Saturday, March 28, 2009

Project 2 - go on solo motorcycle trip

As the old proverb says "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" - although most of us probably remember it from The Shining. Well, it's true for me too (minus the insanity part). I realize that with this unique time in my life, I should probably do some things that are otherwise difficult to do with a full time job - or at least some things I've been putting off.

I've taken other long motorcycle trips, but never solo. This was going to be challenging on several fronts: What to pack?, where am I going?, which route to take?, what weather would I have to deal with? I chose Sequoia National Park as my destination.

There is quite a bit of management involved in planning a motorcycle trip, especially one where you plan to sleep outside. You have a very limited amount of space in which to pack so everything you bring must serve a purpose. Overpacking and underpacking are both serious problems in this case. I spent a few days prior to the trip mulling over what gear to bring.

Turns out I did a fantastic job packing. I used just about everything I brought, except -thankfully- for things like the First Aid Kit. A real space saver on a motorcycle is to forgo the luxury of a tent, and use a bivy sack. Sleep gear will take up the most space out of everything.

After riding through Sequoia, I heard from other travelers that the pass through Yosemite was clear - so made a change in my route so I would go through Yosemite before ending up in the western Sierra foothills. What a fantastic decision. Not only was I blessed with spectacular weather, but riding through Yosemite on a motorbike (during off season) was an unbeatable experience.

I spent a night with some friends in West Point, CA - and then the next day made my way back home to SF. It was raining, and I was prepared to drive in the rain - however, I was NOT prepared for the major storm I encountered in Stockton. The sky was black and it opened up with wind, rain, hail, and lightening while I was on I-5. Could not have been worse timing. The wind was pushing me out of my lane and the hail was pelting me. I slowed to about 45 MPH which made it even more dangerous as cars continued to pass me at > 60 MPH. The ironic thing is that if I looked west, I saw sunshine. I was literally a 1 minute drive away from being safe - I just needed to get west. I made it to I-205 and got west and out of danger, only minutes before I was going to pull over. It was perhaps the most harrowing experience I have ever had on a motorbike, and one in which I definitely earned a merit badge!

Here are some random thoughts I had during the trip. Being alone for a few days on a motorbike definitely gives you time to think. I wrote a lot of it down. I've got pictures posted from the trip that you can see by clicking HERE. Also, see video posted at the bottom from Kings Canyon.
  • Riding from water into sand will make you slip.
  • Touring on a motorcycle makes gasoline a constant priority (small tank reserve)
  • Sleeping in a bivy is more challenging than a tent but on a night when the stars are out, it's way worth the hassle.
  • Self registration in National Parks: YES, they will check.
  • Plan your cooking so all you really have to do is boil water.
  • Earplugs on the freeway might be a good idea; not for engine noise but for wind noise.
  • Use everything you bring; or don't bring it.
  • Leave your campsite in better condition than when you found it.
  • Having a bug fly into your helmet can be catastrophic!
  • Building a campfire is more art than science.
  • I question the wisdom of wearing headphones for music while riding, ut it can save your sanity on the long stretches of nothing.
  • Camping in the snow is not as bad as it sounds.
  • I hate tree sap on my hands.
  • Sometimes the most unexpected part of your trip turns out to be the best of the day.
  • There are few Americans in our National Parks.
  • Driving in the city is definitely more dangerous than driving on the freeway.
  • Chevron = favorite gas station. The gas is quality and they always have a decent bathroom.

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