This blog will involve a bit of trial and error. This is my first attempt at a blog like this.
18 years ago I bought a 1992 BMW K100RS to take on an epic trip. Duncan, Leonard and I traveled by motorcycle from Washington, DC to British Columbia and points north via San Diego where we picked up a fourth member, Dave.
Ever since that trip I have been saying I would like to go on a long cross country sport touring and camping trip. Unfortunately, life and circumstances got in the way and I was never able to take the time to do a trip of the magnitude. With the resolution of some nearly life long challenges, I am now, at least for the moment, free to try.
So I have decided to go ahead and do it. I'm now 42. Being a Douglas Adams fan, it just seems appropriate. If not now, then when?
Trips like this involve alot of planning and there's a great deal of figuring out how to pack a bike; what goes where. Once you leave there's little chance to re-arrange things. Again, since it's been so long I thought it prudent to do a warm up trip where I can test out all my gear and get back into the swing of things. What better place to go than my favorite road in Tennessee? ;)
I have reservations at the Deals Gap Resort for three days next week. Good fortune is enabling my two closest friends, Duncan and Bruce, to join me. Duncan will be riding his K1300S. Bruce is flying in from Los Alamos and will be riding my "guest bike", also known as "Ian's bike".
As I've been distracted by other projects, notably running DTLink Software and trying to fix my boat after a 3 year hiatus from boating, time to get everything in order has grown a bit tight. We're leaving for the gap on Saturday and now it's already the end of Tuesday.
These two trips are going to be more challenging than trips I've taken in the past primarily because I now have a very restrictive diet. I discovered a few years ago that I don't handle sugar, starch or lactose well, so I'll end up having to take more food and snacks with me than in previous trips. Beyond that, as I alluded to above, I injured my back and it continues to give me trouble sporadically. I'm doing significantly better than I was largely thanks for my good friend and chiropractor Dr. Donna Carr. I don't know what I would have done with out her.
Duncan and I are both running out of cargo space, so the two of us headed up to Bobs BMW today to check out some rear seat luggage. I ended up getting a 50L monstrosity that I can pack most of Europe into.
The rest of the day has been spent getting my gear together and trying to figure out once again what the best way to arrange it on the bike. It's not enough to have it just fit, it's advantageous to also organize it by frequency of use. For instance, the kick stand is on the left, so if you have to grab something in a hurry, for example a rain suit, it's a better idea to pack it in the right saddle back because it's easier and quicker to open when the bike is on the side stand. Items that you need while you're riding need to go in the tank bag. GPS goes on top. Maps, camera, etc go in the top compartment. Items that you only use when camping can be stored elsewhere.
When it comes to packing a bike I like to keep it as clean as possible. It's a personal preference, but I can't stand having everything bungied on in a homeless disorganized fashion.
So needless to say, it's a bit time consuming.
It was just easier to post things over in the forum. You can see the thread here:
Last photo labelled "Beemer Cam", white helmet. That's me riding my buddies 2009 BMW K1300S, a beast of a bike.
At this point I feel like I'm falling behind. I intend to take alot of photos and shoot some video. I've received my Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5 to replace the one that heinously gave up the ghost on the Deal's Gap trip. It truly is an excellent, albeit somewhat fragile camera. I also have the GoPro Hero Cam which I can mount on the helmet or the bike. As a backup, I have my old indestructible Olympus Stylus 770W which is water proof, temperature proof, dust proof and drop proof, all of which I have tested, but it takes simply awful photos.
The files that these cameras create are proving too large for my old Thinkpad, so I ordered a very small Lenovo ThinkPad X100E with a dual core chip, 4 gigs of ram and a 320gig drive. The form factor is perfect. The keyboard is great. I could easily see doing real work on this laptop. It's fast enough to play HD video at the full frame rate. Unfortunately, the one that I got has some kind of hardware fault that is causing the box to lock up. Bummer. I did some diagnosis and on recommendation from the IBM/Lenovo support tech I reseated the ram and succeeded in scratching the case. I'll explore returning it on Monday. There's no way to get a replacement in time before next Saturday so I'm now looking around for an inexpensive used replacement that'll at least work.
While traveling I need to have the option of working. Things always come up and I expect there to be bugs that will need fixing, systems that will need some attention, not to mention the ecommerce development project that I'm making some progress on.
I still have to do a final pack for the trip, see if I can get the Laminar Lip wind gadget attached to the bike to reduce some of the buffeting, wash the bike and change the oil and filter.
I'm still contemplating routes. Lately I've been thinking, I might want to head north to Duluth, MN to visit the Aerostich warehouse. I read a review of their Transit suit in Motorcyclist magazine and it has me very intrigued. Waterproof breathable leathers is an interesting concept. If I do that I'm thinking about heading to the Eastern Grand Canyon in Pennsylvania. I hear it's beautiful.
Cross posted from the forum here:
"So everyone keeps telling me to "do what I want" on this trip. That's been challenging 'cause I really don't know "what I want".
But then I read an article in Motorcyclist Magazine about the Transit Suit and thought to myself "I wonder if I can make a detour and check it out?".
Check out the photos. They are very detailed. The more I read about this thing the more intrigued I become. To tell you the truth, with this set I'd be more concerned about cold weather riding than warm.
So I think I'm gonna go check it out. That'll be my first target. Dancing Rabbit my second. Then on to Kansas City to meet that couple we met in Deal's Gap. Then it's on to Colorado to go camping with Bruce, Ha and family for a few days. From there it's north to Yellowstone. From there I'll head to Victoria and hang out with Ian for a few days.
At that point I the bike will need oil and fresh tires.
Then I have a decision to make. Head North, chill someplace or head back? It's going to depend on how I feel. If my body hurts too much I may bail, but if by that point I'm feeling ok and am not too injured or tired, I may very well push up North."
So I'm finally getting the replacement laptop set up. I picked up the biggest drive I could find at Microcenter and am now configuring a workstation environment. As luck would have it, about 15 minutes ago, a small reseller contract for Personal Stock Monitor got signed and will require me or Anatoly to do some code. Figures. Maybe I should go away more often.
I went down to REI and picked up some bear repellant. I keep having visions of being on the Dalton Highway broken down waiting to become bear food. I don't have any real expectation that the repellent will work all that well, but at least it's something if "bad things happen".
At this point I'm pretty set on the northernly detour through Pennsylvania. There's a town with a persistent coal mine fire that might be interesting to see. It's a bit of a detour on top of a detour up to the Aerostich warehouse. Since these will be my first targets, I don't know what kind of mileage I'm going to be able to do. I'm guessing that I'll start out doing 300 per day or so and build from there.
It seems that for at least the first part of the trip I'll have plenty of places to stop, almost too many. For the latter really lonely part of the trip I'll have far less. I find myself wondering how far will I get? Will my body give out on me? I don't have that extreme sense of confidence that I normally have doing things like this. I'm not sure why.
It's been pretty hot lately. The car thermometer today read as high as 97. Ouch.
The next couple of days will consist of more running around and scrambling trying to get everything ready combined with visiting friends, my business partner and paying a visit to my mom. Time is very tight and there's so much prep work that I wanted to have finished which just isn't.
There's so much to do, so many people to see I'm not sure I can get it all done. Then again, given that this is the 21st century, as long as I get my connectivity issues taken care of, I should be able to do some of it from the road.
If I'm going to ride the Dalton Highway I should probably get evacuation insurance. A helicopter ride up in that area can end up being very expensive.
Last night, I finally got around to washing the bike, changing the oil and filter and installing the laminar lip.
I very much dislike using unproven equipment on a trip. Even the smallest things that you haven't tested out can end up being problems, but I've run out of time. The laminar lip is supposed to help with the incredible turbulence the front of this bike generates. That's been my biggest complaint with the K100RS. So Duncan suggested this gadget and I installed it by eye but haven't had the chance to test it. I may end up having to adjust it while out on the road, which would not be ideal.
According to the installation instructions there's no hard and fast location where you're supposed to install it. It's a trial and error kind of thing. In the worst case, if it's unbearable I guess I can just remove it and continue to deal with the turbulence as I have been for nearly two decades.
By the way, to post comments you have to be a member of YML.COM and logged in. If you'd like to become a member, it's invitation only right now so please send me a quick note here and once I get to a computer I'll shoot you the invite email.
I find that usually the first day of a ride is always the worst. You're out of practice. Little things that you could do in your sleep, like putting on your gloves, or packing away the camera, seem to take extra effort. You remember where everything goes and how it all works, but nothing is fluid. It all takes thought and consideration. Everything is forced.
And so it was. Kyrin who I know from Piratz Tavern came by to see me off.
I hit the road around 11:45. It was hot.
I headed to Bob's BMW to pick up a quart of oil to take as a spare. It wasn't more than 5 minutes into the trip that a tractor trailer cut off an SUV which then swerved into my lane ... foreshadowing? I swung by Bob's, told the parts guy whose name I forget about the trip and then hit the road again.
I headed out route 32 to 70 and took that west. I decided for forego stops in the east and make some time. Lot's of superslab. Contrary to what I would have thought the miles seemed to go by pretty easily. It took me a while to suspect it might be the laminar lip I installed, which has significantly decreased the amount of buffeting I experience. I have to admit I'm impressed by the difference.
On the way on 70 I saw a dead dear on the side of the road along with a bunch of retread. More foreshadowing?
It was overcast with occasional drizzle but for the first part of the day all went well. I clicked off 112 miles before I even noticed. As I made my way west I was reminded of how beautiful the around around route 70 can be, especially once you get further up into the hills.
Unfortunately, once I got to the other side of a tunnel in Western PA, my luck ran out. At first it was a light rain. Then a steady rain. Then a torrential downpour where most cars just pulled off to the side of the road.
I hate rain suits.
I stopped under a bridge, donned the rainsuit, and went on my way. Aside from some soggy boots, me and my gear made it through.
All told I rode 370 miles today. Made it across the Ohio border and am staying at a Days Inn.
I had dinner at an Applebees. This area of the country seems to be a case study in obesity. It's really quite frightening.
Tomorrow I continue to make my way North West towards Duluth where I hope to visit the Aerostich warehouse and possibly buy an alternate set of leathers. I don't think the ones that I have are going to cut it for this trip. We'll see.
Writing these things is surprisingly not easy ...
It's late and I'm once again probably too tired too capture even a fraction of the thoughts I've had today.
Last night kind of sucked. There was just this relentless loud rain interrupted by thunderclaps that conspired to wake me up at random intervals. I looked out the Days Inn door to see my bike just being inundated by rain.
It was still raining at 7AM. By 9 the rain had stopped and hints of sunshine attempted to pierce their way through the clouds.I finally managed to fall asleep then overslept until almost 10AM. I scrambled to get everything out of the room in time for the 11AM checkout. I thought to myself I need to take more photos as I forgot to snap a picture of the nice romanian graduate who worked at the Inn.
I was hurting for coffee so I went off in search of starbucks. No joy. Both Google Maps and Garmin lied to me. So I relented and headed back to I80W towards Chicago. I clicked off something like 50 miles under cloudy but mostly rain free skies until I found a starbucks.
I've always hated interstates. They've always proven to be painful boring rides, but for some reason that I cannot explain I haven't been bothered by these roads. Even I80, with it's seemingly endless expanses of flat superslab has been almost enjoyable. I found myself thinking that rides like this are less about even the physical journey. There's something about being out in the wind, moving, that centers me. Focuses me. Removed from my life I can think more clearly. If only I could keep the calm and openness the road brings out in me during my day to day grind I would be a better man.
(Ohio Turnpike, epic superslab).
As the day progressed I started making good time. The wind eventually picked up marked by threatening clouds and the occasional drizzle, but rarely any serious rain, but the sky turned angry.
At one point I when the drizzle turned into soaking rain I stopped under a bridge and waited no more than a few minutes for it to pass. I had been fortunate. Have I mentioned how much I hate rainsuits?
Once it cleared a bit undaunted I continued on tempting fate. The skies turned darker and then suddenly cleared and I was riding largely in sunshine.
Then the wind kicked up. This wasn't your normal calm wind. This was confused, beat you upside the heat violently in every random direction for hours wind. The kind of wind that rattles your mind senseless preventing you from thinking and just wearing you out. After a few hours of this I had enough and stopped, conveniently, at another starbucks.
There were a number of harley riders, some gang. I found myself pondering how different the experience must be riding in a large group versus riding alone as I am. They were really loud. Loud stereos. Loud pipes. I imagined it as an exercise in hearing loss.
I had thought this trip would feel very lonely. I was somewhat apprehensive about traveling this far on my own, not because I fear being alone but because I spend so much time alone as it is. Strangely, I think maybe because of all the facebook posts and comments I get about what I write here, not to mention texts from a few very close friends, I feel less alone being all these miles away on this open road than I do on a typical day working out of my house. Contrary to what I would have thought it feels less oppresive.
Normally the first few days of riding just suck. Everything hurts. You fumble. You drop things. Nothing flows as it should. Simple tasks like zipping the jacket, putting on gloves, and attaching the tank bag all take much longer than they should. Strangely, I seem to be getting into the swing of things much quicker. I'm hardly hurting at all, but maybe it's because I'm not doing that many miles. Only 378 miles today.
The bike is running great. I have a few times where for less than a second the engine would sputter and the rpms would drop. This has been an intermittent ignition problem with the bike for years. It happens very rarely. Maybe once every few years, but it happened twice today. More foreshadowing?
The wind was just brutal. I kept on and continued to make good time. Relatively late in the day it was pretty clear I was going to be able to make it to Chicago to meet up with Dave. The fact that I had, unbeknownst to me, crossed a timezone worked in my favor. I crossed into Indiana and, since the speed limit there is 70, upped my speed as well.
I was intent on making it into Chicago. It turns out Dave lives two blocks from Lake Michigan farther into the city than I expected. Oh well.
As I approached Chicago the sky turned angry again:
Naively I thought that maybe the route would take me away from the clouds. No joy. After waiting out a few short showers under some overpasses I eventually got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic right next to the lake. The backup was caused by two cops ruining someone's day. Right as I passed them, the skies opened up and rain started pouring down. There was no shoulder, but luckily, because the cops were occupying the left lane, I slipped in behind them and in the middle of traffic did the time honored hopping monkey dance to try to get my rainsuit on as quickly as possible. There was much cursing involved.
I AM SO GETTING A TRANSIT SUIT!!!! And if I can find a suitable replacement I am so ditching my tankbag. This rain cover, rain suit BS is getting old. The rain up here never lasts long. It's just long enough to get you wet, then it stops and the sun comes out. You take off the suit in an effort to dry out again and it dumps on you.
Once I got close to Daves place the sun came out again. I called him and he helped me carry my bags into his place. It's very cool of him to let me stay here, especially since he wasn't going to be here.
Dave's a project manager for web development projects and specializes in Drupal installations for non profits. He also rides. Had been in a nasty motorcycle accident in DC some years back and had just finished the court case. So he's looking to get back into riding and is going to pick up a BMW R1150RT in Oregon later this month. He may be out that way when Ian and I get together in Yellowstone. I guess there's a chance we might be able to meet up.
We had dinner at a place called Jury, which has excellent burgers.
I listened to him tell stories of motorcycle trips out of Calcutta and the changing socio-economic landscape there.
(yea, I know, horrible photo of me. Caught me in mid sentence)
The bar rocked.
Fida, a friend of mine from the German meetup, is a TV graphic designer and suggested that I try to shoot video. So I've been trying "Survivorman" style talking to the camera. Just like writing this blog, it's horribly awkward, but I'll try it nevertheless.
So here I sit at 1:30AM thinking about this trip and all the thoughts and insights I haven't been able to capture in words. I keep thinking I need some way to capture my thoughts as I ride because by the end of the day I've forgotten most of what I wanted to write.