Wednesday, December 31, 2014

sol·i·tude noun \ˈsä-lə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\

According to Websters dictionary solitude is a state or situation in which you are alone usually because you want to be. 

I don't completely agree with this.

I believe that solitude is a state of mind. I believe that one can be in a state of solitude even in a crowded room, even a room full of friends. I also think that, contrary to Websters, we are not always in a state of solitude because we want to be. I also believe that solitude can be both enlightening and scary simultaneaously. I believe that solitude itself can be your friend, therefore making complete solitude an impossibilty. 

Why am I writing about this you ask? Well, as an avid traveler, most aften alone, I have spent more time then I care to admit in a state of solitude. Motorcycling is inherintally a solo activity. Many use it as a form of therapy, a little time alone to sort out your thoughts. Some use it as an escape, a way to run and hide from problems at home or at work.  I'll admit that I have been on both sides of that fence. 
       Spending days, weeks, even months on the road alone will put a person in a precarious situation. Your mind will go places you never expected, through all the emotions and back again.  For a long time I wondered how healthy this was, being alone so much. I've come to the conclusion that it is the best thing anbody can do. It's good for you. It will force you to find solutions to problems on your own, without the influence of anybody else, in a way that truly works best for you. You will quickly realize that the world isn't as scary as it may seem, people are better then the media lets you believe and you CAN get yourself out of a crisis situation on your own. You will begin to realize that you are a stronger, smarter person then you knew. 
       So often during the day, wheather it be at work, home or with friends, you are faced with a problem or question. The typical response to this is to look around and see who can help before you have even attempted to remedy the situation on your own.  I'm not saying that asking for help is a bad thing, it certainly takes a lot of courage to ask for help. What I'm saying is that asking for help is not always necessary and often we are lead in a direction that may not truly solve the problem. When in a state of solitude, on the road, you must find these solutions on your own. Lets look at a very real scenario. 
       There you are, enjoying the peace and quite of an open two lane road. Nobody around for miles. Just you, the birds, the grasses and the road. You are really enjoying this moment until your bike starts to cut out and soon dies on you. No problem you think as you pull the bike to the side of the road, I'll just call a tow truck and enjoy the peacefulness until it gets here. There is a problem though, there's no cell service. Now, the situation becomes very real. You are alone, broken down, with no communication. This is where solitude becomes a lesson. What do you do? Panicking won't help, kicking the bike won't help. So, what do you do? I'll tell you what you do.  You learn very quickly that you can and must handle this in a calm, controlled manner because you have no choice. Suddenly, your concern about loading yourself and your motorcycle into the back of some good 'ol boys pick up truck to get a ride into town is washed away. Suddenly, those shiny new "just in case" tools you bought before this trip find there way into your hand and you some how know how to use them. Now, after reaching this new level of enlightement, you watch yourself act in ways you never had. The driver of the approaching car is suddenly your new best friend, if your frantic waving convinces them to stop. You become an instant survival expert as you start scanning the horizon for signs of life or a place to post up for the night. You view your bike as a machine, a piece of equipment you can repair instead of just a mode of transportion. You watch yourself slowly becoming ok with the situation, slowly having more faith in humanity then ever before. Some how, some way, you will solve this problem. And, when you do, you will have reaped the rewards of solitude. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Somethings missing

I lay there awake, 2am, fantasizing of twisty mountain roads, desert black top stretching miles ahead and the warm breaze whistling through my ears. I walk to my garage to find it empty. I curse the 60 degree day in the dead of winter. I long for the throttle in my hand, the thunderous roar of my Harley-Davidson and the thrill of the open road. Life of a biker without a bike.
             Yeah, I know, its for the better. I'll get her back with a fresh motor, paint and even working lights...weird! But, that doesn't mean I have to like it. The flip-side of this though is that at least I know I'll be in a comfortable bed each night. Life on the road isn't so predictable. There comes a point in everyday where you have to figure out where exactly you will be laying your head that night.  If you aren't careful you will find the sun below the horizon and your self on a lonely road with quickly falling temperatures. But, if you use our head and your map you just might find yourself camped out on the side of a hill watching the most incredible sunset while enjoying the warmth of a campfire. I can tell you from experience that the latter is the preferred option.  This being said I can also tell you that with the proper equipment it is possible to make yourself comfortable almost anywhere, even that parking lot in Boise, Idaho!  Sure, It looks bohemian to have your Mexican blanket, tarp and oversized sleeping bag strapped awkwardly to your bike but it makes about as much sense as off roading in a Mazda Miata. Over the years those sun burnt granola eating mountaineers got it figured out with light weight, durable camping gear that works as well on Mt Everest as it does set up on the side of a dusty desert road or interstate rest area. With the evolution in sleeping pads, bags and tents it is very possible to pack small and light allowing room for other creature comforts. I'm speaking of food beyond beef jerky, liquids, camp stoves upon which to actually cook a warm meal and make a hot cup of coffee in the morning. The last few years I've been using a Jet Boil, a simple system that combines a burner, cup and even a french press. Using a small fuel canister it is easy to use, heats water and other food quickly and is easy to store.  There have been countless cold evenings spent heating chili and drinking hot tea to warm myself after a cold day of riding then followed in the morning by a hot cup of coffee to start the day right. As far as camping equipment goes, I use an MSR tent. MSR is known for there mountaineering equipment, therefore not cheap but extremely durable, small and light. My 3 person tent, using a compression sack, compresses down to about the size of a football!  Thats a three person tent with a rain fly!  The poles also fold down small and can be strapped to virtually anything. Sleep pads now pack as small as a mason jar and and sleeping bags not much bigger then that. Let REI be your friend when it comes to preparing for your next trip. There equipment is top notch, employees knowledgeable and return policy beyond compare...and no, I don't work for them. Now, after all that I will admit that a lot of this equipment isn't cheap. Here's how I look at it- If I spend a few extra bucks for the good stuff i'll be more comfortable, won't be frustrated with low quality gear that doesn't work right and I can more easily avoid hotel rooms...Therefore saving money in the long run and keeping me on the road longer.  I can ride a long ways on the cost of one hotel room.  Check it out, it just might make a difference on your next trip!   

Monday, December 22, 2014

Crossing the line

Theres something about crossing a state line that just feels good.  I'm not entirely sure what it is, i mean, It's not like your crossing into a foreign coutry with a different language or something (Texas excluded) but there is a small sense of accomplishment. I suppose with some states (Texas included), there's a feeling a relief because maybe the roads were in terrible shape, like louisiana. Or Maybe you just didn't find it all that exciting...Oklahoma for example. Or, you are looking forward to the next state. I know I was excited to see the North Carolina state line because I was looking forward to roads such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Tail of the Dragon!  Whatever it is, I always feel the need to pull over and snap a picture. Now, whats interesting about this is that it isnt always as easy as it sounds. Sure, crossing into North Dakota on a 2 lane backroad was a piece of cake. Hell, there was even a parking area in front of it that I found a little funny considering I hadn't seen a car in a half hour and quite frankly most people probably want to ignore the fact that they are entering this state. Not me, I took this as an opportunity to stop, enjoy the peace and quite and take a picture. North Dakota isn't as bad as most people think. On the other hand, there are a handful of state signs that a person would have to risk life and limb to get a picture of. The ones in the middle of high traffic bridges, gang territory, and wild lion sanctuaries for example. Ok, I might be exagerating the last two examples but they are often on bridges. I always try to assess the risk level of the photo opportunity to decide if its worth it. One of these examples was the California state line this last summer. California for me this year marked the 48th state of the summer so I was pretty committed to getting a pic almost no matter what. I came upon the sign while barreling south on I-5. There it was, the sign I had been waiting for all summer!  I was pretty damn excited!  As I approached the sign I realized that there was no parking area, no real shoulder and traffic was moving along at a rather incredible speed. So, screw it, I looked over my shoulder, slammed on the brakes and came sliding to a stop perfectly in front of the California state line. This was a moment that im not embarrassed to say was a bit emotional for me. Not only was I excited about accomplishing my goal of riding all 48 states in one summer,  but I was also a little sad because it meant my adventure was over for now. I sat there for a while. It was nice to enjoy the moment, reflecting back on the experiences of the summer and the events in my life that got me there, some good, some not so good. But all exactly as they are suppose to be. So, whatever it is that encourages you to cross a state line I suggest taking a few minutes to stop and enjoy it, not as many people do it as you might think. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

loneliest highway in america

There are very few stretches of road where a guy can roll the throttle up to 100mph and just hold it there until you are out of fuel, US Hwy 50 across Nevada is one of those places. The day started in Shingletown, Ca. This day marked the return back to Colorado after hitting the 48th state of the summer(california). The morning was cold, not unbearable but cold, maybe 40degrees. Heading east out of Shingletown the road dipped, climbed, twisted and weaved - a beautiful ride. As the road descended its final descent I rolled into a small town and found a gas station. At the station I happened upon another couple also on a motorcycle trip (I forget there names and the name of the town), quickly made friends with them and we decided to grab breakfast. Meeting folks on the road is always a great experiance. We sat for nearly an hour, traded stories and they even bought me breakfast, a really nice way to start the day!  After finishing our meals we said our goodbyes in the parking lot and went our seperate ways. Continuing east towards Reno the temperatures quickly rose, the sun was shining and I was now back in the desert. Coming through Reno I found myself playing a bit of leapfrog with a couple of other motorcyclists as we were all now on eastbound I-80. Not giving a lot of thought to it I exited the interstate in Fernley, a good point to catch US 50. While pumping gas and sucking down some water I noticed the two guys in the parking lot, and not having a lot of social interaction on these trips, wandered over and said hello. It turned out that we were heading the same direction with the same stoppping point in mind, Ely, Nevada. Now, If you've never ridden US 50 you are missing out. Coined the "loneliest highway in america", it truly is. Wide open desert road broken up by a few random passes allow you the opportunity to settle in and open up the throttle. Throw in the added bonus of riding with a couple of guys on faster bikes and you have yourself the makings of a 100mph crossing of Nevada. With only a few stops for gas, road side chatting and water we made good time to Ely, found a cheap room at a hotel casino and made plans to meet for dinner. We did just that. Like earlier in the day at breakfast, we enjoyed great conversation, a good meal and new friends. A nice way to finish a 600 mile day. Of course, at this point we are all exhausted, the day was coming to an end. I remember this day as one of the best this summer. Thanks Michael and Mark! Good meeting and riding with you, hope to see you on the road again! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

BIG changes!

Big changes are happening on the bike right now. After thoroughly abusing it this summer it was time to give it a little lov'n. First off, get the motor back in shape. Currently the motor is an 88 cubic inch Harley Davidson Twin Cam B motor with 131,000 miles. Over the summer it developed some leaks and in general sounded pretty rough. Last week, with the help of Mark at Frontline Cycles in Longmont, CO the motor was torn down. Upon tear down we discovered small chunks missing in the cams, worn out rings and way to much end play on the flywheels (enough to measure with a tape measure). Obviously, Its a good thing we are doing this!  The motor will get rebuilt with new S&S flywheels, bored out to 95" cubic inches, new pistons, cams, lifters, oil pump, etc. Basically, everything that can be replaced will be replaced. Next, the new motor will be complimented by a new Baker 6spd transmission with an overdrive to lower my rpms and save the motor a bit when cruising at 90-95mph on the interstate. Im pretty excited about this part!  So, those are the mechanical upgrades, next are the asthetic and ease of packing gear changes.  Since the bike is currently stripped to the frame we are welding on hook points near the rear of the frame to ease the use of tie down straps when strapping down bags. The rear fender is getting reworked and getting a luggage rack setup instead of a sissy bar. The front end is getting completely redone. Ditching the typical telescoping fork and going with a longer ridgid fork i'm hoping to actually get a smoother ride along with not having to deal with blown out fork seals spraying oil everywhere. The new front end will be 58" from the top of the triple trees to center of the axle, supported by a 21" wheel. Finally, Paint. Having not had a bike with paint for nearly 8 years I think it is time. I know, itll be hard to picture me riding some shiny, fancy bike but I think it will be a nice change. I'm keeping the colors i've picked a secret for now but I can tell you that once again I will be using Beth Kearny of Lil Dame Pinstriping for the finish work. Coincidentaly, her husband Thomas is the master mind behind the new front end and the chief welder and fabricator on the rest of the project. I highly recommend them both and here is there contact info:

Beth Kearny: 402-681-5388
Thomas Kearney: 402-660-8289

They are located in Loveland, Co

So, there it is. I am hoping to be back on the road in 6 weeks, cross your fingers!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Its not to often you get to cross a bridge as impressive as the chesapeake bay bridge. I was lucky enough to get the oppportunity earlier this year and must say that it is every bit as impressive as everything you've ever heard about it. At nearly 4.5 miles end to end with a tunnel in the middle, yeah a tunnel, you truly get the feeling of being in the middle of the ocean. On a motorcycle, in the elements, this can give you a rather uneasy feeling. As I approached the bridge the weather was cold, grey and windy...not optimum crossing conditions. As I rolled through the toll booth and approached the first leg of the crossing my concerns washed away and were replaced with excitement. There I was, crossing an absolute engineering marvel with a cold and aggressive crosswind to guide me.  Everything was going smooth, just rolling along enjoying the view. Ocean as far as you could see, shipping boats in the distance carrying cargo to far away lands, and sea gulls spiraling overhead when BAM! my jeans got sucked into my open belt primary giving my leg a good twist and destroying my jeans!  Now, Ive been running this open belt for years without any problems so this surprised the hell out of me. So, here I was, on a bridge in the middle of the ocean with my jeans slapping around all over the place threatening to get sucked back in and leaving me cold and pantless on the side of the road. Im sure this would have a presented an amazing instagram opppurtunity for passing motorists but I was more interested in reaching the parking area on the south end of the tunnel and avoiding an indecent exposure ticket.  So, I raised my left leg in the air to keep my jeans safe and hurled myself down the road as quickly as I could to the parking area on the south end of the tunnel. As I approached the parking area I then had get to a stop, which meant having to use that pesky left leg to use my clutch without wrecking, falling off the side and becoming shark food. I managed this ok, not great, just ok. Now, It was time to dig out my back up pair of worn out jeans, strip down to my underwear and change without being arrested. Luckily, traffic was light and this part went pretty smooth. Ok, back on the road. The other cool part about this bridge is that part of it is actually a tunnel!  Pretty cool!  There you are just cruising along staring out at the water when suddenly you are descending into a well lit tunnel, now you are under the ocean surface...I was kinda hoping it would have been a glass tunnel so I could check out giant squid, mermaids and other awesomeness but I suppose that was asking a lot. You are not really in the tunnel long, a mile or so I think, before you are taken back to the surface. The second span is essentially the same as the first, minus the attempted depantsing. As I approached the end of the bridge I saw a visitor center and thought it might be wise to stop and plan my stay for the night. I pulled in, checked my map and decided that Ocean City, Maryland would make for a good stopping point. I pressed on, not far really, found a cheap hotel in order to get out of the cold rain for a night, and hit sack. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Almost broke down in Maine

In effort to tell some "stories from the road" here's a quick one from when I was back up in Maine this spring. It started out by noticing that my foot clutch was feeling pretty loose, loose as in barely engaging. So, there I was cruising north on highway 1 along the coast when I noticed that my clutch wasnt feeling right. I'd step on it and the clutch would barely engage. looking down at the cable as i'm  cruising along I realize that the problem is in the cable...its barely there!

Quickly deciding that stopping, therefore having to step on the clutch, is probably a bad idea, especially considering that I am no where near a town.  Pressing on, not shifting, I do eventually find a town and quickly spot an auto parts store, seems like a good spot to stop.  I went in, explained my situation and asked if there might be somebody in town that could help. The nice fellow directed me to the "red" auto repair shop a few miles up the road, a little vague but worth a shot. Climbing back on the bike I very gently engaged the clutch, popped it into first and eased my way back onto the road. cruising slowly down the road I kept my eyes peeled for this "red" repair shop, sure enough, I did find it.  Upon arriving I quickly drew the attention of the guys working away and started asking for help, trying to impress upon them the bad situation I was about to be in if it completely broke.  Unfortunately, they werent able to help either.  This was turning into an uncomfortable situation.  The guys working directed me to yet another shop, directions being even more vague then the first, "go to the top of the third hill you come to, turn left on the dirt road and it's up on your right...kinda off the road a bit, I think there's a sign" seriously, this is what he told me.  Off I went with the directions fully assuming I would get lost and quickly eaten by a bear. But, again, I managed to find the place.  I felt better the moment I rolled in and noticed that the muddy parking lot actually had motorcycles in it.  Again, I explained my situation, explained to them that I had in fact ridden from colorado (to there surprise) and was finally greated with a "roll it on it, we'll get you fixed up".  I did just that. I pushed the bike into there shop, pulled out my tools and started dissambling the broken clutch cable.  Of course, being a specialty cable there was no way he was going to have one so it was time to get creative.  We tried soldering a new end on it multiple times with no success so changed our game plan.  We came out with sorta loop kinda set up.  After digging through bins of nuts, bolts, washers and other random parts we finally came up with something we thought might actually work, and it did!  Ok, time to pay this guy and get back on the road!  I packed my tools, got ready to go and asked him what I owed him. His response was surprising considering we had both worked on this thing for almost two hours and used one of his clutch cables, he said "nothing, we are glad we could help. You've ridden a long way to get here so just keep on going" . I handed him $100.  Im always amazed at how helpful folks are when they hear what you are out doing!  As I started the bike, he got out his camera to take some photos, he said his friends   would never believe his story about me without evidence, kinda cracked me up!  And that was it, I rolled out and headed over to Bar Harbor for a lobster roll, I think I deserved it after that day!

quick update

Once again it has been a while since i've posted anything so I figure its about time for an update. since my last update I completed riding to all 48 states, all three coasts with a total of 31,000 miles.  Received a feature article in Cycle Source magazine, met countless amazing people and road an incredible amount of amazing roads. Folks ask me all the time: "what were the best roads", "whats the prettiest part of the country" and so on. I have this to say- Every part of this country has something worth seeing and people worth meeting, I have yet to ride through and "ugly" area and there is no area and wouldn't happily return to. That being said, here are some pics to check out. Also, I've updated my technology in order to ease my ability to maintain this blog so keep checking back!