Any Hints for Long Distance Motorcycle Trips

Chance One

Spending 7 days on a cycle makes for good adventures. If you ever have an opportunity to take off on a cycle and ride far from home than seize the moment. Don’t get me wrong, short rides are a blast but there is something inspirational about an extended two-wheel trek. It has something to do with the insecurity of being a long way from home on a motorcycle. When you find yourself a few states away from family and friends, you realize that you’re vulnerable. This vulnerability leads to an awakening of the senses that one does not have when surrounded by their protective infrastructure. That’s what makes road trips so exciting and intense. Road trips are awesome in a car but on a motorcycle the Road Trip can become a Positive Existential Life Experience.
There are risks associated with long distance rides on two wheels as compared to a road trip in a car. One must measure the inherent risks verses the projected rewards. Let’s use weather as an example. On a road trip in a car, any rational person would check the weather patterns to make sure their route is clear from storm activity. If a storm does hit, the vehicle provides a certain amount of protection from the elements that a motorcycle can’t provide. If caught in a rain storm the automobile driver stays warm and dry and is relatively safe in his car. At worse while in an auto an individual just needs to pull over and wait out the storm. On a motorcycle, getting caught in a rain storm can present a ton of issues specially 16 hours away from home. If caught unprepared in a storm, where does the motorcyclist seek cover from the precipitation? Where does a rider change into dry clothing? With the limited space on a bike, do you have dry clothing? Hypothermia is a real threat when one is wet, cold and riding through the wind. When riding around your hometown a motorcyclist can suck up the wetness till they arrive home where warmth and dry clothing awaits. This is not the case on a road trip. Being prepared is the key to long trips on a cycle. Having the proper rain gear is essential but having the ability to adapt to ever-changing environments is the ultimate key to success. Think outside the box to find solutions. Here are a few ideas that have helped me through some of my long distance trips:
• Duct Tape Fixes Holes in Rain Gear
• Use Zip Ties to Leash Equipment/Bags on your Ride
• Plastic Garbage Bags makes for Good Waterproofing Liners and Can Substitute for Pillows when Camping
• Fishing Waiters make Great Rain Gear
• Bank Drive Thurs are Great Hail Shelters
• Plastic Garbage Bags can make good Emergency Rain Gear
• Use Tupperware to Keep Cell Phone and Electronics Dry
• Use Public Libraries to Charge Up Your Cell Phone
• Hotel Lobby Bathrooms are Cleaner and More Comfortable than Restaurant Bathrooms
• Never Screw with Karma, Good Things Happen to Good Bikers
• Backpacks Cause Back Pain
• Use a Storage Bag which sits on your Passenger Pillion as a Back Rest
• Full Face Helmets Keep you Warm
• Free Camping on National Forest Land
• Never Leave Home without a Utility Tool, Duct Tape, Zip Ties, a Head Lamp and Rain Gear on Long Distance Trips
• A Windshield makes for a better ride on Long Trips
• Sometimes Having No Pre-Planed Route makes for a Better Trip
• Always Research the Weather and Plan Accordingly
Riding is an individual learning experience. What works for me may not work for you. Start off slow and work yourself into longer trips. Experience is your best teacher when it comes to extended motorcycle trips. When beginning your first excursions expect to be wanting. You will never know what you need till you want it but remember we have a limited amount of space so “needing” is a relative term.

Any hints for long distance motorcycle trips????

SaveItsNevertoLate


Sometimes the Right Decision is not the Best Decision

Grand Teton National Park
I just finished a week long ride which took me from Colorado to Utah, Idaho, Washington State on through Yellowstone down through Casper, WY and back to Colorado. It was a trip that was almost cancelled before it happened. Three days before the trip the weather pattern took an ugly turn. The whole preplanned route called for rain, cold temperatures and inevitable saturation. Rain never stopped me before during my summer rides. On hot days, I normally love to get drenched on my motorcycle. This was a different matter altogether. The temperatures forecasted during my time off were projected to hover in the low fifties. Wet drenched bikers riding for 10 hour stretches in low temperatures could equal hypothermia. I am not meteorologist but it seemed highly illogical that a storm system could persist over the entire North West for an eight day stretch. It almost seemed like there was a conspiracy to keep me off of my ride. So I tried to adapt to the situation and plan for a different dryer route but any feasible ride from my base of operations had the same dark cloudy rainy forecast. In life opportunities do not come often and I have witnessed that those same opportunities become more elusive with age. At the end of the day there was no decision, I had to make the best of the situation and move forward with ride with all its glorious wetness.
I can tell you that the first hour of the trip was cold and dry but then the rain made its presence felt. When the skies opened up it was about forty degrees as I traveled Northwest through Wyoming. It was cold and wet but I planned precisely for these factors. The ugliest issue always stems from that which was not foreseen. As the precipitation poured my rain gear kept me dry but my face shield kept on fogging up which rendered me blind. A Foggy lens can be a real hassle so a few weeks before the trip I purchased an Anti-Fog Pinlock Insert for my face shield. This system worked brilliantly against the dreaded fog in light rain and cold temperatures but in heavy precipitation the fog slowly won the battle and manifested itself upon my lens with utter tenacity. My motorcycle windshield was also fogged, all I could do was pull over when my helmets face shield was to cloudy to see and dry it off and then start back down the road. This was a two pronged assault on my Zen like state of mind which normally accompanies me on my cycle. The foggy helmet lens represented a clear and present danger to my personal safety and was just darn right aggravating. It bothered me like that giant white head pimple monstrosity that erupted on the tip of my nose before my first date in seventh grade. Her name was Lori Reinhardt and I had had a crush on her since the second the grade. That foul puss oozing zit represented all that was wrong with the world back in seventh grade much like this fog on my lens did today. There are many more evil things to be concerned about then fog on the lens but in the moment it created some negative energy. During the time the fog was getting the best of me, I thought about just heading home. I was cold and wet and could not see more than 10 minutes before I would have to pull over and clear and dry my shield. The forecast stated that the weather was going to be cold, wet and crappy for the seven day stretch of my preplanned trip. Given the situation, I wondered if the trip was not meant to be. I thought of turning back and giving up on a very rare opportunity. I pondered this notion while riding and after about twenty minutes decided that rough roads often make for better destinations. I would progress forward till I could no longer move forward and hope for better weather. As I traveled ahead, the rain slowed down and which deterred the fog from clouding up my visor. Life does not always throw you soft balls and I am cognizant to the fact that the weather could have gotten worst but in this situation it did not. It remained relatively dry and fog free for the remainder of the trip with the exception of a four hour stretch through Yellowstone National Park which I shall discuss in a proceeding post. The entire trip did not have the best weather but ended up being a splendid sojourn which I desperately needed.
It’s about taking a situation you have and projecting your efforts to make the event as positive as it should be. In reality, a motorcycle trip can rarely be a negative event; it’s just too easy to have fun. In this situation, the trip was almost over before it even started. I am glad I did not let the fog of the unknown deter me from finding a great ride. Sometimes all we need to do is push through the barriers to find that happy place.

Chance 2


More than 8 Years Ago, I still Remember this Ride

life and motorcycles

It was June; the early morning sun was warm to the touch and I awoke to a reality of a dream. For a year my motorcycle sat in storage in Golden, Colorado awaiting my triumphant return. My family moved to the east coast from Golden, Colorado and, due to a lack of space, the motorcycle could not join our eastward trek. I attempted to formulate a plan to retrieve my motorcycle and drive it from Colorado to New York. This would be a 1400 mile trip that I have been anticipating for 34 years. As long as I could remember, it was my dream to have a motorcycle and ride for days on end with only the wind, sun and moon as my companions. However, there was always something stopping me. The lack of money for a motorcycle, college, work, family and whatever else kept me off a cycle. In 2004, after serving 14 months in Iraq, I came home and bought a brand new 2003 Honda Shadow 750 ACE. My new bike, in many ways, symbolized who I was. It was simple, dependable and modest yet had a sense of character all its own.

For three years of riding my Honda, it had not once seen a single rain droplet and had only accumulated approximately 4000 miles; most of which were received on short trips up the numerous curvaceous valleys of the Eastern Foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I had exactly zero amount of experience riding long distance, let alone from Denver to New York. In early June of 2007, I left Rochester, New York via a US Airways Flight which was bound for a final destination to Denver, Colorado. Once in Denver it was my plan to pick up my bike and drive it back to New York via an obscure path not yet planned. Rather than a planned route, it was more about heading east and finding my way home.

While in the military I was taught that piss poor planning resulted in piss poor performance. As it turned out they were partially correct. The long sleep that my motorcycle took during its time in storage reeked havoc on its running condition. After a fuel change, oil change, replacement of the fuel filter and battery the bike was ready for the 1400 mile jaunt. This unplanned maintenance took a full day. Fortunately, my plan was to have no plan so there was no real damage to my travel itinerary. With a working cycle, wet weather gear and change of clothing, I progressed east on my Shadow towards my home in Rochester, New York.

The first two hours of the trip went well, but then I noticed a few rain drops on my helmet. The scattered drops eventually became a down pour and, for the next two days, the skies did not dry up. Driving through Eastern Colorado and into Nebraska, on the back roads leading east, was like an oasis of views for one’s soul. The openness of the Great Plains is expanded tenfold while on a motorcycle. Not a dry fiber on my body, no windshield to divert the wind, the rain splashing down upon my legs likes mini daggers yet I simply wore a smile. It was a smile bred from being content and upon finding one’s place in the world. Maybe it was mild hypothermia, but my mind began to drift. I began to ponder actions done in the past and events not yet fulfilled. I became lost in thought while I drove through the prairie. It was like the openness of my surrounding somehow opened my mind to places long lost forgotten.

After my first 10 hours on the road, I decided to find a hotel, get a good meal and dry off a bit. I didn’t have camping gear and decided to just find cheap hotels on the road. It must have been the warmth of the hotel room because I did not know how sore and cold I actually was until I started to dry off. I ended the night with some really bad Mexican Food and a warm shower. Tomorrow was waiting.

The next day, I was a couple of hours into my trip when I found a Motorcycle Store about 45 minutes from the Iowa boarder. Just for a break off of the cycle I went into the place to have a look around. Twenty minutes later I came out with a SpitFire Universal Windshield and a leather jacket. At the time, I did not understand how precious of a commodity these items would be for the rest of my journey east. The little windshield really did not look like much, but it diverted at least 60 percent of the wind and rain away from my body. This protection increased my riding comfort tenfold. The leather jacket was on sale for sixty dollars, but was perfect for the warm summer. I never had any idea what a seventy dollar windshield could accomplish, but I will never again buy a motorcycle, which I plan on taking long trips on, without one. For the rest of the day it poured, but I found out something which was unexpected. A motorcyclist that is soaked, from top to bottom, but who still has a cheerful disposition breeds a curiosity in people. I found that every time I stopped to rest individuals would stop by my bike and ask me questions or make a funny comment about riding in the rain. It was strange. The standard social norms had seemed to be thrown out the window. People would just approach me and start a discussion. Was it because I looked like a drowned rat and they felt sorry for me or could it be that they found it fascinating that someone could be so content while being so bloody wet?

In Iowa, on the second day of my trip, I stopped at a Truck Stop and Diner. As I walked into the place I left puddles in my path. I picked a booth near a window so that I could keep an eye on my ride and ordered a BLT. I saw an elderly gentleman, obviously retired, walk across the restaurant and take a seat in the booth adjacent to me. At this point he asked me a few questions regarding my journey across country on a motorcycle. Those few questions transformed into a two hour conversation. John ended up owning the Truck Stop, but had relinquished operational control of it to his two sons. He was a teenager during the Great Depression, a World War II Combat Veteran, crop pilot, over-the-road trucker, farmer, Truck Stop Restaurant owner and family man. Throughout our conversation, I found that he lived a life filled with adventure, loss, joy, hardship, sorrow, fear and hard work. Also, I realized that he did not observe life as a spectator, he lived it.

I wish I could tell you the names of the roads that I traveled or the hotels in which I stayed, but I cannot. I kind of just drove east hoping to not run out of gas like I almost did so many times. Another lesson that I learned while on the road is that if you’re going to drive across country it’s a good idea to have a large gas tank. My gas reserve warning light would go off at approximately 120 miles and I would need to look for a gas station. In the city this is not such an issue, but in the middle of Iowa it could be a problem. Luckily I never did run out of gas. If I had, it would have been just another interesting situation.

Somewhere near the Iowa/Illinois boarder I began to ponder memories long hidden. In 2003 I was part of the invasion force into Iraq from Kuwait. The memories of the invasion often bring me night tremors and, at times, sullen depression. The thought of the war would strike at random times and would often be triggered by loud noises, smells but mostly by large crowds. It is actually pretty tough for me to even write about this, but I have figured out that if one speaks of the ills of his past that he will less likely be suffocated by the negative memories of yesterday. On the ride, I began to ponder the war and the part I played in it. The difference is that I thought of these issues on my terms and in my own way. For the first time in since I got back from Iraq, I found that I had control of the past and not vise versa. By no means am I saying that this motorcycle ride cured me of my past recollections and skeletons, but I can say, without a doubt, that I was able to get in a place that I felt like I could handle those memories and put them to rest. Do I still get a nervous twitch when I hear a loud noise? Well, yes but I am able to deal with it and continually move forward. For me, the trick is to vent these negative emotions, with a person who cares when the time is needed and not become consumed and transfixed by what occurred. With all experiences in life, one must progress forward along his or her chosen path and hope to learn and gain wisdom along the way.

The sun decided to show its’ fullness on the third day of my trip. I was content riding in the rain, but the sun brought a new perspective on riding. Instead of the people in the cars looking at me thinking, “How could he be on a motorcycle in the rain”; I was thinking, “How could these people be in a car on a beautiful day such as this.” Everything seemed perfect. By this time I was heading southeast towards Indianapolis. I remember getting lost a few times along the way. However, “lost” is a term that I use loosely because if one has no plan than where ever one ends up is exactly where he’s supposed to be. I approached the Indiana/Ohio boarder on my 3rd day. I found another mom and pop hotel to rest for the night.

Waking up on the 4th day I found that riding in the sun brings with it a nasty burn if precautions are not taken. The burn was not as bad as it could have been given the clothing I was wearing and the full face shield on my helmet, but I knew some sun block was needed. So I pulled into this gas station to fill up my tank and get some SPF 40 sun block. It was really early in the morning and I did not pull away from the gas pumps when I was putting on my protective lotion. Well, to make a long story short, while I was rubbing it onto my neck and face about ten mutant motorcyclists surrounded the gas pump. I looked up, with white lotion all over my face, neck and hands, and saw every one of those bikers staring at me. One guy, who looked like Andre the Giant, say’s to me, “We need to fill up, move your bike”. A personal pet peeve of mine is when someone doesn’t move away from the pump promptly after getting gas. So, I understood the situation from my large friend’s point of view and moved along. I spent six straight days on my motorcycle during my trip and this was the only negative experience that I witnessed and ironically it came from a fellow motorcyclist.

The next day of my trip brought me running north towards Cleveland, Ohio. I can tell you that I must have been deep in thought because, once again, I found that I was just about out of gas. It was around 8pm and it was a Sunday night. I was in a rural area and approached 4 different gas stations; each of them closed. During my quest for a gas station, I passed several different horse and buggy carts and was quite certain that I was deep into Amish Country. Though the scenery was great, I was really concerned that I was going to run out of gas. I eventually passed a couple of kids playing in one of the horse and buggy carts and I stopped and asked them for some directions. They gave me a perfect route to the only open gas station in the area. Once filled up, I thought of how ironic it was to be asking for directions for gas from a couple of kids who may never have been in a gas combustion automobile in their lives. That night I could not sleep all that well. I knew it was the last night on my dream ride.

The sixth day brought me home to Rochester, New York. My dream ride was better than I thought possible. I learned a lot about being a motorcyclist and about long distance riding. In some ways, I was able to learn about myself. Before returning home, I began planning my next long distance bike trip. Next time I will hopefully take my wife as well as some camping equipment and forgo the cheap hotels. For me, I really think it was the lack of a travel itinerary and the vastness of the Midwest that made my adventure so terrific. For some a perfect place may be in Aruba or a cabin in the Alps, but I feel most comfortable, on my motorcycle, facing the open road.


Just My Thoughts on PTSD- Always Look Forward

PTSD

There are a higher percentage of deaths from suicide among Combat Veterans as compared to the general population in America. According to research, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be a fundamental cause of this increased suicide rate. My experience with PTSD stems from a tour in Iraq more than a decade ago. PTSD is real and has tangible and damaging side effects. It manifests its self among us in different ways and levels of severity. PTSD may be an outcome of any traumatic event from a car accident, to witnessing a crime, to being attacked by a dog, to being a victim of sexual abuse. Anyone can suffer from PTSD; the ailment has no social, economic, religious, gender or racial biases. Anyone is open to its dark shadows.
My thoughts below have no scientific merit nor are based upon research or psychoanalysis. They are just my ramblings that I felt necessary to put into words. When reflecting upon the escalated suicide rates of those whom have served in combat roles, I can’t help but dwell upon the environment that our troops lived in for such long periods of time. In my Unit the average Combat Tour was a year, for other troops it was less and some more. For many troops multiple combat tours were the norm. Could the amount of time which people are submerged in a traumatic environment have a direct relationship on how severe their PTSD symptoms could be? This could help explain the increased suicide rate among combat veterans.
In 2003, I can tell you that Iraq was nothing like the world that I live in today. The best description of the place was a maelstrom of violent deliberate organized chaos. For me it was a place where nightmares vacationed. For a year, the smells, sights and sounds of the place became an integral part of my conscious; the place became a part of me. We did all we could to keep the environment out but there was no stopping it, the place became you. When you are besieged into that chaos, there is an opportunity for one to become an uglier version of oneself and potentially be more vulnerable to making decisions which would be looked down upon back home. It’s these life choices as well the incredible amount of violence witnessed which tend to linger in our souls long after we leave the war. It’s these experiences and memories which often bind us to guilt and loss. For soldiers, the guilt and sorrow for those we lost and possibly harmed, aggravates the symptoms of PTSD and makes it harder to recover from it. For me, once I found peace to my inner demons within, I was able to better navigate the pitfalls’ associated with my PTSD. Peace comes from many different approaches. Religion, meditation, nature, support groups, therapy, animals, education, karate and family are all great constructive tools for individuals to use on their journey to come to terms with their experiences. The important thing to understand is there is no road map or set of directions; it just takes time, patience and a loving support network to lean upon while taking that journey to find oneself. Unfortunately it takes a while for soldiers to get in touch with their feelings and often turn to self-medication in an effort to chase away their mental affliction which often only worsens their anguish and increases their burdens. It’s not just heavy drug use, abuse of alcohol but violence and other such type of behavior which chases away those we love and support us. A lack of such a support network only makes the symptoms of PTSD harder to endure.
After a few years of making things right in my own mind regarding the war, I was able to begin seeing improvements surrounding my PTSD. It took me more than 9 years to be able to see a fireworks show with my family but now I can go without negative side effects. My nightmares are very rare almost negligible and my temperament is back to prewar conditions. I am able to socialize in public and find myself to be more socially active. These were all issues that I have been dealing with since my return. I’m still working with my issues of crowds and noises such as horns and crying children but all is manageable. Believe it or not, my biggest issue is visiting others in their home. For some reason I feel very uncomfortable going to someone’s house for a visit. It’s a work in progress.
Trust me, my story was filled with ugliness throughout the healing process including trouble with the law, violent behavior, abuse of alcohol, marriage problems and a ton of other nasty items but I kept one constant. When I woke up despite my many setbacks, I kept on moving forward one step at a time. There were terrible moments and steady moments and even joyful moments but every day I kept trying to look ahead to a brighter day.
There are so many more folks out there that have witnessed more ugliness then I will ever dream of and others who may not have witnesses as much but at the end of the day, that does not matter. What matters is we never judge and that we only strive to support. I know in my heart of hearts that I will never understand how others suffer with their memories, afflictions and symptoms of PTSD. This issue affects all of us differently so it’s crucial that we walk our own journey to find a way to heal and not compare our situations with others suffering from PTSD.
What I can do is be a friend, lend a helping hand, and feel empathy for their turbulent struggles. I think this is something we all can do and not just for those who suffer from PTSD but for any person who is struggling with any type of issue. It’s about being a good human being and neighbor to those we interact with.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~Edward Everett Hale

PTSD 2


Can We Do Better- Veterans Losing at Home

blood Type

Supporting our Veterans should be the responsibility of every citizen who lives in our country. It should not be left to our Government or Non-Profit entities alone; it should be sewn in the fabric of who we are as a society. Have you ever heard people pound their chest about “Supporting the Troops” but show zero action on the issue? “Supporting Our Troops” is not about verbal lip service, it’s about taking an active role in helping and assisting those who Serve or have Served.
I have never been one who believes in statistics because they are often misleading and used for some type of agenda or scheme. I try to use common sense, research, impartial views and conversations with others to be analytics which steer my moral compass. With that said, the recent alarming statistic of 22 Veterans dying of Suicide daily is overwhelmingly heart breaking and can’t be ignored. To be honest, I did not need some statistic to inform me of this travesty. It’s in the obituaries and the veteran’s blogs who share their stories of inner conflict.
If you really care about “Supporting the Troops” then actively participate in taking care of them when they come home. There is nothing wrong with giving to a non-profit on the matter but getting your hands dirty is where we can really impact the net results. Find something you can do, to enrich and empower a Veteran. It’s not about a handout or free rides, it’s about truly caring and forming relationships that matter. This is how we create real change. What can you do for a Veteran? The answer is anything that makes a difference. Use your own skills and innate abilities to help those who once took an oath to defend you.

19 and Own Will


Running Out of Gas in Wyoming

Devils Tower 3

Devils Tower

Have you ever been alone? I don’t mean feeling alone, I mean being in a location without anyone or anything else around. It’s an eerie feeling but one that everyone should have every so often. Last week I took a trip out to Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower and Bad Lands National Monument. While driving through Wyoming there was this location which was totally desolate. There was no cell phone reception, no buildings, no people or no trees. The only things around were a cool strong breeze and a view which stretched as far as the eye could see. It was desolate and lonely but yet peaceful. I lived in a desert for a year oversees and found that there was a subtle beauty to the vast emptiness. The desolate environment has a way of transforming ones senses as a way to camouflage  the bleakness of the landscape. Every noise is more loud and every color more vibrant. The wind actually has the power to chant an impressive verse which tells its own story of the countryside. There is power in truly being alone without the comforts of technology. Society and the ways of the world often have a corruptive influence to our morals and beliefs. Maybe we all should take a few days to be away from it all to reflect upon all that is most important.

The photos are of Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower and Bad Lands National Park which I took last week. If you get a chance to go, I would highly recommend. I am sure to go back.

Mount Rushmore 3

Mount Rushmore

It was actually Bad Lands National Park which took my breath away.  I cannot begin to explain its breath of scope so I wont even try.

BadLands2

BadLands


Beach (2)

Here are some photos I took while working in Maine and New Hampshire over the last few weeks. I love the beach, even in the winter. My suggestion, go find a beach and watch the sun as it rises beyond the horizon. Let your mind drift while you listen to the waves sing their majestic melody. It’s a song filled with splashing dreams and wondrous sounds. I walked the beach for a predawn sojourn the other day and my gift was a most splendid peaceful sunrise. Despite the chill, the experience was absolutely amazing. It was glacial cold but I did not even notice because the sunrise took me away from myself. Sometimes all we need is just a little change in scenery.

Beach and Faris

Beach

 

 

 

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 370 other followers