A Motorcycle Bucket List Item is Completed

Why do humans climb mountains? Why do they sail around the world or learn to fly? We have this innate drive to accomplish. Maybe it’s ego or an adrenaline rush. To go boldly where no one has before.

I’ve been motorcycling for more than 50 years, and early on, I never once thought about riding my motorcycle in all of the United States of America. But when I began to seriously tour on two wheels, I realized I was accomplishing just that.

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It was after I rode the Pony Express Trail to California in 2009, and discovered mapping software that would allow me to track the states I had visited that I became conscious of this goal.

My next tour on the Oregon Trail had me planning to ride through states I had not previously visited. And, future tours began to form. My tour to the southeast to ride through states almost caused me to quit riding. Yes, quit riding. It was the most miserable tour. It was 2,400 miles in six days with five days of rain. Miserable. Miserable. Miserable. Not to mention the bee sting in the face at 70 mph on the Interstate next to a semi-tractor and trailer, or the pit bull that charged me when I was taking a photo of entering the fine state of Georgia. Or the chain-reaction accident that occurred right in front of me as I was attempting to exit the interstate in Augusta, Georgia. Miserable.

What I was left with was the northeast. Ten states that needed some color. After that miserable southeast tour, it took me a while to actually plan the northeast ride—a couple of years in fact. But, the day finally came, and I set off to accomplish something that few motorcyclists do—to ride in all of the lower 48 states. I packed my Suzuki V-Strom 650, and headed out.

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Unlike my southeast tour, I could not have asked for better weather. Blue skies and mild temperatures were abundant as I wound my way through Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and into Connecticut. I managed to take a wrong turn or two. I took the wrong interstate in Connecticut found myself in Massachusetts unexpectedly and had to back track to cut over to Rhode Island. I didn’t want to leave that little state out of this ride. Then back north around Boston into New Hampshire and Maine—the turn towards home point. All good roads.

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Riding back across Maine and New Hampshire, I was in awe of the landscape. Beautiful country with fun twisty roads running along rivers and streams around mountains. I met up with a friend who gave me a guided tour through her part of New Hampshire. Riding a scenic byway, we headed for lunch, and then for the apex of my ride—Vermont, my 48th state.

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What was it like riding across the state line into Vermont? Was it like standing atop the mountain just climbed? Like finishing a marathon? Upon my return home, my wife asked me this: “Was it like the euphoria when you finished the Pony Express Trail or the Oregon Trail?”

In previous rides, there was something more than just the ride. I was following history attempting to imagine the experience of those travelers 150 years ago, travelling by horse and wagon. This ride was … well, just a ride to fill in states. It is an accomplishment that few do, but with a few days to think about this bucket list item being checked off, I can say it has given me some closure.

I’m ready to move on to the next adventure … whatever that might be.

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See you on the highway.

Brent

V-Strom and Givi Luggage

Riding season is just around the corner, and I hope to do much of my Ohio River Towns photography project on the motorcycle. So, I needed to equip the bike with sufficient luggage to make it utilitarian.

I have always liked the Givi brand of motorcycle luggage. They are rugged and good looking. Secondly, I love the way you can use the same mounts to put different bags on the bike. Below is a great example of how that looks. First, the bike without bags.

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You can see the new engine guards and the luggage mounting racks on the rear. Next, is the set of smaller bags I purchased when I first bought the bike. Givi E-22s. These are great for around town and running small grocery errands. I have used the smaller bags to go camping, also.

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What about a top case? I decided to go with the Givi Trekker series of bags. The 52-Liter top case will hold a lot of stuff like camera gear and audio equpment, and it doesn’t look too bad with the E-22s—just a slight difference in styling.

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Or, how about riding with just the top case. Many do. Without the side cases, it’s a narrower profile.

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For the bigger loads, such as motorcycle touring and/or extended camping, the full set of Trekkers will do just fine—52L top case and 33L side cases, better known as panniers.

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That’s some serious load-hauling capability. Still, it’s best not to try to carry everything. Think backpacking or minimalist motorcycling.

See you on the highway … along the Ohio River.

Brent

Review: Bonneville Go or Bust

In the incredibly hot summer of 2012, Zoë Cano of England, started out on a dream of a lifetime to ride a Triumph Bonneville across America from Boston to Los Angeles. It was four years in the planning. Last year, I interviewed her about her travels, and now the dream has continued with the publishing of her book Bonneville Go or Bust, published by Road Dog Publications.

Before the book, and only reading her blog, I was very impressed with her adventure. That’s what prompted the first interview. Now, having read the book from cover to cover, I am in awe. Zoë Cano is a wonderful writer and she spins the tale of her travels as only a talented writer can do.

We have tried to conduct another interview, but schedules and a five-hour international difference in time have kept that at bay. So, I wanted to get this review out. You will want to buy a copy of her book, or maybe give a copy to a friend.

With the publication of her book, Zoë Cano caught the attention of the motorcycling community including Triumph Motorcycles. She has been busy making appearances in Europe at places like the famous Ace Café, and recently, Triumph of America brought her to the USA for an appearance at the Barber Museum Vintage Days and also AIMExpo. Yes, she has been a very busy lady, and you can keep up with her activities and book signing events on her blog.

It sure seems like a dream come true, and it all began with that ride across America—her dream ride, the one that took her four years of planning. I’m not sure she expected all of this success and attention.

Zoë takes us on a journey from Boston where she picks up a rental Triumph Bonneville—like the one she owns back in England—and travels a route of back roads and busy interstates staying at out of the way places and visiting the real America of local communities. What is most amazing is that she spent four years planning her route, and she kept to that schedule almost perfectly. As I read about the places she stayed and ate, I found myself saying, “I’d like to go there.”

Zoë Cano is not a stranger to the United States having a few friends scattered across the country. She certainly makes friends easily, and even meets a few road angels along the way. It’s a fascinating read, one that will make it hard to put the book down. Involved with equestrian events in Europe, and riding two wheels, she finds a lot of common ground in America with cowboys and bikers, all who find her journey fascinating and lend a hand on a few occasions. Upon reaching Los Angeles, she turns in her rental Bonneville and flies home with the reality of a concluded journey that she wished would continue. And as a reader, so do I.

As I was preparing to write this review, I showed this book to my Mom, who looked at the cover, thumbed through the pages, asked me about it, and then said, “When you’re done reading it, I’d like to read it. It looks interesting.” THAT from my 86-year-old mother who absolutely forbade me to own a motorcycle when I was in high school.

The book is very well written. It’s a page turner, and you’ll have a tough time putting it down, wanting to read about the next stage of her journey. It is much more than a motorcycle travelogue, it is a travelogue of a dream come true with encounters with other riders, people, cowboys, horses, museums, great places to stay, and restaurants. It could be a travel guide for crossing the country.

The unexpected bonus of the book is the appendix, complete with details about the motorcycle, gear she carried, costs of her travels, and a list of her lodging accommodations and eateries. The extra bonus in the appendix is her “Essential Music for the American Adventure,” which could easily be anybody’s list of travel music, and it has me humming “Take it Easy” by Jackson Browne as I write this review!

Thank you, Zoë, for your wonderful book. I think this one will be a classic, maybe even reaching the same status as that other Triumph rider in the 1970s, Ted Simon, who rode his Triumph around the world.

Thanks for reading. I’ll see you out on the highway.

Brent

P.S. I bought my first motorcycle after graduating from high school. Only recently did I learn of my mother’s youthful motorcycling adventures. Smile

The Return of Joy

I was out on the motorcycle yesterday. The weather was gorgeous, although just a little breezy. The KLR hummed down some of my favorite back roads. I felt like I could ride forever.

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I did not feel this way a year ago. In fact, the past year of riding has been somewhat erratic. No long trips; at the most only long day rides to visit family. In my post, Soul searching on a motorcycle, I wrote: …”the reason—that thing that seemed to be missing—came to me. What I discovered: I have lost the joy in motorcycling.” In January, I actually created a flyer for the sale of my V-Strom. I put it aside and pondered posting it at several of my frequent hangouts. Through the Spring and Summer, I kept searching, and decided not to sell the V-Strom but rather buy another motorcycle—the Kawasaki KLR 650 New Edition—that would give me a different kind of ride.

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On paper, the V-Strom DL650 and the KLR 650 are very similar. On the saddle, they are quite different. The V-Strom is a very smooth reliable motorcycle with plenty of power. The KLR is like a big dirt bike also capable of running down the highway. The V-Strom is a joy to ride. The KLR is a hoot to ride. Maybe it’s because of the newness, but I have found myself riding the KLR more than the V-Strom. The V-Strom will get the nod in the long distance rides.

Somewhere along my route yesterday, with the sun shining down on me and the breeze in my face, I began to think that it was nearly a year ago that I almost quit motorcycling. The rides this year have given me plenty to think about what it is I am doing with a motorcycle. Yes, I believe my riding pattern is changing, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll return to long-distance tours. Maybe not. The important thing is that I have rediscovered the joy of motorcycling, and it’s a hoot.

Finding the joy in motorcycling again has been like remembering that tune you used to listen to all the time, and have rediscovered. It’s like watching that favorite movie that you haven’t seen in a long time—you want to watch it again and again. And so it is with the motorcycles. I’d rather jump on the bike to run an errand than take the car.

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Now, if I can only resolve that other nagging question from that post a year ago. “Why am I here?” What is my purpose at this stage of my life.

See you on the highway.

Brent

 

Facebook vs. Helmet Time

Frankly, trying to make a decision while reading Facebook posts and comments is a terrible idea and could be a disastrous influence. For Facebook, not only wants to get in our minds, it was recently announced they were using posts and comments to influence emotions of users. Now, I’m all for social research, but that just doesn’t seem right. I have a better solution for decision making—helmet time.

Helmet time? Yes, helmet time. What is that you ask? Well, helmet time occurs during a motorcycle ride and the helmet does double duty as your “thinking cap.” It can be very productive, and it’s safe because you’re wearing the proper gear including a helmet. You won’t be answering the phone or texting. It’s just you, the road, and the thoughts in your head, and empty roads can be some of the most productive places.

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For some time now, I have been struggling with my motorcycling efforts. I have wavered back and forth between selling what I have and buying a second bike. The bike at the top of that list is a new Kawasaki KLR 650. I’ve always wanted one.

Within the past couple of weeks, I have gone to the dealer to buy one. The first time I went, the one sitting on the floor had just been sold. The second time I started out, I was riding the V-Strom, and the farther I rode on this fine motor bike, the more I questioned why I would want anything else. I even had a check in my billfold. That’s how close it was. I never arrived at the dealer. Of course, I shared this with my wife, and she suggested I wait a week or so to see if it’s really what I want to do—buy another bike. It’s been two weeks, and I have been perusing through all the KLR 650 Riders Group posts, photos and comments on Facebook.

This morning, I put a fresh blank check in my billfold, and headed up the highway on my trusty V-Strom towards the dealer. The smoothness of the bike, the effortless pull of the engine, the knowledge that this bike truly gets 60+ miles-per-gallon. It has taken me everywhere I wanted to go—without issues and without worry about whether or not it will get me home.

Eastward I ride, thinking about this motorcycle and how it meets all my needs, and the “thinking cap” starts its process … again. My conclusion—again—why would I want to ride anything else. Where would another motor bike take me that this one can’t?

Just east of Morrow, Ohio, on Route 22/3, I reach the intersection of SR 123. To continue towards the dealer is straight ahead…. I turn south to follow more twisty roads before turning back towards home.

I put the blank check back in the checkbook, and I pull up my Facebook account to delete one or two motorcycle groups that were wasting my time and my more important helmet time.

See you on the highway.

Brent