|01-16-2014, 05:14 AM||#1|
Joined: Jan 2014
Learning to Ride
So, I'm currently stuck in Sa Pa, Vietnam for a few days while I wait for my passport to return to its faithful master.
I've been riding through the cold north for the past few weeks and met some ADVRiders on the way. I checked out the site and have been loving the ride reports. I like to ride, I like to write and I like to take pictures so this website is absolutely perfect to keep my lazy ass doing all three.
This is my second, long motorcycle trip so I'll start with the first and try to catch up before I hit the road again.
My current ride, a '?? Indonesian copy of a Honda Win aka The Mad Mosquito
I started riding in Sep ’12 after a lifetime of paranoia and fear of motorcycles. I was ridiculously afraid of everything until I was about 15 and didn't even leave the house some days for fear of...well, everything.
My Dad rode since he was about 15 but then my Mom put a ban on any motorcycles after he lowsided coming off the freeway. We then moved to Costa Rica where motorcycle casualties seemed to be in the newspaper every other day and my Mom's idea of them being equal-to-or-worse than heroin passed on to me.
Then I became pretty reckless and a terrible kid until I went off to college (UCONN!) and started to mellow out. That's when I started getting the itch to ride but I never bit the bullet.
I smoked and drank my way through college (something I regret doing, there were so many opportunities, clubs and other things I could've done with my time there besides trying to get laid, play video games and get high) and then moved out to Las Vegas.
I'd spent the last three summers working there and I really love that city. My roommate was fearful and high all the time and I started falling back into that couch potato, do-nothing stoner slump.
Then I got kicked out of the house, sold my car, bought a motorcycle and decided to ride to Washington DC for election night.
When I heard I was getting kicked out I was gonna get a horrible 9-5 job and try to find my own place since I was freelancing at the time and my roommate was barely charging me rent. (The house owner kicked me out, not the roommate) Then a Facebook post changed everything. A friend posted something about Burning Man and it looked cool.
I checked out videos and found out it was about 8 hours north of Vegas. The festival started in a few days and tickets were sold out. I gave up before I even tried.
Then I said "Fuck it" found some tickets on Craigslist, hitchhiked my way up, spent an amazing week and hitchhiked back. The guy who picked me was in his mid-60s and told me how when he was my age he travelled across the US with friends on cruisers, camping, eating beans and enjoying life.
The Small Red Guppy needed a new rack and pinion and wouldn't make it to Burning Man on his own
I told him I wanted to do that, he told me I should, so I did.
I got back to Vegas and saw that an MSF course spot had opened up for the weekend. It was incredibly informative and the teachers were great and spent time helping me out. I was the first person to drop the bike and also the last, but I didn't care.
I was riding a motorcycle.
(I'd highly recommend the MSF course in Henderson Harley-Davidson, they do try to hawk some HD stuff but instructors rode different brands, were very helpful and seemed to be really dedicated to teaching rather than selling).
I was pretty bad with the figure-8s but then I was taught the importance of turning your nose and chin to where you want to go. It blew my mind how much of a difference that made. The hard stops and swerve drills were also helpful and they helped point out bad riding techniques before they became habit.
I started looking at dealerships the day I got my endorsement and started buying gear.
I sold the faithful '91 Toyota Corolla, the Guppy, and upgraded to a '09 Ninja 500R, The Cracked-Out Dolphin.
A significant improvement
I got a little too happy and bought the first motorcycle I saw and got royally fucked over at the dealership. The bike was amazing, the saleslady was nice and the accessory guy was really helpful but the finance guy switched my loan rate from 5.4 percent (what the salespeople quoted after they ran my credit) to 21.99 percent during the signing process and conveniently lost the paper where I was at 5.4 percent. I didn't discover this until I was in Chicago.
I would not recommend RideNow PowerSports on Boulder, I saw a recent google review with that same complaint.
It was an expensive lesson.
I gave my books to my roommate, donated some clothes and got some camping equipment. I'd never camped before. I got comfortable on the Dolphin and a week later I was ready to go.
The night before I was gonna start the trip I took the bike out fully-loaded and dropped it coming out of the driveway. I couldn't pick it up. My roommate had to help me and asked if the trip was a good idea.
I told him he worried too much, but I was also a bit nervous myself.
I set out the morning to try and avoid Vegas traffic hour but failed. I was nervous, excited and a bit too distracted. I almost lost control of the bike before I left the city.
I was slowing down at a red light and shifted down to first. Then the light turned green and I released the clutch without thinking how fast I was going. My back fishtailed pretty hard, my butthole puckered up and I somehow kept control.
Riding lesson #1 learned.
I did make it out of Vegas though but I'd forgotten my camera battery and charger plugged into the wall. I didn't want to turn back though, my roommate mailed it out and I kept going.
Cheeseburner screwed with this post 01-19-2014 at 01:11 AM
|01-16-2014, 06:56 AM||#2|
Joined: Jan 2014
I was excited and nervous. Having just read David Hough’s “Proficient Motorcycling," I was going through all the lessons in the book, but this wasn’t theory anymore.
Live motorcycle practice.
For the first time I could remember I felt free.
It was also pretty hot so I stopped halfway to get some tacos.
Then I got onto LA highways and prepared myself mentally, attempting to tap into Mentat superawareness abilities.
The only thing that happened was a car’s tire blowing out in front of me. I was trying to stay in between gaggles of traffic and was already one lane to the left and a few seconds behind the car. I swerved a bit to avoid tiny bits of flying rubber and the car pulled off the shoulder.
Then I made it to my first hostel somewhere in Koreatown. A few people were drinking beer so I decided to join them, I felt a celebration was in order.
There was one Kiwi guy traveling with an Aussie girl and two local LA girls. We drank through the day and I was a bit disappointed to find out they were all lesbians. They joked about my luck, finding three attractive girls to drink with that all like girls. They did let me ask any and all lesbian questions I had and I learned quite a bit.
Then we ended up completely trashed in a Korean karaoke place. All the lyrics were in Korean so we invented new ones. Then the three girls left together and the Kiwi and I drank a few more beers in disappointment.
LA is very progressive.
I couchsurfed the next day and dropped my bike. I was at a four-way intersection and the light turned green. I started turning left but stalled and couldn’t recover.
The bike fell and the beeping started. Fueled by shame and adrenaline, I picked up the bike in one go.
Then i went to go stay with a friend in Hawthorne until my camera stuff showed up. It was a completely different side to LA. The shady LA. When I parked in front of my friend’s apartment complex two guys drove by, looked at the bike and nodded.
My friend told me I should park behind his car in the parking garage instead.
Then my camera battery arrived and I took a picture of my bike with a famous LA sign, bordering Hawthorne:
My Mom also caught wind of what I was doing and called to tell me I couldn’t do it. She didn’t have any real leverage but she still tried to tell me I couldn’t, she wouldn’t allow it.
She started crying and I felt a bit bad so I reassured her I was going to be fine.
She’s changed a lot since then though, I recently took a spill and bruised my leg and all she said was “Oh well, be careful on that thing.”
At that time I also noticed how much unnecessary shit I had and shipped two boxes of stuff to Connecticut.
We hit the bar scene my last night there and I got a handy in the back of a hybrid from some screenwriter girl. I noted again how progressive LA was.
Then I decided to stay an extra day because I was too hungover.
I rested up, rehydrated and hit the Pacific Coast Highway to another couch in Palo Alto.
I was really enjoying motorcycling, but when I hit the PCH, I fell in love with it.
Ocean, seals, miles and miles of beautiful twisting roads.
Despite the fact that it was hazy out, the scenery and ride were amazing.
I got off to spend my first night camping and was shocked when I saw it cost $30 to pitch a tent.
This wasn’t low budget, what the hell?
I waited till the booth guy left, set up camp and then booked it in the morning before they came back.
Thirty dollars, Jesus.
Campsite that took my virginity
After a beautiful, two days of riding and twisty roads I was starting to feel more confident on the bike. I was looking into the corners naturally and leaning deeper.
This made me a cocky idiot.
I was hungry and saw a few places to eat when I got into town. I sped past some cars to make a light and took a right into the shopping center-place-thing.
The entrance was a two-way, two-lane road but it was empty so I based my line off of having the whole road to myself. Then, halfway through the turn a car pulled up to leave and I was headed straight for his front-right tire.
They started beeping and my butthole went airtight.
I was tempted to break but the MSF training kicked in. I stared deeper into the curve, leaned hard and gunned it.
I knew it was close but I didn’t know how close because I stupidly closed my eyes at the last second.
Despite the series of stupid mistakes I’d just made, I made it through and parked.
I contemplated all those mistakes while I chomped on raw fish. Too cocky, I assumed too much and I closed my eyes for fuck’s sake.
Good luck saved me and I made sure to not put myself in that situation again.
I finished up my lunch and did the last few miles to Stanford, where my friend was getting a fancy engineering degree.
No degrees for dolphins
Cheeseburner screwed with this post 01-19-2014 at 01:34 AM
|01-16-2014, 07:02 AM||#3|
Joined: Jul 2012
This looks good! I love origin stories and yours is stellar. Looking forward to reading more!
Also, since you are riding in Vietnam currently, you may wish to send a personal message to AntiHero ("Italian Supermodel in the Pacific NW") about riding there, as he is exploring the possibility of taking his Ducati Panigale to the far east for a spin.
|01-16-2014, 07:03 AM||#4|
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Silver Spring, MD
Great start looking forward to reading more!
2005 Suzuki GS500F - The "Other" GS - Sold
2005 V-Strom 650
|01-16-2014, 07:18 AM||#5|
Joined: Jan 2014
Thanks guys, I look forward to posting more.
I'll send him a message about that because the whole process seems weird, but doable.
Three people up here are doing RTW trips -- a couple in BMW 1200GS with a sidecar and another guy on a DR650 -- and left their bikes in Cambodia and bought cheap bikes here because they said they they were told they couldn't bring their big machines in.
But there's this other couple we ran into that brought their GS in just fine, just drove up to a border crossing, waited and eventually got in.
Cheeseburner screwed with this post 01-16-2014 at 10:43 AM
|01-16-2014, 10:53 AM||#6|
Joined: Jan 2014
My Palo Alto couch turned out to be my own room and a blow-up mattress. There was a dog, Teddy, and lots of drinking. The engineering students hooked up a bunch of CO2 compressors to a bunch of kegs for perfectly chilled beer.
Everyone seemed to be fascinated by my decision to just pick up and head off on a motorcycle. Most of them had the next 5-10 years of their lives planned out. The economy sucked, job market was terrible for recent graduates and they were working their asses off for some security.
I was zipping around on a Ninja.
I’m also proud to say that the friend I visited and his roommate now have and ride motorcycles. It wasn’t due to me, but I’ll still take credit for it.
After Palo Alto I had a short stint to San Francisco where I met up with the Kiwi guy from LA in a cheap hostel by Chinatown.
The area seemed nice enough but someone rummaged through my unlocked saddlebags and stole the rain covers and some other things. They did leave my dirty socks and chain lube though.
I remember thinking, ‘At least I don’t have to carry that shit around anymore.’ Everything I owned fit into a duffel bag, two saddlebags and a gymbag and it still felt like I had way too much crap.
We drank pretty heavily at the hostel and I met a British guy who was cycling from Canada to Mexico. There were also two Swedish sisters that everyone hit on all night with no success.
I was pretty hungover the next day and decided not to ride.
I took it easy and then I drove through steep hills and tram lines to see a few sites:
The apartment Hunter S. Thompson lived when he wrote Hell's Angels
Cheeseburner screwed with this post 01-19-2014 at 01:37 AM
|01-16-2014, 11:37 AM||#7|
Joined: Jan 2014
A close call and Yosemite
After that I was off to Yosemite.
It was good that I rested away the hangover and had all cylinders firing because I had a scare in Oakland.
With my Mentat superawareness levels high, I was navigating cautiously through a four-lane highway and keeping on eye on the cars around me.
I caught a glimpse of a black SUV merging onto the freeway way too fast in my right mirror. He started cutting across the lanes and was coming straight into mine. I started beeping and swerving and he just made eye contact with me and drove straight into my lane.
I swerved left hard and, luckily, there was no car in the lane next to me. I was beeping and fuming. I wanted to speed up and yell at him or hit his car or something.
I decided it was better to take a break so I went to go have food somewhere. I was considering calling the whole trip off. I knew I’d be safe but other people, man, they’re everywhere and half of them are texting.
Then I had tacos and a coffee and was good to go.
When I hit Yosemite I knew there was no way I was canceling the trip.
I pulled up to the park and asked about camping. You had to pay for the campsite but the lady told me I could camp for free close by.
Primitive camping it was called. I started to like the idea of comping again and then I chose a terrible camping spot.
I pulled off just a foot or two off the road with a cliff on the other side on a downhill curve. All throughout the night cars zoomed past and would rattle my tent and wake me up.
Someone even beeped and scared the shit out of me.
Campsite at sunrise
It was also during the Hantavirus outbreak and I got a little flyer about the dangers. I had a dream that the Hantavirus led to a zombie outbreak and they climbed up from the cliff and attacked me. I woke up several times that night and had a few more nightmares, including a bear sniffing my tent.
But the sun rose and I survived my first free night of camping. I was proud of myself and feasted on Cliff Bars, beef jerky and water.
Then I drove through the park:
Cheeseburner screwed with this post 01-19-2014 at 01:55 AM Reason: Picture hosting
|01-16-2014, 11:56 AM||#8|
Joined: May 2012
Location: PEI, Canada
wow. this is awesome. from US to Vietnam. Gold.
Cliff bars, jerky and water. Good memories with that diet myself.
Click to View
"The very basic core of a person's living spirit is their passion for adventure. There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon,to have a new sun."
Jon Krakauer, - Into the Wild
|01-17-2014, 01:18 AM||#9|
Joined: Jan 2014
|01-19-2014, 03:36 AM||#10|
Joined: Jan 2014
Ca, nv, ut
The curvy, downhill Yosemite roads spit us out into the straight, flat California desert.
America on a Japanese bike
The Dolphin and I went south to Bishop and then hooked left along Route 6 through Nevada.
Mile after mile of straight asphalt and desert.
It was relaxing, insightful. I thought about the past, the future, America, philosophy and aardvarks.
For a 100-mile stretch I said the word “aardvark” 1,000 times straight, 10 times per mile. I said it with different voices, accents and even sung it one mile.
At the next junction, I stocked up at Alien Fresh Jerky and took the Extra Terrestrial Highway.
The town ahead was 25 miles but still visible, a kind of wild west Taj Mahal.
When I got to Rachel, NV, I had some food at the A-le-inn and kept riding. Lots of alien-themed places but no alien sightings.
I headed out again but the sun was setting so I drove back. The A-le-inn had rooms available but the bartender said I could set up my tent in the back for free if I had a few more beers.
A'le'inn camp spot
I drank with 10 percent of the population of Rachel — a town of 54 residents when I visited — and camped on gravel. I packed up and left the next morning. When I was pulling a u-turn, my back tire hit a deep patch of gravel and I dropped the bike.
I didn’t unload the bike and kept sliding all over the place trying to pick it up.
Someone saw me and came out of a pickup truck. He picked up the bike with ease and made fun of me for a few minutes. I made a mental note to work out a bit more, a note I have yet to address.
Fueled by beef jerky and gasoline the Dolphin and I had another day of desert riding.
Instead of saying Aardvark, I starting beeping at cows. I beeped at first one because it was a bit close to the road. It looked up at me after I beeped so I waved.
This was so funny at the time that I kept on doing it to every cow. I started laughing like a madman by myself in the desert and then realized I’d swerved onto the other side of the road.
It was time to stop waving at cows.
Then I came across a lone cow and thought it’d feel left out if I didn’t beep and wave. I reminded myself that the cow didn’t give a shit and that I was thinking like a crazy person.
The Dolphin croseed into Utah in time for lunch, which was right during the second presidential debate.
Just two days ago I was in San Francisco -- the political opposite of Utah -- and after crossing a desert, I was in a completely different America.
I finished my lunch and headed towards Boulder, CO, where I had another old college buddy and a couch.
But I was a few hours out of Colorado and it started getting dark. There were no campsites around so I pulled into a rest stop and slept on a picnic table.
It got pretty cold that night and I slept with my gear on. I forgot to take out my hydration bladder and it leaked all over my back during the night.
I woke up freezing with a sore throat. The sunrise and scenery made up for it:
|01-20-2014, 05:58 AM||#11|
Joined: Jan 2014
CO and ST
The Dolphin cruised into Colorado by lunchtime.
I was starting to feel a bit underweather but my friend said it had been 70F the past few days. The Dolphin and I plunged on, unaware that a frost storm was hitting their region later that day.
The temperature started dropping quickly and I was wearing gloves the same gloves I used to drive through Las Vegas. The gloves ventilated really well and my fingers were stiffening up in pain. I pulled over at every gas station to run my hands under steaming water while I had people ask me questions like “Chilly out there huh?” While I had boogers and tears frozen to my face.
Everything still looked really nice though.
I also took the pit stops to check Google maps on my phone. It was starting to get dark and all-mighty Google told me to get off the main highways and lead me through a winding, two-lane mountain road with no places to warm up. I would pull over whenever there was a big enough pocket and suck on one hand while patting the engine with the other.
I even grabbed the muffler and burned my palm once, it burned so good though. After that mountain I got to the last road to the BestBuy my friend worked on. The road, of course, was closed for construction. I had to go on a multi-mile detour and my helmet started fogging up. The visor went up and I drove the rest of the way with freezing windchill, at least my tears didn’t have a chance to drip.
I made it to the BestBuy and was so glad the ride was over. I’d never been that cold in my life. I met my friend and he brought me to his car and cranked up the heat while he finished his shift.
I kept my gear on and fondled the heat until he came back. My friend came back and drove me to the couch, which turned out to be a pile of blankets. I was more than grateful and took a steaming hot shower for about an hour and then dove into my blankets.
Before I went to sleep, we enjoyed some of Colorado’s finest homegrown herbal remedies. This friend also happened to be roommates with the Engineer at Stanford, the job market was tough for new grads.
The next morning I woke up feeling like a ball of fuck wrapped up in shit and hunger. Every gland I knew how to locate was swollen and I couldn’t swallow. I got strep throat and thanks to my lack of insurance I had to pay for some expensive antibiotics.
Thankfully, my friend housed and fed me for free until I recovered. We had a lot of takeout, played video games, watched movies and sampled some of Colorado’s edibles.
After almost a week I was good to go. My next couch was in Madison, WI, and I made sure to check the weather before I left this time. They were gonna get hammered with rain in a few days.
|01-22-2014, 10:04 AM||#12|
Joined: Jan 2014
Boats and Hos
I raced through Nebraska and camped in Iowa.
The rest stop I pulled over in had no picnic tables and the guy who worked there said there were a bunch of stupid regulations against camping. He added that he disagreed with them and if someone wanted to ride their motorcycle into the woods behind the building and camp he wouldn’t go looking.
I thanked him, set up camp and was out before sunrise, finishing the spring to Madison.
Election night was looming and it was starting to get cold. Picture taking really dropped off at this point of the trip but I still managed to fuck this one up.
When I got to Madison, the sky was grey and there was slight drizzle. I had some good home-cooked food, caught myself up on family affairs and made the short stint to Chicago the next day.
I tried to avoid tolls getting into the city but ended up doing a large detour and paying a billion tolls.
It was also rush hour and I desperately needed to pee desperately. My bladder couldn’t take the stop-and-go and I ended up pulling over and peeing in a crouched position, hiding my crime and johnson from traffic with the motorcycle.
My Chicago host was studying for some doctor residency test thing so I ended up watching “The Long Way Round” while he studied and Chicago rained.
Chicago host, being sober and studious and doctor-like
There was also a bit of drinking. One bar was filled with cigarette smoke and obviously underage patrons that you had to be buzzed into.
After Chicago I drove to Ann Arbor to stay on the couch of another successful friend. Aside from attending law school, she inflated a mattress for me and baked fresh muffins (from scratch) every morning and got me a ticket to the Michigan v. Michigan State game.
She also refused to let me do any dishes.
Solid wife material.
Michigan host, again, sober and studious
Then I crossed the border. The Dolphin and I drove up to Marine City and took the ferry over to Canadia.
Pleasant gazebo-thing in Marine City, MI
The Dolphin's first boat ride
|01-22-2014, 11:45 AM||#13|
Joined: Feb 2011
the road is a little lonely this time of year ...hope you are still enjoying it.
spring brings a more happy place for travel.
be careful ..traffic gets crazy around the citys..fridays really suck
nice ride and report Im in
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if ou just sit there.
|01-27-2014, 08:29 AM||#15|
Joined: Jan 2014
Steaks and breaks
I thought the border would be a bit of a hassle but they only asked me two questions. The first was where I was staying, the second was if I had any drugs or weapons.
They were satisfied with my answer to the first question and waved me through when I said, “No” to the second.
I breathed in the crisp Canadian air and gave the Dolphin her first sip of Canadian petrol.
It was a surprisingly warm and sunny day for late October and there were several other bikers out. It’d been a while since I’d seen any so I was saluting everyone that passed and enjoying one of the last warm days of the year.
Then my bike died.
It started putting around a bit at first, then it bogged and died. Some grey smoke started coming out of the muffler when I restarted her and then she died again. Then an older couple riding two-up on a cruiser stopped by to help.
He asked me if I put diesel in the bike and I told him I was pretty sure I didn’t. We opened my tank, he dabbed his fingers and smelled.
“Smells like gas.”
We didn’t realize the diesel had sunk to the bottom. The bike still kind of ran so I stupidly started it up again and followed it to the couple’s house where they were either going to let me use their phone or murder me.
They didn’t murder me.
The tow truck came and the driver asked if I put diesel in the bike after I described what happened. Doubt creeped into my mind again, I was sure I didn’t, but I called the gas station and confirmed my stupidity.
(When I told my Dad later he was quick to remind me that I'd worked in a gas station for a few years.)
The tow-truck took me to a closed dealership/mechanic but offered to open up his garage and help me for $100. It was Sunday, he said, so his rate was double.
I declined his offer and he sped off. Nothing within a mile was open so I went hunting through dumpsters for a tube or anything to suck the filthy diesel out of the bike. Nothing. Oil City, Ontario on a Sunday.
It was starting to get dark so I pitched my tent and read and slept the freezing night away. The next morning I awoke to an very friendly and extremely Canadian mechanic. His accent was one of the thickest I’d ever encountered and there was an “Ay!” at the end of every sentence.
He took about an hour out of his time to help me and I became too familiar with the taste of diesel. When the bike was running again I asked him how much I owed him and he said he put about $5 of gas in it, so $5.
I asked him if he took American dollars and he was genuinely excited.
“Always glad to take American,” he said.
Then I made it to Toronto where I almost ran over someone who jumped into the street to catch a tram. I made a note to be cautious of these electric monstrosities.
There was another free couch in Toronto, a friend from Vegas and his girlfriend. We drank heavily, discussed business ideas and politics.
The Toronto apartment and host dog, Rocky
Kingston, ON was next. My sister’s brother-in-law, Chuck, was there on business and I got a steak dinner at The Keg, beers and a soft bed in a hotel room.
Chuck told me that he remembered being my age recently and then BAM, he’s turning 40. He said after 25 it’s a quick rollercoaster ride and you wake up one day and realize you’re not young anymore.
Hotel in Kingston
Chuck went west in the morning while the Dolphin’s front wheel headed east, towards Montreal.
Cheeseburner screwed with this post 01-27-2014 at 08:51 AM
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