Friday, September 6, 2013

My #HD110 "Ride Home" experience from a fresh set of eyes

Day 1, Ride Home: left Detroit at 10am, layover in the twin cities, land in Spokane. 20 minute can ride to Lone Wolf HD to pick up the bikes, then fuel up and hit the road. Leave Washington, ride through Idaho & into Montana. Stop for the night in Butte. Today will be a lot more 'ambitious' ride.

New rider thoughts: mountain highway roads a whole lot different than flat Michigan highway. Counter leaning vs wind and curves are an improvement point to focus on. Broke some new ground riding in rain and wind on the highway. Sore butt, sorer pride.

Day 2, Ride Home: coming to a close. Around 600 miles (about what I'd had under my belt career on a bike in a single day) I'm sore. Butte Mt to Deadwood SD

New Rider thoughts on a long haul: fatigue! It's not just your body being sore: arms, neck, butt, back are one thing. Hands and feet going numb from vibrating but the most important is your mind! Unless your bike is a bagger all decked out with a booming audio system, it's a whole lot of you in your head alone time. This is what a lot of folks like about being on a bike is that alone time, but when it begins to be 12 hours of just sight and smells (I'm taking hearing out because its mostly wind and engine hum) you can start to get a little loopy. I tried singing to myself and that ended up in a new game of 'how many bugs can you eat'. I feel like knowing your strengths and weaknesses should outweigh anything else early on. As long as you are on the road and still have the ability to 'keep with it' both physically and most important, mentally - then keep at it. Things can get dangerous when both start to break down.

Day 3, Ride Home: a whole lot of South Dakota! In the morning we did some touristy stuff: seeing the Crazy Horse memorial and Mt. Rushmore. The Black Hills are beautiful country to ride in and the favorite to date is Custer State Park (16A) with lots of nice scenery and crazy, tight road curves with hairpin corners to really lean the bike into. After all that it was basically a straight line across the state and landed shy of the goal by 60 miles. The heat was very taxing in leathers.

Today's new rider thoughts are about Traffic flow: it's more than just how the traffic moves down a highway. Riding a bike became a bit like white water rafting when passing trucks in the mountains and across windy plains. There's a whole lot of bucking the wind, like eddies and whirlpools you get while rafting. Even 30 to 50 car lengths back you can get into a pillow fight behind a truck and it can be intimidating. It took some time to watch the traffic flow and the conditions of road ahead to find the perfect opportunity to throttle down and pass with confidence. Once you see and feel your opportunity, watch for traffic, make your signal and muscle your way past a truck and be ready for the blasts of air bucking off that big rig. I know I slowed down my pack a few times over with this, but hey, it's a learning curve and better safe than on the pavement 800 miles from home.

Day 4, Ride Home: Crossed from Minnesota to Wisconsin. For my 1000 mile service on the bike a little overdue. Now over 2k on the Softail Slim. Today we make it 'home' for #hd110

New Rider thoughts: With so much alone time in your head, I found myself making many analogies on the road. This particular day while stopped for the 1k mile service, they changed out all the 'break in' fluids on the bike. I got to thinking about that term of breaking in. When you buy a new pair of shoes or boots, you have to break them in slowly so you don't hurt yourself, get blisters, rub the skin off. I sort of compared this with my seat. I was told many times that I didn't want to ride cross country with a springer seat. I'm slightly on the stubborn side and ignored the folks who said that to prove I could. When I rolled into the service department the first question I got is 'how's that seat?' In hindsight I hear those voices of people again saying I should have switched it back to stock, but I didn't. Breaking in is really a little give and take on both the part of the person as well as the article that we think is breaking. I think by this day and 1800 miles on the bike, it was really me who broke in as a new rider as opposed the the bike breaking in for me. I think the bike and I will find a happy medium

Day 5, Ride Home: The final putt in to Milwaukee. We didn't have all that far to travel, just a couple hundred miles that increasingly added a whole mess of traffic. We made it to the museum around 2 in the afternoon and after a quick bite at the motor, it was all work setting up my booth. I didn't get a chance to write this out as I became super busy immediately upon arrival and yesterday I was working from 7am to 10pm. If you are coming out to the HD museum, pop by and say hi! Ill be pulling some silkscreen prints here and there throughout the day exclusively printed and sold at the Carter Fine Art booth across from the AMD bike show

New Rider thoughts: in all the thinking time going down the road I did a lot of comparison to different topics. On the last two days I thought about 'sea legs' if you ever spent any time on a boat it's a simple comparison of cycles to boats. You really get the feel of the bike you need to ride it a lot and at different speeds to get your sea legs. You learn not only to lean with the curves but also with the wind. Take some pressure off your back and your butt. Grip the tank with your knees or kick out your knees to grab some air. When I rolled into downtown Milwaukee i found myself using my floor boards to help steer the bike by applying pressure. I was continuously making adjustments along the way to my pack and my gear to give me some points where I could get a little rest and also learned to do a little bike yoga going down the highway by laying down on the tank for a mile or two. Last night I drove my truck for the first time in a week and it was almost foreign to me and how large it was. I think that's when it really kicked in that I'd got my 'sea legs'

The true 'Ride Home' final day: After spending multiple days at the H-D museum we packed up our booth as the rain began to sprinkle. Finished up late last night and departed early in the am on Labor Day. All things considered on the last leg, it felt easy. Was it any easier than any other day or have I become that much stronger as a rider? Who knows, but it certainly helps to have gone down a road I've been on many times before out of Milwaukee and through Chicago and straight down I-94 to Detroit. This trip is something I won't soon forget and will be something I hope to share with grand kids! 2,283 miles in all. Not too shabby for a guy who just got his 2 wheeler license

Along the way we'd strapped a few GoPro cameras up. Only a handful of useable footage with loose mounts and battery life being the big factor. Take a look at the Three-13 Ride