The Process: Unlike other trips, I thought I’d plan this trip day-to-day. So the first thing, after my sumptuous Choice Hotel “hot” breakfast was to look at the map and pick a destination and route.
The next step, suiting up (and un-suiting for each stop) is quite the chore.
- First the clothes, which based on the weather projected for the day often changed dramatically requiring a change (or even two) mid day.
- Light windbreaker or long sleeve shirt and light “transformer” pants for hotter days. (Never shorts or short sleeves due to potential for serious sun and wind burn, to say nothing of what would happen in a fall).
- Jeans and heavy long shirt or jacket in the cooler morning or mountain stretches.
- Then socks and tall leather zip up and velcroed motorcycle boots. (Never short shoes because ankle support is critical when you put your left foot down at each stop heeling over and balancing a 2 wheeled machine weighing almost 900 pounds with you, gas and luggage).
- Then ear plugs (Wind noise, even with the best full face helmet with the face shield locked down can be tiring at 75+ mph all day).
- Then the helmet, locking the chin strap buckle and snapping the strap on a clip (So it doesn’t flap around and beat you senseless).
- Then glasses (with clip on sunglasses in addition to the dark tinted face shield, necessary when riding directly into the sun in the morning sun as I traveled due East).
- Finally light riding gloves. Whew! I’m tired again just writing this.
Luggage had its own process.
- First, every night each of the three bags had to be unmounted and unpacked to expose toiletries, next day’s clothes, electronics like netbook, cell and computer charging cords.
- The next morning everything had to be repacked, placing the previous day’s clothes in the dirty clothes bag and clean ones in the clean clothes bag.
- Then, refilling up the storage bag that went inside the bike’s right trunk. (The left side was for rain suit and heavier clothes).
- Then strapping on the back duffle bag with two bungee cords. Then clipping on the tank bag with four quick clips already mounted to the gas tank.
- Then put in the key, hit the ignition, pull in the left hand clutch lever, click the left foot-operated transmission down into first gear (it has 5 forward gears and no, it doesn’t have a reverse) then let out the clutch.
- And I was finally on my way.
For each gas stop I had to:
- Have to put the side stand down first, get off, turn off the engine, take off your gloves, glasses, then helmet, pull the entire bike up on the heavy stable center stand, undo the rear two quick clips to move the tank bag out of the way of the gas compartment door, open the gas cap and fill the bike.
- (Making sure NOT to let it overflow all over the bike). I used high octane 93 grade all the way. I could really feel a difference in pickup versus 89 grade.
- Then clean the bugs off the windshield and face shield.
- Then reverse the process and ride for another hour or so only to repeat it all over again.
The Communications: Smartphones make it all easier these days. I called Jill every night to reassure her she wasn’t a widow and tell her about my day’s trip. I also Skyped Fred (on my new phone, we could see real time video of each other) and I called Jack and other friends and family to give them updates. I also used it for weather, navigation, restaurants and to make motel reservations.
The Shopping: When you haven’t ridden for a decade and moved around the world, most of your motorcycle stuff is sold, lost or rotten. Remarkably, most states I was travelling through don’t require helmets. But I didn’t think it was fair to make Jill have to feed me through a tube, change my Depends and wipe off my drool. That will come soon enough…So I promised I’d wear a helmet.
Much to my dismay, I found my very expensive helmet from my old motorcycling days was a smelly, mildewed, mess filled with a hornet’s nest in the storage shed and useless. When I started shopping I found that choosing the right one is a hell of a lot more complex these days with many a myriad of formats, styles, brands, colors, graphics, levels of Department of Transportation/Snell safety ratings and prices (from $50 to over $600).
So, I bought a conservative solid grey “safe” full face helmet (versus one of the silly Nazi WWII helmets you see Harley riders wearing, or Beanies that only cover the very top of your skull, or the high tech modulars that flip up so you can drink your Starbucks without de-helmeting or ¾ helmets that don’t protect your chin).
My expensive old Triumph motorcycle boots had suffered through too many baking summers and freezing winters in storage units all over the country and were falling apart but salvageable with a little black duct tape. Classy aren’t they?
I unearthed my long underwear which I might need in the mountains. But my neat rain suit now had holes in it (didn’t know moths liked plastic). And my two old serious motorcycle jackets were black and heavy and would be oppressive in the desert. In addition, as I’d decided that to increase my chance of survival, I now needed Hi-Visibility clothes, so I bought a new lighter weight two piece rain suit with 3M reflective stripes to make me stand out.
As usual, I totally over packed and ended up with two big duffle bags full of clothes, gear and my helmet. My plan was to put as much as I could in the trunk and on the bike, strapped onto the passenger seat behind me or in the tank bag strapped in front of me. I planned to throw out the older duffle in Phoenix. No such luck!
First, I forgotten the size of the Pacific Coast and the larger, newer duffle was simply too big and blocked my rear view mirrors. So I’d have to use the crappy older one and leave behind the cool one and some of my more unnecessary clothes and gear in Phoenix.
The bike: Jack had kept “One-Eyed Jack” (named ignominiously after a harmless “tip-over” that left one side light damaged on one of our early long distance rides together) in fabulous shape. With less than 11,000 miles in almost a quarter of a century, it was virtually a new bike. Here’s a picture of me and Jack with “One-Eye” all loaded up as I leave his house on my adventure.
Jack was kind enough to have it fully serviced before I got there. But even that was a challenge. It seems that none of the modern Honda motorcycle dealers will touch a bike that’s 23 years old and that hasn’t been made by Honda for almost two decades. All the Phoenix authorized dealers refused to service it. So I joined the IPCRC (Internet Pacific Coast Rider’s Club) and sent a plaintive cry out on the owners’ forum.
I immediately found a highly recommended independent service guy in Phoenix named “Frenchie” at Cyclewerks of Tempe. He was great! He checked the tires, engine, replaced all of “One-Eye’s” fluids, filters and tightened everything. He” then declared it fit for the trip across the country.
Of course I had to insure the bike (Progressive had the best coverage) and get it registered in North Carolina (Easy when your pal Jack sends you the notarized AZ title). Meanwhile, Jill searched for a life insurance policy for $100 million in case I became a hood ornament on an 18-wheeler somewhere in mid-Oklahoma.
I was set to ride.