THE MACHINES, THE GEAR, THE PLAN, THE RIDERS
Suddenly all three things started to fall into place. Time, money and desire. You make these things happen and when the moment comes you are ready and jump! The motorcycles were BMW: a ‘95 gs 1200r with close to 100,000 miles, just broken in. We would roll that odometer in a few days. The second machine was a ‘10 F 650 gs chain drive with less than a thousand miles. Not broken in, yet! Both had hard side bags, top boxes manufactured by BMW and Touratech, a welcome addition for anyone going long distances.
The gear was simple enough. Safety comes first, period. The Aerostitch One-Piece Roadcrafter had everything we look for as riders when it comes to protection and kick ass looks. Plus you can put it on in few seconds and get it off just as fast when the sun is hammering you with 111 degrees, as it was in Kansas (and almost the whole ride). With the leg and main zippers fully zipped, the vents wide open we rode comfortably. Zipping down the main zipper to provide ‘more’ airflow, for me, was counterproductive. The extra hot wind stole your body water at a wicked rate. Zipped and vented provided the proper balance for safety and comfort.
Helmets, boots, and gloves are always de rigueur. Each rider chooses what is right for themselves. Mine was an AFX with visor and smoked windscreen. Both aided well in keeping the relentless sun at bay and giving superior airflow and view. Kale’s was a traditional SHOEI, his touring boots and gloves, custom. Mine varied in that they were steel toed Wellingtons and roper’s gloves.
The route was clear enough. Take one of the original trans-cons (also the longest) from one terminus to the other.
U. S. Route 6 – highway of the Grand Army of the Republic – fit all the necessary requirements. A plus was that Route 6 runs as a two lane highway for much of its length. There are sections where she runs concurrent with larger freeways yet always seemed to return to the double band of black.
The western terminus of Route 6 is cause for some minor dispute between Bishop Ca. and Long Beach, Ca. Each claims to be the official end, or beginning, depending on how you view such things. Bishop was chosen. To make up the difference our first day of the tour took us through Yosemite; The Tioga Pass, Lee Vining, down the eastern range and across the first of many great basins to the town of Bishop. From then on it was little more than following the map. NOT!
The eastern end of Route 6 is Provincetown, Mass. It’s a fair distance, no matter how you look at it, and just the first half of the journey.
Kale Williams, old enough to know better, young enough to still give it a go. A life-long rider, Kale still renews his skill level by taking courses and of course, applying what he learns to the road. He has been criss-crossing the roadways on two wheels since the original Kawasaki Kz 650 hit the market. Kale knows the road and the road knows him. It’s always a pleasure to tour with that kind of experience; you learn something new every day.
John G. Rees, that’s me – author, daily rider (Suzuki dl650) and one of a few who can sit in the saddle for 12 hours and go for more if that’s what it takes to keep up with Kale. Then there are the tools. I know how to use them. They always come in handy to either keep us on the road or, as was most often the case, aid another biker or motorist on their way. There is always time to stop and lend a hand especially on some of the stretches in the middle of nowhere that have suddenly become somewhere for somebody.
As with most journeys of this nature, there is more than one tour happening; an inner and outer trip. We were prepared for the outer adventure. The inner would require all our strength, endurance, compassion and kindness if we were to make it the entire way as we had begun. A couple of bikers and miles to go.
ON THE ROAD
The first day was a warm up. San Francisco Bay to Bishop, Ca. via Yosemite, the Tioga Pass and Lee Vining. The Pass and Lee Vining was a downhill run with s-curves, hairpins, shear drops, and captivating views. Into the first of many natural basins we met the future – long stretches of arrow straight road and the sun overhead in a cloudless sky. There was a warning with the bright sun and warm air that rushed passed, stealing minute quantities of your body water, continuously, unnoticeable. Soon there would be no warning. When you are standing in the fire, you know it!
The roads were clean, devoid of tourists and perfect for breaking in a new bike. The F 650 gs shifts effortlessly, allowing the rider to give the road ahead all of their attention. No box of rocks here! We were cruising the day away, with the exception of the caveat, the ride was uneventful. A couple hundred miles and change later we pulled into our first campground in Bishop, Ca.
This campground would prove to be a prime example of what we would be encountering in the way of rustic accommodations. The parks were clean, staff, friendly and helpful, grounds and campsites level and amenities in good repair. Then, of course, the folk who camped in every conceivable level of comfort; from semi-sized RV’s to one the size of an old VW bug, harem tents and one-man’s – we all had a common desire; to be at this place, at this time, and to share its beauty around. Whether a smile, getting or giving directions (I was forever asking where the *&%# am I?), talk of the road, bikes or lending a hand, the goodness of the people shined through. And we saw this everywhere! In times such as these with less and less of the time we so desire, that there is always time to help someone else.
I will admit to a bias here. Bikers, underneath all that gear, leather, gloves and helmet are some of the nicest peeps you will ever meet. It all starts with a smile.
NEXT UP: INTO THE HEAT