Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Day One of the West Coast ADV - The Hardest Day of my Life

Today was perhaps the most difficult day of my life. I've had days where I've lost loved ones, broken bones, passed kidney stones, been stabbed, been fired, and been too depressed to get out of bed... but today... today was different. All of those other ailments were caused by some external force--whether chemicals in the brain or a short flight from a motorcycle seat--while today's difficulty came of my own volition.

Last night I was up until only about 1:00 prepping and packing the KLR for this three-week adventure across the west coast. For the first night in a few, I actually slept soundly. The stress of packing the bike with all my ADV gear was over, and I could simply snuggle with my wife and crash.

This morning was vastly different.

Wife to work. Kids to babysitters. Dad to... British Columbia? Suddenly there was this big disconnect, and following the kids out the door to the car with about 60,000 hugs didn't make it any easier. "Daddy will be gone for a long time," has been a common theme in our home for the last month, but they still didn't understand. They were just excited to go and see the new toys at the babysitters'. I would see Jess at work once the bike was packed... but for the kids, that was it. Three weeks.

To some people three weeks is nothing. Deployments, business trips, or even long work schedules make "three weeks" sound ridiculous. Still, this will be the longest time without my kids or wife, and since I'm also a "full time dad" it's tough.

And then I had what could best be described as a sort of "near death experience". They pulled away with oblivious waves as I was hit with intense regret. Not for motorcycling or adventuring. That is my job, and the time I am away will pay dividends when I get to work from home upon my return. No, it was for wasted time. Time playing utterly pointless pirate games on my phone. Purposeless time on Facebook. Time "dinking around" as we say in my family... simply wasted time that I will never get back. Time that could have been spent creating adventures and memories with my kids.

This hit me so hard that I lost all sense of what I should be doing. My mind was split between prepping the bike and thinking about my kids. I would be in the garage and think, "I need to get my socks on," then go upstairs to the room and... dust the computer? Only to find myself back in the garage facepalming because I still didn't have my socks on.

Finally I pulled it together and finished packing Brent's KLR 650, "Serena". The load was secure.

I tried to cram down some generic Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but my stomach was too "blegh". I double checked my list, hopped on the KLR, and started the adventure.

The first thing I noticed was how awkward the KLR now felt. It was like a sea lion on land. Just getting the kickstand up (a quibble I've always had with the KLR) was a chore. I had to lean the bike to the right near the tipping point to kick it up. Maneuvering it out of the driveway was no less awkward. With all that crap loaded to the back, the seating and position was also wacky. I was firmly sammiched between the tank bag and he rear bag... and wearing a backpack only added to the sardine-ness of the arrangement.

It was on to my wife's work, then fuel, then the open road.

I ambled to Jess' work and rattled in the front door feeling like C3PO in all my gear. Leaving my wife was the hardest part of the whole morning. It was a long goodbye, and I managed to get a few minutes of it on video before putting my helmet on, then taking it back off for more long goodbye without the camera. There were some brutal tears, but those were interrupted by some passerbyers. Gotta look manly when you're tip-to-toe in moto armor. It's a good thing I had already shaved my beard or it might have shriveled up and fallen off my face.

Letting her go I just looked at her. Tears in her eyes, tears in my eyes. I was about to call the whole thing off.

Finally it was time to go. Tear that bandaid off quick, man. I fired up the bike as she disappeared behind the door, and got on the road.

Getting the stand up and stopping on the seal--er...I mean KLR 650--is a chore. But if the KLR is a beached seal at a stop, it's right in the water on the freeway. 65-75 was no problem at all with stock gearing. Brent's oversized windscreen was awesome, as were the Gen 2 KLR's fairings that I had previously seen as overkill in an old review. Wind fatigue was a non-issue. At that speed I can make good time, enjoy the scenery around me, and ride in comfort. Suddenly all that stuff sammiching me was a support for my core, and the distance from Saint George to the I-70 was easily crunched. The apprehensions about the adventure all but disappeared when I got on the road and found out how comfortable I would be for the next 4000 miles. That would worry me no longer. The tunes cranking from the Sena SMH10 put me in a sort of zen that dulled the miles and feelings of anxiety like morphine.

One thing I can say about riding on the freeway... take the time to remove the peak on your dual sport helmet. It might block a few centimeters of the setting sun during the five minutes of the day that that's even a problem, and granted it does make you look like an ADV veteran... but riding with that thing on the freeway is like flying a giant flag over your head that not only whips your head around with wind, but also says, "ADV n00b." Aerodynamics trumps looking cool every time.

My route was diverted when Mr. DuhFactor called me with news that he, Mr. Rojoneck, and Adventure 2 Wheels would be in Springville to guide me in from the first leg of the adventure. I planned on riding through Spanish Fork Canyon, but changed directions at the prospect of riding with some of my heroes. Going through Nephi, I had to get a hold of my great friend Dr. Dual Sport to join us. We met up, Charles (Dr. D) got his bike ready, gave me a gift (I'll let you see that on his channel), and we rode to the Cracker Barrel in Springville to meet.

I thought we'd be riding from Hobble Creek to Squaw Peak for the last leg of the adventure... which happens to be one of my favorite fire-trail rides in the world so far, but time-crunches meant that the Misters would have to get back to SLC.

They escorted me, a huge overloaded B52 Bomber, like fighter jets on the freeway. Darting around me signing "love" and throwing out shakas while buffering my lane from the semis and idiot cagers. With all their cameras rolling I felt like a rock star. Finally they peeled off as I approached the bombing run in Bremen ("Memphis Belle" inside joke, there). Only Dr. Dualsport remained with me to meet my parents and give me encouragement and a final hug before heading back to Nephi on his Dual Sported WR 450.

Stop one was at my parents' house. (I know... I know... but family first!) I unloaded the bike and headed to Harbor Freight for some staples, a tool tube, and a few other tools with my dad. Tomorrow is another big day of bike prep. I now have even more stuff to haul, and will be replacing the stock seat with a beautiful Seat Concepts Commuter. Ohhhhh my posterior will be in butt-nirvana once I get that baby on.

That sounded weird.

eveRide out.