Today marks exactly six days until we leave on the trip that will take us across the US and moe back to California riding solo and that means there is no time to lose and I’ve got to get every detail finalized that lends itself to the process.
The rest we leave to destiny.
I’m writing this post from my home base in San Jose where I have just returned after a one-week retreat. It was good quality down time and now I’m ready both to work and to jump into this trip with my son.
Up until today, the planning I’ve carried out with my son, Benjamin, about this cross-country ride has been theoretical. It’s not like it’s been pie-in-the-sky planning, but there is only so much you can do in advance to plan a trip like this. Here’s how I planned this journey thus far.
Routes: We’ve looked at routes -we currently have four options, all based on weather patterns that will kick in after day two’s layover in Flagstaff, AZ. The weather across the US is horrendous at present and each day’s weather-related risk factors will ultimately determine out route.
If you buy it, you won’t need it: It’s the reality of every motorcyclist who ever ventured across the country on two wheels. Yesterday I ensured that we’ll not experience flat tires or pictures by purchasing a portable time inflater and a flat-patch kit. Today I’ll get some rain-proof boot covers to accompany my water-resistant gloves and rain suite so as to guarantee dry weather throughout the trip. 🙂
Communications: I purchased two very inexpensive helmet communication systems so we can chat back and forth and listen to iPhone music at will via Bluetooth. They only have a half-mile range (They were less than $100 each) so the quality could be spotty. But as long as they hold up for a week or two, I’m OK with the less than stellar brand name.
Food: When I venture out on the bike, I usually eat light. I focus on high-protein vegetarian meals and some fruit or cereal bars at breaks. It’s important to keep hydrated as well and I have a reusable water bottle for each of us. Ben’s RT has a glove box that will keep his out of the sun, but I might need to pick up a singled handlebar-clamped bottle holder for mine – the bottle is a double-walled aluminum type that should stay cold in the sun. The first day will end with triple-digit temperatures, so hydration is a constant need.
Test Packing – The Right Way
While flying back from my week away on Saturday, I turned my attention to planning the items I’d be taking and what I could fit. Previously I’d made the mistake of listing out what I wanted to take and them working like crazy to fit it all into the various bags.
That’s a mistake.
It occurred to me that the best way to pack was to list what I’d fit in each bag (since I don’t have full-on panniers) instead. So here’s my list for the 1150GS:
BMW Top Box:
clothing (zip bag w/ clear top)
Macbook & charger
cameras, chargers, selfie sticks
BMW City Bag (small)
oil (2 quarts)
air pump and patch kit
zip ties, velcro, extra pair of shoes
BMW City Bag (large)
Wolfman bag (large, waterproof)
Sea-To-Summit bag (waterproof)
Tank Bag (Manta style, low-profile)
camera (an older phone)
all protective gear
utility tool (on belt)
helmet cam remote
Today I’ll test this organization out and see where it lands. Comments welcome on stuff I might have overlooked or any tips you might have.
Three years ago I took a solo-tour around the American Southwest and chronicled the trip in the posts on this site. @chaneytweeting once told me how he enjoyed the posts and asked when I was going to finish it up. I've now done so...in fact part of this post was written three years ago.
As I plan the new father-son moot-tour across the country from California to South Carolina slated for next month, I'm reminded again the joy of the open road. Ride Safely!
Day 11 – Cypress, CA to Lompoc, CA
After two restful days, my belly full of breakfast, and my bags packed with clean clothes, I departed my sister’s house in Cypress and joined the throng of Orange County commuters north along I-405 (Sand Diego Freeway). Commuting in Southern California can only be described as a nightmare. And because of my aversion to lane sharing (filtering), I feathered my clutch level hundreds of times while waiting to clear Los Angeles County.
By the time I got into Malibu via US-1, I was ready for a break and stopped at a Starbucks to get a little nibble as well as some real coffee. The two days I spent with my sister, an avowed Irish tea kind of girl, I subsisted on Via packed, the instant microbrew solution I’d come to appreciate over the past two weeks.
Traffic cleared to the point where I could gain a cruising speed and I made my way north into Ventura County, a beautiful, monied place that is a good alternative to the hustle and bustle of the L.A. Basin. The air if cleaner, saltier, and a lot cooler. The RT was happier and so was I.
A few miles north of Malibu US-1 (Pacific Coast Highway) detoured north to become one with US-101 and I rode along encountering Carpenteria, beautiful Santa Barbara, Goleta, and miles of some the most scenic coastlines in the world. The total mileage for the day wasn’t much at just under 200. But I wanted to get into Lompoc early and spend some time closing out the trip in my mind.
I knew that the next day would be my last on the road and then I’d be back at work and entrenched in the routine that I’d come to abhor. I was both glad and sad to be nearing the end of my solo-tour. Full of mixed emotions and thoughts, I veered off of US-101 and rode US-1 the short but scenic downhill ride through the mountains to Lompoc.
The Motel 6 didn’t have a vacancy and so I booked a more pricey room at the Holiday Inn Express. It was my last night and the upgrade did hurt, plus it was directly across the street from a Starbucks Coffee and I enjoyed an afternoon cup there as well as breakfast the following morning.
Day 12 – Lompoc, CA to Rio Del Mar, CA
Just as the ride into Lompoc was thorough the mountains, so was the ride out the next morning. After a morning coffee and veggie breakfast sandwich at Starbucks, I rode north along US-1.
When I encountered the Big Sur coastline, the road was a bit more challenging for the RT. I didn’t expect the hairpin turns and the 15-20 mph speed limit that the RT was able to perform ride them.
I stopped at the Big Sur Coffee establishment for a midday espresso and was soon joined by a foursome of BMW riders from Southern California. We chatted for a while and they before I eventually headed northward toward home.
The ride from there gets a little murky in my memory but I do recall the joy of getting into Monterey, Seaside, Watsonville, and finally Rio Del Mar. I decided to finish the tour where it began, at the Starbucks on Trout Gulch Rd.in Aptos.
As I look back at the solo-tour I leaned a few things about the bike, about riding, about the southwest and about myself. Though it’s been three years since that trip, I’m giddy with excitement and more of the same trepidation that others have no doubt felt about an undertaking as ambitious the cross-country trip in June.
On the morning of Day 5 of my solo-ride around the Southwest, I awoke in the Motel 6 in Page, Arizona. It was a clean, recently redecorated room; a nice nice place to crash in secure comfort and perfectly suited to my minimal needs on the road.
As rule, Motel 6 didn’t offer a microwave or a coffeemaker and the free coffee offered in the lobby looked and tasted like dishwater. At the very least some way of heating water for instant coffee or tea would have been nice.
I usually carry both on the road in the form of Starbucks Via packets and my favorite tea, Tetley’s British Blend. On this particular morning I was forced to use hot water from the faucet…not even close to a good result.
As a solution, I hit Starbucks on my way out of town.
The ride was a scenic one with large red-rock cliffs rising out of the flatter environment and plenty of desert heat. I think I consumed 5 bottles of water during this segment of the ride. With fuel, caffeine, and food breaks, I made it to Santa Fe in just under 9 hours.
My average speed was 75 m.p.h. and the bike performed without a single hiccup. At one point a long van kept passing me and then slowing down. I finally boosted passed it once and for all and took off doing 90 for about two miles to get well ahead it.
You never know when someone is going do something weird and I was taking any undue chances...other than riding 90 m.ph., which isn't my habit at all.
It was somewhere in the middle of this beautifully barren New Mexico desert that I had an experience that let me know I was in the right place at the right time.
Faces in the Desert
I pulled into a Chevron station to fuel up and use the bathroom. As I dismounted my bike I noticed a mini-van on the opposite side of the island with a family inside. I didn’t give it though and went inside to use the restroom.
When I returned, the woman was standing by my bike and I said “Um, hello?…are you Ok?” She appeared to be of Southern Asian decent, possible from India or Pakistan, but I wasn’t exactly certain. In broken English she managed to communicate her family’s need for fuel and it became clear that she was either ordered by her husband to inquire or, perhaps, being a woman they thought she’d convert more listeners into donor.
I looked over at the man in the driver’s seat. He didn’t return my gaze nor did he get out of the car. I looked at the two kids and immediately thought of my own when they were small. It didn’t take long for me to decide that they, above all, deserved my help.
I checked my wallet and only had a twenty on me. I handed it over to her she gushed gratitude with teary eyes. Regardless of her silent partner, she and her kids deserved the assistance.
It seemed a no-win situation because I wasn’t sure how far $20 would get them, and I wasn’t prepared to fill up their tank. But I felt like I did what I needed to. I returned to filling my bike up with fuel and saddled up to leave.
As I pulled out I saw the kids waving and the man just looking at me. I hoped they’d find further help but never knew if they did or even if they truly needed it. I waved back and hoped they make it to their destination. I still think about those faces in the desert.
When I'm situations where I can alleviate the suffering of another, I will do what I can with what I have. That to me is being compassionate without taking responsibility for the need expressed.
I didn’t take many photos on this segment of the journey, mainly because of the day being such a long ride. I did take one photo in the bathroom of a curio shop where I fuel up outside of Teec Nos Pos in northeast Arizona.
“A bathroom photo? You sick bastard, yuk!”
Well, maybe. I cracked up when I saw this vending machine in the Gents…and had to send it to my co-worker, Catherine who I thought would appreciate the humor.
Yeah, she wasn’t impressed. As my right hand on the office team, I was in contact with here most every day. My office team checked in with her daily to see where I was and how I was doing. A map outside of her work area was the place where they could pinpoint my progress.
Although she might have appreciated photos of Shiprock (see below) or Lake Powell more, I think she kind of enjoyed -just a bit- retelling the story of how I sent her photos of a condom machine. 😉
I got into Albuquerque via I-25 around 3 pm. I didn’t dismount but took SR-285 north straight into into Santa Fe. It was an additional 60 miles or so. I’d booked a room in a family home via AirBnB for three days. I wanted to explore Santa Fe, rest both my leg and the bike, as well as have a few days of down time before heading west again.
I phoned Alicia, my host, from a Starbucks on Santa Fe (where else?) and she gave me more specific directions to the home she shared with her 17 year-old son. It was a very comfortable three days and I loved being in this city with such history.
My room was on the ground floor next to her son’s room. I wasn’t there much as I used it mainly as a base of operations for the three days I stayed in Santa Fe. Alicia was kind and generous giving me free use of the laundry (needed by then), television room (not needed), and the lovely backyard.
Days 6 & 7 – Sightseeing in Historic Downtown
I ventured into the historic downtown area the next day, which is dominated by the elegant Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. It’s a New Mexico cultural landmark and even has a prayer labyrinth on the grounds.
I fell in deep like with the area and its architecture. At one point I’d planned to retire here until I found out that the area gets about a foot of snow in winter and it lasts weeks at a time. Since I view my retirement as largely mobile, this could de a destination in Spring, but not year round.
I’d originally planned a day ride out to Taos about 60 miles north but on the third day I was too tired and needed to rest for the following day’s ride to the Flagstaff, Arizona.
I had a great time in Santa Fe. On my last evening there, Alicia invited me to join her and her parents for dinner downtown. I did and we had a lovely time. If I’m ever in Santa Fe again and need accommodations, I’ll definitely see if Alicia has room.
I left early the next morning under cloudy skies that rapidly dissipated giving way to more desert sunshine.
Part 4 of this series includes my interesting ride to the Grand Canyon, my lunch in Bedrock City -the only place where coffee is really just five cents- an unexpected riding partner,and getting pulled over by the Arizona Highway Patrol.
If you’re a fellow ADV fanboy/girl and like the adventure series of bikes, you’ll like this comparison article on MotorcycleUSA. It puts both the KTM 1190 Adventure R and the BMW R1200GSA through the paces and ultimately crowns a winner, even if it’s by a hair or two. It’s a great comparison.