It's our first day and you can be sure
that whenever you make any change whatsoever in your equipment, there will
be glitches. Today was no exception.
I recently finished reading a book by
Bill Bryson entitled "I'm a Stranger Here Myself." It's an
enjoyable collection of anecdotes based upon his return to America after
living 20 years abroad. In one essay, "The Great Indoors", Bryson
laments that too many of us live our lives indoors ... and when we're
not indoors, we're in climate controlled cars, offices and shopping
Bryson's essay caught my
attention because he was intrigued about the same phenomenon ... how
much time we spend isolated from perfectly good weather. For
example, every car I've owned in recent memory has impressive HVAC
capabilities, and can keep the occupants very comfortable regardless of
the outside conditions. We've become so trusting of the 'Auto'
setting that we just leave it there on 73. Even when the outdoor
temperature is the desired 73, our windows are rolled up and our
automotive HVAC system is dutifully keeping the interior of the car at
In 1997 Whizmo and I began our annual
motorcycle tours with an inaugural trip from Seattle to Lake Michigan.
I remember lots of things about that tour, especially my trepidation at
traveling from Washington to Michigan outside the whole way.
I was preoccupied with the idea that we'd be traveling all those
miles exposed to the elements. I learned a lot on that tour about
leaky gloves and the miracle of appropriate clothing. But most
importantly, I learned that there was nothing to fear about being
exposed to the elements for a long trip. <
On a motorcycle, you have very little
control of the environment. For example, today we started riding
at about 7:30am in 50° weather with 100% humidity. It was very
foggy. It dipped down to 48° before the fog cleared.
Eventually the temperature rose as high as 88° before we were done
riding. That's not an unusual temperature swing for a day's
riding, and in fact, I'd say that today was really a pretty excellent
riding day once the fog lifted. Compare that 40 degree swing for
an excellent riding day to what happens inside a car, and you begin to
understand the differences in attitude between traveling in a car and
riding on a motorcycle.
The parts of the environment that you
do have control over on a motorcycle you take very seriously. Your
entire universe is attached to these two wheels. For weeks before
the trip, I'm fretting over taking this tube of sunscreen or that one,
this pair of socks or that one. Every decision matters because
there's such a limited amount of storage space (and needless to say,
computers and cameras take priority!)
Over the years, I've settled into a
comfortable and reliable collection of clothing and accessories that can
deliver me comfortably from the low 30's to the high 90's and from one
end of the country to the other - and they have to fit in a bag about
the size of a backpack.
Even though we started in the fog early
this morning, we were able to make good time heading south from Seattle.
With no commute traffic to deal with, the biggest challenge was the
early-morning wet roads. I just had new tires put on the ST1300
for this trip, and I'm always a bit cautious until they're scuffed up a
bit. They seemed to be gripping the road well. I was
comfortable at 48° because I had my electric jacket and my heated
handgrips. I was even feeling like all of my careful preparations
had been exactly right. Yeah, right.
We usually ride about 100 miles between
stops. I will often stand up on the pegs to stretch my legs.
It's actually pretty easy to keep your balance and control the bike
while standing, so this never feels dare-devilish. This morning
when I took my first stretch, I felt a tug and immediately knew
something was not right. The electrical umbilical cable that plugs
my clothing into the bike's electrical system had come unplugged as I
stood. There wasn't much I could do about it until we stopped, and
that wasn't going to be for awhile. So I tucked the loose ends up
on the seat and sat on them. No big deal.
>My heated grips have four settings, and
perhaps losing the heat in my jacket made me a bit chillier, so I turned
the grip heat from 2 to 3. A bit later, it seemed that the grips
were getting colder, not warmer, so I turned them up to 4, the highest
setting. Nothing. The lights on the display was still
working, so it couldn't be a fuse. There just wasn't any heat.
At 48° this wasn't a crisis, just an annoyance, and potentially a
problem if the temps got colder. I came up with a theory - I put
some foam rubber grips over the heated hand grips to soften the feel of
the handlebars, and I'm thinking that maybe too much heat was being
retained in the grip, they overheated and the element wiring failed.
If my theory is correct, I'm not likely to fix this before returning to
Seattle. So now I have an unplugged electric jacket and unheated
grips. I can't stand up to stretch my legs because I don't want to
take a chance of losing the wiring. My mood is starting to darken.
But hey, we're taking a two-week motorcycle tour in the western US.
Things could be worse.
When we're riding, Whiz usually leads.
Sometimes, he'll pull over to take a picture or make an adjustment, and
I've learned over the years that it's generally OK to keep riding unless
he waves me down. He'll catch up in a few miles. At one
point this afternoon we were in the Pinchot National Forest and I was in
the lead. The trees were so dense that the GPS wasn't receiving a
signal, and I missed a turn. I rode about 10 miles into the Indian
Heaven Wilderness before realizing my mistake and turning around.
Maybe it was the paved road turning into a rutted, potholed mess that
finally clued me in. But Whiz was a good sport about my mistake.
I'm happy to report that other than my
set of three screwups today, the riding was great, the bikes behaved
well, and we seem to be well on the way to another great W&G adventure.
Please be sure to check out the Maps
and Photo Gallery, and of course you don't want to miss the kickoff W&G