very cool Miles by Motorcycle sticker that Stacie designed and that Phaedon printed out on my bike:
I left the house around 7:20PM and rode down to Woodbridge. Because of the incredibly irresponsible drivers around here, I often think the most dangerous riding I ever do is the riding I do locally. Nothing in Deal's Gap compares to being nearly clipped by some idiot swerving across four lanes of traffic doing 50 over. Idiots.
I arrived at Josh's about 25 minutes later than planned. He rides a Yamaha FJR, a bike that is much faster and better handling than my bike, but is nevertheless is basically the same class.
I'm going to have to call it a night. I need to get up at 7:30 tomorrow and have a 500 miles day ahead of me.