Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Coast to Coast: Prologue


Getting into Motorcycling and the Trip

     I considered taking a two day trip to Pittsburgh on my motorcycle. Over a weekend, I would take a day to ride to the city, stay at a hotel, and then come home the next day. My dad convinced me it was a bad idea. If my bike broke down, I would be stranded by myself. I also couldn’t find a convenient time to take the trip because work and school took up all my time.

     After I quit working at Kroger in April 2014, I felt purposeless. Leaving wasn’t a decision I regretted. I had worked my tail off for years and my manager still didn’t respect me for reasons I couldn’t imagine. I did everything right; I knew customers by name, I was respectful to everyone, and customers loved me and knew my name in return. At the same time, I felt like I was missing out on a lot of things. I didn’t have a girlfriend and I rarely hung out with my friends. I wanted to enjoy being young, since I wasn’t going to stay a teenager forever.

     Spring semester of my sophomore year was over in a week, and there was a 15 day gap between Spring and Summer semesters at college: May 10 to May 25, 2014. My classes for both semesters were on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I really had between May 8 and May 26, which was 19 days.

     Under the weight of boredom, I decided to ride across the country. It was as simple as waking up one morning and thinking, “Hey, maybe I should cross the country”. There really was no thought process involved. I didn’t weigh the consequences or take time to think about the dangers involved in such a long trip. My dad and stepmom were both out of town when I made the decision, and I didn’t pick them up from the airport until the day before I left. They didn’t have time to talk me out of it.

     Before mentioning the trip over the phone to my dad, I went to Iron Pony and loaded up on expensive gear for my bike and got it serviced. That way I could say I already invested a ton of money into the journey and had no choice but to follow through with it. When I did call my dad and tell him about the trip, he was apprehensive, but he recalled my desire to travel to Pittsburgh. He knew I really wanted to travel.


     I bought a lot of new equipment for my bike at the motorcycle superstore, Iron Pony. I got a 30 gallon waterproof duffle bag, a large pair of saddlebags, a 22 liter tank bag, and a new tent. I spent about $400, but having good equipment is paramount on a long trip.

The tank bag

     The tank bag was considerably bigger than the one I had before. On the top it had a clear pocket to mount a GPS or phone. The bag had various holes which provided a way to wire a charger from the bike’s battery. It had a pouch behind the GPS pocket for the tank bag’s rain cover, and two smaller pockets in the front to hold the rain covers for my saddlebags. In the side pockets, I had ear plugs, visor wipes, and camping lights.

The inside of the tank bag

     The inside of the tank bag had plenty of room for food and drinks. I knew I would be taking plenty of breaks since riding a motorcycle is very tiring.


     The left side saddlebag would hold my one-person tent and my pillow, while the right side saddlebag would hold my sleeping bag. My tent was small, but I wasn’t going to do anything else besides sleeping in it. I didn’t need creature comforts.

My one-person tent in front of my house 

     My 30 gallon duffle bag would hold most of my equipment. It held my toiletries bag, three pairs of jeans, five pairs of underwear, two pairs of long johns, seven pairs of socks, four long sleeve shirts, one short sleeve shirt, a bathing suit, a rain jacket, a sweater, an Abercrombie jacket, and my laptop computer. The bag was completely full, but I could sneak in my leather jacket under the straps on the outside of the bag if it got too hot.

     I didn’t bring any shorts. Even in hot weather I needed to protect my skin from the sun as well as dirt and rocks kicked up by passing cars. I also needed at least some protection in case I crashed. This is also why I only brought one short sleeve shirt.

     This was everything I had to live on for the next nineteen days. Since all I did at home was ride my motorcycle and play games on my computer, I figured that I would be living the same life on the road. 


     I had a week to prepare for the trip. I calculated that it would take me eight days to get to San Francisco, and eight days to get back. I would have to average about three hundred and fifty miles a day, and I would only be taking back roads. I had nineteen days, so this left me with three extra days. The first day I would use to spend a spare day in San Francisco to get my bike serviced and get myself refreshed and clean. The remaining two days I would have in case of an emergency.

     In order to simulate the living conditions of the trip, I slept in my tent a few nights and rode 250 miles every day with my bike fully packed. My first night I spent in my mom’s backyard and the second night I spent in my dad’s backyard. I made two long distance trips: one to my grandparent’s house in Middletown and the next day to Miami University where my cousin was taking classes.

     On my way to Middletown, I noticed an unusually high amount of activity going on at Buckminn’s D&D Harley-Davidson just off 42. I saw Harley after Harley entering the parking lot while others were leaving. I parked my bike in front of the dealership, and took a quick look around at the bikes and tried to find the source of all the attention. The dealership owner approached me near my bike and started a conversation with me.

     He said that it had been a long time since he had seen a CB750, and we had a small chat about my bike. He informed me that the dealership was hosting a bike blessing. I took a closer look around the parking lot. A pastor dressed in a leather jacket and jeans with Christian motorcycle gang patches was walking around to different bikes with their respective owners and praying. I had heard of bike blessings before; they were very popular among religious motorcyclists, particularly Americans. One of the church members approached me and asked if my bike had been blessed. I’m not religious, but I was going to need all the help I could get on the trip. I said no, but inquired into the blessing and told him I was going on a trip to San Francisco.

     The pastor came around to my bike with a few other motorcyclists. We formed a full circle around my bike and held hands, with me at one end holding the left handlebar and the preacher on the other side holding the right between the others. The preacher made a prayer that sounded like something straight out of a movie. He asked god to have the bike protect me on all my rides including my journey to San Francisco, and to keep it going strong when I needed it most.

     After the blessing, he gave me a small red prayer cloth. I knew that a lot of Christian sects were against prayer clothes because many pastors used to sell them, and they gave the impression that god only paid attention to those who had them. I knew if god existed that he would always be looking out for me no matter what, so I took the prayer cloth for what it was: a physical symbol of hope. I put it under the seat of my motorcycle in the compartment that holds the manual, and left the dealership. I was as ready for the trip as I would ever be. The night before my leave for the journey, I gave my dad my Apple ID and password. This would allow him to use the Find My iPhone application to track my phone. It was bad enough that I was going across the United States solo on a 42 year old motorcycle. I didn’t want to worry about crashing and having no one find me.

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