The Southwest Solo-Tour of 2013, Part 1

This begins a series of posts devoted to my 12-day, 3,000 mile solo-ride around the American Southwest in May 2013. 
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Bazza II, pictured here in Baker, CA about 90 miles from Las Vegas, NV

 

In May of 2013, I rode my 2000 BMW R1100RT around the American Southwest. It was a solo-ride, something a lot of motorcyclists don’t undertake for fear of running into trouble in the middle of nowhere. To be honest, there were times when I would say out loud, inside my helmet and to no one:

"If I break down here, I'm screwed."

But I didn’t break down, although on the last day of the 12-day ride my fuel pump started acting up and although I got home, it was a closer call that I’d wanted to experience. But we’ll get to that in this series that relates the experiences I had in those 12 days on the road.

The Bike

Bazza II is a 2000 BMW R1100RT. You can read about how I traded by BMW f650 for it in this post. Long story short, I left home on Bazza II in mid-May and had an epic ride for the next 12 days.

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Parked in Las Vegas at Circus Circus Hotel and Resort. The room was only $20 via Priceline.com

This bike is made for the highways and feels really solid at high speeds. It’s not so great for around town riding; I guess that’s why the California Highway Patrol used this bike, and now the R1200RT for it motorcycle officers to ride.  What a sweet gig, right?

As you can see from photo above, though the bike felt fully packed, I didn’t take a lot with me. In fact, I never used the tent I purchased for the trip except for the test-camping I did about a month prior to leaving on my ride. But I packed it with hopes of camping that never materialized.

For hard luggage, I used a Givi top case that I purchased from a fellow BMW rider; it held my clothing, Macbook, toiletries, and some odds and ends, each inside a backpack for easy removal at the end of the day. I purchased and mounted two medium-sized Wolfman Rolie Bags secured by a Wolfman Rolie Saddle Bag Mount, and packed my first-aid kit and some medical tools (just in case) in one bag and some roadside tools in the other. It was a very secure luggage system on the rear of the bike.

The front of the bike was another story. I purchased a very roomy aftermarket tank bag that contained my cell phone, Nikon camera, Flip video camera, snacks for the day, pens and paper, small flashlight, water bottles, and a few other items.  The only weakness was in the way it was mounted.

This is because the RT’s fairings are plastic, as is the fuel tank. Because of this, the popular magnetic tank bags wouldn’t work. However, with some maneuvering and customization, I devised a way to keep it from sliding from side the side and it worked, though it’s still not my preferred tank bag system.

I packed a Coleman 15-degree rated sleeping bag and used it instead of the motel room beds. Each night I unrolled the bag on top of the bed and crawled inside.  Given the level of accommodation I could afford, (photos to follow) I didn’t trust the bed linens. There was no way of knowing how many or why kind of people split in the bed the previous night. :-\ Nor did I want any invited critters tagging along with me on the ride.

As I mentioned before, I brought along a tent that was packed between the sleeping bag and the top case, just behind me on the passenger seat. I really should have camped, but there was one reason that far outweighed the others that prevented me from doing so.

Three weeks before departure, I suffered a leg injury.

 The Injury

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Three weeks prior to departure, my bike and I went down.  (Not really a crash, but we still went over.)

I needed to ride from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, about a three hour ride in the morning morning traffic, for a couple of days worth of work. I rode the RT everywhere and so it was not unexpected that I’d ride it there and back a few days later.

At 5:45a I mounted the bike and slowly backed it out of my carport. The RT is a heavy bike and it was fully fueled at the time. Unfortunately, I turned the handlebars a little too far and the balance of the bike shifted to the right so much that I could retain its upright position.

The bike an I fell over en masse. It wasn't pretty.

My right leg was pinned between the right cylinder head of the transverse boxer engine and a concrete slab. Yes, it hurt. 😦 After some wriggling, I managed the free myself from the ground and tried to lift the bike. Even with the adrenaline coursing through my system, I couldn’t manage lifting it back upright.

I woke up my son Jay and he helped me upright the bike. I took off for Sacramento and a few hours later, my right leg was swollen, bruised, and very painful.

I wasn’t concerned so much about a fracture as I was about compartment syndrome, a condition that results when blunt-force trauma causes swelling in enclosed spaces like the lower leg. The swelling has no place to expand and literally compresses blood vessels and nerves in the process. I was lucky and this didn’t result.

A week later, x-rays revealed the absence of any fractures. My doctor told me I couldn’t take my trip. (He obviously wasn’t a motorcyclist.)  I chalked it up his inexperience and proceeded to plan my departure anyway.

It turned out that I did have a nasty bone bruise on my right shin and so I purchased a padded, elastic compression tube to wear during the day. Aided with large bottle of ibuprofen and some chemically-activated ice packs, I set out on schedule.

The Route

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3,000 miles round trip with the western destination of Santa Fe, NM, a place I considered moving until I got there.

The seed that resulted in planning this ride began after I view Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman’s epic Long Way Round series on Netflix. In 2004, the best mates and fellow actors rode their BMW 1150GSAs from London to New York, going east. They traversed Europe, Asia, and the United States in about 4 months.

After viewing the video I read everything I could get my virtual hands on about motorcycle touring, camping, trip planning, long-distance riding tips, etc.  It was great fun planning the ride and the route.

The route came about because I’d wanted to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico for some time. Its backdrop against the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, its Native American and Spanish history and culture combined with its reputation for artistry contributed to its allure.

I also had two weeks of vacation available to use. So with Santa Fe as my eastern-most destination, I looked at places to ride through and a natural highway route emerged.

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In Part 2, I'll tell you about my ride to Las Vegas, meeting other riders on the way, and riding through southern Utah's Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.
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