If there is a God of Adventure bikers, he is probably laughing his a$$ off right now. Must be related to Loki or Pan by the nasty mischievous streak that shows up at some of our most inopportune moments. There is also an incestuous relationship with Lady Luck to contend with. It was last Thursday when my DR 650 was all packed up and ready to go south. Four years of previous trips had evolved to this point. This one was to be the furthest longest adventure ride to date. True, it is late in the season, but with loose ends to be tied up there was no getting around that.
Who of us hasn’t been inspired by the exploits of fellow road warriors? I couldn’t imagine how tough it can be, until I found myself totally exhausted trying to simply unload my bike in the dark, in a Troy, Illinois Motel 6 parking lot, 290 miles from home. It was only the first day! I had broken my first cardinal rule of never riding through Chicago on a weekday. Early Sunday mornings is when I always take off. This time I had to wait for traffic to die down. With a winter storm system approaching from the Rockies, it was already pretty late in the season to be leaving from the upper Midwest. My goal for the day was to reach the opposite side of St. Louis. Having ridden Route 66 four years earlier, I was looking forward to the fried chicken in Sullivan, Missouri. My first real meal of the day would be a feast, I kept repeating to myself. Five hours into the ride, I would have been satisfied with just crossing the Mississippi River.
The medium sized North Face duffle was to be the largest bag I have ever packed for a trip. Previously, a smaller old canvas bag worked well. Now I was taking along a mosquito net, sleeping bag, collapsible camp chair, more tools and more stuff for the intended extended trip. I tried to keep to my self-imposed rule of carrying the majority of personal luggage into a motel room in one trip. Makes sense from a security stand point when traveling solo. Not so much when most tired at the end of a riding day. I slid the bag off of the rear rack and almost fell over on top of it.
What made six hours of interstate riding so difficult? It was nothing short of the wind. A ride that has taken me just over four hours, ended up taking six. I have ridden in worse winds through “Grant’s Pass in New Mexico and longer across Minnesota but never so bad, for so long as to be passed by trucks with trailers. Wobbling through the motel foyer doors, my mind and body crashed once I got into the room. That was one long corridor. Thank goodness there were not stairs. There is usually some first day relief that goes along with the exhilaration, but this just felt wrong. No rash decisions, I recognized hitting a crisis point and decided to eat my first real meal of the day and to sleep on whether or not to continue.
Across from the motel is an easy walk to the Fire and Smoke restaurant. Locals know what a treat the food served here is. Sitting alone at a table I phoned the day’s ride report to wife, son and friend. They were most supportive to whatever decision I would make. With a full belly of bar-b-que ribs, pecan coated sweet potatoes and coleslaw, I returned to my room with the intention of sleeping on it. Part of me wanted to continue, the other half to return home. Woke up at 3 am to a weather report of slick roads across Texas and a storm system approaching the upper Midwest. I would return home, get an early start and try and beat the storm.
On the road before dawn with the wind at my back, all was good. Dressed more appropriately this time, I wore my winter riding suit as opposed to the hoodie worn the previous day. I had been sweating bullets the previous morning. Found myself too lazy, too occupied, and in too much of a hurry to change into something more appropriate even as the wind picked up during the day and the temperatures fell. Now this was sailing. Cannot tell you how many times I would approach an exit and be tempted to just turn around and continue south. For the first time of this trip, I could ride and clear my thoughts. The return trip was uneventful with the wind now from the rear. The plastic collapsible warning triangle required in Panama no longer stuck into the small of my back. The riding suit held up against the rain, even though my duct taped covered boot laces did not. The return took less time, with worse traffic construction and a full sit down breakfast.
So I’m back. My Sunday riding buds at the Full Moon Restaurant were more than supportive of my decision, some having been in similar situations. Only really got teased once. ‘Down but not out,’ they say. There are other ways to ride out this winter available. I could do a Wild Riders rental in Costa Rica as I did three years back. I could just fly into Mexico and backpack. And there is a third option, which involves a different bike ‘gasp!’