Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Crunch

Departure is in T-19 days. 19 days. 19. 19.

Substantive planning has taken a bit of a back seat over the past few weeks, as there's lots of legwork (and paper work) to finish up finalizing my enrollment. Byzantine student loans rules, master promissory notes, finding a place to live (done!), mentally preparing myself to go back to school...it'll be nice to be able to think about motorcycling again!

I have done plenty of long riding days recently,
as well as started trying out my gear. About three weeks ago, I did a solo ride up to Kancamagus highway in New Hampshire. Its a beautiful, isolated country road that runs 35 miles through the heart of the White Mountains National Forest. Stunning views of the valley, swiftly flowing mountain streams, waterfalls; its what I imagine Colorado will be like, just at 1:3 scale. Its also lightly patrolled by police, so traversing them at a, ahem, "sporting" pace is very acceptable. I did about 150 miles up to North Conway for lunch, the 35 miles across the Kanc, then another 165 miles back to Boston. 350 miles is one of the longest days I plan on, so this was good practice.

Less fun were the Black Flies, but I took a few of those bastards with me...

While going up to New Hampshire was a good endurance test, I didn't need to bring anything with me other than my usual tool kit and some water. The next step was to do some serious over-nighting. Luckily, my friend Eileen from school was getting married out in Western Mass, and all of my college friends were staying 3 nights afterwards at a cabin nearby. The trip was 5 nights total, I needed to pack for both a formal wedding and camping, the first leg was 110 miles, and it was forecast to thunderstorm. PERFECT. (ED: Mark's idea of perfect is fairly abnormal)

I had recently purchased a whole bunch of fun touring tools, so it was time to put them to use. First of all, the rain; I bought a nice Frogg Toggs rain suit. While I'm normally skeptical of hi-viz stuff (not to mention too vain to wear it), I figured if there was ever a time it would come in handy, a rainstorm would be it. Both the pants and jacket fold up nicely into a little carrying bag, and fit snugly over my pants and gear. While breathable, they definitely added another insulating layer, so I was a bit sweaty on the way out (despite the fact that it was night, raining, and actually hailed at some point in time). Next time I'll remember to take out the insulating/windproof layers in my pants/jacket, respectively. They certainly did their job, as I was bone-dry upon arrival.

I had also bought saddlebags. While I'd love to fit up my bike in full Kriega gear, I just don't have the dough, so I bought a set of very cheap "Motocentric" sport bags.

Zipped out and expanded, they held a 3-piece suit, dress shoes, my Docs, rainsuit, bike cover, water bottle, tool kit, military jacket, and a few other bits. Not bad. They also came with some elastic rain-proof covers. Not the most confidence inspiring things, but they stayed on through a driving rain storms @ 75 mph, so hopefully they'll last the trip out. Here's the bike all loaded up; I just bungied my tent and duffle back to the top (all my clothes were wrapped in a garbage back for cheap rainproofing).

Speaking of my tent, its a cheap 1-person bivvy from Eureka. Take about 5 minutes to put up, the fly is attached, and it was plenty warm the 3 nights I used it (too warm in the morning, actually). Here it is in the middle of being attacked by my friends.

So, other than those two trips what have I done? Well, it is now The Crunch, so I finalized my plans. Its the same route as before, just starting a day earlier on the 30th, so I get an extra day to hike around Bryce Canyon. Already made reservations at the Annie Oakley Motel in Oakley, KS (whooo...), as well as the Wacker Hotel in Chicago. But now it really is THE CRUNCH.

Up next; detailed plans, the joys of gearing changes, and why you should wear flowers in your hair...

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