BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Mystic Rhythms-The Tranquility of Motorcycle Road-Tripping

Recently while doing some much-needed yard work, a song came over my ear buds that took me back, on a ride down “Memory Lane” so to speak. The song, “Clocks” by Coldplay, caused me to pause and reflect on a moto-road trip I took with a childhood chum a couple of years back. Yes, I know, that song and that band aren’t the first ones that come to mind when thinking about motorcycle riding, but I remember that song playing in my head while riding a long, tranquil stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway on a road trip Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brookswith my friend Lyle. The tune and voice are almost hypnotic, and it was the perfect backdrop to the state of mind I was in, as we wound our way down that gently undulating road through south central Mississippi. I stood there in the middle of my yard, propped on my rake, eyes closed, riding that breathtaking stretch again in my mind, probably even swaying, not so much to the music as to the memory of the big Yamaha underneath me on that strip of blacktop. I was there again, in my head and in my heart. An acute case of wanderlust was once again welling up within me.

There is a state of mind, of spirit, that long miles and hours in the saddle can bring to a rider. A state of peace, tranquility, relaxation, yet complete focus, awareness and control that a rider settles into out on the open road. Psychologist and professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi proposed the concept of “flow”, a mental state experienced when so totally immersed in an activity that a feeling of complete focus, engagement, and enjoyment is Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksachieved. I’ve heard it called “the zone”, “moto-nirvana”, “Zen” and “motorcycle heaven” among riders. Whatever the moniker, this state of being is something not experienced in many other aspects of life. A long trip in a four-wheeled “cage” can get tiresome, monotonous, even tedious, after hours and miles on the highway. Yet on a motorcycle, every moment, every mile, every sensation, can bring pure serenity, pure harmony. As the late singer/songwriter Rich Mullins once penned about riding, “Let the road wind tie our hair in knots; let the speed and the freedom untangle our lives.” I know that feeling.

I remember finding myself in this state while on another road trip, with my friend Mike. We were heading west out of Amarillo, Texas on Route 66/I-40, making for Tucumcari, New Mexico by nightfall. We practically had the interstate to ourselves, chasing the sun toward the western horizon. As we descended off the high plains of panhandle Texas, toward the desert mesas of New Mexico, the setting sun was splashing a kaleidoscope of color Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksacross the skies. Behind us, as darkness crept over the canopy above, a nearly full moon was rising behind our right shoulders. With Mike riding lead, his silhouette framed by the sinking sun, I fell into that state, almost like a trance. I rode, I sang, I prayed, and I found a stillness, a centering, came over me. It was a mystical, mythical peace, with the setting sun in my face, the wind blowing by my ears, my hands gripping the handlebars, the big Yamaha pulsing out a rhythm beneath me. Several years have now passed, yet I remember those moments, and many others on that trip, like they were yesterday.

On still another trip, one I took with my father, we rode the fabled Blue Ridge Parkway for several days. Weaving and rolling across this ribbon of blacktop heaven in the Smokies, the beauty of the mountains, coupled with the gentle tempo of the road around scenic vistas and through tunnels, I Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksfound myself in that state as well, feeling the rhythm of the ride, the bike, the fellowship with my father, and the breath-taking surroundings. I especially remember the morning we were up early enough to witness that spectacular moment when the morning cloud cover suddenly floats up, from below the Parkway to above it. Riding through that was nothing short of spiritual, almost divine to me. Being a Christian, I find an intimacy of fellowship with my Creator in those moments, which is hard to duplicate in other settings and activities.

Many people wonder and question why we ride. Do we crave adventure? Did we never grow up? Do we have a death wish? Often we who ride will simply Mystic Rhythms - Rob Brooksgive the answer, “the freedom.” And yet, when I find myself in that perfect riding state, that “mystic rhythm” if I may borrow from rock legends Rush, simply saying that I ride because of the freedom doesn’t even come close to capturing it. I’m addicted to that state like a drug. I am easily reminded of those moments, and so many others, so often in my everyday life. I find myself reflecting on them, discussing them with friends who know that place as well, and yearning for the next time I can saddle up, hit the road, and search for it again. I guess that’s why I ride.

Roll, roll me away,
I’m gonna roll me away tonight.
Gotta keep rollin’, gotta keep ridin’,
Keep searching ‘till I find what’s right…
-Bob Seger, “Roll Me Away”

Rob

Rob Brooks asserts “motorcycles are in my blood, in my DNA.” He even claims to have seen them under a microscope. This has not been independently verified. What is verified is Rob’s love of motorcycles, whether riding, writing, or wrenching on them. Rob has traversed America on two wheels, but calls north Georgia home, along with his wife, two daughters, and menagerie of pets. He has published a book, entitled “Road Dirt: The Musings & Ramblings of a Biker Preacher,” available on Amazon Books and Amazon Kindle.
Find Rob at www.road-dirt.blogspot.com

Exploring AZ’s Backcountry Discovery Route

I have been racing and riding motorcycles for 46 years and am one of those who was twisting the throttle right out of the womb. Anything that has 2 wheels has always captured my attention and I haven’t stopped since. This passion lead into what would become my career in the Powersports Industry for the last 30 years and still going strong.

Over the years I have raced and explored all the tracks, trails, and deserts that are spread throughout California and Baja. Unfortunately because of population growth and the overwhelming construction in such a desired area, many of us riders have been forced to go elsewhere or resort to street legal dual sport and adventure bikes that will allow us to ride the few trails that still exist in the landscape of Southern California.

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My KTM 1190R gives me the best of both worlds. I have plenty of power for the street with amazing off-road ability.

Dual Sports and Adventure bikes aren’t such a bad thing these days with modern technology and manufactures building works of art to explore the nooks and crannies of the earth. It has definitely sparked my interest and is why I own a KTM1190R adventure for the long distance journeys and a Husky 501 for the local trails. To me the adventure bike is an all in one package allowing one to leave right out of their garage, self-sustained with all the supplies and electronics needed to conquer just about any terrain and journey desired, including the ability to camp right off your bike.

A few of my good riding buddies have also recently purchased KTM1090r Adventure Bikes to add to their collection of off-road machines, so I have really been into exploring the outskirts of the San Diego area knowing I have others to help with hunting down the few trails that still exist due to the rapid growth of our demographics.

Recently, those friends and I were out exploring off road routes in the backyard of our home town San Diego. When we stopped for a break, our good friend Tommy said I’m doing the AzBDR (Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route) at the end of May before it gets too hot, so who’s in? Of course both Fred and I didn’t even hesitate to say, we’re both in.

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If you’ve never used or heard of Backcountry Discovery Routes, you need to check them out. They’ll soon have routes covering 12 states and provide a ton of information when you want to go off-the-grid like we intended to.

Other than routing out my own routes and organizing Adventure rides right out of the dealer to different destinations, I have yet to go on a route that was already organized through an organization like Backcountry Discovery Routes. After researching the material with my friends for the Arizona BDR, I quickly became excited for the thought of exploring new terrain and sites in a state so nearby our home quarters.

Even though it was the end of May, the southern part of Arizona at the border of Mexico where the BDR route starts, can experience scorching hot weather and would be very undesirable on a 2 wheel machine without having AC, so we decided to start just out of Tucson Arizona connecting into the BDR right at the base of Pioneer Pass heading north to Utah. Lucky for us the day we headed out of California to our first destination ended up being overcast through the Arizona deserts, keeping the heat down below the 100’s.

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Here are our 5-Star luxury accommodations for the trip. Lightweight tents, dehydrated food, good friends and the wilderness to enjoy.

Our plan was to get in the higher sections of the back country of Arizona so we wouldn’t experience the raging heat of the deserts. Though the Backcountry Discovery route is laid out in a way where food, gas and water can be found each day, we still prepared as though we would never see a hotel or any food during our ride across the Arizona landscape. Ensuring we had an adequate supply of dehydrated food and all the gear to camp anywhere we ended up for the evening, there was still the concern of having enough water each day due to the current fire restrictions that have been put in place throughout the majority of the forest that spreads across the entire northern region of Arizona. Many of the camp areas had bathroom facilities and sometimes dumpsters to dispose of trash, but no water or campfires. Despite these restrictions, and not being able to warm up next to a campfire, we still made due and enjoyed the outdoor camping only experiencing weather in the 30’s one of the evening’s and something that can’t be avoided when traveling at such elevations. Thankfully we all had tents, sleeping bags, & mats that capable of handling such conditions. Once we made it to Pioneer Pass we stayed in 4000-7500 Ft elevation for the remainder of our trip experiencing anywhere from 40-78 degree temps. Pioneer Pass leads into the Tonto National forest and Pinal Mountain range. These mountains were originally discovered by the Spanish and Mexican miners in the early 1800’s and rumors had spread from the Apache Indians that Gold exist throughout these mountain ranges. The miners were never successful in mining this area because of the suppression from the Apache Indians controlling the area in large numbers but eventually several U.S. miners and the U.S. Army went in and took control of the area to mine. These missions to find the Gold were unsuccessful in the beginning and is how the City Globe was formed, leaving behind a few straggling miners to stake their claim.

After our campout the first night, we packed up and headed down the other side of the pass into the town Globe, where we enjoyed a nice breakfast at a local café before heading north on the BDR. The old part of this town is left with all the old buildings that were established many years ago and gives the feel as though you rode right into an old western movie just waiting for a gunfight to go down. The Fire Station in town had an old Fire Engine from the 50’s that is still in use and looks like it rolled right off the showroom floor.

Heading out of Globe we soon clicked into the off road portion of the BDR heading for a town called Young for fuel and water. There are alternate routes along the BDR that are rated expert for Adventure Bikes, so we made sure to route ourselves on as many we could access as possible. Some of those sections started right out of Globe and the terrain to conquer was littered with boulders and 90 degree switch backs up and down the mountain ranges heading towards Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

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A loose strap was the cause of our first mechanical issue for the trip. While it took time to remedy the issue, it would cause us a bigger headache if left untouched.

To get around the lake we had to cross over the Salt River which feeds into the Lake. From here the next stop would be Young for fuel and water. We continued on enjoying the challenging ride of the scenic landscape with Rock Mountains, cliff formations, small stream crossings and pine forest scattered throughout the region. Once we arrived to Young we experienced our first mechanical issue. Tommy’s saddle bag strap got wound up in his rear wheel hub and sprocket during our ride in. We were forced to remove the rear wheel to clear it out otherwise we would’ve experienced bearing problems and that’s something you don’t want to happen in the vast desolate area we were in.

As we continued on out of Young riding more of the rocky expert terrain with Tommy leading, Fred at the tail end, and myself hanging out mid pack, we got plagued with our first flat of the trip. I became accustomed to checking my rear view mirror looking for Fred’s headlight making sure he was there, as we traveled long distances at a time without stopping or taking any breaks. I noticed I had not seen his headlight in a while because I was in the zone of riding and combing the landscape. I slowed down to a stop to check in the mirror and still no headlight.

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Flats Suck… When you have to ride through square edged rock sections like we did, it was bound to happen but at least we were prepared with the right tools.

I quickly realized something happened because Fred never drops off the pace unless something does happen. Because of the terrain we were just riding I thought he might have taken a spill, because of the square edged rocks everywhere. I finally back tracked to find that he had gotten a flat in his front tire. He took a nail or something as such right through the knobby of his tubeless set up. We tried to plug it with no success because it was right through the knobby, so we had to install a spare 21” tube in his tire in order to continue on. Tommy and Fred’s 1090’s do not come equipped with a center stand, so Tommy brought along a tool called the “Snap Jack”. It was a little tricky at first, but unbeknown to us we would soon become experts with this crafty little tool.

Once we repaired the flat we continued on to the mountains nearby Payson also known as the Coconino National Mountains where we hoped to connect a ridge trail called the 300 trail. Once we got to the ridge portion of the trail we noticed that the gate to cross through was closed due to fire restrictions. We were so tempted to go around the gate and continue on our route, but the area was highly populated with Forrest Rangers so we didn’t dare try, even though we knew we weren’t camping or making any campfires along the way to Winona.

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When in Winslow, AZ this photo is a must.

We had to reroute and go east and around through the town Winslow, AZ having to slab it most of the way. We stopped in Winslow and took our picture at the infamous corner of the street. Being pressed for time before sunset, we decided to head towards Winona, fuel up and head into the town of Flagstaff. Once we arrived in Flagstaff we found a sports bar and grill to have a nice meal and a beer settling with camping on the outskirts of Flagstaff since dark was nearing. After dinner we headed towards a campground we had picked out browsing the net. When we arrived the gate was shut and the campgrounds were closed due to fire restrictions once again. It was too late to decide on anything else so we went around the gate and camped in one of the remote sites for the night. We woke up early to get out, so we wouldn’t have to deal with any fines or harassment as we only needed a place to sleep for the night.

Gate or no gate, we going to set up camp for the night. We packed up and hit the road early enough the next day that nobody would know any different.

After having breakfast in Flagstaff, we studied the tracks that continue on for the rest of our journey in an attempt to decide on a route for the day. We came up with the idea to back track on the west side of the route that we should have taken into Winona the day before, but ended up being unpassable due to the locked gate. We were unsure if we could reconnect on the other side of where that gate was locked out of Payson, but we took the chance anyway hoping to get back on expert trail. We passed along Rogers Lake in an attempt to reconnect and stopped at a view point that overlooked the lower lake and the upper area that no longer had water in it. There was a local woman at the stop that had told us she used to swim in that lake 20 years ago and was pointing to an area that was dry. This was when I truly realized how bad the drought is in Arizona. I know many might think Arizona is just desert, but I can say it is far from that especially in the northern area. The pine forests are endless and the wildlife is abundant. During our travels we saw Coyotes the size of wolves and herds of elk crossing our pathway numerous times along the way.

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If you thought AZ was nothing but brown desert, you couldn’t be more wrong. We went through some beautiful pine forests with amazing views.

When we left the view point we immediately found the road and trail that connects the route we were looking for, and the gate was open. Off we went riding into Winona again, but on the BDR trail this time. We stopped to fuel up once we arrived and huddled up again to decide what the rest of our route would be before settling down to camp. We decided the South Rim of The Grand Canyon would be our target for the day. Even if we didn’t make it to the Canyon we knew we could disperse camp in the vast forest that lines the rim of the Canyon knowing we were behind schedule due to a flat.
The first section on our way out of Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon took us through an area riddled with crater and volcanic mountains. This mountain range is known as the San Francisco Peaks where 600 volcanoes have been identified in a 2000 mile radius. One of these crater volcanoes called the Sunset Crater Volcano was one of the obstacles we had to navigate around to continue on. We stopped at the view point for this Volcano at the base looking up to the black and brown mountain crater top. The entire areas ground cover were these small black rocks and black sand that is the remanence of weathered lava and ash from these volcanoes erupting many years ago. The consistency was like a loose rock type of sand that made it really challenging on an Adventure bike with no way to ride it perfectly because it was almost like riding in deep sand. Even though it was super challenging, I quite enjoyed the scenery around us and in awe as to how all the plants and trees could grow so abundantly in lava and ash, but I guess the nutrients it possesses could be the key to why it does.

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I never would have guessed that AZ could look so beautiful. When you get a chance you should explore it too.

Continuing on through all of the volcanic area we soon found ourselves surrounded by pine forest again and the feeling as though we were climbing even though the terrain appeared flat around us. Indeed we were climbing, because we found a remote campground that was nearing the rim of the Grand Canyon and when I looked down at my GPS it was just over 7500ft elevation. Not knowing we were so close to the rim and the convenience of stores and restaurants to cater to our needs, we decided to ask other campers around us if they knew where we could get water. This is when we realized how close it was and decided to make the trek there to resupply, eat a meal, and resort to the State Campgrounds on the South Rim of the Canyon. When we came out of the forest dirt road to the paved road that circles around the South Rim we finally got our first glance of the Grand Canyon. I’m sure many have said “I can’t describe it in words,” well this is very true and to me almost looked fake or surreal because it is so massive and so hard to process with the human eye. So many colors, the endless gap across, and the fact the forest lead right up the edge was just unbelievable. It almost looked like one of the outdoor scenes displayed in the many rides at Disneyland, except I knew this was the real deal.

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If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, be sure to add it to your bucket list. It truly is an awe inspiring sight.

In an attempt to get a spot at the State Campgrounds we quickly got denied forgetting it was the Memorial Day weekend. No big deal because we were able to supply back up with water, snacks, & beer, then headed back to the dispersed campground we had found a few miles back. Once we settled into this campground our buddy Tommy decided to roll out the “shower in a bag” for our first shower in days. We used our Jetboils to heat up water to add to cooler water to make the perfect temperature. I had become so accustomed to being grungy, that I didn’t realize how nice this tree shower would be, but can say it made for a nice evening around our makeshift campfire. Tommy had a red neck cloth that we used to cover over a portable lantern I had and set it right in the middle of the fire pit giving the feel we were sitting around a campfire without the heat. It sounds funny, but let me tell you, it was quite enjoyable sitting around this makeshift campfire and sipping our beers we brought with us from the Canyon Store.
The next morning we packed up and headed out for our next gas stop and then on down into the Canyon, across the Colorado river, up to the North rim on the other side and then residing at the State Campground for the night that was the border for Utah & Arizona.

Here is what is left of a Kiva, that Southwest Native American Indian Tribes would use for spiritual ceremonies and rituals.

To see and learn about the different tribes and ruins that had once spread throughout this land was spectacular, the Apache, Pueblo, Navajo, & Havasupai are among those many different types of Indians we learned about. We got to experience the area, traditions, and ways in which they lived, including many who still do live the way their ancestors did thousands of years ago.

Navigating the South Rim was another one of those incredible moments in witnessing the massive canyons that lead around and down to the Colorado River bridge crossing. So many fingers of canyons to navigate around, that it was almost like going through a maze without being able to tell where there would be a dead end at the canyons edge. Some of these viewpoints would be hard to access by 4 wheel drive so it was nice to be on bikes and see many sites few ever get to see.

We came across this canyon that had an aqua blue river flowing at the bottom. Later I learned that this is called the Havasu Creek and leads into what is known as Havasu Falls occupied by the Havasupai Indian. This water reflects a crystal clear blue green color because of the limestone and calcium deposits that line the beds of the river leading 50 miles into the falls. This was definitely a highlight for me because I have never seen anything like this in my life. While going along the rims of the canyon we encountered some very rocky areas with square jagged edge rocks imbedded into the trail and soil making it hard to avoid. This is when we experienced our second flat, now on Tommy’s 1090R because he plowed one of those jagged edge rocks causing a gouge on one of his side walls of his front tire. Back out came the “Snap Jack” and my 21” spare tube because Tommy only brought an 18” even though I told him to bring a 21” because it can be used in the rear or front if you’re only going to carry one tube. Live and learn, but this also gave me a little bit of a concern because we were miles from any help and using our last tube we had amongst us. Everyone had only packed air compressors and plugs, but none of us had remembered to bring patches. We had to install my only spare tube in Tommy’s front wheel because the sidewall had too big of a gouge and couldn’t be repaired by a plug.

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No that’s not a swimming pool at the bottom of the canyon. That is the famous Havasu Creek that leads to Havasu Falls. The minerals in the ground give the running river that amazing color.

Finally back on the trail we soon came out on the 89 Highway so we could cross over the Colorado River and head for our final destination of the trip for overnight camping at the State Line of Utah/Az. After stopping to fuel up and take pictures at the Colorado bridge crossing we encountered a tourist group of older people that had just stepped off a bus to take pictures as well. One of the gentlemen came up to us out of curiosity and asked us what our journey was all about on our motorcycles. As we were telling him our story he asked if we flew out there and rented the motorcycles were on. I held back from being rude, but was thinking in my head “Do we look like guys who would fly out here and rent bikes?” especially with our grungy gear and our beards we had developed from the start of our trip, how would someone think that? Sorry to say, but people who don’t ride motorcycles just don’t get it and could never understand what us riders experience when we do.

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This bridge over the Colorado River was an indicator that we were reaching the end of the trail and it was time to make our way back to civilization and then home. What a trip it has been!

After fueling and watering back up, we set off to our final destination. On our way we came across an area called Marble Canyon that had old ruins that still existed at the base of the cliffs. We pulled in to check it out and as we did here comes Fred with a frown on his face that could be recognized behind his helmet. I looked down to notice he had gotten another flat in his front tire. We had no tubes or patches so what were we going to do, plus we didn’t even know the severity of the blowout and if it could even be repaired? Nearing dark we contemplated whether we would just camp there or try to repair the flat somehow and move on.

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Another flat but this time all of our spare tubes were being used. Fortunately enough we were able to bum a patch off a tire repair guy we found on the side of the road. Fingers crossed to hold air.

Deciding to try and repair it, we sent Tommy off to the gas station where we last filled up, because we hadn’t gone that far yet before getting the flat. On his way back he ran into a repair truck repairing a flat on a truck and trailer. Tommy asked him for a tube and he said he didn’t have a tube, but he might have a patch, so he dug down in his tool box to find one patch to offer us. By the time Tommy had got back, Fred and I already had the tire and tube out. Lucky for us it was just a pin hole, but it took us 3 attempts to get the patch to finally hold. Even though it was almost dark we decided to journey on to the campgrounds at the State Line.

Continuing on the BDR route led us into dirt trails to the campgrounds so we were all pleased to know we all had aftermarket lights that would light up the trail like day. It was actually really fun to ride at night since we hadn’t experienced that yet on our trip. When we arrived at the campground there was a sigh of relief in finally getting there and lucky for us we occupied the last campsite left. It had an awning with a cement floor. The weather was so nice outside that we set up our mats and sleeping bags sleeping under the stars and full moon for the night. Every night of our journey displayed a full moon providing us Mother Nature’s flashlight allowing us to see whenever the sun went down, never having any other light that would typically shine from cities nearby.

The end of our trip had neared and it was time to pack up and make the trek back home heading through the southern part of Utah to the 15 Freeway, and on home to California through the middle of Vegas. We got a small glimpses of Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion. Wow! What a site from a distance, we all felt like continuing on the BDR through the state of Utah, but we had run out of time and had to head back to the real world.

On our way through Vegas we ran into heat in the 100’s that was only bearable if we kept moving. Once we got right into Las Vegas rolling down the 15, Fred’s patch on his tube decided to let go due to the heat. Luckily this happened right as we rolled into Vegas otherwise I’m not sure what we would’ve done being stranded in the middle of the desert in 100 degree temperatures and nothing to repair a flat. We found a small motorcycle repair shop in the old town of Vegas. They were able to repair the flat, but they didn’t have a 21” tube in stock. What motorcycle repair shop doesn’t have a 21” tube? The most common size tube on the planet for a motorcycle.

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What kind of motorcycle shop doesn’t stock a 21″ tube??? I was baffled myself. Either way we were able to pick one up at another location and get back on the road.

I had to go to a Cycle Gear to buy the tube and bring it back to the small shop to repair. By this time Fred and the crew already had the wheel off and ready to receive the tube. We got it wrapped up and back on the road in no time and stopped at a gas station to top off before heading home. When both Tommy and I pulled in the gas station we pulled in opposite sides from each other. I stepped off my bike opened my fuel cap and the geyser of gas spouted out of the top like somebody had just turned on the fire hydrant. I immediately slammed my cap closed and locked it, just as I did this, I looked over at Tommy sitting on his bike, and watched him have the same thing happen. He finally closed his cap and stopped his geyser. Luckily we were able to clean up and prevent ourselves from exploding. Apparently the heat and very little fuel used since the last stop created our tanks to become pressurized. How nothing happened still boggles me to this day, especially being in that kind of heat and the blazing hot motors of our bikes.

Finally we continued our journey successfully making it home without anything else happening that would hold us back. Every time I do these trips I know why they call our bikes Adventure Bikes, because it’s always been an adventure for me, and one I always like look back on with no regrets and the feeling of satisfaction in making it to the end and being able to explore sites many never will see.

The three of us were such a team and enjoyed each other’s company so much that our next trip is the Utah BDR that we will also conquer before years end. I’m sure the trips will continue to line up for us and look forward to what the future has to hold. “It’s Time to Ride”

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: How To Stay Safe On 2-Wheels

We motorcyclists come in all shapes and sizes. We have different tastes in bikes. We have different ideas on gear. Some ride 50 miles a month, others ride 50 miles a day. Some like to relax and cruise while others seek the adrenaline that comes from getting their knee down. Despite all of these differences there is one thing we all have in common. We’ve all had someone lecture us on how dangerous motorcycles are. You know what I’m talking about. When people find out that you ride they feel like it is their duty (even if they are complete strangers!) to explain to you that their aunt/brother/cousin/nephew works in the emergency room of City Hospital and they see 47 motorcyclists a day come through looking like they were hit with the fog that turns people inside out. Motorcycles are donor-cycles! How could you possibly ride?

I think these folks are out of line for meddling, but there is some truth to what they are saying. According to a recent study motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all motor vehicle related fatalities, which is up from only 5.7% in 1994. You may think 14% doesn’t sound like much but we are “significantly overrepresented as a proportion of all traffic deaths.” Additionally, per miles driven motorcyclists have a fatality rate that is 28 times higher than passenger cars. In other words, we do take on some additional risk by choosing to ride a motorcycle.

I don’t think this is news to anyone reading this. I’ve considered the risks of motorcycling. You have too. And yet we still ride. Why is that? Because while riding a motorcycle is risky, there are ways to mitigate that risk. Let me share what has worked for me. I should stop here and mention that I’m not an expert. But like a certain insurance company, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two. I have been riding for almost 25 years. I am on my bike almost every day, rain or shine, freezing or hot. It’s my life.

Let’s start by talking about risk (or gambling if you will) vs. insurance. There’s a classic Simpsons episode where a hurricane blows through Springfield and the only house that gets destroyed is the town’s famous God botherer, Ned Flanders’. When asked if the house was insured the response is “Neddy doesn’t believe in insurance. He considers it a form of gambling.” That’s funny but not quite true. When we gamble we take on risk that didn’t previously exist. When we buy insurance, we seek to mitigate risk. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum. An example might help. I found this brilliant comparison from, not surprisingly, an insurance website:

When we enter into a gambling [or risky] engagement… we create risk of loss that did not previously exist. In other words, there was no risk of losing money to gambling until we bought the lottery ticket or put the money in the slot machine.

staying safe on two wheels - Ben Johnson
From doing their makeup to “checking a quick email,” distracted drivers are out there, both male and female. For this reason, motorcyclist need to be extra careful on the road. Photo: MedicalDaily.com

Conversely, the risk of financial loss from other causes already exist whether we purchase insurance or not. For example, my home faces the same risk of being burned down by a fire whether I buy homeowners insurance or not. If I do not have homeowners insurance, I am faced with the possibility of having to pay completely out of my pocket to rebuild my home in the event of a fire.

Relating this back to motorcycling, it is a given we are going to ride. We are taking on the risk, therefore what are we going to do to offset that risk?
Last week I had to do some work on my motorcycle and the upshot was I would be without a bike for a week. Normally I’d rather jog home from my own vasectomy than commute to work in a car, but it gave me an opportunity to see how the other half travel. I had forgotten how distracting it can be to drive a car. In addition to trying to watch the road you have to worry about your A/C being just right, the texts or calls coming to your phone, making sure your tunes are playing, drinking your coffee and eating your breakfast burrito, and scrolling through the news. In addition, I’ve seen people putting on makeup, loading DVDs for their kids to watch something in the back of the minivan, taking a FaceTime call, reading a book, watching TV from a cell phone mounted on the windshield (seriously!) It is like DRIVING has become a distraction to everything else we are trying to do.

Ben Johnson
As safe as this looks, many riders see it as a huge danger zone. It’s not uncommon for careless drivers to jump into the HOV lane with little to no notice.

So the first form of insurance we can buy as motorcyclists is to understand that every rolling box on the road is most likely filled with someone who isn’t paying 100% attention to the act of driving. This should influence our style of riding. For example, when I’m heading to work I use the HOV lane, but I hug the very left of the lane. I’m practically on the yellow line. Why? Because I’ve noticed that when traffic starts slowing in the fast lane people have a tendency to think, “Forget this noise. I’m going to jump in the carpool lane.” And since traffic has stopped in front of them they can’t make a gradual merge into the HOV lane. They have to swing it wide. But since I am already way to the left I can simply go around these surprises.

Ben Johnson
Flying debris on the highway is no laughing matter. You need to be on the lookout for the oddest things.

What else? It’s a bad idea to tailgate. Aside from the obvious problem of someone stopping short, I’ve noticed that tailgating can hinder your ability to see debris in the road. A car will roll right over something that will cause you big problems. I hit a 2×4 once that I didn’t see coming because I was riding too close behind a car. Avoid riding behind trucks if you can. No offense truck people, but I don’t know what you’ve got in your bed that could come flying out at any moment. I once saw one of those large brown Rubbermaid garbage cans rise up out of the back of a truck, float for a second, and then waft out onto the freeway and tumble erratically across four lanes of traffic. Heck, my brother lost a full size PING PONG TABLE on the freeway and he claims it was tied down securely. Landscaping trailers are another hazard. Ever been behind one of those things and you get so many leaves and sticks in your face you feel like this? Go around these guys if you can.

The second type of insurance we can get is gear, and I’m not strictly talking gear for safety reasons. Gear helps you stay focused on your ride. I’m not gonna high horse it and claim I’m an ATGATT guy. I’m not. But at some point in my career I realized riding was much more enjoyable when I dressed up. Starting at the bottom, get some nice, sturdy, closed-toed shoes to wear. Ever ridden in flip-flops? It’s insanely nerve wracking. I’ve taken some rocks off the top of my feet that surely would have drawn blood had I been in flip-flops. Pants are helpful too. This is a true story: I was riding in shorts and I had a bee fly up them and sting me on the upper thigh. Talk about distracting. I also once had a bee in my helmet, but that’s another story…

ben Johnson
If you’ve never been caught in a Microburst, be glad. These weather events can be extremely violent causing high winds and lots of water to fall from the sky in a short period of time.

Next, wear a jacket. I know, I know, summer is coming and it’s nice to go out for a ride in your short sleeves. Living in Phoenix, I understand that temptation. But I’ve not a nice mesh jacket that is almost as cool as going sans sleeves but I get the added benefit of protection. I remember doing a ride in southern Utah once in the middle of July. My dad and brother and I had just taken the ferry across Lake Powell and were headed across highway 276 into the middle of the desert. It was 105 degrees on the deck and we were fried. Out of nowhere a summer microburst hit us. It felt incredible and the after-rain smell was amazing. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had on a motorcycle. For my brother, however, it was one of the worst. Why? Because while my dad and I were wearing jackets he was wearing just a long sleeve cotton t-shirt. He said it felt like he was being shot with thousands of BBs. So jackets help.

Gloves are another item that I haven’t always believed in. I used to ride with my bare hands because I hated the bulkiness of gloves. But it only takes one rock off your knuckles at 80 MPH to make you a believer. I’ve found some great gloves that are pretty thin on the palms but have some nice padding and protection built in on the tops of the hands. They are even vented a little to help with the heat.

I know this can be a controversial subject, but can we talk about helmets? I personally wear a full face helmet and I can’t imagine going without one. Some folks like the ¾ face helmets. Some wear the ½ helmets, and others can’t be bothered to wear anything. If you live in a state that has loose helmet laws you can do whatever you want, but wearing a nice fitting helmet is one of the best ways to cut out distractions while riding. It wraps you in a nice cocoon of protection. You don’t feel like someone has a leaf blower pointed at your face. You can relax and focus your attention on the ride.

Finally, I’d like to talk about an item that offers nothing in the way of physical protection but absolutely helps me stay focused while I’m riding: earplugs. If you’ve never tried ear plugs I highly recommend them. You can pick some up at your nearest pharmacy for about the price of a candy bar. Roll some up and put them in your ears and go for a 30 minute ride one way. Then take them out and ride back home and marvel at the difference. Using earplugs has taken a lot of the strain out of my rides. It honestly relaxes me and allows me to focus.

As I mentioned above, I’m not an expert on motorcycle safety. I just happen to ride a lot and I wanted to share a few things that have worked for me over the years. I would love to hear what has worked for all of you.

Top 10 Moto Camping Essentials

MUST HAVE items for your next moto adventure

It seems like just yesterday that I got my MC license. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been involved in powersports most of my life, usually on 4-wheels, and always threw a leg over a dirtbike when the opportunity presented itself, but street riding never really piqued my interest till I started working here. Getting my license presented a whole new world of adventure in my eyes though. I loved the thought of packing what I could on the newly acquired 2016 Yamaha Super Tènèrè SE and just hit the open road till I found the perfect camping spot in the mountains or along the beach. The ST provided the perfect platform for me since ADV bikes can be taken off-road when you’re tired of dealing with fast-paced hectic city streets.

I had the machine dialed in, but what to put on/in it for a great moto-camping experience?

I knew what I wanted to do with this bike so I started making my list of things necessary to go off-the-grid so to speak. The obvious choice was to protect the machine first, so I made a few calls to AltRider and was sent out a set of their Crash Bars, Skid Plate and other protection items to ensure I wouldn’t be stranded on the trail. I also installed a set of Yamaha Hard Cases and Top Case to securely hold all of my gear and equipment for any of my adventures.

Now comes the tricky part. I’ve been camping all of my life…. But usually out of a trailer or the bed of my truck. This whole moto-camping thing poses a whole new challenge because space is drastically limited compared to what I’m used to. Considering that I want the ability to ride dirt trails, I also need to be conscious of the additional weight that I’d be lugging around so the bike wasn’t obscenely heavy and sluggish to maneuver. Sure I could take my chances and guess what I absolutely need to carry with me, but why not turn to an expert who lives and breathes this whole ADV lifestyle?

As the Senior Editor for XLADV.com, Eric Hall was a great resource to turn to for the best moto-camping gear choices.

This is where I turned to the Senior Editor for XLADV.com, Eric Hall. I friended and followed him for a while on Facebook and can tell you that he’s got a passion for Adventure Bikes and where they can take him. Eric also has plenty of moto-camping experience under his belt so he would be a perfect resource to answer all of my questions about what my must-have items should be and why. Scroll down to see which items Eric recommends for every moto-camping enthusiast and why. You just might find yourself re-evaluating your gear selection and possibly upgrading.

It’s light, easy to setup, provides great shelter and packs up tight… it’s the Nemo Galaxi 2-Man Tent.

1. Nemo Galaxi 2-Man Tent: Unless you’re an extreme minimalist, the Galaxi 2-man backpacking tent is the perfect shelter when you’re done riding for the day and want to get a good night of sleep. This 3-season tent weighs just over 6-pounds, takes up minimal space when packet (19”x8”) and is simple for someone to set up alone. If you’re camping in great weather you can pull the rain fly back or remove it completely to stargaze at night through the mesh canopy, or encapsulate yourself if the temps are too low. The 2-man size means that there is plenty of space for you and your gear inside and it comes with everything you need from stakes, repair kit and footprint to protect the underside of the tent from rips, tears or anything else you might have to set-up on.

While the Redverz tent definitely costs more, it’s also the only tent that provides you with a garage for your motorcycle and gear in one compact lightweight package.

**Upgrade alternative: If you really want to go all out on shelter for you and your bike, you can get a Redverz Motorcycle Tent. Some people say “If you’re cold, they’re cold,” the Redverz Motorcycle Tents let you shelter your steed from the elements with the built in garage that you can completely close. You get all of the benefits of a quality 3-season tent with the added feature of a portable garage built in one with a slightly higher pricetag.

 

This mummy style sleeping back won’t cook you to death, but it will keep you warm and comfortable when it’s cold outside.

2. Nemo RIFF Men’s Down Sleeping Bag: Since we’re trying to save space and weight, having to pack multiple blankets is not an option. The Riff Down Sleeping Bag is available in temperature ratings down to 30° and 15°, weigh just over 2-pounds take minimal space when compressed into the supplied stuff sack. Full length double slider #5 YKK zippers make it easy to get in and out of and the construction has a ton of features to ensure you’re comfortable all night long.

There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep on uneven ground or having a rock jab you in the back. That is why Eric recommends the Nemo Astro Sleeping Pad.

3. Nemo Astro Sleeping Pad: You can have the best sleeping bag and tent combination that money can buy, but if you don’t have a good sleeping pad to keep you off the ground you’re not going to be comfortable. The Nemo Astro is available either insulated or non-insulated and in a standard or long/wide model for us larger bodied campers. At 3.5-inches thick, it provides a comfortable sleeping base with its lateral baffle design and is simple to inflate/deflate to your liking with the micro-adjust valve. Like the tent and sleeping bag, it compresses tight for minimal storage space on your moto.

The Fillo Backpacking Pillow is almost as good as your pillow at home but packs up much tighter so you’ve got plenty of space for other essential camping gear.

4. Nemo Fillo Backpacking Pillow: You can’t get a good night of sleep without a comfortable place to rest your head. That is where this Nemo Fillo pillow comes into the picture. The thick luxury foam is the perfect resting place for your head that inflates within a matter of seconds and isn’t much smaller than a pillow you’d use at home. Once you’re awake and ready to get packed up, it stows away in its own integrated stuff sack again with minimal space requirement.

Whether you’re boiling water for a cup of coffee or your next dehydrated meal, the Fire-Maple Personal Cooking System gets the job done without contributing to organizations that try to shut down access to public lands.

5. Fire-Maple FMX-X3 Personal Cooking System: After a long day on the road or off of it, you need to refuel your body and the FMX-X3 is a great compact cooking system from a company that doesn’t contribute to organizations that try to close down riding areas like some of its competitors. The kit works with most butane/propane mixed fuel canisters and comes with an insulated aluminum pot with integrated plastic-coated stainless handle, multi-purpose pot-holder for use with other pots and pans and fuel canister tripod. You store all parts of the stove in the pot for secure storage when traveling and minimal space requirement.

The Trailmaster Adventure Gear Trailside Grill is great for grilling when you’re tired of having to add water to everything you eat.

6. Trailmaster Adventure Gear Trailside Grill: Let’s face it…. There’s only so much dehydrated food you can tolerate on a trip and the Trailmaster Adventure Grill gives you the opportunity to get a great cut of bovine from a nearby butcher and sear some flesh at the end of a hard day on the road. The grill is made from 22ga. Stainless steel, weighs less than 6-pounds and assembles quick and easy. Aside from being a killer grill, you can also use it for fire containment to keep warm and make S’mores for dessert.

the Silipint Silicone Pint glass is good for coffee in the morning or your favorite beer in the evening without the worry of ending up with shattered glass in your pannier

7. Silipint 16oz Pint Glass: These unbreakable silicone pint glass is perfect to hold your afterhour’s beverage so you can relax for the night. Hot or cold, it will hold it all! Added bonus is that it also provides TP storage while packed away in your panniers!

8. Quality Headlamp: There’s no one headlamp that I recommend over another, but just get one that is bright and easy enough for you to use when you’ve got a late arrival at camp. Prices on these can range anywhere from $20 – $200+ so do a little research and see what would work best for you.

Kick out your feet and relax in comfort with the lightweight Helinox Zero Camp Chair.

9. Helinox Chair Zero Camp Chair: After a long day in the saddle, the last place you want to sit is on a rock, log or hard ground. The Chair Zero keeps you comfortably off the ground, provides support in all the right areas, is lightweight (510-grams) and super compact for easy storage when not in use.

The Gerber Hand Axe is the perfect for all your hammering or chopping (not food) needs.

10. Gerber Combo Axe II: From pounding in stakes for your tent to chopping up wood for kindling, the Gerber Hand Axe is an absolute must have in my panniers when I’m going off-the-grid. It has an overall length of just over 15-inches so you can get a good swing to break wood, and weighs in at only 26-ounces! An added bonus to this is that it comes with a small tree saw stored inside the handle.

Now armed with the knowledge of the must-have items for ADV Moto Camping, it’s time to go shopping and get geared up for some great adventures since this has given me even more drive to get out and explore the country on two wheels. If you’ve ever wanted to give the ADV moto-camping thing a shot and are up for an adventure, you might want to check out and participate in XLADV.com’s 7th Annual “High Sierra” event. You’ll get to experience riding in the High Sierra with great hosts at and event to benefit Motorrad Angels. The event is limited to 80 riders so the trails won’t get heavily impacted and it’s a more personal event where people can get to know each other to help the community grow.

What do you think of this list? Do you agree? Maybe you’ve got suggestions to include? Feel free to leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. This way we can help others in our riding community who might have questions or even make a part 2!

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Klim Latitude Pant and Jacket Review

Our bodies were not meant for motorcycling. Straddling an engine and catapulting ourselves across time and space can result in exposure to extreme cold and heat. Sometimes, even bolting ourselves and our bikes back together with a bit of metal. We need the best protection we can get when exposed on a motorcycle for days, weeks or even months at a time.

Enter Klim, experts at engineering an armored second skin for sled-heads, dirt and ADV riders. They know a thing or two about protecting us from the elements and have put their graduate degree at the school of hard knocks into something for sport-touring and touring riders: the Klim Latitude.

I welcomed the Klim Latitude as an addition to my gear stash, since I will admit to anyone that I am a bit of a gear junkie. My garage has racks of skis and my closet is full of motorcycle gear to meet the ever changing weather conditions here in the pacific northwest. To earn its spot in my closet though, I did a comprehensive breakdown including a 4 day, 1600 mile test ride to the Klim offices in Rigby, Idaho to meet with Klim’s Brand Training Manager, Dustin Pancheri.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
The Latitude jacket and pant fit my 6’2” frame perfectly. Here, I am wearing the jacket in a large and the pants in a 34 tall.

The Latitude jacket and pant main body are made from 2-layer Gore-Tex. In case you haven’t heard, Gore-Tex is the best stuff on the planet for keeping you warm and dry when Mother Nature wants to rain on your parade. I have a Gore-Tex jacket for ski patrol and can give you countless stories about how that material has made the difference between working comfortably in a hostile environment or suffering a miserable shivering existence.

To have Gore-Tex in a motorcycle jacket and pant, where chilly and wet weather can dull your reaction time, just might make the difference between a narrow escape versus picking yourself up from the ditch.

If you have been cold and miserable on a bike, you know what I am talking about.

Klim uses Gore-Tex in their snowmobile gear as well, so they are experts at waterproof construction practices. In fact, in my visit to the factory, I saw the apparatus they use to test the waterproofness of their gear. It is a pressure tester.

You read that right. They put the fabric beneath a ring similar to the wooden hoops my mom once used for needlepoint. That ring then presses the fabric onto a plate with holes drilled for the flow of pressurized water. Then, as the fabric is held down with the ring onto the pressure plate, water is forced up through the holes in the plate. You can then look down onto the fabric and see if bubbles form. If you are wearing the Latitude jacket and pant in an environment where water pressure is that severe, then you are so far underwater that your biggest worry should be fishing your motorcycle out from the Mariana Trench. Then explaining to your insurance company how it got there.

If the fabric can withstand that kind of water pressure, then 50 caliber raindrops are a laugh.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
The reflectivity of the Latitude jacket and pant really stand out. There is plenty of stretch in the shoulders for a comfortable reach to the bars.

To take their total protection to an even higher level, Klim lined the elbows and forearms of the jacket with goat leather. They also lined inside of the thighs and knees with goat leather where they contact the bike along with a small trim of goat leather on the shoulders and the knees beneath the heavy duty 840D Cordura. In my conversations with Dustin, he reported that Klim studies how many stitches per inch they can put into the leather to get maximum seam integrity to resist tearing without putting so many holes in the leather that it rips upon contact with terra extra-firma like some sort of leather tear away coupon. That my friends, is attention to detail.

And Klim thinks of every detail. According to Dustin, the dye they use for their fabric is engineered to resist fade, so that black jacket will still be black years from now, not a sun faded grey. The zippers on the pants and jacket have rubberized pulls so they are easy to grab with a gloved hand, even when wet. The 3M Scotchlite reflective panels are positioned strategically along major anatomical joints on your frame (collarbone, arm, forearm, shoulder blade, thigh and calf) to make you look like a humanoid form when it reflects headlights, instead of a mail truck or sign post. There is even a vertical zipper along the sides of the belly in case your ride entails you eating a burrito the size of a sleeping bag.

There are two roomy chest pockets on the front and I found that, when devoid of contents, they make excellent chest vents. These two external pockets on each chest combined with the two hand warmer pockets give plenty storage space for touring.

There is also a emergency medical ID pocket on the left forearm with the star symbol (*) to tell first responders where to find your medical information should they need it. If you fill out a form online, Klim mails you your personal I.D. card for free. Nice touch.

Then, behind that pocket is a secret flap (maybe not so secret now since I am telling everybody) that is designed to hide a credit card or stash of cash. But I think that its best use is storage for an extra key for your bike. If you have ever lost the key to your bike, or have it amputated off in your saddlebag then you know how life saving this hidden pocket could be.

As to not over-engineer the basics, there are simple Velcro adjusters on the wrist and adjustment straps on the forearms, ribs and back of the knee to make sure that your armor does not rotate upon impact. I think Klim got the collar height just right, not tall enough to rub up against your Adam’s apple and chafe, but tall enough to eschew Mother Nature’s attempts to ruin your good time. Also, the collar adjusts with a cinch strap, offset to the left so it can be reached with your clutch hand. More attention to detail.

When you open up the inside of the jacket you see what seems to be pretty standard fare at first: four zippered pockets, two on each side.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
The inside of the jacket is comfortable and has plenty of travel oriented storage.

Look closer.

The left chest pocket has a cutout for your headphones. I cannot ride without my music, so a jacket not having a Napoleon pocket is a deal breaker for me.

Then, if you remove the back pad, there is another small, passport sized pocket behind it. With all of this storage, you could play hide and seek with this jacket. It is clearly designed for travel.

The pants have two glove sized hand warmer pockets with an additional zippered thigh pocket on the left hand side.

What surprised me is the coziness of the liners on the jacket and pants. They are as soft as your oldest, comfiest pair of gym shorts your wife keeps begging you to throw away; they are that comfortable. Klim understands this so they gave the liners a Polygiene Odor Control additive which means that after a couple of days or weeks on the road, the garments won’t smell like that old pair of gym shorts your wife is begging you to throw away.

So it is clear that the Latitude will keep you warm, happy and comfortable no matter what your riding conditions. Which makes you wonder how well it performs when temperatures start to climb.

The answer is: fantastic.

This is one of the benefits of having a Gore-Tex shell. The exterior is waterproof and guaranteed to keep you dry, which means that all vents go directly to the body, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Many manufacturers do not have waterproof shells, so they either have a non-removable liner behind the main fabric or include a separate, detachable liner to stop rain before it gets to your skin.

The disadvantage of these two solutions is that the vents are either blocked by the non-removable liner or you have a detachable, garbage bag quality liner that you have to stop and attach to your jacket beneath a freeway under pass while your riding buddies ride by, honking and waving at you in their Klim Latitude. Or if you are me, you forget to pack the stupid liner. Or you just lose it completely.

Also, with either of these waterproofing techniques, the jacket gets completely, soaking, wet. The jacket absorbs water and you now have a wet, heavy jacket to wear for hours on end. You might be dry (maybe) but your jacket is a sloppy mess. This perfectly describes both my current ADV jacket and touring outfit. After a downpour, I gain an additional 10 pounds of retained water, like a soaking wet sleeping bag, and about as comfortable. Couple this with no venting directly to the body and you can see that Klim has the best solution: make the shell waterproof, with water resistant zippers and you can then vent directly to the body.

And boy, does it vent well. There are two vents on the forearms that push air up and over your arms, around your shoulders and down the vertical exhaust vents in the lower back. For fun, I would engage my throttle lock and stick both my arms out to my side like Rose riding on the bow of the Titanic. These forearm flaps then deployed fully and caught serious wind which was not only great for cooling, but made enough wind drag it allowed me to steer the bike with the throttle lock on. Put my right arm out to steer right, left arm out to steer left, both arms out dropped my speed by a couple mph. These are the games you play with idle time while doing hundreds of miles a day through Montana.

There are also two vertical shoulder vents positioned high enough so air can reach them past your windscreen. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the two chest pockets (should they be devoid of contents) can be opened and used as additional vents.

However, my favorite venting feature is the double hold back collar. Each side of the collar can be retained open with simple elastic loops and a hook mounted near your collar bone, unlike most manufacturers that have only one side of a collar to open for venting. The holders are so simple and bulletproof I could hook them back while riding. Why isn’t everyone using this design?

Open up both sides of the collar, unzip the main zipper and you feel like you are wearing a hardcore mesh jacket. I controlled the venting by pinning both collars back and then pulling the main zipper up to my neck for a tad bit of air, or unzipping all the way down for the full on parachute effect. With the zip all the way down and all vents open, I felt like a B-52 deploying full flaps while coming in for a landing. It’s as close as you can come to wearing just a t-shirt.

The pants have not only two huge thigh vents but also exhaust vents on the back of the leg on your hamstring. Again, why isn’t everyone doing this? Open both of them up for the M.C. Hammer pants look and let the good air flow.

Even with all of the time and effort spent on these features, Klim didn’t skimp on the armor, putting D30 armor in the knees, hips, forearms, shoulders and the back. D30 is amazing stuff. This orange goo (yes, they actually call it that) feels like silly putty when you play with it, but when it meets impact, it hardens instantly to dissipate that kinetic energy through the material.

Scientists call it a non-Newtonian fluid. I call it amazing.

It’s so pliable you never notice it’s there. But when the orange goo is called into action, it meets or exceeds CE Level 1 protection. By the way, kudos to Klim for including a real back protector with their gear. Why do other manufacturers just include a throwaway foam placeholder in the back, forcing you to choose between spending more money for real back protection or just take your chances?

To test the armor, I grabbed a hammer. Not just any hammer, a long handle, 28oz framing hammer. That way, no one would claim that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I put my hand beneath the back pad and bravely gave a healthy swing. There is no doubt in my mind that with lesser armor I would have had broken metacarpals for days, but the D30 just stiffened up, absorbed the energy of the impact and returned to its normal, malleable self.

Then I did it again.

And a third time for filming purposes.

Then I high fived my cameraman Kevin Rimes with my impacted hand. Not something I could have done with any other armor.

Then he said that we didn’t get audio and we had to repeat the filming all over again.

Kevin. You are fired.

More hammer blows.

But a note: at freezing temps, the armor does stiffen. More on that later. Which brings us to the road test.

And my chosen destination? The Klim offices in Rigby, Idaho, of course.
I left Wenatchee under blue skies and cool temps in the high 50’s, made an overnight stop in Clarkston, headed over Lolo Pass to Missoula then down to my overnight camp near Rigby. In the true spirit of fully testing the Latitude jacket and pant, I only took off the gear to sleep. It came off as I got in my sleeping bag and I put it on as I crawled out.

Of course, the fact that it was 32 degrees in Rigby when I woke up may have had something to do with that. As I rolled out of my sleeping bag to put on the jacket and pants lying next to me in my tent, I discovered I had accidentally laid the jacket face up over the top my helmet. It was then that I learned that D30 armor does get very stiff when the temperature reaches freezing. In my case, the D30 back pad had slightly frozen into a convex curve. This stretched the jacket fabric enough making it difficult to put on. When I did wrestle the jacket on, I looked like a turtle with its shell put on upside down. However, a few minutes of body heat softened the pad up enough so that it returned to its happy, limber self. Not everyone will live in this gear in freezing temps, so this might only apply to me. This is the testing I do in the name of gear review for you.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
Old bike. Cold bike. The picture is perfectly focused, the dash is frosted over. A heated liner is the perfect mate to the Latitude in these temps. Get one!

Way above my pay grade.

Later that morning, I had the privilege of spending the better part of a day with Dustin Pancheri,and got a great tour of Klim HQ. This is what I uncovered.

Dustin is the kind of person who after a brief introduction, makes you feel like you are chatting with an old riding buddy: stories get exchanged, laughter, knowing smiles. He is so passionate about the sport, the outdoors, the Klim family and his own family that you get the sense that he eats, sleeps and breathes the gear head life. Even he admitted that sometimes he will be at home, have an idea and say “Oh my gosh, I just had an idea. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Passionate.

But it’s not just Dustin. Everyone at Klim that I met embodied that passion. Sales people, marketing managers, warehouse workers, upper management, all shook my hand, said they were glad to meet me and then would apologize for the popcorn butter on their hands. They were all happy to stop and say hello, share a smile and a laugh. Even when contacting Klim headquarters to set up this interview, a real person answered the phone.

Yes, an actual human being. Not a endlessly irritating “press 1 if you want sales, press 2 if you are facing north, press 3 if you have no frickin’ clue what you want, press star if you hate phone menus”. I was so surprised to talk to an actual person at their home offices that when they answered I froze and completely forgot I spoke English.

That same passion for people is probably why Klim offices are still in CEO Justin Summer’s hometown of Rigby, Idaho and not in a massive sprawling urban jungle of asphalt and glass.

After our tour I suggested to Dustin that he could use me as an excuse to get out of work and join me on a ride to lunch. He didn’t take a whole lot of convincing and suggested we ride to the nearby town of Victor. Dustin grabbed a brand new BMW R1200GS from the Klim offices. New as in it had 10 miles and he still needed to put the seat on. I know he was jealous of my 20 year old VFR with 75,000 miles on the clock.

Now, you would think that being a brand new bike with new tires would call for a gentle breaking in, and that Dustin would lead a casual cruise into Victor.

You would be wrong.

I am not a fast rider, but I am not slow either. Yes, I am on a VFR and have done a track day on it, but my bike is also as outdated as my iPhone 4 and it is fully loaded with 4 days’ worth of camping gear. I am using that as my excuse for getting completely smoked by Dustin. True, it was a road he was familiar with and laced with strategically placed apex potholes big enough to swallow unsuspecting children, and I was still shaking off the morning’s freezing temperatures. I am using that as my excuse for being thoroughly schooled by Dustin.

I think that is Klim in a nutshell. That same passion Dustin exhibits in his riding, Klim puts into their gear. You sense their DNA when you put it on. If it is built to withstand what their employees can put it though, then it is good enough for me.

I returned home the next day, having put 1600 miles in 4 days on the Latitude jacket and pant in temperatures ranging from 32 degrees (I used my heated liner) to 88, at speeds from road construction crawling to 110+ (actual figures shall remain secret to protect the guilty) and having done everything from walking the Klim facilities for hours and taking photos to setting up camp and cooking dinner, literally only taking the gear off to sleep, and putting it on immediately after waking up. Here is what I learned.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
More proof of torture testing. Those are bug strikes, and plenty of them. I will be shocked if Bike Bandit lets me test anything after treating gear this. About the only thing I didn’t do was crash test it. Don’t get any ideas…

The Klim Company is family, passionate about the outdoors and experts at making gear that withstands the abuse that adventurous people put it through. The Klim Latitude jacket and pant also pass the biggest test of gear: they disappear when you ride in it. In freezing temps you stay warm, in heat you stay cool, at speed nothing flaps around. It seals out the cold and in the heat vents almost as good as a full mesh jacket. After wearing it for 4 days non-stop (with only one shower day, for testing purposes of course) it still smelled like a jacket and not like a sweaty middle-school locker room after a wrestling match. The Polygiene Odor Control Technology at work.

Any product reflects the mind of its producer. The conscious of the creator is borne out in their creation. Their mind becomes matter. So, when you pick up a product, you are holding the philosophy and paradigm of its creator. The people at Klim are just plain badasses and it shows in all of their garments.

The Latitude jacket and pant wear like a well-engineered second skin that God would have given us if we were supposed to hurl ourselves through the atmosphere at stupid speeds with nothing between ourselves and the asphalt but two credit card sized contacts of rubber.

Given all of this functionality, quality and protection, I did something unheard of.

I gave away some of my gear.

Shocking, I know.

I like the Latitude jacket and pant so much that I, the gear junkie, kept the Klim Latitude jacket and pant for good and gave away my ADV jacket, my touring gear and even my rain suit. It replaces all of them. Some people will balk at the price of Klim gear but trust me, it is cheaper to buy quality the first time around, rather than stockpiling a bunch of gear to fill riding niches.

If you live in more temperate climates, this is the only piece of riding equipment you need and you should get the gray and high-vis version to stay a touch cooler. If you want that ADV style to go with your KTM Adventure, Honda Africa Twin, Triumph Tiger or other ADV bike, then the all gray will tell people you mean business. I ordered the black.

I did keep my track leathers as well as my hardcore mesh gear for those 100+ degree days. The Latitude has no pretensions about replacing either one of those. Other than that, this is what I automatically reach for when I go to my newly shrunken gear closet.

If you have any questions about the Klim Latitude jacket and pant, want pictures of specific features (check the unboxing video first) or any other inquiries, please don’t hesitate to leave a question. I am a rider just like you, and I know that buying a garment sight unseen has an element of faith. To help you make a better informed purchase, I am at your disposal for your questions. So take advantage. I might not be able to answer every question, but I can try.

latitude review - Ted Edwards
This is the moment when the rational part of your brain asks you why you are getting on a frozen motorcycle. I never have a good comeback for that one. Good thing I had quality gear.

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: An Oregon Experience

Traveling by motorcycle can be as much about the adventure as it is about the destination. One day of travel is one day of adventure and ten days can be ten adventures. At the end of a day of riding, when I think back about how different things could have turned out, sometimes I think reaching the destination took Divine intervention.

Our ten-day vacation, started when I picked up Donna, my better three quarters and navigator from work in Tukwila, Washington. We had headed east across Washington and into northern Idaho for a few days visiting with some of my family along the way.

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
White Bird Hill is a motorcycle riders dream. Aside from being a little narrow, it offers plenty of curves and corners to keep riders on their toes.

From my sister’s place in Troy, Idaho we headed south on highway 95. I highly recommend stopping at the top of Spiral hill to look out over the Lewis Clark Valley before starting down the hill to east Lewiston. At the bottom of this twisted decent we head east up the Clearwater River for a few miles. We then turned south at Spalding and head up Lawyers Canyon between Spalding and Grangeville, checking out some of the tallest wood railroad trestles in America and across the Camus Prairie to Grangeville.
Still following 95 out of Grangeville, just for kicks we went down the old White Bird grade going south. I have biked up this old highway before, and that is a fantastic ride. This short piece of highway just north of White Bird drops approximately 3225 feet to the town of White Bird in just a few miles. The old White bird hill is a narrow strip of pavement with a serious of hair pin turns, that turned many a traveler’s knuckles white, and emptied many stomachs of its contents before the new road and bridge were built 40 plus years ago. The ride south of the small community of White Bird along the Salmon River is a motorcyclist dream. With good pavement and lots of big sweeping turns, but be careful, the man with the pretty Christmas lights on his car knows it is a good road to test your need for speed.

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
The building at the far end of the photo was a cafe 50 years ago

For a few extra miles of low traffic and good scenery don’t get back on the main road at the south end of town. Drive right on through you will stay on the old highway and along side the main fork of the Salmon River and right down main street of Riggins. Farther south in the middle of Cambridge, Idaho we make a hard right off of Highway 95 onto SR 71 which took us into the Snake River canyon and gave us access to the roads along the Snake river and a chance to visit all three dams on that section of the Idaho and Oregon border. We have ridden this before and have many memories of those rides. Highway 71 crosses the Snake River into Oregon just North of Brownlee Dam, and becomes Oregon state 86. If you watch the signs it is possible to go to Joseph and Enterprise Oregon on these back roads. This was the route we chose. Enterprise was our destination where we would find a bed for the night with the my in laws.

We were riding two up on the 1500 Vulcan classic, pulling a small cargo trailer we call Mammas Purse. I won’t go into how it got its name here. We had made it over the Lick Creek pass and had worked our way through the thick fir and tamarack forest on the narrow mountain road to where we were starting to see a few cattle ranches. Now a few things need to be said here. One, this is open range, which means cattle can run free and are often found alongside or even in the middle of the road. Two, if a cow is on one side of the road and she sees you coming, she will wait till the last moment and cross the road. Cows do not normally move fast when they are crossing the road.

My wife grew up on a cattle ranch in this area and we joke about cows doing this. So, when I spotted a small group of them grazing and doing whatever it is that cows do, I slowed down. I slowed down a lot. I had dropped to first gear, as one of the critters decided she would cross the road from right to left. My wife and I both laughed into our headsets, because without saying a word we knew that we were both thinking “she is going to cross the road” which is exactly what she started to do. Yup, she only started. Then she did something I had never had one do before, she turned to face us, put her head down and came straight at us, with that lumbering run only a cow can do. We were only 50 or 60 feet away when she started her charge. There was no way to turn the bike and trailer around on the narrow county road in time to prevent a head on cowllision. The road was not only narrow and shoulder less, but there was a drop off on both side of the road with the barrow pit full of brush and fir trees, not to mention more cows.

 

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
The road a few miles from where we met the mad cow. This area was devastated by
a wild fire a few years previous.

Visions of bad things happening to Spooky, the name of the VN1500, and my body, flashed through my mind. She was closer now, maybe 20 feet and closing the gap. I was almost slow enough to put my feet on the ground now. Now the gap is 10 feet, I have my feet off the floor boards, dragging them on the ground and thinking, this is going to hurt. I’m not sure but I think my wife was in the fetal position on the pillion seat and was curled up behind me, thinking the critter would get her first. I did without even thinking about it, have my thumb tapping out some kind of Morris Code message on the Bad Boy horn. The message was being sent to the cow at over one hundred decibels. About five feet from my front fender bossy decided, if I could hurt her ears this much, what could I do to the rest of her. At that point she decided to finish crossing the road and went over the bank on the left side. I am pretty sure she had a calf in the brush someplace along the road and was just doing her mother cow thing. But it caused me to need a change of under wear and a long break at the next intersection.

Ron Cate - An Oregon Experience
The junction of mad cow road and Ship creek where we turned towards Joseph.

That intersection is where we turned left onto road 350 which is locally know as Little Sheep Creek Road to Joseph. This road is also a nice motorcycle road, again narrow and twisty until we reach the top of the Little Sheep Creek Hill. As soon as we clear the top of the hill the valley where Chief Joseph began his fateful trek to Montana lays itself out in front of us. Here the road is straighter and wider, but don’t get on it too much, the guys that drive the cars with the funny lights, get bored and love having you entertain them.

The road comes to an intersection at Main street in Joseph. This is where we turn right onto state road SR 82. From here it is only six miles to Enterprise.
The area around Joseph and Enterprise is nine thousand-foot mountains with green fir and tamarack forest wedged in between the top end of the timber line and the lush green Wallowa Valley below. In almost sixty years of visiting the valley, I have never seen the area above the tree line without at least a few patches of snow. We road through this area without stopping to do any looking around, as it is the area where my wife was born and raised and I had spent many years backpacking, fishing and camping, it is full of back roads. A person could spend a life time looking around this beautiful mountain valley.

We made it to Enterprise with no farther challenges and had a good night sleep before continuing on with our trip the next day.

AMA Announces 2018 ISDE Teams

The American Motorcyclist Association today announced the 10 trophy team riders selected to represent the United States in the 2018 FIM International Six Days Enduro in Vina Del Mar, Chile, Nov. 12-17.

 

The riders will compete as the U.S. World Trophy, Junior World Trophy and Women’s World Trophy teams.

“The U.S. World Trophy Team had a tough outing in 2017, because of an injury on the first day of competition, so we are looking forward to the opportunity to regain the championship the U.S. team won in 2016,” said AMA Director of Racing Kevin Crowther. “We are eager to head for Chile with this group of talented riders. And I am confident these individuals will be competitive at the highest level and demonstrate America’s determination and conviction during this competition.”

The U.S. World Trophy and Junior World Trophy teams have been managed by KTM USA’s Off-Road Manager Antti Kallonen since 2012. Since 2017, Kallonen also has managed the U.S. Women’s World Trophy Team.

”I’m happy to be able to assemble all three teams with the riders [named above],” Kallonen said. “Most of the riders can go without any further introduction, as their past results prove their ability for Six Days type racing. But I’m especially pleased to have Zach on board. Although he is new to Six Days, he has proven his speed in off road racing and is riding a two-stroke bike very well, which landed him the spot in the E3 class. It is not easy to find a fast rider that races regularly on a 500 four-stroke or 300 two-stroke in the United States. So, to find a rider like Zach will be a great benefit to the team.”

Kallonen said he is ready to begin preparing the teams for the November competition.

The 2018 U.S. World Trophy Team includes: Ryan Sipes, of Flaherty, Ky., on a Husqvarna FE 250; Taylor Robert, of Rio Verde, Ariz., riding a KTM 450 XC-F; Kailub Russell, of Boonville, N.C., on a KTM 450 XC-F; and Zach Bell, of Beaumont, Calif., riding a Husqvarna TX 300.

 

Sipes was the 2015 ISDE overall winner. Robert was the 2016 ISDE overall winner. Russell is a five-time GNCC champion. And Bell is a standout motocrosser turned off-road racer and AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Series champion.

Taylor Robert going to ISDE in Chile as member of Trophy Team

The 2017 U.S. World Trophy Team finished a 16th among the 19 countries competing. Robert won the E3 class in 2017 and finished third overall individually. Sipes was 2017 runner-up in E1 and finished fifth overall individually.

Ryan Sipes, ISDE overall winner

The 2018 U.S. Junior World Trophy Team, made up of riders age 23 and younger includes: Josh Toth, of Winsted, Conn., on a KTM 250 XC-F; Grant Baylor, of Belton, S.C., riding a KTM 450 XC-F; and Ben Kelley, of Burlington, Conn., on a KTM 350 XC-F.

One of Americas Top offroad racers, Kailub Russell

Baylor and Toth were also on the 2017 team. Baylor finished 13th in E2 and 31st overall. Toth finished 14th in E1 and 41st overall.

The 2018 U.S. Women’s World Trophy Team includes: Tarah Gieger, of Winter Garden, Fla., on a Honda CRF250R; Brandy Richards, of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., riding a KTM 350 XC-F; and Becca Sheets, of Circleville, Ohio, on a KTM 250 XC-F.

Zach Bell, motorcrosser turned offroad racer should be a strong contender at the ISDE in Chile

Richards and Sheets were on the 2017 team, which finished second behind five-time winner Australia. And the U.S. team bested the Australians in the last two days of competition.

These riders will be joined by 21 Club Team riders at the ISDE.

Riders at the ISDE compete in one of three displacement classes. The E1 class features 100cc to 125cc two-stroke and 175cc to 250cc four-stroke motorcycles. The E2 class features 175cc to 250cc two-stroke and 290cc to 450cc four-stroke motorcycles. The E3 class features 290cc to 500cc two-stroke and 475cc to 650cc four-stroke motorcycles.

Supporting the ISDE effort is ISDE team physician, Dr. James McGee.

Fans can show their support by buying ISDE U.S. team apparel at www.amagear.com (search “ISDE”).

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: The Last Ride

I was perusing Craigslist and came across a motorcycle for sale at a dealership in Wichita, Kansas. I recognized it as a bike I had ridden last summer. Seeing it there brought discouragement, and disappointment. Not at the loss of the bike but, at the loss of pride and trust in myself that has marked these last months.

I feel like an animal limping off with one less leg after chewing one off to escape being trapped. There are times these last few months I would have preferred death in the trap to survival. Maybe the easier of choices for me, but my life is forfeit and fortunately so because it has been the welfare of another and the promise of one greater than all that has kept me from myself.

Sunday, May 30, 2010: I answered the cell phone just after church service to the news from my middle sister that our oldest sister had just passed away. I was called by my boss at home Monday night and told not to come to work that next week and that I would be covered by funeral leave. As much as I may have wanted to, I knew a trip to Hawaii to see my sister buried was out of the question. I had other plans to mourn and contemplate what was happening in life. Tuesday morning I loaded the red Honda onto my single rail motorcycle trailer and headed west to the Rockies. It was the only thing that seemed to make sense to me at the time. Two days in the mountains west of Denver would give me the alone time I needed to ponder all that was before and what lie ahead of me in the coming months. Unknown to me at the time these two days alone would be my last for the foreseeable future on two wheels, perhaps for good.

Early Tuesday morning I was up and dressed for departure into a slight mist hanging in the air. No extra gear on the Honda. There is no room for it. I am dressed in jeans with long underwear, my black leather jacket and light leather gloves. My only concession to climate and temperature is a Switchfoot hoody stuffed in my backpack to keep my water bottles from moving around. It is cool in the morning air but not unbearable; only slightly uncomfortable as I roll across 120th Ave. to 36 highway. In Louisville I stop at Bob’s Motorcycle shop to kick tires and talk about Vintage Japanese motorcycles for a bit. Back on the road I make my way north out of Louisville to 7 Highway and over to Boulder.

I make my way past Pearl up Broadway and continue north into a tangle of road construction. I am itching to get up in the mountains but have only a very poor and general Colorado map to guide me. I take a left on Linden Ave. which leads to some good riding. Soon however I am back on Broadway via Wagon wheel Gap Road and Lee Hill Drive. I head back south down Broadway the way I came till I find a gas station. Time to gas up before I get seriously off the beaten path. The Honda takes less than a gallon. I will stop three more times for fuel today and altogether I will put in less than 4 gallons. For what the red Honda puts out in performance this is stellar. At the gas station I get into a conversation with a fellow in plaid shorts with a cigar and a beagle. He is driving a red caddy convertible with the top down and his canine companion drooling an ever growing puddle in the seat in front of him. I gas up and look at the map my cousin supplied at the last minute. It’s a good map he answers to my inquiry. It is good only if you prefer your maps be vague, general in descriptiveness and dated. The kind of map you give to someone when you don’t want to worry about getting it back. As I ponder its validity as an actual Colorado Highway map, a car pulls in behind me and out hops a fair sprite into the morning sunshine of yonder gas station. She is perhaps Tom Bombadills, Goldberry or one of the fairer daughters of Rivendell. A child of the sixties, born alas too late but trapped nevertheless in the Marijuana legal time capsule that is Boulder. I lean ponderously, map in hand against the Honda. Perusing possible routes forward over the top of my Rodenstocks. Hello, says fair Elven creature as she moves toward the portal of Ye Olde Gas Station. I push up the Rodenstocks and give her my best Nicholson smile. I’m lost, think you can make any sense of this map. I’m trying to get up to Nederland. “Let me see”, she says. She ponders the map briefly and says,” This Map is Junk, I have a better one in the car”. Moments later the “better map” spread out on the hood of her car and the other map in the gas station trash can, I am shown directions back south down Broadway to Boulder Canyon Road. I thank her and saddle up as she leaves in her gold Oldsmobuick. Back on Broadway I am headed south through the construction zone. Two things I hate, doubling back, and going through construction zones twice. Clear of the road construction I head south towards Boulder Canyon and the promise of mountain roads. Just before my turn I hear a honk and look to the right to see Goldberry at the intersection, smiling and waving from her Gold Oldsmobuick. Must be help a senior citizen day, make sure that old coot gets out of town before he hurts himself. I smile and give her a two finger salute, Here’s looking at you kid, I’m old enough to be your dad, Ok…………….

Highway 119, Boulder Canyon Road up to Nederland from Boulder is why they make sport bikes. The summer before I was climbing Independence Pass over to Aspen, two up on a Roadstar and was dusted by a couple of sport bikes running quantum speed up the pass. I looked back at my wife and muttered something about low life expectancy as they disappeared around a hairpin. I was to learn their secret on the way up to Nederland. The amount of time it takes to pass a vehicle, I.E. Car or truck on a sport bike is so little as to render them to all but the novice rider as nonexistent. Given of course a small concession for sanity, cars could be passed almost at will. I had a few speed up as I pulled out. It made no difference. Even if they had tried to block my passing it would have availed little. I don’t know the H.P. to weight ratio on a 98 h.p. 425 Lbs. motorcycle but given the propensity toward mid-range power on the 919 I can’t see how one could need more riding the canyon up to Nederland.

At Nederland I went north up 72, Peak to Peak to 7 highway and on to Estes Park. I stop once to pick up a tack brush off the highway, and return it to the owners unloading horses down the road a bit. (I’d rather not see two wheels go over that at speed.) I stopped for Gas just outside Estes Park, and visited with a fellow on a custom Victory from Denver who I had passed twice. He went back around me when I stopped for the brush. I set out from the gas station down 36 to 34, Rocky Mountain National Park, A bonus, Free Park Day. “Not going over the top today” asked the ranger at the park entry.” I don’t know, why” I asked, “70 mile an hour measured wind at the top wouldn’t advise you try it”. “Wouldn’t think of it” I said, “just going to toddle around the park a bit, do some sightseeing”. “Good deal” he said, “have a nice day”.” I will”, I reply and set out for Trail ridge visitor’s center at the top.

The road is a cascading river of running water, gushing out from under walls of snow melt like a hundred fire hoses as I climb higher in the park. I was told that only a week before, the heavy snow pack had the pass closed. It is exceptionally beautiful seen through the crisp mountain air. Higher up above the timber line most of the road surface has been shaved off for repaving. It is a gravel road with thousand foot drop offs in a line of cars like ants clinging to the top of a fence. The traffic stops momentarily and I look over the edge. I am suddenly confronted by the irrational thought that I will be picked up like the knights in Monty Pythons Holy Grail and be thrown through the air into the abyss. Seeing the top of the mountain covered in its still conquering winter snows from the seat of a motorcycle, priceless. I make the slight decent to the visitor’s center through a river of running water. It splashes up around me as I work my way around a minivan slowed almost to a standstill. I park and head toward the door of the still snow covered visitor’s center. The parking lot is ringed in two to three story walls of snow. I grab a bottle of water out of the pack and go inside the visitor’s center to warm up a bit and look out at the snow pack down the face of the mountain. Inside I see people standing around looking at a red digital readout on the wall, it has the number 80 on it in large red letters. I ask a park ranger, what’s that? ” Wind speed, 80 mile an hour up here.” Guess that guy at the gate was wrong.

I rue not bringing the camera in my back pack at the visitor’s center but I am here to ride on my own terms, no passengers, no prisoners, no fellow riders and no pictures. This is my ride into the sun. (Note to the reader that last line is probably a product of listening to Natalie Merchants crescendo of because the Night while I type). Back on the mountain I saddle up to begin the trip down the other side, which starts with a stellar strip of asphalt that soon degrades into a pebble strewn dirt path complete with fist size rocks and dust. At one point on the trip down I am following a truck and a pull type camper. The dust builds to the point that only past memory tells me where I am. I ride down through two hair pin turns on a steep decent that will soon flatten out into a relatively steady decent to Grand Lakes with just one more one more hair pin. I leave the park on the pegs, standing up like a dirt rider, dogging obstacles like a video game phenom. A quick wheelie out the gate and I am settled in for the ride down to Grand Lakes and another gas stop.

It still only takes under a gallon at Grand Lakes to top off the Honda. I take a quick bathroom break and grab a couple of bottles of green tea; I am ready for the long ride across the flats between Grand Lakes and Winter park. Not much can be said of this stretch of highway. But for the beauty of the surrounding peaks it might as well be Kansas. A good place to pass cars and try to get to the head of the line before Berthoud Pass. I weave my way through the last pack of comfort riders through the stop lights in Winter Park and head into the first hair pin at the bottom of Berthoud unopposed. It is magic to be on that first steep assent of the pass on a fuel injected bike with more than enough power to pull up this and every other grade of a pass. I think back to days of laboring over the pass with a minivan loaded with kids and camping gear. Wondering if it would last the trip. To blast up the first long assent of the pass with power left to spare is beyond the scope of this flat landers experience. Berthoud is magic for another reason as well. Shawn Pierce - The Last RideI was over it some years back two up at night on a Kawasaki 900 Drifter with my wife. Did I mention it was raining? Oh, and the road was torn up, under construction. Today the construction and rain of that previous ride a memory, this ride is its polar opposite. To run under full throttle over the past three lanes wide so that only horse power and tires hold back one from choosing his own pace. I pull hard out of the corner at the top of the climb using both lanes. Apexing the center line before pushing it to the edge of the pavement on exit, eclipsing the century mark as I do.

This is the culmination of every good day of riding for me. Climbing Berthoud unimpeded, and then the decent down the other side. Where hair pins mean all the brake you dared on the front and the rear tire dancing above the pavement before dropping off the side to play the throttle through the gyroscopic tightrope walk between tire grip and falling head first from lean angle off the bike into the pavement. Your knee gliding inches above the pavement in a ballet of balance and brute force before opening up the throttle to blast through exit and down to the next corner. Perhaps it will never come again, and perhaps if not it is just as well. That was my best day of riding, alone against the mountain with only God and I as witness. The culmination of every acquired skill, a ballet of motion over time and space. The ordinary made extraordinary if but for fleeting moments. The promise fulfilled that the universe and God has better to offer than the mundane and the every day. The ability to slug our way through the rest if but for glimpses however fleeting into the eternal such as these. Am I making too much of riding a motorcycle fast over mountain roads? No, not in this case. Call it Nirvana if you well, Utopic, Supernal, or Edenic. It was none of these things for me, it was grace and a glimpse beyond the normal. The promise of peace beyond the suffering of this celestial plane. I long for it, the peace of the eternal. Do I think then motorcycles a spiritual medium? No, God will use every experience of life to convey his great power and love for us. It just happened to be in the form of perhaps my best two days of pure riding in my life. I would have to sum it up as this. I set forth in ignorance consumed in my own plans, somewhere over Berthoud peace found me. A peace separate from any plan of mine, but yet the thing I really came for. I needed it then and still am in need of it, I ever have been.

Over the pass I find my way back to I -70 and join the long lines of other cretins, winding their way back toward the asphalt jungle. I have thoughts of going to the springs today from Conifer, but I know it is getting late. To arrive too late to Colorado Springs would be to brave the traffic all the way back to Denver in the then growing darkness. Then to make my way through the heart of the beast across Denver to 25 north at night. Or perhaps 85 to 470 west around the city. Not a consideration to a day of so far perfect riding especially with the previous summer’s trip from Burlington to Aspen and back into Denver at 10:00 at night remembered. In the light of day however I am not yet ready to follow the ants back to their sand mounds in the city either. I follow an R-6 down the smooth high speed turns of I-70 for a bit before exceeding his pace. I have the road to myself for a bit, passing in and out of traffic. Soon however I find myself followed closely by a black Carrera. He is intent evidently on making the same pace as me and mirroring my every move through traffic. This is my road, and my day to ride. I spot a slowly closing gap in traffic ahead and drop a gear to accelerate through and out ahead of the Porsche. He is mired in a clog of semi-trucks.
I keep it wicked up a bit and am glad to be free of him when I settle back into traffic. Soon I see a yellow BMW R1150GS coming by on my left. I accelerate to match his pace and am surprised by his speed and agility. He seems more than a match for the Honda. We dice through traffic for several miles before I finally put him behind me. I am not alone for long, I see the Black Porsche coming up quickly in my mirror. I drop a gear and move over to the center lane. He catches me on the left and matches my speed. When he drops the hammer I suddenly wish I were down another gear. I close the gap quickly and run even with him. He remembers our previous encounter and closes the gap on me in his lane. I pull to the right around a semi-trailer and run back to the center inside of a minivan. We weave through traffic and out onto a straight stretch unimpeded by traffic. I glance down at the gauges to see us just outside of 120. I look to my left and pull my hand from the bar palm in the upright position I shake my head in my best “Is that all you got” gesture. He rolls out of the Porsche and I accelerate ahead and off to the right, taking the exit ramp to Evergreen. I watch him roll by as I slow coming up the ramp. I hate interstate traffic.

I putt leisurely down through the development that used to be the quaint town of Evergreen and follow a trophy wife in a BMW up the road to Conifer. I am in no hurry now, relaxing as I turn in for gas in first station in town and stretch tired muscles. Perhaps had I known there would have been time to explore Pleasant Park road but I am content now to make my way back toward the city on 285. At 470 I turn south to Bowles. I turn north on Wadsworth and make my way by memory to my Uncle’s house. Robert Weed Pierce is my favorite Uncle and the one who has drawn me back to family. No opportunity to spend time with him is to be missed. I stay too late and leave after dark making my way up the western side of the city to 75. I make a mistake I have oft made and turn off on 25 headed north. Remaining on 75 to 120th and then south on Chambers would take me within spitting distance of my cousin’s house where I am staying. Instead I get off 25 at 104th and make my way across the bug infested flat lands east of Thorton. When I arrive at last in Commerce City I am looking through a bug covered shield not even a Kansas ride could match. I am chided for being late for dinner following my reluctance to leave at a phone call which found me at Uncle Bob’s from my wife. We end up at Applebee’s on Karaoke night. The only dark spot on a perfect day.

The next morning finds me up early following a Jeep Cherokee north with my soon future Son In Law driving his soon to be bride, her mother and aunt to Boulder to see the place of future wedding bliss. After being fitted for a monkey suit at Mens Warehouse the rest of the afternoon is spent in a quest for a wedding dress for the mother of the bride which takes us to Dillards in Longmont before it is done. On the trip home I am free to roam and I head west at Boulder back up Boulder Canyon road to Nederland. I turn south this time on 119 towards Rollinsville and Golden Gate Canyon road. Time for one last blast into the sunset on this late afternoon spring day. I find a rhythm down through Golden Gate. I have recently been up it the other way with my wife on sightseeing trip into the mountains. It is not like the kamikaze blast over Berthoud the day before, it is smooth poetry down twisting mountain roads almost free, as if by grace of traffic. I head north up 93 and East at 84th. Past Welton Reservoir I turn north on Indiana St to 120th. I pass a place on Interlocken loop where in two weeks I will be back to Denver to witness the second of my three children take the vows of marriage.

The trip across 120th is uneventful. My cousin offers to let me leave the Honda in his garage till I come back in two weeks. I agree to, but in the morning I awake with a sense of foreboding and load the Honda onto the trailer for the trip home. I ride it only once more, in a ten mile circle around the area of Kansas where I live to run some fuel out. Shawn Pierce - The Last RideI let a friend talk me out of my old 600 XT in the spring just before the last ride. It was just spending too much time in neglect. In July it became apparent that we would no longer be able to operate our small business of the last 9 years. My Yamaha Roadstar was needed as a means to cover some debt from the business. The decision was made and it sold within a few days. The money from the sale of the cruiser, which was supposed to cover the purchase of the Honda was gone as was the Honda. Over the rest of the summer and fall we faced, as many Americans are the reality that we could with the loss of our business and the loss of my wife’s health and ability to work, no longer afford our home. The last ride has its share of regret written into its conclusion, but I treasure it in as much as I cannot go back and change it. It was a pinnacle in life time of riding. Perhaps the last I will ever see. Perhaps not. There are other concerns for now and other things asking for my time. In the spring I will miss the ride. If I am to no longer ride, a part of who I am will be lost, but so be it. My fate lies with God. To whatever roads may come.

To be continued…….

 

About The Author

Shawn Pierce - The Last RideShawn Pierce can be found riding his 2005 Triumph Thruxton that he’s dubbed “The Big Yellow Taxi”  around Manhattan, KS. Over the years he’s had a ’79 RM400, several XS 650’s, FZ 600 as well as a Yamaha 1700 Roadstar. Riding is in his blood and even when he’s been without a ride, he always makes the Thunder On The Smoky Rally every may. “This rally has become a time to renew and make new friendships, as well as look back on the journey that motorcycling has played in all of our lives and friendships throughout the years.” Be sure to keep an eye out for him and say hi if you spot him.

 

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: My Priceless Ride

Back in the late 90’s, my family lived in Clear Lake, Iowa. For those who have never been to Iowa, it’s FLAT. And the roads are straight, with very few curves.

Most of the roads around me either went North-South or East-West, with the occasional curve every few miles or so!!! In addition to being flat, in the winter time it’s COLD. And I’m talking about cold like some folks have never seen. With winds that could gust to 50-60 mph, which can drastically contribute to the wind-chill factor.

One of my “family” traditions was attempting to take a motorcycle ride on New Year’s Day. When we lived in Kentucky, most years (rain or shine) we would figure out how to take a ride to start the year off right. This particular year, as it happens, my son was living with us. We had moved a couple of times, but he kept finding us!!! As the New Year approached, he started asking me about our January 1st ride. There was 18″ of snow on the ground, but with several days of sunshine, the roads were actually dry. Needless to say, we decided to give it a try.

We spent the morning in the garage, getting the bikes prepped for the ride. Our two bikes didn’t exactly look like they belonged in the same riding group… My 1997 Honda 1100 Shadow, and Matt’s 1995 Suzuki 600 Katana. But we didn’t care… This was family time. My wife came out to bring us something to drink, but she stopped at the doorway from the house to the garage, and just started laughing. We had been working in the sub-freezing temperatures, and our bodies had gotten so warm that steam wall rolling off our heads, like smoke coming from a well charged chimney. Once we noticed that, we couldn’t help but laugh too.

Darrell Holladay - My Priceless Ride
While this is from a movie, we didn’t look much different before we rode off into the negative digit temps on our motorcycles.

It finally came time for the ride. The bikes protested a bit, when we asked them to fire up in the frigid temp, but they finally conceded and the sounds of idling bikes was soon heard throughout our neighborhood. The temperature was -17, with 15 mph winds, but bright and sunny. We put on about every jacket, coat, pants, long johns, gloves, balaclavas, and socks that we could find. When we were finally ready to go, we looked like the little kids that parents dress to go out and play in the snow, with so many clothes on, they can barely move. In fact, by the time we got the bikes running and pulled away from the house, we were both starting to sweat.

Darrell Holladay - My Priceless Ride
This is what we expected to look like, but honestly it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Not saying it wasn’t cold though.

Once we got underway, it wasn’t as bad as we expected. We had so many layers on, I don’t think a hurricane could have worked its way down to our skin. With the balaclava masks on, the only bare skin that was showing on either of us, were right around our eyes. Our faces looking like Ninja warriors heading to battle, only we were on a different type of horse. We went riding around town, getting lots of looks and smiles from the locals. Some just stared and shook their heads. We were the two “idiots” from down south, who didn’t realize that -17 was a little too cold to be riding a motorcycle in Iowa. The streets weren’t crowded at all. Most of the folks had sense enough to use this particular day to sit on the sofa, in front of the fireplace, and watch the bowl games on TV.
My son and I still, to this day, talk about that ride. It was uneventful… but yet memorable. After all — how many people can say they have been riding when it was -17??
Just like Master Card — Priceless.

About The Author
Darrell is a husband, father & grandfather, who has been riding for over 45 years. He is a professional stand-up comedian, who also works in the lumber industry. Currently residing in Louisville, KY, Darrell is an avid runner and bicyclist, who competes in triathlons. His favorite hobby is finding neglected or forgotten motorcycles, restoring them, and getting them back on the road.

BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: Appalachian Adventure Pt. 1

The Sena conveys the pain as I hear my riding partner agonizing and see him writhing on the ground. We are in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains with no one around for miles. His muddied bike is on its side with the back wheel still spinning, the rider might be down but the Beemer is still itching to go. As I pull up to the scene… I’m getting ahead of myself here, let me take you back to the beginning.

After months of planning my riding buddy Gabe and I had our itinerary lined up. Eleven days to take us along the Appalachian Range from Ohio to Georgia and back. I mapped out a route that would have us riding around those wonderful green and blue markings on the map, putting two wheels in as many National Forests as possible. My Suzuki V-Strom DL650 and his BMW F650GS would be packed down with camping gear along with our normal provisions and would see us comfortably riding everything from super slab to twisty secondary and tertiary pavers to 2-track forest service roads.

Our first two days of riding would take us into the climbing, descending, twisting, and turning hills of the northern spike of West Virginia and southeast Pennsylvania then back into West Virginia’s Wild and Wonderful gravel tracks of the Monongahela National Forest. Heading into Monongahela a warning sign to larger vehicles at the edge of Hendricks would confirm that an excellent stretch of road for a motorcyclist was impending and it didn’t lie. Heart pounding twisty kickbacks climbing up and down the Cheat River valley walls on WV-72 put a smile on our face and challenged our cornering skills. An impromptu trek into the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area on a few scenic gravel tracks was followed up by an excellent lunch stop at Yokum’s Store and Motel next to Seneca Rocks. After our second day we retired for the night at a dispersed camping spot near Kane Wagner - Appalachian AdventureLake Buffalo and the West Virginia-Virginia border. We found a perfect spot next to Big Run in Toolbox Hollow, unloaded the packed down bikes, set up our tents, and scrounged for firewood as the summer sun slowly set (I always carry a small collapsible hand saw for such occasions). Relaxing in my new ultralight camping chair we stoked the fire, evaluated the days ride, and excitedly dove into the next day’s ride map.

Kane Wagner - Appalachian Adventure
After a hearty breakfast, we did our maintenance on the bikes before setting off to continue our journey.

In the morning we lowered our critter-proof chow bag dangling from a tree to enjoy a granola and fruit breakfast while we broke camp, lubed the chains, and loaded the bikes. After picking a serene spot in the woods overlooking the babbling brook for the morning download, we booted up the kickstands and throttled off. Making our way over to WV-92 we decide to stop for a proper breakfast at Ryder’s Chevron Restaurant in Boyer. Real down home cooking at a reasonable price with that famous southern hospitality

With full bellies we pointed the bikes to Green Bank Rd attempting to find a pass over the Appalachian ridgeline into Virginia and US-250. Where the pavement ends a sign warned us that we are about to embark on a ‘No Thru’ road. With all of my studying of the Google Machine, we decided to push on and see what happens. We climbed past a few houses and the road turns into an unmaintained mess, but continues on. (Sometimes) dodging rocks, ruts, and mud we eventually make it to the top of the ridge and continue past Camp Allegheny Battlefield, a Confederate outpost during the American Civil War, and onto Old Pike Rd down to US-250.

After traversing the timeworn road and riding through a historical battlefield my interest was piqued. After returning from our trip I found out that Camp Allegheny was a strategic defensive outpost held by the Confederates near the overland route connecting the Ohio River with the upper Shenandoah River valley. Union forces successfully controlled most of the mountain ranges in the area and continued to push for more ground. To further solidify their stance and protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad along with the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, Union forces engaged the Confederate army at Camp Allegheny in December of 1861. Despite the Union’s higher troop numbers, the Confederates successfully kept them at bay, but their forces would eventually abandon the camp after the end of the winter. Nothing like a motorbike to really show you the road and ride you into a history lesson.

US-250, dubbed the Highland Turnpike, provided awesome twisys, Kane Wagner - Appalachian Adventuresweepers, mountainous kickbacks, and breathtaking views of the famous valleys and mountains of Virginia. Just before hitting another green section on the map we cut south on Cowpasture River Rd, a dusty gravel road with farmland all around us and the impending ridgeline to our left. We started the climb up Nelson Draft and into Washington National Forest. Traversing the twisty mountain road we had sweeping views of the valley below and the mountain above with big beautiful titanium white clouds on a phthalo blue pallet, Bob Ross couldn’t have painted a better picture! A couple years later this section of dirt would end up being part of the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR) that runs from the North Carolina/Virginia border up to the New York Pennsylvania border on mostly forest service roads.

Running north around the next ridgeline, we made it to our next dirt road excursion on Bath Alum Ridge Rd. We knew we were in for a treat as soon as the rubber left the pavement and we climbed up this not-very-well-maintained forest road. Plenty of curvy mountain roads and a couple of water crossings had us grinning from ear to ear. This section would also find its way on the MABDR, it seems I have a knack for finding the good stuff!

Around one of the blind turns Gabe made a sudden stop as a tree had blocked the road. I was riding a bit too close to him (trying to get close-up GoPro videos!) and by the time I heard him say “TREE!” over the Sena, it was too late. I stomped the back break, grabbed the front break, and luckily only lightly tapped my front tire on his back tire. Unfortunately I couldn’t keep the bike upright but was able to set her down gently while Gabe found his way through the leaf covered branches of the downed tree. Luckily it was the only time my trusty steed took a dirt nap on the trip! Running into a dead end we backtrack to the last intersection that, interestingly, did not show up on my out of date GPS. Instead of backtracking 45 minutes to our entry point we decided to follow the road down the hill and into the unknown. A few minutes later we found ourselves back on the pavement of Dry Run Rd.

Once in Warm Springs we decide to fill our bellies again, but this time with something more than our normal jerky and granola provisions. Unable to find a place to eat without waiting for an extended time, we wandered down to Hot Springs and found a lovely bar and grill named Lindsay’s Roost. We parked the motorbikes outside the front window, received quick service, and had our food in no time. Lounging back we enjoyed the A/C with several glasses of cold southern iced tea and dined with Elvis, or at least the abundant paraphernalia of him scattered around the place.

Kane Wagner - Appalachian AdventureWith hunger satisfied we headed to VA-39 and over the mountain passes back towards the West Virginia border. At Ryder Gap runs the gravel of Pub Rd 55, snaking along the mountain woodlands on the border. Google Maps and my GPS show this route climbing into the thick forest before dropping down the ridgeline on High Top Tower Rd back into Virginia to connect with Bolars Draft Rd. The plan was to take this past Lake Moomaw and set up another dispersed campsite off of Big Lick Rd before it runs into Rucker Gap.

I had Gabe take the lead since he is the more conservative rider of the two of us (where I would just go for it, he may stop and take a look prior to crossing any obstacles). The twisting road steadily climbed under the mountain canopy to a group of abandoned looking cabins then banked left and turned into a 2-track. Another bank to the right and the 2-track looked like it hadn’t been utilized in quite some time. The trees and weeds lining the track had started to grow out into the thoroughfare, the tire tracks were much lower than the middle bump which also had grass and weeds growing a couple feet high in some places, and the tracks were covered with various depths of sand. Being the third time in a similar situation on the trip so far, I suggested to Gabe that we just keep going to make sure the ‘road’ doesn’t actually go through.
The 2-track is slowly bending to the left as I peeked down at my GPS to see if it still showed us on a road. As soon as my eyes move back to the front I see Gabe switching from the left track to the right track to avoid a large watery mud pit. His front tire makes it over the middle hump, hits the less muddy right track, and kicks out. He dabs to stabilize the bike and I immediately hear him say, “My knee!” He hits the ground, his bike hits the ground, and he is rolling around in pain.

Kane Wagner - Appalachian Adventure
This is what some people might call the money shot… It was the moment before my riding partner went down.

I stop about 35 feet behind him in a flatter spot, kill the engine, grab my first aid kit, and run over to him. We get his helmet off and he swallows several Advil while I get his Beemer upright. I jump on his bike and ride it out of the muddy area to find that the road actually stops at the top of the ridge about 15 feet away! (Even though the GPS is assuring me that the road continues down the ridge!) I turn the bike around to ride back through Gabe’s muddy demise and park his Beemer next to my Wee. At this point we decide to see if he can stand up, which he can’t without excruciating pain. Not good. I walk back towards the ridge and miraculously get a signal. I Google “hospital” and find the closest one is back in Hot Springs next to Elvis’s restaurant about an hour away.

Now it’s time to make a decision. We talk through the options… Call 911 but we figure they won’t send an ambulance all the way up to where we are and regardless we can’t leave the bike here or leave me here with both bikes. Next option is that I go and get help but we don’t really want to separate in case his condition worsens. Another option could be that he rides pillion on my bike and I ‘leapfrog’ the bikes back to the pavement then call 911 but this plan would take too much time, especially since we are approaching dusk. We can’t stay the night here since his adrenaline was wearing off and the pain was increasing exponentially. The last option we come up with is to try and get him on his bike to see if he can ride to the ED. Seems like the way to go.

After wrapping his knee up with an ace bandage we have a 3-legged race to get him to where the bikes are sitting. Now we have to figure out how to get him on since his bad leg is what he would normally plant to get in the saddle. So, we go to the opposite side and can’t seem to get his leg over without causing agonizing pain (did I mention that Gabe is vertically challenged?). Last ditch effort – I get down on one knee next to the bike, Gabe sits on my shoulder, and I stand up and push his leg over the seat. It works but not without a yell or two in the finest French I have ever heard from Gabe (or should I say Hungarian)!

We get him situated on the bike and he feels like he can ride. With help squaring his foot on the peg, he seems able to work the shifter with minimal discomfort. Initial plan will be for me to walk him up 25 feet, I run back and get my bike, ride 25 feet past him, and we repeat until we get back to the flatter and more well maintained gravel road – the leapfrog method. If he feels good after the first push then I’ll just jump on my bike and follow him. So we get him upright, I boot up the kickstand for him, and he’s off. He’s feeling pretty good so I let go and ride behind him, all the while telling him to take it slow and easy. If he falls again the damage already done will most likely be much worse. It takes us about 30 minutes to get back to the pavement, all the while contemplating all the possible scenarios between our Bluetooth headsets.

There are only two red octagons between us and the hospital so I jump out in front to make sure the coast is clear which enables Gabe to roll through without having to stop. We make it over the mountain passes and valleys and back into Hot Springs over an hour after Gabe’s French lesson, I mean Hungarian. The sunlight is waning as I park my bike next to the Bath Community Hospital’s ED entrance. Meanwhile, Gabe is taking laps around the parking lot so that I can spot him while he parks since he can’t take his foot down off the peg (or risk a misstep). Once we get him stopped and kickstand down I run into the hospital and find… not a soul. Eventually I see a 6’4” ~285 pound security guard so I flag him down and tell him the rundown. He grabs a male nurse, a wheel chair, and we meet out at the bikes.
As the nurse and I contemplate how to get Gabe off the bike the security guard takes matters into his own hands, literally. He basically grabbed Gabe and picked him straight off the bike and set him delicately down in the wheel chair. This rural hospital has limited services so we are told they can X-ray but if nothing comes up, they will have to send him to Roanoke for anything like an MRI or surgery. In between registration, IV’s, and X-Rays, Gabe is contacting his kids, insurance, and AAA.

The initial X-rays showed a broken tibia right at the ball of the knee. Good news is the break seems to be sitting straight but they don’t want to risk him driving back to The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus to get it fixed (Gabe’s hospital of choice) for fear if something shifts and cuts an artery he would bleed out. Their recommendation is an ambulance ride to Carilion Roanoke Memorial and immediate surgery. Gabe complies and coordinates with his kids in Columbus to meet him in Roanoke. He also gets ahold of his son who lives just south of D.C. to meet AAA to tow the bike to his son’s mother in-law’s house in Virginia about 45 minutes away.

All the while I am unloading Gabe’s bike so he can take all of his gear with him to Roanoke and I’m also trying to contact local motels for vacancies. There are only two motels and one Bed-n-Breakfast in the area (besides the super-fancy Sam Snead Omni Homestead golf resort at $230/night – didn’t even bother to call them) and none of them have openings. My only options are to attempt to find a camping area or ride down to Covington of off I-64, but I’m not making the decision until Gabe is on his way to Roanoke.

So finally around midnight they are loading Gabe up in the back of the meat wagon and I’m waving good-bye standing next to two motorcycles in a dimly lit parking lot. Gabe’s nurse and another employee walked over and we talked about the dangers of riding around these parts at night due to the massive amounts of wildlife and they wished me luck. I decided it was way too late to attempt to camp, it would probably take me more than the GPS suggested 20 minutes to find the camping area and then what would I do if there were no openings? I gingerly took US-220 over a nice mountain pass and down to the I-64 corridor, passing several groups of shining eyes on the side of the road. I averaged around 30 MPH and it took me over an hour to complete the normally 30 minute drive.

My excitement was not done as I walked into the registration area of the America’s Best Value Inn after 1 o’clock in the morning. The only thing in the registration area besides a couple seats was a large screen monitor with Skype and a frazzled clerk with fire alarms blaring in his background. After about 10 minutes of waiting the clerk let me know there was still one room left but it was a smoking room. At this point beggars can’t be choosers, I’ll take it. Next problem, the key was not in the lock box below the monitor so I had to come to him to get the key! “Where are you?!” I asked in obvious annoyance. Luckily he was at another hotel a block away (that had no openings), so I saddled up again and went to get the key. Finally in the room, bike unloaded, it was just about 2 AM. “Dinner” and a shower put me close to 3 before finally calling it a day.

Coming soon… Appalachian Adventure Part 2: The Cherokee National Forest Shoot-out

If you enjoyed this story and would like to follow along on more of Kane’s adventures, be sure to click on his social media links.

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