Well over a year ago
, I had what I believed at the time to be a crazy idea.
The notion was to ride a small displacement motorcycle from one coast of North America to the other in… at least by tourist standards… an abbreviated amount of time. I shared this idea with my dear friend from Texas, Charlie Steinman who took something less than a second to exclaim, “ I’m in”. Later, and with only a little prodding, our friend Robert McClung (also from Texas) tossed his hat into the ring and The Big Stupid as the ride has become known was born.
I determined that I would ride a 2008 Ninja 250 R. Friend Charlie picked up a new 2007 Ninja 250 and Bob decided to run a Yamaha WR 250 X that he seriously modified to resemble a mini version of his 1200 GS.
Bob's Mini GS
Charlie's Wee Ninja
Flash forward about 16 months and “ The Big Stupid “ is history by 7 days and I am sitting here looking back at something that seems way less big than I had first imagined and not terribly stupid… at least in the scheme of my life as a whole.
More than anything, I see our journey from Westport Washington (about 120 miles west of Seattle) to Halifax Nova Scotia as less of an odyssey and more of an exceptionally fine ride.
Feet in the Pacific
14 Days later feet in the Atlantic @ Orchard Beach Maine
Encounters with hurricane type winds, tumbleweed, panicked deer and some ark building rain aside, the journey produced nothing more in the way of pain and hardship than some aching knees and some incredibly sore butts.
There were two sphincter-tensing moments in our entire journey. The first came outside of Arco, Idaho as we rode into skies the color of cigarette ash. Just as we we’re beginning our trip across a great plain. We got severely hammered by winds exceeding 75 m.p.h.
Then came the rain… and then came the tumbleweed. For close to an hour, we rode at stupid angles, dodging tumbleweed by the thousand and seemingly just as many 18-wheelers. Later that evening we saw where an 18-wheeler had been taken out by the winds.
My second suck up the vinyl on my seat moment occurred when rounding a hairpin somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. As I lifted the bike up to take advantage of a short uphill straight, I saw to my immediate right about 5 or 6 deer nervously walking the shoulder. The deer of course became spooked. One of them decided that she would run directly beside my bike. I remember looking at her wide, panicked filled eyes and slightly ajar mouth and thinking that if she could see behind my shield, she would see pretty much the same thing. At the exact moment that I throttled down and started to squeeze the brakes, she darted directly in front of my bike and scrambled up the opposite slope. I figure we missed each other by 3 feet at most.
For me, the best parts of the 14 days that it took us to complete the journey were the time I spent with my dear friends and scooting the twisty bits, particularly in Colorado and West Virginia, I must admit that I often felt frustrated at our moving through spectacular beauty at a little less than warp speed and not having any time to stop and smell the pinion and sage along the way.
In terms of flat out adventure (a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.) this little cross continent undertaking was by all reasonable standards, pretty tame. However, what it lacked in the Indiana Jones factor, it more than made up for with the finest riding I’ve done to date and the pleasure of doing it in the company of great friends. Oh yeah… and it was being out of school for 14 days.
So… here I am in my man cave looking over the last couple of weeks trying to think what if any learning has come out of this that might prove of even the slightest value to others who have contemplated or may be contemplating such a journey. What follows are the ramblings of a man who has traveled 4600 miles on a 250 cc motorcycle in 14 days with two dear friends and feels damn fine in spite of it.
• Go bigger. The 250 cc scoots we were riding were completely heroic. They performed flawlessly, were a serious giggle in the twisty bits, of which there were a great number, and sipped gas along the way. They also buzzed, were grade if not altitude challenged, were cramped, over burdened by luggage and did I mentioned cramped. If a 250 cc scoot is what you’ve got for the task and an upgrade is not in the cards, go for it… particularly if you’re younger than 50 and can touch your toes without the use of straps, weights or surgery.
• Take less. If like us, pitching a tent or sleeping atop picnic tables in National Parks is so last century, consider what you’re bringing in the way of clothing and then consider cutting it in half. Your focus should be on staying warm and dry. After that, it’s pretty much optional. We stayed at Holiday Inns along the way. In addition to 50 plus channel TV and wake up calls, they also have laundry facilities. Bob got the eagle Scout award on the trip (he actually is one) for running out of gas and then producing a bulb type siphon which got us back on the road in about 10 minutes. A cell phone, credit cards, AAA membership, and some basic tools will cover just about anything short of being taken out by an 18 wheeler. I brought a G3 modem for my net book and never used it. Wi Fi is available everywhere.
• Take longer. Bob Charlie and I had pretty much established a routine… meet in the lobby at 7:00 a.m., suck back some caffeine and some carbs, chit chat our way into consciousness, and hit the road by 8:00. Ride until noon or 1:00 trying to stop every 70-100 miles for gas and ass renewal, take about an hour break for lunch and then mount up and ride until about 5:00 or 6:00 pm. Other than the scenery that presented itself to us as we rode, this schedule allowed time for just about nothing. I think in our 14 days, we probably stopped a half dozen times at places that didn’t sell gas or Twinkies. We did not visit a single historic site, monument, antique store, motorcycle museum, Pow Wow, fall festival or brothel along the way. I did a little calculating in my head and determined that if one wanted to truly take in the country as they went, they could probably look to do 150 to 200 mile days tops instead of our 350 to 420 mile scoots.
• Do it with people you like. There’s no substitute for respect. When you’re hauling butt for long hours, you get tired. Sometimes you get grumpy. When the person that’s staring across the table from you at the end of the day has your respect, you’re more willing to make compromises and vote in favor of the individual or group.
• Stay flexible. About 4 days into the trip, it dawned us that if we were going to be in Halifax in time for Bob and Charlie to catch flights home, we were going to have to trade some of the twisty bits in for some time on the slab.
• Stop regularly. Drink. Eat. Stretch. Make it a mantra. Every part of you will thank you for it.
• Never stop doing it. I wrote a theme line for a maker of ice Hockey equipment. It read: Never hang up your skates. I think the same applies to our pursuit of adventure. The day we stop pursuing it will probably mark the beginning of the end. Adventure may be as simple as walking through a park we’ve never walked through before. What is important is that we seek it.
Charlie standing in the part of Colorado that gets hugely flat:
A nice graphic image outside of Arco
On the rear deck of the ferry from Portland Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia.
( hugely rough crossing with people barfing constantly )