Waking up this morning just 475 miles from home, I knew today was going to be the end of this trip. Much of the morning was spent trying to come up with some meaning to tie this whole thing together. All along this trip, as well as the previous one people have asked me why I do these sort of trips.
I know there are a number of elements to this answer, a big one which I would rather not admit to of course is the ego factor, I know its hard, I am pretty sure I can do it, I have a good threshold for discomfort and an stubborn ability to stick with something long past it making sense.
A huge piece of course is getting in touch with where you are, for example if you are driving somewhere, and a sprinkle of rain hits, even if a convertible it is not a big deal. On a bike if you climb or descend a few thousand feet and consequently the temperature changes, if like me you choose not to use heated clothing then this becomes an issue, you need to find somewhere safe to pull off, or ride the next few hours in a degree of discomfort. Normally I can feel rain coming a few miles before I get to it, when your head gets shoved around a lot more, also if you are behind a semi/articulated truck/18 wheeler the buffeting increases greatly. Next you start to feel water droplets form on your leading edges e.g. knuckles, and eventually rain begins.
With the smaller tank I am stopping for fuel about every 150 miles, this forces you to more gradually see the countryside change between fuel stops and being a loan rider just invites people to come tell you their story.
When out in the flats you spend most of the day leaning to keep the bike upright against the wind, but whenever you overtake a vehicle that creates a hole in the wind, and depending on which side the vehicle is relative to the wind direction sets the 5 feet the machine will lurch once you get into that hole.
There is also great solitude in the helmet, whatever you setup when you pull out is all you have until you stop again, your iPod may be in your breast pocket, but if you don’t have your plugs into it when you leave there is no way to set that up at cruising speed with glove on. Once locked in your helmet all you have is yourself, and you need to keep focus on the road ahead, this is why people call biking the “poor mans meditation” as without knowing any mantra you are forced into a similar mindset.
Of course one of the true joys is the lack of cell phone within your helmet, as with the heated clothing, you can use technology now to get you past this restriction, but right now I choose not to do that.
I then realized a very substantial piece is getting in touch with your machine. Without a large pane of glass to view the world through, it is much more difficult to gauge speed. By about day three on a trip I am no longer looking at my instruments for this information, I can feel the engine RPM’s of my delicate Bavarian boxer engine vibrating through my boots, and also tell speed by the wind-noise. I have also realized I need to up-shift/down-shift without looking at the tachometer or hearing the engine, based on the wind and my feet vibrations not matching.
Winding into the mountains of West Virginia from Charleston I was still trying to work out my answer, while trying to work this out I was overtaking a large vehicle and I was fighting with the cross winds banked over at about 30 degrees while climbing. Instinctively I rolled the throttle open about another 1/40th of a turn, the engine pitch dropped as it worked harder, I instantly felt the flex in the swingarm under the twisting forces, I felt the bike dig down as the Metzler Z6 on the back grabbed a more firm grip of the road 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81 and as I cleared the front of the truck I noticed my feet shift ever so slightly on the pegs so my weight was moved from taking me through the right banking turn and I was balanced to pull me into the left banking turn and I finally understood what the trip is about..