MA to CO and Back: The Anti-Adventure Ride
I've been debating about the worthiness of this RR for the past couple weeks and finally decided that it might contain just enough merit to appeal to a reader considering the same journey. It's not like we crossed the Darien Gap or roosted through Africa with Charley Boorman...just 2 middle aged guys with a week to kill and a desire to live a little. The trip was in June and I'm just now getting around to writing about it now. Please keep this in mind as you offer to let me crash on your couch. This is a past tense kinda story.
So, as I imagine is the case for most New Englanders, I spend the long cold winters studying the atlas, reading ride reports, and fantasizing about where I might go once the snow melts. When I'm not researching, I'm fiddling in the garage on my 09 GSA and trying to achieve that perfect balance between ultimate preparedness and morbid motorcycle obesity. I'm an obsessive over-packer and will fixate on the most ridiculously unlikely roadside disasters...until the bike weighs 900 lbs and I'm no longer able to push it around the garage. I had the same tendencies as a Boy Scout - often packing so much in my ruck that I couldn't hoist it to my back without assistance. Clearly I haven't kicked the habit.
By April, I had settled on the notion of riding solo from Massachusetts to San Francisco and back over the course of 11-14 days. I hoped to earn the IB Saddle Sore on the way out with a quick 1015 miles to Davenport, IA on day 1 and then stay with family and friends in Colorado, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco along the way. I picked a few "must see" roads and sites along the way and marked out my route on a giant laminated wall map in my office. I blocked out the time on my calendar and started counting the days.
OK...little bit about me...it may help the context of the story at some point...40 years old...husband...father of 2 (ages 9 and 11)...engineering manager for a defense contractor...Army veteran (not the exciting Johnny Rambo kind - more the fixing electronics kind - not nearly as awesome, but proud nonetheless)...amateur machinist, welder, mechanic, adult movie actor, and carpenter...lifelong motorcycle enthusiast (not the scary fast kind or the dress like a pirate kind - more the spending way too much time reading about them in magazines and forums kind)...bald...20lbs overweight...anal retentive...overly talkative...trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Or at least I try...
Back to the longest prologue to a Ride Report in the history of motorcycle forums...
So here I am, I've got a route planned out on the wall, I've got vacation blocked out on the calendar, a supportive wife, and an able motorcycle. I'm ready to roll. Quick note about my awesome wife. She has this amusing notion that seems to be uncommon amongst the wives of my friends. She has this stranmge desire not to be the thing that stands between me and what I want to do in this life. As unlikely as it sounds, she is preoccupied with the idea that at some point in my life, I may look back and say "I really wanted to do _______, but my wife wouldn't let me go." She absolutely doesn't want to be the person that ever hindered my ability to live this life to the fullest measure possible. Crazy...huh? Most of my friends' wives seem to revel in their ability halt a good time before it even gets started. A quick beer after work with the boys or 9 holes of golf on Friday afternoon are strictly verboten - get your a$$ home - you've got chores to do! Poor things...a week on the road, riding a motorcycle, is about as likely as visiting the moon. They are sad creatures.
Coming Soon...The Actual Ride Report
cool...I am just below you in CT..and can't wait to do a ride like that..
OK...so its May by now and most of the people I know are aware of my upcoming trip. Most cannot believe my wife is letting me go. There seems to be a lot of chatter about it in my office. Us nerdy engineers rarely get out of the labs; let alone ride solo across the country on a motorcycle. The mere thought of it seems to be generating quite a stir. I'm like the Ted Simon of my dorky little corner of the world.
So then about mid-May, one of my buddies, M!ke, comes strolling into my office and is perusing my map...he rides a Victory Vegas...a fun bike for around town...loud pipes...chrome...giant front wheel...not much in the way of creature comforts...typical cruiser bike. Conversation goes something like this...
"So, you getting ready for your big trip?"
"Pretty close; fresh oil change, new rain suit, packing list, and new tires before I leave "
"Huh...sounds pretty cool"
"I've never taken a long motorcycle trip"
"That's too bad, you should do it someday"
"Yeah, I've got a lot of vacation time saved up"
"I'm still sitting on the money I was going to use fo rmy garage"
"Good for you, you should spend it on something fun or getting going on the garage."
"How far are you going?"
"6 or 7 thopusand miles I expect; unless something bad happens"
"So you're going by yourself?"
"That's the plan."
So we dance around like this for a few minutes...maybe longer. The entire time we're talking, I'm doing the math in my head of what it would likely mean for my planned trip to bring a guy on a cruiser bike, who has never rode more than 200 miles in a day, doesn't have the strongest interest in geography or motorcycle mechanics, and is not exactly my perfect match when it comes to schedule and general lifestyle. I keep the small talk going as long as I can while I try to figure out a WAY OUT that won't negatively affect our friendship.
After a few more minutes of "Geez, I've always wanted to take a motorcycle trip", I decided to throw caution to the wind and sign on with a guy who I was sure would hate me before the trip was over. I thought it would at least make for a funny story or two.
Word of our upcoming trip spread like wildifre. All sorts of questions about our sexuality...References to movies by Ang Lee...Photo-shopped pictures of the two of us dressed like pirates astride Easy Rider style choppers...infractions to just about every HR policy ever written.
Now I start thinking about how the ride is going to play out. There's no way Mike is going to ride a cruiser to California and back, on highways, for his first real road trip. He might be able to do it, but I expect he won't be much fun as a travelling companion. He'll probably be miserable. I start thinking about other possible destinations. He's never taken a big trip on a bike so the possibilities are relatively endless. I suspect that as much as I hate riding on the interstate, he's going to hate it a great deal more on his bike. So where to go with a week of travel and not too much highway? Where could we go that is manly enough to stop all of the crude comments and innuendo in the office? What screams out tough and rugged? I assume we all know the answer....
Key West, Florida of course.
This is generally my favorite part of any trip...the mental exercise of trying to prepare for any eventuality...the anticipation of hitting the road...the making of lists. One of life's greatest joys is creating, refining, reviewing, and ultimately perfecting my packing list...did I mention anal retentive? I packed the bike, repacked, inventoried, balanced, and diagramed. In then end, it all came down to a simple little 2-sided laminated card that contained the sum total of months of preparation...
I was beside myself with joy when M!ke was silly enough to ask if I had a packing list and I presented him with this bad boy.
There are actually 2 sides to the card...not sure if this was the complete version...just checked to see if it was still on my computer.
Oh this is gonna be good. I thought I was bad taking my friend who never even had a bike license until 2 months ago to Labrador. At least we know each and get along.
This has the makings of a reality show.:D
You're definitely prepared for the long haul! :lol3
Great writing style and sense of humor. Looking forward to more.
A little background on my traveling companion...M!ke...early 30s...engineer...not married, but living with his current girlfriend for 6 years (I've offered to get ordained for the ceremony if he ever gets around to it)...stays up late...sleeps late...comes to work late (well, later than me anyways)...leaves early (claims it's for football practice - I think he just goes home to nap)...binge drinks regularly (well, certainly more than my 3 beer limit)...played college football (strong like bull)...coaches high school football (enjoys yelling at meat heads)...little bit sloppy (doesn't use starch when he irons his clothes...might not even iron his clothes)...way too casual (i.e. nearly impossible to get a rise out of him)...completely unprepared for just about everything (yet somehow always comes out on top)...funny as hell (relentless ball-buster)...all around fun guy.
We actually work for 2 competing defense companies...teamed up on the same program in this instance...in similar management positions at our respective companies...a relationship primarily based on busting one another's stones on a daily basis. We've been working together for more than 5 years.
We are at way different ends of the spectrum when it comes to anal retentiveness and Type A behavior, but I thought spending a week with him might help me to loosen up and get the stick out of my a$$...a vacation from being me so to speak. I told him that I would try to be more casual during this trip. IN retrospect, I suspect that was a lie.
So, we're still a few weeks away when Mike asks me if I have a packing list. Ha! Do I have a packing list?!? Does the Pope have a crucifix? Hell yeah I have a packing list! I proudly presented him with a copy and he proceeds to laugh for 2 weeks straight. He shows everyone in the office and makes a point of quizzing me each day on the necessity of specific items. (Told you he was a relentless ball-buster)
Day 1: "Could you please provide me with the scenario where we might need waterproof matches? Are we going to be shipwrecked on a desert island? Are we going canoeing with Ned Beatty? Do you have doubts about the efficacy of the lighter that you also listed and packed in a zip lock bag? Aren't we staying in hotels? Why do we need fire anyway? It's going to be mid-June? Are you going to cook and eat me?"
Day 2: "Explain the compass for me. Don't we have a GPS and 2 cell phones with GPS? Don't you have a full sized 2013 road atlas in your box? Are we going to South America? Are we going to traverse the Everglades on foot? Are you going to use it to find an isolated spot to cook and eat me?
Day 3: "What the hell is a pannier?"
This went on for weeks...to the constant amusement of our coworkers and my wife. I should have just let him pack some socks in a duffle bag and suffer...prick!
He then decided that since I would be bringing all of these items, he could safely pack nothing. I secretly hoped that we'd get separated in the middle of the Everglades and he would die from lack of preparation. It wasn't actually a secret...I told him as much every day.
While M!ke is a complete prick (I mean that in the most loving way) and took great pleasure in ridiculing me every day leading up to the trip, I was concerned that his lack of preparation might lessen my enjoyment. I didn't want him getting stranded on the side of the road or being so miserable that he turned back. So, at some point leading up to the trip, I strongly suggested that he procure the following things:
It finally arrived and he left work early (per usual) to go home and install it. A few hours later, I received an excited text message. The installation was complete. The picture was priceless.
Now it was my turn to laugh....
I'm in:clap...you're not gonna eat me i hope:D
Is that not truly the silliest example of a windshield ever devised? To me, its a prime example of form over function...assuming you can even find something appealing about the form. Keep in mind that Mike had been making fun of my packing list for quite some time when this picture showed up on my phone. From that point on, I ridiculed him endlessly about his new windshield or "visor" as it came to be known around the office. He swore that he could really feel the difference. I said that he was full of crap.
Then he asked me for a ride on a Friday afternoon. He was dropping the bike off at the nearest dealer about an hour away for a full service and new tires. He was going to drop the bike off for a few days and wanted a ride home. On the ride over, at highway speeds, I was sure that he was finding out just how ineffective his new piece of motorcycle jewelry actually was. Yet, when we arrived, he assured me that it was great. I implored him to buy a real windshield while we were there at the dealer. They even had one in stock. He said that after all the crap I gave him, he would never give me the satisfaction of admitting the windshield was anything short of awesome. Even if his arms were ripped from his shoulders by the wind and his face beaten raw by the rain. I admired his stubborn commitment to the joke, but I really questioned the logic of it all.
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