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lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:35 PM

And in this corner....the FZ6.
Note: If anyone wants high-def versions of any of these images PM me your email and I will email you the image file.

There are some truly spectacular rides people on this forum go on. I hope this humble addition to the fray represents the FZ6 in good stead. I may be blinded by "first bike syndrome" but I am exceptionally fond of this bike. Right, it's time to get on with it.

ALRIGHT. Finally. I tried to keep this chronologically accurate but I'm apparently retarded so some of it is an approximation. Pretty close though.

Ok. So I find some time to start putting this thing together. I wanted to delay going back through the trip’s pictures until there came a time winter was really grinding my gears and I wanted to relive the trip, mile by mile. I will try to put this together as best as I can, and I will try to keep the emotional masturbation to a minimum. Most of the people reading this have probably done a lot of riding trips as well, so I don’t need to tell you about the joys of riding in painstaking detail.

For me, this was my second trip that lasted longer than a couple days. My other trip was a ride through BC. There was a lot about that trip that opened my eyes to how epic riding trips really are. After I got back from it, going on longer and more epic trips became a bit of a focus for me. The day I got back from the BC trip I started planning the trip I went on this past August. The motivation behind it was just to go as far and ride as hard as I could until I had to come home again. 17 days was the time period I had to work with. I drew up a general and random route that was really pretty optimistic.

When I put it together initially I went through google maps and just tried to hit every single road I thought I’d be able to. My goal was to do 900km a day for four days then having 1-2 days off then repeat. As the time for the trip got closer I re-routed my trip with a bit more practicality and room for casual riding days. In the end it was vaguely close to what I had initially wanted to do so I was happy with the scope.

In the months leading up to the riding trip, a lot went wrong. I picked up a knee injury from football, and a couple things happened mechanically with the bike that cost quite a bit to fix. My budget was getting stretched and I hadn’t even left yet. My knee healed up to the 80-85% mark when the time for trip came and that was good enough for me. I threw a bunch of supplies together in the last couple days, loaded the FZ up like a mule, and hit the road.

My plan was primarily to avoid primary highways. If I could avoid them as much as possible, I would be satisfied with my route. Lessons would be learned, I figured, about each area I passed through to help me plan better routes in the future.

The first day was completely anti-climactic. A lot of planning and anticipation for a couple months was followed by big delays on the first day of the trip. I made it to High River just south of Calgary.

But whatever, I figured. I’d get an early start the next day and the trip would start in earnest. Forward progress was being made and that’s all that mattered. I also decided to pick up a large jerry can and strap it to my luggage to extend my range. This would allow me to stop worrying so much about distance to gas stations and would ease my ability to include roads I wanted to take without hurting the schedule too much diverting to gas stations.

Oh, and just FYI, I had ridiculously good luck with weather on the way down. I only got rained on for like a day or so in total, and the vast majority of the time there was nothing but bright blue skies and puffy white clouds. It was picture perfect every single day. I couldn’t believe my luck.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:36 PM

Day two: Decompression.

That is the word that has lingered in my mind since then. Decompression. That is the best way to describe the start to one of these trips imo. The anticipation has reached its climax and the first few days are just getting the hell away from home and forgetting everything about where you’re coming from and you think only about the road ahead. The tarmac stretches on and on ahead of you, and all the tension of life in general and sorting your **** out to be able to make this trip in the first place fades away. You decompress. Your brain is emptied of everything and filled with the drone of your engine and the subtle but overwhelming feeling of complete freedom. The bright blue prairie skies, the mountains in the distance, the tarmac ahead, the air rushing past you, and the entirety of the world within reach…freedom. Epic, spectacular….freedom.

You should keep in mind for the rest of this write-up that I have a fuzzy memory now of where I started and ended on the various days or even where the hell I went. I really just sort of had a general direction of “South West” and the destination of ultimately meeting up with friends in Southern Cali. Everything in between in either direction was just sort of deciding where I wanted to go at food stops, gas stops, and sometimes just when I saw something shiny down a side road.

But on this, my second day of riding, I did hit the US border and cross into Montana. I ended the day’s ride in Missoula. On the way there, I detoured through what seemed like my own private road. For a couple hours I worked my through a gravel road that was a secondary highway on the map. It looked like it went through some interesting terrain, so I went with it. I’m glad I did. It was a brilliant way to spend the second day. I only saw one other motorist the entire time I was on it, and it was a fellow on a V-Strom that caught up to me and passed by me while I was stopped having some water. I made a mental note that I really have to commit to buying an adventure-touring mount. All I could think of down this road was how badly I wanted to just say “to hell with it” and just turn off the road and get straight at all the scenery that made up the backdrop of the landscape.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:36 PM

I made it through the US border without incident. I had been paranoid about this but it was all for nothing. The American border guards were friendly and welcoming. They get painted to be power-mad assholes so often I just sort of assumed they’d give me a bit of a headache.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:37 PM

I was behind schedule, but decided I wouldn’t care too much about that. Glacier National Park was accessible so I rode it. The roads were decent and there were some decently fun stretches. But the scenery was brilliant as was to be expected. I was very pleased I made the detour.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:38 PM

Day 3-4: Riding Montana/Wyoming/Idaho
I am not entirely sure where the hell I went looking back at a map now, but I did make it into each of these three states at one point. Montana was mostly an endless series of high speed sweepers. The riding was very relaxing and punctuated by changes of landscape between streams/rivers/rocky hills/forest.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:39 PM

One thing that struck me was the deforestation. I’ve always said one of the great things about riding is how it puts you in touch with the land you’re passing through in a pretty special way. You start to develop an appreciation for the view Native Americans had of the land. It just sort of….”is”. It has always been there, and as a civilization we have really not made that much of an impression on it yet. But we will. You see the scale of deforestation and you know that in the future, someone riding the same path will not have the same serene beauty to enjoy. Already there were stretches of road in Montana where you just see a lot of miles of the sides of hills with what looks like toothpicks sticking out of the ground where trees once stood. It definitely stood out from the rest of the area.

Anyway, I’ll get back on topic. Idaho/Wyoming were interesting because I decided to throw away the map most of the time and just sort of follow my nose and gradually work my way south. I allowed myself to meander east a bit though because I did want to hit the Grand Canyon before I passed through Vegas into L.A.. At one point, in my quest to be “hardcore adventure rider” (haha, yeah, I know…hardly) I took a detour off the secondary highways and onto roads that didn’t show up on the map. They were pretty unmaintained at got pretty rocky. It went from gravel, to just big ass rocks and ruts in the sand at one point. I made a mental note to try to get a skid-plate welded somehow to the bike if I did this in the future. But for now, there was fun to be had and I just tried to be a bit careful about it.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:40 PM

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:41 PM

The corkscrew!!!

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:41 PM


Man, was I glad I picked that road. It was great. I didn’t see anyone on the road and it really did feel like I was in a cozy little corner of Wyoming. I was a bit cautious working my way through here since I knew the possibility existed that someone would come blasting through there in a Jeep or something. But in the end it was just me. When I made it out the other side, I flagged down a local rider and got directions back to a main road.

I was still behind schedule and my schedule already was just “haul ass to the Grand Canyon before you rest”. So I kept pushing on. Days 2, 3, and 4, were some pretty long days.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:42 PM

At another point during this stretch (I think it was actually before all of that above this…timeframe is blurry), I finally hit rain. And I hit it at the worst time too. I arrived in a sleepy town of a decent size at the 8pm mark. I figured I would definitely be able to get a room since I didn’t feel like camping. Well, there was a boat show in town so everything was filled right up. I decided to push onto the next sizeable town which was like 4 hours away. Poor planning screwed me over again. As it got dark it started to piss rain. The road was a twisty out of the way highway which had been brilliant fun during the day, but at night it was something else entirely. Another part of the poor planning which was hurting me was how tired I was getting. I was exhausted.

So, it was pitch black, it was pissing rain, and I was so tired I had to make a mental effort to stay sharp especially as it got closer to midnight. The thing that really made it tough was I had forgot to pack my Rain-X and couldn’t see a thing through my visor. So, here I am barreling down an unknown and windy road, blind and exhausted. It was a bit nerve-racking, but kinda awesome at the same time. Then out of nowhere a group of local Harley riders came blasting out of nowhere and I let them pass me. That was strangely inspirational. I found a new resolve to haul ass and used their pace and direction to gauge my own pace and direction. I followed them until they turned off 20 or so miles before my stop for the night. I was very thankful for their catching up to me. I could offer them a bunch of praise here, but suffice it to say cruiser riders in general earned a ton of respect in my eyes after that night. They may not pursue the “art of riding” the way sport riders do, but they do plow through endless miles and there is a lot to be said for that. Hats off to the cruiser riders.

Day 5: Vegas or bust.

Lava Hot Springs in Idaho to Las Vegas Nevada in a day. It doesn’t sound so bad. But it wasn’t the plan initially. I really wanted to see the Grand Canyon and one of the things I was really looking forward to in planning this trip was to camp in the Grand Canyon and wake up to a sunrise there. But as I got closer, I was feeling the pressure of time. I had wasted a chunk of the day aimlessly riding around. Now, I had planned on riding the fun roads up to the Canyon and had been looking forward to it. But seeing where I was, where I wanted to be, and how long it would take to get there, I wouldn’t make it until it was the dead of night. And riding through that area under complete darkness was not overly appealing. And even if I did go for it, I would be exhausted and then have to find a place to camp, and set up camp all in the middle of the night. Poor planning? Yup. That’s a big lesson I learned on this trip more than once. Adventure and some amount of planning are not mutually exclusive. Randomness is fun, but complete randomness will mean you don’t get to do some of the things you want and you will find yourself in the situation I did on this day. There was a grueling ride coming up to make Vegas.

But before I get into the ride to Vegas, I did want to talk about the chunk of the day I had wasted. I was coming down an interesting highway and having a good time when I eventually got bored of it.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:43 PM

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:44 PM

I caught a glimpse of a turn-off with an information board posted. I turned back a few minutes later and decided that I would forego the Grand Canyon and get my jollies in here. There was a road that led into and up to the tops of the hills I had been passing through. I went for it. I had a full tank of gas and a Jerry can and I figured I would ride through it no matter how far it went since it seemed it would take me in the approximate right direction. And even if it took me out of the way a little bit, whatever, no big deal.

I made a friend (or an enemy....I'll never know).

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:44 PM

But this about sums up the Battlax tires' offroad performance...

Another reason I decided to go for it was because one thing that really bugs me when I ride is seeing the tops of mountains and hills. I really want to get up there somehow. It just looks like it would be so awesome. So when I saw the chance to get to the tops of the big hills I had been passing through, I decided to go for it. And besides, if I cancelled on the Grand Canyon it would put me back on target for Southern California and I could do this stretch of “road” and be the “hardcore adventurer” haha. So I decided I’d see the Grand Canyon another trip.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:45 PM

I finally got to the top and then immediately regretted not bringing food.

Camping up there would have been epic. I made a mental note to pack some food the next time I ate so that if I found another road like this I could camp whenever it suited me. As I got deeper in I decided that not knowing where the hell this road went could end badly. I could end up really hungry and having to double back on myself and ride back the same way but hungry and displeased. So I turned around and got back on the road I was on before I turned off.

I stopped for some sandwiches at this place called Atomic something or other. The food was awesome. That’s one thing that struck me about the States. The reason everyone’s so fat is because their food is so damned good. The little burger and sandwich shops make killer meals. It’s greasy, but awesome. Well, anyway, before I left I packed away a ham and cheese sandwich in my luggage and got going again.

At this point I still did really want to see the Grand Canyon and was trying to find a way to include it in the plan. I stopped for food at a Denny’s somewhere north of Salt Lake City. I think I was in Ogden. Sitting there going over the map and seeing the clock telling me it was already evening-time, I decided the Grand Canyon was out of the picture officially. I then also decided that I had spent WAY too much time dicking around and needed to put in some hard miles and slab it until I was actually ahead of schedule. If I could get into Vegas ahead of schedule then I could have the nice and easy trip through California that I wanted.

And thus began the grueling ride to Vegas. This was one of two times on the riding trip I was genuinely concerned for my well-being. I didn’t get started until the early evening time, and had to plow through Salt Lake City at the tail end of its rush hour traffic before I could even get started. I figured between my extra fuel and packed sandwiches, I could just put on miles and not have to think about anything except just getting to Vegas.

By about 9pm it was apparent that it was going to start getting dark soon. I decided to rip through one tank of gas “as quickly as situation would allow” and then settle into an easy pace until Vegas. Well, it turns out “as quickly as the situation would allow” on a fairly empty primary highway in the middle of the desert is pretty quick. I got through that tank pretty quickly and filled up and topped up my Jerry can too. I figured I couldn’t possibly be that far away now. When I saw the next sign of “miles to Vegas” I shook my head. I was still like 198 miles away. I then settled into the gradual grind to Vegas in the dark. It was now completely dark and I was more tired than I had been at any point previously on this trip. The miles droned on, and I tried to keep a watchful eye for whatever desert creatures could potentially cross the road. The road wasn’t “twisty” but it did bend back and forth. The heat, the long days, and the boring miles really started to take its toll. It got to the point where I sincerely did not think I would make to Vegas. “Vegas is out of your reach” I thought, but I decided to go for it. I would stop whenever I got too tired and stretch and walk around a little bit and drink a ton of fluids.

For the last bit I was stopping every 10-15 miles I was seriously that tired. And another thing that sticks out in my memory is this eerie glow in the sky. It was so bizarre. I was mentally completely out of it and this eerie glow combined with the drone of the engine made for a really wonky bit of time.

I stop to recharge and eat my sandwich.....

Oh god...

The desert heat + cheese and meat =

When I finally turned a corner and made a visual on Vegas and saw the sign that said like 14 miles to Vegas all around the same bend, I was so thrilled.

I finally pulled into my hotel which I found pretty easily around the 2:30am mark. I opened the door to my hotel room and was met with a big dude in the shower, and clothes and underwear literally scattered over every surface in the room. I was like, WTF, the hotel people screwed up and gave someone else my room by mistake. Then he hollered out and I figured out it was my buddy from out east who had ridden down and was like two days ahead of schedule. He had put on a similar number of miles in recent days since he was also pretty far from home.

I showered. I ate. I slept. Best food and night’s sleep ever.

Vegas baby.

lonesoldier84 04-16-2011 08:46 PM

Next couple days: To L.A.

Over the next couple days I met up with another buddy from Vegas and we rode around and in general took it easy. We then made our way to L.A. and Kenny (Vegas buddy) showed us some pretty sweet roads on the way there. Before we got there, though, we had to make it through the face-melting ride through desert at high noon in the height of summer. It is seriously like having someone hold a blow dryer in your face at the max setting. People with lighter skin should make note to bring a ton of sun-tan lotion. I have heard of people getting NASTY sun burn on their faces riding through the desert.

Dirk and Kenny! (I'm on left then Kenny then Dirk)

Kenny gets us some epic food.


Loved this eatery though. Had a nice feel to it. Music was downtempo jazz.

The craziest FJR known to man. Continent crosser.

That's a fuel cell. And supplies to do oil changes on the road because that's how far he travels every couple days...we ended up chatting with him and his buddy. Great guys.

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