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Days 1-3: The Journey Begins

AUbraaap

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I didn't sleep the night of August 1st, too much anticipation, too much energy, all pent up like a kid waiting for St. Nick to slide down the chimney and drop off gifts to be played with in the morning. I got out of bed early, there was no sense in delaying it any longer. I went through my routine of brewing coffee, frying a couple eggs and having breakfast as hurriedly as ever. After breakfast I checked my bags for, probably, the 100th time to make sure I had all the gear I could stuff in them and that I hadn't left anything out because I would need it all for the next week. I checked every drawer and under the bed and in the washer and dryer to make sure nothing remained. When I was sure the bags were good to go I made my way down to the garage to begin to load my truck before I had to leave for work. First, I got both bikes in the bed of the truck. I took my 2012 KTM 300XC and 2017 450 SX-F(never take a SX bike to ride CO single track, more on that later). Then came all manner of spare parts, fluids, lubricants, cleaners, tools, anything you can think of that you might need to keep a bike running properly. Off I go to work.

I don't have a clue what happened at work that day. All I know is at 5 o'clock I'm leaving and heading to the Airbnb I booked in south GA. It was a hot day and I had been hot all day at work hopped in the truck to leave and about an hour down the road had to pull off at a rest stop and puke, not the best start to my trip, but between the heat and my excitement to get going I got queezy. I got back on the road and had an uneventful rest of the trip to Lake Park. Got in at about 10 and went to bed pretty quickly as I needed to be up early the next day. 

5 a.m. came soon enough but I was still rearing to go. I got dressed, had my coffee and headed out before daylight on my way to Columbus, GA. Halfway there I stopped in Tifton, GA to get on Highway 82 and grab some Chick-Fil-A breakfast at exit 62 off I75. Nothing else would suffice. By the time 11 rolled around I made it to a U-haul location and picked up the 6x12 enclosed trailer that we had reserved for the trip because I don't own an enclosed trailer, no one else driving out did and I couldn't find anyone to lend me one. At $30 a day, though, I wasn't really worried about it. *Props to U-Haul btw, that trailer pulled great and had all kinds of tie down points. I would not hesitate to get one again.* After picking up the trailer my next stop for most of the day was Tallassee, AL where I picked up my first comrade and took a driving break to work on bikes. 

My 450 is a track bike and it typically stays in tip top shape because the track is not the place to have a failure of any sort because it always happens up the face of a jump or in the air. So it didn't need anything at all. My 300 was having clutch issues. To try to remedy this I bought a master cylinder rebuild kit and installed it to no avail, it actually got worse so I put the stock components back in. After I put the rebuild kit in it I COULD NOT get the clutch to take fluid when the lever was actuated so I ended up back bleeding it completely full and it somehow worked. Right then I went online to Rocky Mountain and ordered a new complete clutch master and had it sent to our accommodations in CO. This would prove to be a damn good decision. 

My friend, Josh, was taking his ragged 1994 Honda CR250R... I had zero faith in that bike. Before we could leave it needed new tubes and tires, and a new clutch pack. I also decided that we should put grease in every place that would take grease to be safe. This guy had been riding about 6 months, never on a motorcycle of any kind before, at the time so I gave him a crash course in how to change tires and tubes. I wasn't sure any of this work would be worth it. If you can imagine the most clapped out 1994 CR250 that actually still runs and moves under its own power; this is that bike, 100 percent. Suspension just feels like its only working on the springs, clutch is on/off, brakes are very much absent, no power band just on or off(later discovered the power valve assembly was stuck open), so so so loud with smoke pouring out of the head pipe connection to the cylinder, EVERYTHING rattles, the kicker only catches 1/3 of the time, but alas the bike works well enough for this particular rider. 

Anyhow, we clean up and get everything back together and load up in the trailer. Next was to swap trucks with my father for the remainder of the trip. I love my '96 Z71 but I don't love it enough to drive it to Colorado from Alabama, South FL to AL was quite enough. I can't thank him enough for letting us take his truck. That kept us from needing another rental. Hard to believe that out of the 6 riders travelling from Alabama to Colorado none of us have a full size truck or SUV that is cross country worthy. By now, with just the 2 of us, the truck and trailer are loaded down with enough supplies for an army of riders and mechanics. At 7 P.M. we roll out of Tallassee and head to Guntersville, AL for the last leg of the day to meet up with the rest of the guys going with us. We stopped in Birmingham to pick up the 4th bike going in the trailer and roll up to Guntersville around 11 P.M. to meet the last 3 riders. Once there we elect not to put another bike in the trailer and the last 2 will ride in the bed of the 2nd truck going to CO. I can't tell you how great it felt to be back with all the boys, everyone together again. We all met in college at Auburn and have since moved off to Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee. After catching up over a few beers it was time to head to bed for the night and get a few hours sleep before rolling out early Saturday morning. 

The next 20 hours of my life are some of the least exciting times I have ever lived through. The three of us riding in my truck, being young and bold, decided that driving straight through the entire day and night to get there before the next morning was the best course of action so off we went leaving the other three riders asleep in the house. Nashville to Paducah and on up to St. Louis and past the great arch. We encountered a classic Lamborghini Countach on the west side of St. Louis; trying to catch up to it loaded down with bikes and gear in a half ton truck was pretty comical. It didn't work. We traveled onward to Columbia then hit KC before sundown. We stopped only for gas, and you basically don't drink because making special stops to take a leak wastes too much time on a trip that long. Once on the west side of KC you have reached the absolute worst part of the trip: Kansas. Nothing about Kansas is cool, at least on I70. I had been awake long enough so it was time for me to pass out so that I would be prepared to co-pilot in case the drive dosed off or I needed to drive the last leg of the trip. I was in and out of sleep through Kansas and I remember sleepily waving to the "Welcome to Colorado" Sign. I came to just before Denver as we were stopping for gas and the current driver was done for the night. Driver number three takes over heading into Denver. We make it through the Mile High City unscathed and up we go over the mountains. I now find out the driver 3 has never driven in the mountains. It's after midnight, and he is pulling a trailer. I can't describe how painfully slow he was driving at this point. Somewhere just after the Eisenhower tunnel we got our first head nod from him so I am wide-ass awake now. After another few miles it happened again and I reached over and took the wheel from the passenger seat and shook him really hard. We pulled over very quickly and I took over. That was one of the scarier points in life. 

I was wide awake with fear, mostly, at this point. I got us on to Silverthorne fairly quickly and off I70 onto CO Highway 9. We reached Kremmling almost instantly or so it felt. Then I hopped on US 40 to take us into Steamboat Springs. Both of my friends were passed out so I had no choice but to be on point driving and not feel an ounce of tiredness. I was scared to even yawn or sneeze. It's a real shame that we were driving through CO at night, Josh had never seen it, Patrick hadn't been in over a year, and I hadn't seen it since January but that made the morning that much more special. We uneventfully pulled up to Promontory Condominiums about 3 A.M on Sunday August 5th, where two of the riders who live in CO were waiting on us. We unceremoniously went straight to bed. It took me 58 hours to go 2,300 miles from Fort Myers, FL to Steamboat. Not bad!

 

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