SS1000 and the Mild Hogs – A Motorcycle Adventure

Summary: This is a longer post so I thought to put a summary here to whet your appetite. This is a recap of a grueling and exhilarating trip made from San Diego to Saint Louis on a motorcycle in my first attempt at a Saddle Sore 1000; I caught a flight to Canada for a couple days work; then back to reconnect with the bike and some Canadian friends (AKA The Mild Hogs) in Saint Louis for the trip back to San Diego. Along the way we confirmed trust for lifelong friends, constant jokes/pranks, nonstop fun, the occasional beer, any time friends get together there is BBQ, and of course the sights. What took me three days of grueling marathon riding in inclement weather took The Mild Hogs seven days at a slightly brisk pace making plenty of time to stop for the sights. Even a little bit of what remains of route 66.

Planning:  What planning? Ok, there was definitely some research that went into this trip.  Don’t let anyone lie to you and say they did not prepare, research, or train for trips like this. Hours spent pouring over maps, reading stories (like this one) online, and making lists which would be checked and rechecked.

I had never attempted an endurance ride but I had quite a few miles to cover on this trip … so why not try! The Saddle Sore 1000 is a certified ride. The basic overview is that you have 24 hours to ride 1000 miles. Friends, family, strangers, or authorities can certify your start and stop time. You submit gas receipts and/or photos of your mileage as proof. You submit a package of evidence and if acceptable you get a certificate and patch for your jacket. So you get a sense of accomplishment and bragging rights. The best plan I could come up with was to leave from Albuquerque and ride straight through to Saint Louis in one day. It would keep me on freeways where I could keep a high and constant speed.

My route was selected to maximize some enjoyment before the SS1000 and to ensure best results for success during the SS1000.  Originally that meant going from Oklahoma city straight to St. Louis. The map below reflects the detour North that was required due to a massive storm (we’ll get to that). From Phoenix to Albuquerque I sought to go through the old home town and ride over the Mogollon (Muh-gee-on) Rim which has many special memories hunting, fishing and hiking as a kid.

Basic mission: ride over ‘the rim’, take a direct route to St. Louis to complete the SS1000, make my flight to Canada, return with the Mild Hogs…. everything is flexible or subject to change.1stlegtoSTL

Hitting the road:

I had tried to commit to full day of work before hitting the road in the evening towards20150521_074039Phoenix. Having arranged lodging at my old High School friend’s place meant that I could show up whenever, without pants or judgement, but having said that… I wanted time to eat, drink, and be merry. So this weighed heavily on my mind as the day got long and I stared out the office window at my bike in the parking lot. I knew that the cases were at home, loaded, waiting for me. The imperceptible hum of phosphorescent lights, the periodic office talk outside my door, pretending to be engaged, the air conditioner clicking on and moaning every 22 minutes….’Ah, F*** it’…it was all I could take… the lameness of office life hit the unbearable threshold at 2pm. I bailed.

On the road headed East into the desert. Twisting down the mountain road through boulders with the bike, laden with gear for the adventure and a proper suit for my meetings. My mind envelops itself. This is a good time to discuss why we live the way we do. Who looked at a desk and chair then decided it would be best if we sat there for most of our adult lives? Consider that you have none, zero, zip, control of the quantity of life you get…fatalistic? Yes, but then we all cross the street, cut a line, take the pill, shower, walk, breathe and take a ton of other risks everyday. Tomorrow you will be diagnosed with cancer, get hit by that car/bus/meteorite/dildo, poisoned by water/air/food/television… everyone should be most fearful that as they lay there gasping for the last breath.. your last thought should not be that you did nothing with your life except keep up with the latest social television talent show.  You don’t get any more quantity of life. None. Make sure you adjust the quality of how you live your life by including adventures.

Speaking of quality, I rarely miss a chance at a ‘date shake’ which is not when you throttle your date. Rather it is a delicious milkshake

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Fatty likes date shakes!

with fresh dates from the gas station in Dateland, CA. Convenient, yes! My inner fat kid likes milkshakes … so I get one every time. This is a good opportunity to stretch, drain one tank, and fill another. Small bits of date ‘thunk’ through the straw. The milky rich date shake goes down nicely and reinvigorates me.

I stood next to the bike sipping a date shake at the required speed to not get brain freeze. A guy pulls up in a dilapidated truck filled with the requisite crap from floorboard to ceiling, including a mangy Chihuahua hanging out the window.  ‘People watching’ at gas stations and truck stops is definitely the Premier League. This tiny version of a dog ends up wandering around the gas station begging for a new life while its ‘crackie’ owner rolls a tire across the parking lot to fill at the air pump. I ad lib the rest of the story, he is working a vehicle that will never see a registration again. Big dreams, Cletus!  Naturally the crack-dog gives a different bumpkin excuse to ask me if it is mine and strike up conversation. I said simply, ‘no, not mine’ then turned around as he started explaining, “… that he thought it was because…. “(trails off as I engage ignore mode).

Back on the road! Gila Bend is always good for a laugh. There are large metal sculptures of dinosaurs and hotels with alien themes. The desert does strange things to the mind. A cold front had past through so the temperature was really comfortable.  I snapped a few pictures along the way as the sun started changing the colors of the desert.

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A lonely Arizona Highway

It was good to see Katie and finally meet Riley. I grab just the bare essentials out of the panniers and am shown to the guest room. Nickel tour of the house… 1960’s brick, ranch style, well decorated…I like it! Nice yard, garden, and a pool. I am handed a Captain & water (twist of lemon) which is Katie’s drink she calls Brown Water. She advertises that “you have to stay hydrated in PHX, … so drink lots of these!” Time is getting away from us as we catch up and her friend is coming over. We head over to the corner bar for beer and burgers. Katie’s friend is a roller derby chick that Katie used to skate with. That means just like Katie she is damn near a sailor. Just so happens there is sign hanging to that effect…

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Couple of beers, burger, lots of good conversation, back to the house, couple more drinks on the porch… then it is good night.

Wake up around 730 (it is a curse) and have a mean case of the beer shits. Title fights go 10 rounds but I managed a TKO in four . Did some prevent on the hangover since I knew riding all day with a throbbing head would suck. Lots of water… couple coffees, and scrambled eggs then bid my old friends well wishes. Back onto the road. Getting out of Phoenix was easy. Made the usual gas stop at the Indian reservation on HWY87 before going North towards Payson. Some Memorial Day traffic (boats, trailers, campers) but everything keeps moving right along. Payson, my old home town, and I need gas. Second breakfast of huevos rancheros (have to feed the hangover) at a local Mexican restaurant. Small towns change so much as they grow. I gobble my food as people look at me strangely. This is a cowboy town and I look like a professional wrestler wearing a Power Ranger costume. I might still smell of booze and I am eating like a barbarian. Only day two of the trip and I am getting looks like I have been in the back country for a month. I would say this is going pretty well!

Up over the Mogollon Rim. Vast expanses of wilderness and huge vistas from atop a 2000 foot cliff (plateau) that runs across 1/2 the state of Arizona. Mostly covered with Ponderosa Pine. I really could have stayed here a couple days reminiscing. Too bad I set a schedule. I sense another trip in the planning…20150522_122841

I rolled onto the I-40 in Holbrook and pointed the Pachyderm East towards Albuquerque. The freeway passes many small towns, devoid of opportunities, hawking maple logs, advertising tourist traps, free petrified wood, real Indian jewelry, etc. It is best to not make eye contact with these ‘attractions’ as they are designed only to drain your wallet for nick knacks you will throw away later.

The weather held steady at about 75 degrees. About 50 miles outside of Albuquerque the wind starts up. Tired from the hangover and the miles… so the effect of the wind is hitting me more than usual. My neck is pinching, I’m getting really battered by the 45 mph gusts. At times even pushing the bike around. Extra concentration required causing extra tension in my neck. What a pain in the neck! Just as I was about to loose my mind, cramps, pain, urrrghhh! The freeway dropped into town … now sheltered from most of the wind by high walls. GPS is pointing me to my AirBnB accommodations. And I am very happy to see the 1800’s Adobe Art Commune. This should be interesting!

The place is right up my alley. Industrial art… a huge shop in the back and old antique tractors in the field. The older gentleman (Ed) greets me as I take off my helmet. He is the welder and artist from what I can tell…the boss-wife is out. “Looks like you could use a beer!”, he bellows. I respond positively and he goes into the house briefly returning with two cold cans. He starts to apologize for the Miller Lite and I correct him.  It is the best beer I have had today.  He shows me my room, gives basic instructions, and leaves me to it as I unpack gear.

The house (highly recommended)is a eclectic collection of worldly goods and art. A 50’s jukebox is lit up in the corner. Cool place with lots to look at. Ed suggest the Church St. Café in the historic Old Town district. I change and decide to head that way just as it is getting dark. The Old Town district is a ‘Hodge-podge’ of 100+ year old adobe building mostly occupied by artists, healers, and hippies. Neat place to walk around with the tourists. Google directs me straight into café. Really cool place with traditional Mexican food and lots of colorful things to look at.

Not a huge difference from San Diego Mexican Food which makes me laugh because all the locals do brag about how it is ‘the best”.  I think it is just standard, good, traditional Mexican food but then I tell people ‘the best’ Mexican food is in San Diego… I sat on the patio, awkward since the rest of the folks were couples. They gave me the looks as I sat there by myself reading up on my next leg of the trip.I had my Negra Modelo, chips and salsa, then the combo plate (Chile relleno, tamale, and enchilada) so I can try a little of everything.

Stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable I roll eight blocks back to the house where some other guests had arrived. A trio of Scandinavians. I chatted with them a while about their adventures, had a half glass of wine and then passed out in bed with all my clothes on. Around 1am I woke up to strip down for bed and brush teeth. The house was silent.

SS1000

I woke up naturally around 7am.  The goal was to sleep in a bit knowing that the rest would help with the Saddle Sore 1000 (SS1K) (1000 miles in 24 hrs) attempt. Albuquerque to Saint Louis (STL) in one day; 1036 miles. The rationale was to start late, run late, quick stealth camp somewhere outside of Tulsa, then finish early in the morning the next day. In spite of what I have learned from past rides….I did some stretching and yoga on the floor.A girlfriend had introduced me to Yoga. Truly I wanted to hate it…but I do not. The stretching and power holds are fantastic isometric workouts when you have nothing else. Also, to accompany weight training it is really good at getting into those muscles you never work. In any case…I did not pull a back muscle this time.

Just Ed and I having coffee at the community table. Ate a delicious chocolate puff pastry. Some store bought frozen thing set up with instructions on how to start the toaster oven the night before.  I actually liked having coffee with Ed. Too bad I have to get on the road. I showered and generally took my time about getting on the bike. (this will come back to bite me later) After asking Ed to sign for the official witness to start the SS1000. Down the dirt drive to the road I go… about 10am with a quick stop for gas and collect my first receipt. Ed had warned me it was boring ride from till Amarillo… he was very right. Nothing much to see. About 20 miles west of Amarillo I did start to  see massive thunderheads though…. hmmm, worrisome.

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Ominous clouds

I got up to edge of this storm and stopped at a rest stop to dump the canvas bag, which was lashed to the back seat, into my contingency trash bag. I had sprayed this bag with water repellent but still do not trust that it is water proof.  I also put the rain liner into my jacket hoping I was just being cautious. Nope… the skies opened up and the wrath of Mother Nature began to rain down on me. I pulled off for gas before getting too wet and waited it our under the protection of the big gas station. After about 30 minutes a clearing opened up. ‘Now’s my chance,” I thought and I jumped back on the road thinking, “that was not too bad a delay… I’ll still make it if I can stay in the clearing.” Wrong, 10 miles later again, torrents

of water, freeway 2 inches deep, I exit into a flooded off ramp about a foot deep and creep into the protection of a smaller gas station. Another 45 precious minutes lost and again a break in the storm. A sunbeam encourages me to try again. I check my weather app on the phone to see a HUGE ball of red on the Doppler, and medium dark green blob on the just ahead of me… well hopefully it is moving faster than I am. Nope. 10 miles later I run into the back of the storm again. This time pulling off at a motel in a very sketchy abandoned roadside area that saw it’s prime in about 1952. I removed the motorcycle gear and hung it on the bike to drip dry. Gloves went on top of the Beemer’s valve covers to dry them a bit. I talk with friends and family on the phone to give them the update. Forty-Five minutes chatting with my parents in AK. I get all the standard, ‘be careful,’ ‘don’t take unnecessary chances,’ etc. which I appreciate and know. I contemplate heading back to Amarillo but then I look ahead and the sky is lighter. HOPE! Checking in with the weather app and there is a gap in the storm. “If I can just thread the needle through that gap” and make Oklahoma City, I’ll be ahead of it! Wrong. Mother Nature was not done yet.

I cruised under ominous skies but mostly in the dry up till just outside of Elk City, OK. A two horse town named Sayre. Slight sprinkle and I need gas. I’ll just pop in here. Sky is getting a scary shade of black anyway. I gas up (cash only as the machines are down), make some calls, and then am approached by two local good ol’ boys. They ask about the bike briefly and incredulous about my journey. Then say,  ‘whelp, I wouldn’t head that way no how… freeway is flooded up ahead… tornado hit…OKC is flooded…”

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Just before the tornadoes hit.

The sky had started to dump on us again. Big raindrops now…and coming sideways in sheets. We stood under the gas station awning watching swirling black skies and lightning. I was not contempt to give up just yet but I definitely had to wait a while. As we talked a steady stream of truckers pulled in behind me for twenty minutes.

Two hours later, a meatball sub at Subway, and lots of weather channel doom and gloom… I decide to hotel up. Now if I can only get out of this place!  Booked a hotel from the phone and geared up to ride. As the rain calmed down from Armageddon to just the worst thunderstorm ever.  I hit the road to ride back a couple exits to the hotel. I was alone on the road….(gee do you think this is a good idea?) The truckers had long since battened down the hatches and found shelter. I caught myself thinking what the F*** am I doing? The visor was fogged, the rain totally soaking, sitting in a puddle, I crept down the freeway with my hazards on at 20 mph. Through a 3 foot deep puddle on the off ramp finally rolling into the hotel parking lot. Credit card machines are down here as well… after some ‘country ingenuity’ failed to make them work they just asked that I check out with them in the morning. I was fine with that. Key please! Everything I had on was wet and ended up on the wall heater, hangers, or the back of the door to dry out. Time for a little rest and try to continue on in the morning… As I lay down I had to think ‘damn, maybe if I had left Albuquerque early I could have been ahead of this whole mess.‘ Of course I also could have been 50 miles ahead and in a bigger world of hurt as well. 1am is about the time I drifted off.

Morning came too quickly; just 4 hours sleep. I stare a the roof, toss, turned, tried to force sleep but the sandman does what he wants. ‘Might as well get up‘ since I cannot sleep anyway. Miles yet to go yet. Rotated some of the gear on the heater to try to finish some items that were still a little moist.  The sky is still cloudy, a light low fog, but it is a light enough.  Most of the lakes seem to have drained off….I need to get going. In the lobby for some breakfast I scarfed down the continental breakfast which sucked but hey, $Free-99. Make your own waffle, yogurt, packaged danish. Transaction completed with the front desk I am on the road again; dry roads make for good time. In the back of my head I thought about the next round which was predicted on the Weather Channel last night…. ‘I had better get out of here before that hits’ I thought, over and over.

While stopping for gas I thought to check my weather app to see what the day had in store for me…. but also to see what alternate path I might need to take. The initial plan was for I-40 to I-44. The weather app shows showers ahead on I-44 and more moving up from Texas. I see a route north which may take me out of the path of the storm but adds one hour. Based on the rain delay already caused by storms I decided that riding was better than sheltering in place again even if it adds to an already long day. There was no hope to complete the SS1000 anymore. So North I-35/I-435 and add Kansas to my list.

Just outside of OKC I hit another squall and start to wonder if I had made the right decision. Sheltering at a gas station with a nice older couple that were 2-up on a big Yamaha Shadow doing the same (only they actually had Frog Togs (wet gear)). We talked for a little while and shared stories. I killed another subway sandwich in a gas station. They were headed South while I was headed North.  I warned them about the weather they were headed into and they told me it was mostly clear to the North. Well, they were mostly right… I hit weather two more times in Oklahoma and then miraculously as soon as I got to the Kansas border the rain stopped. All that Kansas praying must be paying off.  I ran all the way across Kansas to Kansas City (KC) without a drop. Awesome! The roads had some character as well (slight turns every mile or so to keep you awake). As uneventful as Kansas was… I was very thankful to have the break from high focus riding. It was actually kind of beautiful until I got to Kansas City.

KC was interesting. I could smell BBQ from the freeway as soon as I hit town and figured not only being in KC BBQ must be fantastic but also that since it was Memorial Weekend everyone was BBQ’ing (jealous and always need more time). I also noted that when on long trips across country it is odd to ride in town with traffic. Adjusting from Wide Open Throttle (WOT) type cruising to dodging traffic on 5 lane city freeways is a complete shift of approach. Since I was tired I was very conscience of the change and verbally reminded myself to pay close attention. ‘Pay attention dumb ass!’

Gas’n’go (forgot to stretch/arse is sore) – finally onto the I-70. Home stretch. A gas stop in conjunction with rain which was nice to have cover while gassing. The cast of characters has changed. Each gas stop more ‘interesting’ people present themselves in public (why these people are in public I have no idea). While waiting in line to pay for a snack a whole family is eagerly waiting for their transaction to go through. The members of this family each look like Sesame Street Muppets with the ring leader being a late 20’s woman, sporting a disheveled purple Mohawk, low cut shirt hiding two fired eggs. Ug… finally, after tying up the one of the two registers and a line of 15 people had formed their state provided credit card was denied enough times for them to give up home on the pile of gas station sandwiches, Mountain Dew, and candy bars they were planning for dinner. Good grief. As far as entertainment goes, and while I enjoyed standing (as opposed to smashing my ass back into the saddle), it was fine. To judge and consider this a representation of America or humanity it was disturbing and sad. Ok, we’ll leave the locals alone for a couple miles.  Back on the road and battling on-and-off storms.

Why couldn’t the weather hold like it did in Kansas? For safety I felt compelled to stopped again at a rest stop. Then another at a gas station. Shortly afterward the county representatives made their public reappearance.  A red suburban backing up the freeway on-ramp while another Bubba hollered at the vehicle making wild arm gestures… not sure what that is about but at least I don’t have to stop here.  Only a couple more miles down the road the clouds open back up to rain on my parade. I got caught on the road in a huge dump of rain. Semi trucks are crushing past me throwing up huge waves that are battering me about. Visibility is nil.  Creeping the fat bike another two miles to the next off ramp, before exiting to find whatever I could for shelter. I saw a huge Conoco gas station sign and was hopeful. Damn the luck, the place is abandoned and in disrepair.

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Adventure? Yea, We got that.

There is an entryway to the building that juts out about 4 feet. I pull the bike up into the ‘shelter’ near abandoned 55 gallon drums and watch as the wrath of God abuse the landscape. ‘Well, at least I’m not on the road!‘ I text family and friends to let them know I’m alright as they are expecting me or worried about the storms the Weather Channel had been broadcasting nationally. Only an idiot would be riding in this weather… haha!.

Never have I been one for luck, games of chance, and the lotto… yea right. What are the chances of Cletus and Bubba pulling up right now? Wouldn’t you know it… the red Suburban pulls into the dirt lot and is aimed right at me.

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Queue the banjos and hide your goats.

They stop about 60 yards away. ‘Awww, shit‘ I think to myself. Really starting to question my decision not to bring a pistol. I grab the knife out of my tank bag thinking, ‘well I’m not going down without a fight and if this can dress a pig it’ll do a number on this fat-f***s‘. They do not come. I snap a picture and text it to friends thinking at least it will help the police to identify the bumpkins that raped my corpse. Bubba gets out of the Suburban, walks around the truck and gets into the back. A few minutes go by. Bubba gets out of the back of the truck and goes back around to the passenger seat. A few minutes go by. This repeats about five times. Very odd but the rain is starting to let up. The red Suburban drives counter clockwise around the side of the building. ‘Crap‘, I lost eyes-on. I decide I should point the bike at the exit in case they are trying to flank me. If they pop out from the other side of the building I would never see them coming. I roll the bike out away from the building and start putting gear back on…. and roll out. Never did see what happened to the vehicle. They had to have parked right up behind the building or I would have seen them as I got back on the freeway. The whole situation was all very sketchy. **Note to self: pack heat when in Meth-Country and stop earlier at more populated exits.**

Back on the road and twisting the throttle hard to put some miles between me and Deliverance. One or two small showers but not enough to get me off the road again. Rain seems like a safer alternative than having country boys run a train on me. About 50 miles out from Saint Louis the sky lightens up and the roads dry. The air is clean and just warm enough. Everything feels so clean after a good rain.

I cruise easily through the city to Florissant and find my Navy buddy Tim’s House. Pulling into the driveway just as last light was fading. He met me at the door, big hug, ‘You want a beer?‘, seems to be the correct way to greet a traveler…. ‘Damned right I do!‘.

The bike went into the garage next to the 1960’s era Volvo thing (cool car just cannot ever remember what it is). I dropped a broadcast text to those that were tracking my progress letting them know I had arrived. Tim showed me to a bedroom then introduced me to two growlers and a BBQ bacon wrapped pork loin with some salad. I shared my adventure with Tim and Liz (wife). I had to repack my bags for the flight in the morning to Ottawa, Canada. Liz put my suit into a dry cleaning bag and took it upon herself to sort out my clothes. What a fantastic woman. You are a lucky man, Tim.

Quick adventure pause as we do some work

A recurring problem in my life… the anticlimactic come down. The transition from riding days to  real life is surreal. Only hours ago I was worried about rain, being smeared by holiday drivers and the rectal integrity of my corpse.  Yet there I stood in a tailored suit, Hugo Boss cuff links, practicing French in my head with a thousand yard stare across the tarmac. Transitions from adventure life to business life are tough. I sit in the International Airport in Saint Louis waiting for a flight to Ottawa. I pick at my fingers which are grimy despite four hand washes and 2 showers. I laugh out loud (for real) as I see my fingers contrast against my business socks.

My meetings go fine… people drone on about things. It all means something but I already know the pitch therefore I am disengaged. After a successful day our partner company invites us to a very exclusive dinner at Sterling.

A fantastic dinner and wine selection. The company was not bad. A mix of old and middle aged former-military contractors. The better aged meat in the room was the beef…. easily in the top five steaks I have every had. The gentleman who owned and operated the restaurant was extremely proud of his wine selection and showed off some very pricey bottles. Upwards of $14,000 a bottle. I was happy when he confirmed what I have always believed… there is no difference between that bottle and a $25 bottle. Mostly marketing and exclusivity. If a bottle becomes famous and rare … it gets expensive. Otherwise there is very very little difference. A grape is a grape. Ferment that grape and filter it for only slight variations in taste. Feel free to comment with your opinion… I’d love to hear more from experts. I had synchronized with the Mild Hogs by phone while in Ottawa to ensure they were still on schedule to meet me a few days later.

Family Time

Tim picks me up at the airport and hands me a brown paper bag from REI. He knows that I love gear and he thought I needed. A Hydro Flask for water, coffee, etc…. (If you use that link it helps support this blog!) Initially I thanked him and told him I would try it not giving much thought to the bottle. I had a bottle already, so what… ? But when I filled it with ice in Kansas City, added water at each stop, had cold water all day, and rolled into Las Vegas with ice still… I was sold. (In fact it is sitting in front of me right now and I use it at home! I cannot brag enough on this thing! There are cheaper offerings… I’ll put up a product review with a couple options and prices)

I really needed a couple of lazy days with my sisters family. Her husband, an older and less world worn facsimile of myself, could easily pass for my older or younger brother. Aaron is a great guy, who works hard, is extremely focused and intelligent, kind, and one could not ask for a better brother-in-law. They have three young boys. Naturally, Uncle Bobby is there to give them knives, fireworks, and booze…ok they are 2, 4, and 6 years old. I might have to wait 2 or 3 years on the booze. I spend some hours of the day catching up on email and the rest of the hours/day distracting the boys from their very structured mother imposed routine. I caught more than a few rolled eyes or ‘come on’ looks, HA!  That’s what I’m here for!

The boys loved sitting on the bike! I had to be sure to rotate them so each could ‘drive’. As we came back from lunch or errands Lucas pipes up, “Maybe I should sit on the bike?” How can you say no to that… so another lift to the back of the bike. Vroom, vroom… I added a couple of other pictures of kids sitting for good measure. In the middle they sit just long enough to cram lunch into their face holes. Third picture Lucas is stoked about the chairs at the Cabelas store. He was so happy about it that I later got him a ‘fishing chair’ for Christmas. Family time is good but must end lest we loose our grasp on sanity. The Mild Hogs roll into the neighborhood causing quite a stir as these upper middle class god fearing folk are not used to seeing ‘people like us’.

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…and now back to our scheduled adventure

We say our goodbyes and hit the road towards Kansas City. So excited about a second chance to try to KC BBQ. Knowing that I might have another shot in KC I had been asking around. At least three people say we have to do Kansas City Joes, ‘…its in a gas station..’ they say. With so many good data points directing us to KC Joes we set out to find the best BBQ in Kansas City.

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We park the bikes, doff our gear, just as the last light is leaving the sky. All of us are excited to try this world famous place. I jog out into the road to snap this picture… commemorating this historic occasion.  We start inside;  door is locked. WTF!? I look inside… not a soul. My brain decides to read as a measure of unfolding this mystery. Sunday – 8-5, Monday – Closed…. my heart drops. No BBQ!? But… uh, why!?  Finally, one of the guys talks me off the cliff… ‘It’s Kansas City, there has to be another place.‘ Ok.. let’s get into the hotel and then let UBER figure it out.

First hotel has no room for us but one block down they do have room for us. Easy for no planning! This is my first night with my doughy, pasty white, Canadian girlfriend … who happens to be a dude. We discuss how to work sleeping arrangements. Two queen beds… but round middle aged Canadians require CPAP machines when sleeping. Two of the three have CPAPs. I get the speech about how it is easier to sleep with it on one side and the power outlet is here…blah blah blah. I don’t care! Just pick a bed so I know which one to put my stuff on! having been educated on that bit it was not an issue for those that tend to lag. I could just go about my routine without waiting. This is noteworthy because this thread is woven throughout the trip.

We make our way to the UBER and get a recommendation on BBQ. It is a cafeteria type restaurant that I don’t recall the name. It was just OK.  I order the BBQ mix plate and  pitcher of Pecan Brown Ale. The gal behind the counter is incredulous when I respond to her question about how many glasses. One. Duh!  It felt like the scene from The Blues Brothers where Aretha Franklin says, ‘…get a load of these guys! One wants four fired chickens and a Coke!’ As the gal taking my order had to holler back to the kitchen about the odd ball orders. Then had to confirm them since the guys in the back were gawking at us. HA!

The boys all follow suit and closely match my order. I am guessing they do not get a lot of military in here… else they would not blink once at a pitcher per man. BBQ check! Buzz check!

Morning comes quick and we don our gear. Being that this is our first group exodus we all hit snags. I quickly realize that I have carried absolutely everything i own into the hotel for no reason. Only need electronics, clean shorts, socks, and toiletries.  I am a quick learner so make these changes the next day. Not all of us figured this out so quickly. (DAN! lol) They are on a 28 day trip,  I’m only joining for a week but they prepped  for an Everest expedition with electronics,  clothes,  cameras,  and survival gear. To be fair it is a tough adjustment to make if you are writing each night, emailing for work, and have a Darth Vader breathing device to haul around.

We have started to question some of our GPS directions… I use WAZE (cell phone app) and a Ram ball holder and the consensus is that my free app is doing better than their $400 GPS units which seem better suited for getting you to a dealer for an oil change. We wander out of town on a neat double bridge which by pure accident assisted us in skipping traffic. Literally, then next day  is just hauling ass across the flat lands trying to get to something more interesting. Gas stops, shite fast food, and just a slog across the boring parts of this great land. Finally, an afternoon thunderstorm as we come into Colorado Springs. The mountains are epic and we are all giddy at the prospect of mountains.

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With mountains come the need to relieve oneself. I snapped a couple of John doing his business. More important are the Rockies in the background. Our … purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain… was a magnificent change after so much ‘plain’.  We saw pronghorn on the side of the road. Seemed to have just skirted a huge storm which left us with sunset over the Rockies on the right side of the road and black clouds behind a huge rainbow on the left side of the road. I determine in my mind that St. Louis is not the gateway to the west… Co. Springs is. (suck it STL…lol)

The hotel phase of the mission was upon us. Again, Google Maps, ‘hotel’ zoom around and find a deal. Trial and error. The young lady working the front counter calls around for us and finds rooms. We check in and commit to meeting in the bar/restaurant in the hotel next door. Our small hotel does not have one. Standard bar with standard burger to form a standard turd. Each of us thankful to the end for all of it as we recap the day… when we all hit 100mph. The guys were excited to be able to take off helmets in the lesser states (I left mine on). Recap and story and joke till we all had our fill. The Mild Hogs were the only ones in the bar so the middle aged gal running the bar was free to be entertained by us.

Taps! Taps! Lights out… tomorrow was going to be a big day with lots to do.

John and I are first to the bikes.  He and Fred were Canadian Airborne snipers so they are up early.  Dan is retired Canadian Air Force and firmly at the bottom of the pecking order. Since he takes longer to get ready in the morning we always have  plenty of time to move his bike.

Quick jog up to Denver. I needed new tires unexpectedly and the guys teach me something about patience. I am not sure I would have exhibited as much class and patience as they did while we waited 3 hours for BMW to fleece my wallet. I like to do my own work rather than going to the ‘stealership’ but when on the road and you need tires…what can I do? Just bit the bullet and got it done. Fred wants to mail some extra stuff home, Dan wants to play with the GPS we have been ribbing him about buying after his old one crapped out, John is contempt to look at bikes, find a bit of shade, and generally just look cool.

Feeling good with the new rubber we try to burn some of it getting out of town. It is unseasonably warm, Denver traffic is a mess, and you cannot split lanes in this state. WTH!? Are they high or something… ooooh, yes, they are. Ok, well we try to maintain the same kind of patience as at the bike shop but the bikes were overheating. It was the hottest the bike had been,  one bar left till red zone on the poor old 1150gs.  I started turning the bike off and coasting at stop points to try an be save the engine.  Riders were suffering as well. Eventually we made it to our turn off and made haste towards Page. We knew it was too late to make Page or Farmington  today. We climbed into the mountains and were relieved that the temperature finally cooled off as we gained elevation. Cool freeway (40 I think) climbing to nearly 12k  feet then going through the Eisenhower tunnel at the pass.

So happy to be out of the flat lands. Our moods improved immensely as we roll down the hill looking at snow capped mountains,  elk,  and rivers.  All of us were beat even though it was a small mileage day.  We stopped in Avon, CO to get gas, where I caught my pant leg on the kickstand. I put it down, as I pulled my leg back the stand came with it. DOH! Slow motion as  gently lay the bike over at the pump.  I quickly picked it up (no damage to the rugged R1150GS) and we decided to stay the night. What becomes a mantra afterwards that will get a chuckle the rest of the trip, and even today, ‘KICKSTAND DOWN!‘. We later add, ‘RADIO OFF‘ since we are yet to learn how the Scala Rider 9x headsets, which are brilliant after you figure them out, but can be defaulted to automatically turn on the radio. Now…. if you are Fred, 300+ lbs looking like a complete bad ass riding a black bike through the desert, and your

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Radio OFF!!!! DAMN IT!!!!!

headset radio is connected to Bluetooth to your dash speakers. That radio might just turn on at full blast playing ‘Girls just want to have fun!‘ as you drive across the parking lot…. well lets just say the rest of us got a pretty good laugh.

Exhausted from the long day we get drop gear in the room and crash. It is short hike to anything, and we are just not going to get that done today. Shamelessly we order take out to the room, drink rum till we are lubed (elevation + dehydration + heavy handed pours = 2 drinks), then pass out.

The Mild Hogs have nearly become a well oiled machine. Fred and I are typically eating while John is washing all of our windscreens. After we are done eating Dan wanders down and we lash on gear then roll out.  Today is the first big day. We expect to go over the world famous Million Dollar Highway. A bit of winding around the mountains first for warm up. the pace was fast as we smashed through a good bit of the civilized highway. At one point I had to stop and get a picture because I felt we were seeing too many things and going too fast past them!

Someone’s GPS may or may not have ended up in the drink to be found by future archaeologists who will marvel at the primitive circuits or just wonder why we considered liquid crystal so precious. Before we know it the road comes up against the base of a mountain,  Small old west, mountain mining town (presently part year tourist wallet lightener) Ouwray. Neat little old west feeling town that I now wish we would have spent some time in rather than fixating on the switchbacks of a goat trail that leads up the mountain in front of us… Maybe next trip. The mountain towers over us reminding us that this is an unforgiving endevour. The Million Dollar Highway! Warning signs tell us to slow down,  truckers advised not to go this way,  speed limit 20 mph then 10 mph … switchbacks crawl us up the mountain face and we lean steeply into banked turns at low speed.  No guard rails and sheer drop offs. Incredible views! We climb,  climb,  climb,  up and up. Cresting at over 11,000 ft. Tunnels poke vehicles through the impassable bits of sheer rock then open up to deadly vistas, each more craggy, interesting, and distracting than the last. Snow capped mountains and waterfalls around each bend tempting us to gawk rather than focus on the road.  I say to myself out loud, ‘ focus‘, there are rocks in the road so I do have to pay attention.  Focused on the road but sneaking peeks of the mountains too.

On a bike you are out in the air experiencing all of this first hand. You do see and feel much more than in a car. A famous motorcycling psychology book likened it to ‘being there’ versus watching it through’ the glass of your television’. It is a very good analogy. Without the cage of steel and glass around you all senses are activated taking in the mountains. You hear things, smell things, feel things and experience in three dimensions when a bird swoops past your head or a bug splats your face-shield. Clearing the final pass and winding down the back of the mountain another 30 minutes towards Durango.  I think to myself , `I’m glad we rested in Avon`. Passing this section tired and in the dark would have been a dangerous waste.  At the bottom of the hill we stop at the gas station, pictures, high-fives and hugs, Dan buys a six pack to share.

We give some shit to Dan (the planner and keeper of the binder) and make fun of the folder he created to guide the trip. Fred asks joking why we skipped Arches just to do that. Ha,  Million Dollar Highway was worth skipping Arches anyway but never miss an opportunity to take the piss out of Dan. If Million Dollar Highway is not on your Bucket List;  go ahead and add it now. Still high from that last hour of riding we roll on towards Farmington, NM to find rooms for the night. Familiar story…No room in the first hotel. The flirty cute Mexican girl at the desk is nice enough to call around for us and finds rooms just up the road. Burger, beer, and bed – road trip staples.

Hotel gratis breakfast had eggs with green chills!  I tried to goad the Canadians into trying them but they have Midwest taste buds (salt is spice), so  no takers. My mother used to put these in our eggs. She went to University in Albuquerque so had a bit of New Mexican food sense… whereby I suppose I got some too. ‘Seconds on the eggs and green chills, Please! Who knows when I’ll be back through here.’ Gearing is second nature (even for those with too much gear). We roll back through Farmington with only one GPS ‘short cut’ through a industrial parking lot. My phone still is the better of the four GPS and only has these strange short cuts about every 600-800 miles whereas the guys GPS short cuts have us going to their bike specific dealerships in Timbuktu; you know on the way…to Durango.

I welcome the guys to ‘The West’ and warn about drinking plenty of water also preload how beautiful (but dangerous) the desert is in its own way. The next few days their blow minds and expectations as Canada doesn’t have these kind of badlands. Having been an outdoorsman in AZ and CA for many years I have heard many stories about those who are unprepared; even have a few of my own stories. We are highway riding so not too big a deal. They understand the in-brief and accept the information.

Four Corners – We arrive early on a weekday so the site is absent the throngs of people I half expected. First thing I do is circumnavigate the site. One – ride 4 states in 15 seconds (duh) but Two – it is not a paved parking lot as you might expect. Rather,  a dirt lot with rocks jutting out and small burms. Let’s try to make this fun! Up and down the burns, small rock showers away from the building that circles the site. I roll up and over a burm to meet the guys parking their heavy cruisers neatly. One cruiser did follow me around though, Dan! I had attempted to park in the shade but realized that the spots up next to the building were for vendors. *sigh* The whole site is circled by vendors set up in booths. Sure they need licensing and probably pay a fee but the site has been commercialized, damn. Anyway we walk out to the medallion and snap our pictures. Each of us on the center, each of us in a different state, the medallion alone… Four Corners done. Dad always said, ‘Don’t loiter in the desert.’ Off to Zion.

As we cross the arid land. Large stone structures jut out of the ground like apartment complexes for ancient Indians. There are times you think you are on Mars and constantly I thought about the settlers with admiration. What hearty people they had to be to come hear and say, “I think we’ll put the house right over there.” Tough people used to live out west. My mind flashes to LA and the entertainment shows that eroding the minds of Americans… what happened? Indians lived here for eons before the settlers and they thrived. Even when whites showed up with their guns and disease the Natives were impossible to find in the mountains. Each hill I passed I thought about Natives living on top of the mesas and keeping watch over their lands. A sense of pride came over me and I’m not even Native! The Mild Hogs make a gas stop just outside of Zion; just in case. I destroy a burger while standing at the gas pump while the other three eat in a more civilized manner, inside. My time outside in the world is more valuable even if it is next to the gas pump. I don’t feel comfortable inside anymore; and I like it.

A man about in his mid-forties on a Kawasaki (maybe a 500?) rolls up to the pump behind me. Gives a nod and we strike up conversation. His bike is a rigged out enduro and the bike shows he rides it off road. His son lives just up the road and he visits a couple times a year. This trip is to dial in a new bow for turkey season. We swap a couple stories and determine we are cut from the same cloth, make everything into an adventure, and actually live your life while living your life. People talked about quality of life all the time without knowing what it really is. Jumping out of a plane for a Facebook picture is BS. Someone else does all the work and you just show up. No adventure there. You are back in bed that night.

Entering Zion, Dan pays, I’m on a budget so happy to let him. 🙂 We form up in order to box out cars enough to get some good pictures. We move slowly to take in the amazing views. The speed limit is low anyway but we are going much slower in order to take pictures. The road in Zion is tinted red as well. This reminds me of the old AZ highways back in the 80’s. Why don’t states do that kind of interesting differentiating stuff anymore? Cheaper to be the same as everyone else I guess. Twisty roads hug the cliffs of Zion. Checker board cliffs, red and swirled vanilla plateaus with pine trees peeking out of the crevasses. The sun was beaming down on us from directly overhead so there was very little shadow.  Rolling rocks that looked like waves.

I think about the forces that made these interesting features. Millennia of volcanoes, wind, water, tectonics, and tides. I usually resist the tourist urge but I cannot help it here. I unashamedly take the camera out, unzip the front of my jacket, and leave the camera on – throwing it into the front of my jacket, grabbing… thrust the camera into the air …point and shoot a few pics… toss it back into the jacket. Hoping something will turn out; maybe will, maybe it won’t. The twisting road demands attention but the speed is so slow it is not a big deal.

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We wind around the corner and find a massive backup of vehicles. Keen to join the sheep and wait our turn….we make ranks and kill the bikes. Sitting still with the sun beaming on us we started to heat up. Helmets come off. Water bottles come out. Jackets get unzipped. I stand over the GS rather than put the kickstand down. ‘KICKSTAND DOWN!‘ A gentleman in a truck is waiting to merge, 5 ft to the right of me. We are all at a dead stop with engines off, him included, so we strike up a conversation. I learn that the tunnel ahead is only one way,  narrow, has view ports off cliffs into the canyons… so we have to wait our turn. As long as it is not construction and closed for 2 hours!

As we talk with other people in line we get a pretty common response… folks are incredulous about our journey in progress but that novelty has worn off for us and just feels like life now. People are too impatient; A compact car does an Austin Powers turn (42 point turn) on the very narrow road to get out of line and go back rather than wait. Five minutes later vehicles emerge from the tunnel and our turn has come. Gear up, bikes start, slowly roll into the tunnel. First I notice the temperature change (ahhhhhh, feels good after heating up in the sun ). The tunnel looks like it was quite an engineering feat to build. Possibly drilled by a machine. There are circular ridges along the entire length of the tunnel. Traffic moves slowly through… I realize I left my sun visor down and correct my mistake by pushing the lever on the side of my helmet. A crisp mechanical, CLICK, and now I can see much more. Ahead in the tunnel a light, we are going towards the light, upon approach I see that the light is a view port out the side of the tunnel that allows those transiting to see across a chasm that lies just on the other side of the rock wall.  This gives me a fun and uneasy feeling knowing that we are inside the mountain only a few feet from the a sheer rock cliff. The tunnel is at a downward slant meant so we were loosing elevation as we passed through the two mile tunnel. A couple more view windows through the rock letting light and views in; we popped out the other side of the tunnel with no fan fare. Damn, it’s over?! It was definitely a unique experience.

After the tunnel the Mild Hogs descend further down hairpin switchbacks and dropped another 1000 feet of elevation quickly. This meant that the temperature increased once again. No matter, it was refreshing to have the reprieve in the tunnel. Dan and I pulled ahead a bit and rolled through town with Fred and John just a few hundred yards behind.

Syncing headsets is getting easier proving that even big dumb animals like us can figure out the Scala Rider 9x headsets. As we cruise through the artist styled tourist town Dan tells me about when he and a friend had stayed here; at the bottom of Zion. They rode motorcycles through the park and this is why he insisted on including it for us on this trip. I am glad he did…..”That is the hotel… and the café…” he went on. Looked very much like Albuquerque or and other ‘try too hard artist community’ that was struggling to make it. Small western styled town with lots of art advertised. Before we knew it, and without spending a dime in the trap, we were back onto the freeway making haste towards Las Vegas.

Freeway time is boring time but also seemingly more dangerous than small winding roads. First – there are more people. Second – they are not paying attention. Third – you are moving faster on the bike. Whenever I transition from slow technical riding to the drone of the freeway I feel like something is wrong with the bike. There are different noises, handling changes, and your posture changes. My favorite thing to worry about is tire pressure. I change lanes and think, ‘Hey, that didn’t feel right… is that tire mushy?‘ The tire is never mushy just my perception because of the transition in riding style. No matter how much I change back and forth I never get used to it. The same goes from street to dirt. I reach down and adjust the rear suspension while on the freeway. Psychosomatic I am sure, ‘That fixed it‘.

The heat is getting to me and I wet down the shemagh to wrap around my neck during a gas stop. Ah, free A/C. 20150604_094233My GPS is routing me one way and Dan’s GPS another… due to the issues experienced earlier in the trip consensus is to follow mine. At the next gas station we play ‘ask a local’ and the guy informs us there was a huge accident up on the freeway ahead. He adds that ‘the back way we are being rerouted by WAZE is probably best.’ The back way was a nice little winding 45-55mph back desert road with some really interesting washes and hills. This is our reward for getting off the freeway and not sitting in stop and go traffic. Sweet! Only about 45 minutes later we dump back onto the freeway. We cruise easy to the turn-off for The Valley of Fire. Just the entry road into the park is interesting. I always get a giddy feeling when on a one lane road headed straight across the dessert towards mountains on the horizon. All of us are tired so we take it slow and keep to the speed limits for the most part. No sense in getting hurt now. We see the entrance to the park and pull in for a photo op. Red rocks jut from the desert similar to Zion, Sedona, or Mars. After assisting a cute Dutch girl in paying the entry fee while her boyfriend watched all four of us unashamedly flirt… we made our way into the park. It was a quiet procession into the park. We rolled single file slowly and gawked at the towers of wind gnarled rock.  I had to break it up… stop for another photo op. Seven sisters, presumably named because of the seven pillars of red rock that poked out of the ground, marked by a sign with a pullout that went right up to the rock.

I drop into the pullout and bring the bike around… back up to the rocks as close as I can. The guys follow me on the big cruisers. Dan yells at me that he is not on an enduro so we can’t be doing this… his whinging fades out as I tune it out laughing. All the bikes get lined up and the pictures turn out great.  I feel good about stopping to see something rather than smashing miles without pausing for reflection. This trip has been a good mix off both. We finish our meander through the park. Honestly, I would not have paid for park entrance just to drive through. The few people we did see were campers and hikers that were going to be there a while. They should be paying a fee for this great park as they are using facilities. We may have totaled 30 minutes actually in the park and that did not justify the fee. The Valley of Fire requires a dedicated trip where I can get off onto the side roads to explore. Consider my interest piqued.

Winding back towards the freeway is painfully slow. Not only because of the cab-over camper in front of me was intent on doing the speed limit but the day had started to drag. Rather than pass I stay behind the camper truck to keep myself from speeding and making a mistake while tired. That works fine till we get to the freeway… The guys are all tired and quickly eat up the few miles into downtown Las Vegas just as the sun is setting and the lights are coming on. Treasure Island is our destination. Fred is a member and had a deal on some $53 rooms (roughly half what we paid for lesser accommodations the two nights before). Parking the bikes in the garage right in front of the manned security shack… I feel safe with that. The guys have read, heard, and seen on T.V. about bike thefts in the US so are paranoid and take extra security precautions.  Fred and I have our gear together first and walk into the hotel.

It is an interesting affair when you go from Mad Max to walking into a casino. One – Lots of heads turn. Two – sensory overload. The attention we received from strangers was good and bad. Hot chicks, from out of town, screaming ‘whoo’, doing shots, and looking for fun are a dime a dozen in Las Vegas –  that is good attention. Mangy, middle aged, used up, weathered, smoker, chicks in tuxedos hawking raffle tickets – that is bad attention. We got both. “Hey, you are here for something!” she rasped at Fred and I as we walked through the hotel store fronts. There was a new corvette and two custom choppers behind her and her partner. “Yea, what are you here for?” I think about it for two steps… our get up definitely screams of being part of a show….” We’re with the band!” I holler back. “I knew it…” she says and goes straight to talking gibberish to her co-penguin. Fred and I laugh as we walk around the corner to get on the elevator. A seventy year old Filipino man in a suit “security” is checking room keys to get on the elevator. Now I feel safe. Twenty-eight floors and Fred and I are stopped outside our doors by a young man who is also very interested in our get ups. We tell him about the ride in our best 10 second synopsis and his girlfriend is already impatient. He is high, definitely, on coke. “Hey, we gotta party later, here’s my number…” “Come on!!!” from around the corner as girlfriend’s impatience has reached it’s limit. Turns out he rides a GXR or CBR 1000. I catch flak from Fred about getting a number before even getting into the room… ….from a guy.

Every bike owner in the world will talk with you when on a long trip. Similar to being a veteran – Touring on a bike makes you everyone’s comrade. Where you are from, where you went through, where you are going, type of bike, length of trip, any demographic that links you to another motorcycle rider is cause for at least 5 minutes of conversation.

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Finally into the room! Window looks straight down the strip. Killer. I should use this to my advantage to prey on young skirts. Ha, who am I kidding. I am tired, could care less about girls with daddy issues right now, but am definitely on the hunt for a sandwich and a beer. Besides I’m sharing a room with a 50 year old pile of French Canadian mayonnaise. If that is not a salt mine, I don’t know what is.  Fred posts up that ‘…after such a long day he has found what he believes to be a clean and safe place to rest,‘ we all get a huge laugh out of that. I am first showered and changed and rest on the bed as Fred and Dan stroll around in their plum smugglers. Fred is ready next and we head down. As he has been here and knows the lay of the land.  I get an Alaskan Amber for Fred and I… as I sign and slide the receipt back over the counter he says, “Thanks Son!” HA!  Yea I guess it could look like that. He gives me the quarter tour of the casino and after seeing it through the  I am eyes of a professional, I am left more unimpressed. Senor frogs is there, café is there, and so on… if not for the confusing array of slot machines cluttering and confusing the pathways this would be only slightly more interesting that a strip mall. Surely designed to act as a maze and confuse you into wandering about until you see something interesting to distract you from leaving. We have a couple of drinks and walk in circles before I deposit Fred into a special poker room and he buys onto a table. Then I wander off to find the bar again knowing that I won’t see him again till morning. Fred is an amateur poker player but has always made money. Back at the bar I plop down next to a 100lb Thai girl that is likely working. She is awkwardly sipping a drink and playing the bar slot. Looks around, then goes to the ATM, back to the bar…. strange; don’t make eye contact else I will say something too curt and she’ll make a scene. After she realizes there are no prospects at this bar she leaves. The bartender, a Mexican guy in his mid forties, offers me another Amber. Yup! Three beers complete, I need dinner.

I opt for the diner style cafe which has sandwiches. There really are not any good prospects for food in this place. Might be I am just road weary. I bolt a sandwich down with John, Dan and we drink, joke, and laugh while sitting at the cafe. Along the way we ordered a few more Modula Especial tallboys and it is time to rack out. Good night hanging out at the café. Seven beers and a sandwich…cheapest and easiest Vegas night I have ever had.

I wake up and am still on the fence and waffling back-and-forth about wheather I will join the guys back into Arizona for the Grand Canyon. I had not expected to be staying in hotels every night (wanted to do some camping too) so my budget (I did not have one but was thinking about how much should I spend) was already feeling overrun. Add to that the low front that was going across the desert which I wanted to take advantage of to cross the Mojave while staying cool …. ‘I’m headed to San Diego boys‘. Everyone understood. I let them know that I had BBQ to work on. They would see me in two days time.

Splitting up wasn’t hard but did make me think about how different riding solo is from riding in a group. I got to stop every 170 miles rather than 100. I did the speed limit or more. I did less looking and more riding. There are good and bad things for sure but mostly I just thought about the amazing time we had/were having… and the amazing 20 days they still had ahead of them. They were to continue up the Pacific Coast highway to Vancouver then wind back down through the Northern US, around the Southern bit of the Great Lakes, and back to Ottawa.

The cooler weather across the desert was welcomed. It did not crest 80 degrees all day. Freeway miles,  one gas stop in Barstow, I rolled into my spot in the garage to no fanfare.  Grabbed my go-bag, and walked to the elevator. An older woman looked nervously at me, unshaven, dirty jacket, likely smelled terrible, scarf, Operator beanie…”Looks like that was long distance ride.” I smiled, “Yes, It was a great ride.”

The guys showed up in the evening two days later complaining about the desert heat and acknowledging the warnings I had given them a few days earlier.  It had hit 105 as they came down Highway 95 to the I-8; their GPS had led the way. The long way. I inform them that was the hard way  and they were lucky the temps were not five to ten degrees hotter. We ate BBQ and drank local San Diego beers while I caught up on their story of the Grand Canyon and which factory GPS is worse (none of them were better).   The night goes long while food, drink, stories, jokes, and lies are enjoyed by all.

Monday morning the Canucks turned the Mild Hogs (minus one) up the coast and I am watching like so many others virtually. Will they kill each other, who will forget to say, “Kickstand DOWN” as they pump gas… Will Fred continue to yell, “RADIO OFF!!! DAMMIT” (yes). Whose bike will get moved in the middle of the night? My reality changes back to the office. I wander around in a surreal daze stunned by office and work. What did I do to deserve this? Another transition back to the real world…..Better start planning the next trip, quick.

Some pictures of the guys in San Diego

Gear I recommend from this trip:

I have used this phone holder for nearly two years (as of this post) and have yet to loose a phone.  Lots of road riding and some off rode (a few gentle crashes).  This holder is easy to use. Occasionally will hit the power button but I just hit cancel and slide the phone a little so the grip is not pressing the button. I used this with my old Samsung S3, S4, and now S6.  I have lost one rubber nubblie … don’t even care… still a fantastic holder.  Buy it here and support Boutside.org —Ram Mount Cradle Holder for Universal X-Grip Cellphone/iPhone with 1-Inch Ball – Non-Retail Packaging – Black

 


One inch ball mount. Comes with standard M8 screws to of various length to replace the factory screw on your handlebars. Mount anything you want right where you need it!!!  I like this for GoPro, GPS, Phone, … About $11 and is very universal. Even can take these off if you sell the bike and get a new one! Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Ram Mount Motorcycle Handlebar Clamp Base with M8 Screws

 

This little do-dad is how you marry your ball to the X-Grip phone holder (or other accessories). Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Ram Mount Composite Double Socket Arm for 1-Inch Ball Bases

Bungee net to hold gear on the bike… great for jackets and lightweight items that you want to store quickly. I use this in town for an extra helmet on the back seat….even put a wet-suit under it and mounted it to the tank once. Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Heavy-Duty 15″ Cargo Net for Motorcycles, ATVs – Stretches to 30″ (Black)

IBAGBAR Canvas bag… I normally use it as a duffle, messenger, flight bag but it does have hidden shoulder straps if you are so inclined. I like the way the shoulder straps hide away and have neatly folded two trash bags into the shoulder strap pouch. Why? Extra waterproofing, pack it out —trash, quick poncho? Use your imagination … This bag has taken a lot of abuse and only is getting more character. Looks better after a beating and I get a lot of comments about it. The front leather pouch is a low profile tablet or light laptop holder. I put both my Surface Pro and my Galaxy Note 10.1 in there… plus a couple charging cables. The main compartment is voluminous and can hold toiletries plus a quick change, with room left over.  I have found I like to strap my Hydro Flask to the two buckles and it has ridden there on every air plane trip or moto trip since. Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Ibagbar Canvas Backpack Travel Bag Hiking Bag Camping Bag Rucksack Khaki

I covered the Hydro Flask earlier, above, it is a great product. Mine is covered in stickers from bands, moto brands, and breweries…. Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Hydro Flask 24 oz Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle, Standard Mouth w/Loop Cap, Mint

This is a cheaper option that I have given as a gift a few times… same great performance! Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Tribe Provisions HydeTech Water Bottle (Gray)

After the storms I bought these… FrogTogs are the benchmark for motorcycle rain suits. They are also easy to buy because they have a low priced entry level offering. I wish I had them on this trip and have used them quite a bit to stay dry since buying these….Rain riding is much more enjoyable and I say much drier now! Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Frogg Toggs Men’s All Sports Rain and Wind Suit, Stone/Black, Large
I keep a Shemagh in each bag I carry. The versatility of a scarf as safety equipment, A/C,  scarf, tourniquet, sunblock…. many more uses. We would have overheated in the desert if not for lightly dousing these in water and wrapping them on our necks. The evaporator effect was downright amazing! Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Khaki Military Shemagh Arab Tactical Desert Keffiyeh Scarf
I already have a battery tender installed on the battery. That means a SAE (two prong) connector pokes out on the right underside of my seat. Plug this little gem up and now that SAE connect becomes a USB connector where I can plug in a cell phone charger!  How easy is that!?  Loved it. Kept me at 100% on the phone even while using it as a GPS all day. Buy it here and support Boutside.org—Battery Tender 081-0158 Black Quick Disconnect Plug with USB Charger
I have an older GoPro… but this is the latest offering from GoPro. I am recommending it instead because the older ones are bigger and cost more!!!  So get the new one and pay less. You will need to plan a couple of mounts to get that really cool footage through the Million Dollar Highway so check out GoPro Mounts and get your bike rigged with farkles before your trip. Buy it here and support Boutside.org—GoPro HERO4 Session

 

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