A Newbie's 9,500 mile USA Journey on a Ninja 250

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bbonds_007, Jul 27, 2016.

  1. bbonds_007

    bbonds_007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    My name is Bryan, I am a student at Pennsylvania State University and in the spring of 2014 I completed a 7 week coast-to-coast (and back) USA road trip on an epic lil’ Ninja 250 by myself. I will format this ride report a bit differently than most. The beginning will focus on my general overview of the trip, focusing on statistics and tips for other ADV riders (especially newbies, as this was my first road trip). Then I will go into a more traditional story-telling of the trip week by week. I've decided to post this report in its entirety rather than piece by piece, so if you like wordy stories you are in for a treat!

    Or if you are a picture book kind of person, click here for the photo album (250 photos)!
    https://goo.gl/photos/neM3aD4CZLpZT4DQ6


    Statistics!
    Rider: 22yo student (20 at time of trip), prior to the trip I had been riding for 2 years with only 4k miles experience.
    Bike: 2006 Kawasaki Ninja 250 with 11,300 miles (prior to trip)
    Trip miles: 9,500
    Time to complete: 7 weeks (April 20th 2014 - June 6th 2014)
    Temperature range: 28-98 Fahrenheit (real temp)
    Map:
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    Cost of trip: $2,890
    Food: $900
    Gasoline: $500
    Parts for bike: $250
    Hotels / Campgrounds: $690
    Tourism (tickets, etc): $400
    etc: $150
    Lodging:
    ⅓ camping (all free federal land minus 3 nights at paid campgrounds)
    ⅓ hotels
    ⅓ tent space / couchsurfing with random strangers
    Bike performance / maintenance record
    Mean MPG: 65, range 38-73
    Tires: Kenda K671 rear and front.
    - Installed 2,000 miles prior to trip.
    - Front tire failed 9,000mi into the trip. It developed a major bubble without explanation.
    - Rear tire is still kicking with a little life to go, over 15,000 miles on it currently
    Oil: Filter and oil changed prior to trip, then once again half way through.
    Chain adjusted: every 3,000 miles
    Chain lubed: every 600 miles​

    Top 5 Tips and Advice for other adventure riders (with a focus on first time ADVers!)

    1) The pregen (1984-2006) Kawasaki Ninja 250 is an AWESOME do-it-all for cheap tour bike. It accomplished everything I asked, from the tail of the dragon, interstate, gravel, dirt, and even pure sand - not recommended!

    2) Do NOT buy a new bike for your “epic” road trip. I almost made the mistake of buying a new Ninja 300; it would have been the biggest mistake I could have made. You are not doing ADV right if your bike returns without bugs, dirt, and scratches. Do not take a bike if you will become upset WHEN - not if - it tips on its side because the wind is gusting 50mph out in the desert.

    3) People in general are just amazing. By far the most incredible part of the adventure was socializing and learning about the random people I met along my journey. This is something car or airplane travelers completely miss out on.

    4) I recommend doing 200-350 miles per day. Any more and my body would begin to suffer long-term fatigue. It is also a number that allows you to experience your trip instead of just riding through it. During my next trip, I want to go even slower, perhaps around 150-250 miles to REALLY enjoy the trip and surrounding areas.

    5) Make the journey your destination.
    #1
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  2. bbonds_007

    bbonds_007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Pennsylvania

    Prologue:


    Two years! It was two years prior to my trip when I was sitting on my couch in the spring of 2012 bored and aimless shifting through netflix for something good to watch. I normally loathe documentaries but Netflix recommended this show called “Long Way Around”, based on my love of Top Gear. Being mostly a car guy, I shrugged at the thought of a motorcycle documentary starring Obi Wan Kenobi. Nevertheless, there was nothing better to watch; I reluctantly hit play... seven hours pass. It is now 3am in the morning. All I could do was open up google maps and start placing red pins.


    Week 1: April 20 - 26


    The day had come. The point of no return. I had spent the last 2 years planning for this moment. I wanted to have one grand adventure BEFORE I started college in the upcoming fall. I had tickets for a concert in San Diego, a ball game in San Francisco, and tent space hosts expecting me. The butterflies in my stomach told me to stay home and postpone by a few days but my mind knew I had to go, it had to be today. The bike and I were geared up and ready to go by 7am.

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    First stop, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, home of space shuttle Discovery! The ride so far was smooth sailing. My nerves quickly melted away after a cute kid complimented on my bike at my very first stop for food, he thought I was lying when I said I was going to San Francisco! The museum itself was okay, it was definitely worth being able to see the real space shuttle in person! However, honestly, I felt lonely walking around by myself in a foreign town inside this massive museum. Part of it might of been the realization that I was going to be by myself, alone, for the next 7 weeks.

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    For my first official ADV test, I decided to tent-space it on my first night! My host was very welcoming and left a great impression for future nights. I'm a bit shy by nature, so getting used to the idea of socializing and trusting strangers was something I needed to warm up to.

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    My first night was a success. I survived freezing temps (30F), packed up, and began my journey down the Skyline Drive. It was a nice ride but I agree it is a bit over-rated. It’s something to do once but for future trips it will be skipped.

    Now onto something a bit more fun, the Blue Ridge Parkway! Tons of fun people to talk to. Interesting little towns along the way. Reasonable roads and speed limits. One of my favorite roads in the United States!

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    Newbie mistake #1. Near the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway I ran out of gas in my main tank. I didn’t even realize I ran out of gas - the bike stalled but there appeared to be gasoline left, leading me to believe it was an electrical problem. Turns out the gas I saw was my reserve level. After 30 minutes of trying to fix the problem, a quick flip of the switch on my reserve tank fixed the issue entirely. The kind police officer who stopped to help me must of thought I was an idiot and would never make it to San Francisco!

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    Okay this is single handedly the greatest and most bizarre thing I saw on my adventure. I mean WTF is it?!?! I found this in a tiny town I randomly decided to camp in and it was literally in the center of the town, as if some sort of town center piece. No land marking or anything telling of what it is. It's even holding a motorcycle and everything. I LOVE it!

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    I spent a night camping at the lovely Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge, which is minutes from the Tail of the Dragon. Was $15 to tent camp, but worth it as I got to meet some really unforgettable riders who were part of an amazing side car meetup!

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    “Oh crap, I'm scraping my foot pegs? Wooo!” I'm normally not one for speed, but wow is there something special about the twisty road known as the Tail of the Dragon. I took the advice of ADV riders and went early in the morning on a weekday so traffic was manageable. I left my luggage at the Iron Horse and had a blast running a couple laps on the tail. It was without a doubt the most adrenaline inducing experience I have ever had - this coming from someone who has sky dived! I now envy all you track warriors. As for my light-weight ninja 250, it performed admirably as it kept up or even outperformed many of the other larger bikes!

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    “Whelp, I can’t see.” After the dragon, I traveled across the Cherohala pass. At the top, I ran into the heart of some fog so thick you could cut it with a knife. I concluded I could either stay here and freeze to death in this cold wet hell, returned the way I came, or ride through it. I decided to take out my hi-viz gear and hope I could make it through far enough to start going down hill to escape this dangerous cloud. Luckily I was out within 4 miles, but a terrifying 4 miles they were.

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    The next day I arrived in Birmingham Alabama, home of the coolest museum in the world! I heard a lot of good things about the Barber Motorsports Museum but words really can not do this place justice. It is simply mind blowing how massive this place is and how many unique cars and bikes there are. With the race track in the back, this place must be valued at well over a billion dollars. As an extra special treat, I happened to arrive during a weekend of Indy car races that were being held on the racetrack behind the museum. I was worried the museum would be packed, but it was surprisingly empty. Many people paid to watch the race from the spectator stands surrounding the race-track, but I just went to the top floor of the museum and watched from there - pro tip, there is a single bench on the top floor in the right corner - normally they do not like you sitting by their giants windows to watch races for free (standing only), but its okay to sit if you are on this bench! I was there watching the races for hours, enjoying the perfect view and air conditioning on a 95 degree day.

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    Week 2: April 27 - May 2


    Next stop was the Crater of Diamonds park in Arkansas. A bit touristy, yes, but it seemed amusingly odd - touted as "the only place you can dig for diamonds". Overall, it was worth going once, but not good enough for me to consider going back. Really is just a large flat field of dirt. Crummy concession stand food is all you are stuck with unless you want to give up on diamond hunting and drive miles to a real restaurant.

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    Onto Texas! I found out pretty quickly that my lil bike does not like going 80+mph to keep up with Texas highway speed limits. Well the bike can do it just fine, but comfortable for the rider it is not! It certainly did not help I was fighting a crosswind that required a constant lean angle to go straight.

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    Luckily I was in for a very special treat that day. A fellow rider on this site got me in touch with some relatives of his who lived in Texas. While they unfortunately were unable to host me at their home as they were on a business trip, they generously used some of their hotel reward points to book me a hotel room for the night and in a 5 star hotel no less! Pretty extravagant for a college student on a tight budget. It was the only hotel I stayed at that had a heated indoor pool and jacuzzi, and boy did I use it! I promised to keep this individual anonymous, but I could not help but share this really cool story!

    The next day I took hw82 and crossed the top of Texas. Being from the north, it was pretty remarkable to see how much unused land there still is in America. At one point I had traveled over 100 miles without seeing any sort of significant civilization. At the end of a long 400+ mile day, I took refuge at another ADV rider’s place. Another kind soul who let me stay in his guest room and watch a movie with him.

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    After crossing through Texas I arrived in New Mexico. I had been riding across the flat plains for a while and noticed I started going uphill. After a while, the temperature started to drop. Then before you know it, I start seeing signs for this little village called “Cloudcroft”. Strange name I thought, but its on the route I preplanned and I need gas. I notice my bike is starting to lag a bit, which I find a bit odd but I soon figure out why. As I enter this village, I see a sign that reads “altitude 8,600ft”... I guess that explains the name! Apparently this little village is a highly rated but little known tourist spot. Very odd place, but I receive the best steak I ever had here!

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    Only a few miles from Cloudcroft is the Lincoln National Forest. My pictures really do not do this place justice, incredibly beautiful and the road is a dream.

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    #2
    aDave, B10Dave, Tejas99 and 1 other person like this.
  3. bbonds_007

    bbonds_007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Pennsylvania

    Week 3: May 3-10


    As I close in on my next destination I start to become very excited as it was near the top of my list of things to see across America. A lot of people my age want to go to Miami beach or New York City, but not me. I wanted to go to the Chihuahuan Desert, home of the White Sands National Monument. Something about these white sand dunes seemed magical to me. Maybe it's because it is the largest gypsum sand dune field in the world. Maybe it’s because it is part of a missile test range and is peppered with unexploded ordinances buried in the sand. Whatever it is, it was without a doubt the most unforgettable place I have ever had the pleasure to camp.

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    I highly recommend you camp overnight if possible. You can drive through a small part of the dunes via a snowplowed path through the sand. However, to get the real experience you need to hike-in at least a mile in order to feel completely isolated from the outside world. Bring lots of water, sunscreen, and food! After I set camp in the middle of this desert, I realized I forgot my food on my bike. It was far too hot to go back for it, so I survived overnight on tic tacs and water like a boss.

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    I had the pleasure of briefly meeting this amazing father and son duo out in the desert. The boy was only about 6 years old and was a bit resistant to the extreme hike, however his father was offering him motivational words of support and teaching him that good things in life do not always come with ease. This is one of my favorite photographs I've ever taken.

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    From my favorite state (New Mexico) to my least favorite. Arizona was a disappointment after having such high hopes; terrible roads, drivers seemingly trying to kill me, 97 degree heat, people in grouchy moods, “The Thing”, and a slightly disappointing Pima Air museum. The only redeeming factor was another awesome ADVrider letting me chill in their house for a couple days. It allowed for me to do some much needed maintenance on my bike and escape the ridiculous heat. After my bike was fixed, I high-tailed it as quick as I could out of Arizona and headed into California.

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    My next campsite was in the Cleveland National Forest, located a few hours east of the California shoreline. Nice little spot, but they warned me to watch for mountain lions!

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    On my way to San Diego, I had to fight a ridiculous headwind, which I later found to be 50mph; took my gas mileage down from an average of 65mpg to 38mpg! Luckily the weather on arrival was typical sunny San Diego. I met up with a fellow ADVrider "Adios Pantalones" who agreed to let me stay on his boat for a few days. Yes, a boat, which doubles as his full time home! Such an awesome chap, toured me around San Diego and let me enjoy the benefits of his yacht club. I had limited amount of time before I needed to be in San Francisco, so I did as much as I could in such limited time.

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    I truly enjoy engineering marvels that showcase the advancements of technology and science, so to be able to walk on the most powerful machine in the world is a pretty cool feeling. A literal floating museum, the Midway is an aircraft carrier turned historical museum that sits in the San Diego bay.

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    The major highlight of San Diego for me was being able to see my favorite musician Ingrid Michaelson perform for the first time in person. I actually bought my ticket for this concert six months in advance of my roadtrip! I know some people do not like to plan too much for a trip but there are some pretty nice perks, like having tickets to a sold out concert! I’ll admit though, I was a bit giddy knowing I successfully traveled across the entire country perfectly on schedule to hit a date I planned 6 months in advance… and also relieved I was no longer on a super strict schedule.

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    The most unexpected highlight was having the pleasure to eat at Phil’s BBQ! I normally do not gush about food, but wow do they sell some incredible BBQ chicken! Best meal I ever had, mindblowing!

    Per the recommendation of ADVriders, I left San Diego at 4am to avoid Los Angeles traffic on my way up the coastal highway towards San Francisco. It was a great idea, I was able to get through LA with very few cars on the road. I was worried taking the Pacific Coast Highway north would be congested with RV traffic, being a Saturday and beautiful weather. Luckily, however, that was not the case as traffic was light the entire day. Perhaps May 10th is too early for tourist season?

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    Week 4: May 11-17

    IM LATE! IM LATE! IM REALLY REALLY LATE!... good thing I can lane split! While I had little traffic on the coastal highway, I unfortunately left myself little time to arrive in San Francisco for my pre-purchased ticket to Alcatraz. Im not sure if San Francisco is normally at gridlock on a Sunday at 4pm, but it was that day. I was very timid to attempt lane splitting but I learned very quickly I was not moving an inch otherwise. While I did end up being too late to visit Alcatraz, I had a good ol’ time legally weaving in and out of traffic with inches to spare.

    As a consolation prize for missing Alcatraz, I treated myself to some chocolate ice-cream. Not a bad view!

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    I can not recommend the campground Kirby Cove enough. Yes, it pretty much requires a reservation 6 months in advance but it is worth all the trouble and then some! Make sure you get campsite #1. There are 4 campsite but only campsite 1 gives you a view of the golden gate. As far as I know, it is the only place you can legally camp with a view of the golden gate. Along with the great view, the entire cove was littered with old WWII bunkers, your own private beach, and a beautiful woods to explore. I reserved the maximum 3 nights allowed and enjoyed every second of it.

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    The following day I decided to walk the golden gate. The walk from Kirby cove to the north side of the bridge is only about half a mile. This allows you to leave your motorcycle perfectly safe in the private parking lot of Kirby Cove and go as you please. Because it was such a nice day out, I ended up walking all over San Francisco on foot. I visited Fisherman’s Warf, Pier 33, took the cable cars twice, briefly swam in the bay (WTF the water is freezing!), and then walked to AT&T park for a Giants baseball game against the Braves. After the game, the plan was to take a cheap bus back to Kirby Cove but my phone’s battery died and I got lost in the city! Being alone and lost in downtown San Francisco at 1am was… interesting. I eventually gave up looking for my bus and took a cab, which was not so bad as the cab driver was fun to talk to.

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    The next day I got up bright and early to check out the famous Muir woods. While the Redwood trees were amazing, overall I think it was a bit over-rated. It might have been because it was fairly crowded and you had to stay on the designated wooden path. To be honest, I had more fun exploring the woods surrounding Kirby Cove.

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    All good things must come to an end as it was my time to leave San Francisco. I headed across the Bay bridge and took highway 108 across the Sierra mountains. When I left the Californian mainland, it was a sweltering 94 degrees. Two hours later after I reached the top of the Sierra mountain pass, there was snow on the ground!

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    After making my way into Nevada, I opted to avoid the noise of Las Vegas entirely as I would rather enjoy a peaceful hike in a desolate desert than gamble or drink in a loud smokey casino environment. I found some incredibly beautiful Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to camp on and was as happy as a clam.

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    *Pro tip* Trees in the scorching hot desert make excellent clothes hangers! Especially to dry clothes you just washed in the gas station bathroom like a homeless person.
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    This, my friends, is why you do NOT keep food in your tent. I was good about this rule most of the trip and even brought a bear canister with me to pack all smell-ables away from my campsite. But mistakes are most often made on the days when you become lazy, and to the enjoyment of whatever critter that did this to steal my precious yogurt covered raisins, today was that day for me.

    And this is why EVERYONE should have an emergency tiny sewing kit in their pack list!

    BOOM. Take that mother nature!

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    Zion national park, I wish I had time to explore off the bike but I sadly did not. It was insanely crowded and a bit boring if you just kept to the road. I suggest not even going unless you dedicate a large chunk of time to go hiking deep into the area.

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    Another incredible BLM campsite. While on my journey, I truly fell in love with the simplistic beauty the desert holds.

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    #3
  4. bbonds_007

    bbonds_007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Pennsylvania

    Week 5: May 18-25

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    Most people are intrigued by Monument Valley because of the western movies. While I do enjoy a good western, im a bit more geeky than most and did not fully appreciate the area until I played a game called Beyond: Two Souls. There was a specific chapter in the game that really showcases the beauty of the land and ever since I have been dying to see it in person.

    Once again I lucked out and arrived to thin crowds. After checking out the raised viewing area from the gift shop, I considered taking my bike on the scenic dirt road that allows you to drive up close to the limestone structures. The reason for “consideration” is because of the signs that read “4 wheel drive only”, “drive at own risk”, “not liable for breakdowns”. Well, I didn't drive literally across the country to chicken out now, so I gave it a shot. The beginning of the road was a rocky, twisty, descent but really was no problem if attempted slowly. It was not until a few miles in when I started to get concerned. The rocky road became soft as the road turned into sand! “Well shit”, I thought. This sand was deep and very fine, my 16’’ wheels sunk half way down at certain locations. I was scared to continue but even more scared to turn back. The flat parts of the road seemed fine so I kept going, it was the hills that had collected sand along the base; perhaps from recent sand storms. The worst part was you could not tell what was sand or solid rock, it all looked the same. Well about half-way in the 17 miles loop and I get stuck! I remembered to let out some air out of my tires to provide additional traction in the sand but it was not enough. I’m attempting to go up this little hill which turned out to be made entirely out of sand. Three fourths of my back wheel is now submerged. It won't rock back. The sun is at its highest in the sky and it is over 90 degrees. I am in full leathers trying to push this 300 lbs bike loaded with 100 lbs of gear out of pure sand and I’m starting to get irritated. I have no idea what to do as I never ridden in sand before and I definitely brought the wrong bike for the job.

    The longer I wait, the hotter I get. With frustration building I begin to throw caution to the wind. I start revving as hard as I can and dropping the clutch. This results in movement! Wooo! Now to get out without frying my clutch. I repeat this a few times while rocking it back and forth a little more each time. On the 4th attempt, I gain enough momentum and escape the sands of hell. At this point I was at the midpoint in the loop but fearing the unknown, I decided to turn back. The return trip was not as severe, but I knew it would require climbing the entrance hill sand dune that gave me trouble coming in. Once I reached the base of this monster hill, I parked the bike and began developing an escape plan. I watched a few of the four-wheeled drive tour jeeps climbing the hill and studied their line. They clearly were avoiding the worst parts of the sand by serpentining up the hill. I now had a general idea of the pathway I should take, but just to be sure I decided to walk up the path myself and gauge the depth of the sand step by step. I slowly zig-zagged up the entire hill in my full leather racing suit. I must of looked like a complete moron to the passing tourists, who were hooting and hollering at me with encouraging cheers. Eventually I find what I believed to be the ideal pathway. Thinking I had one good attempt at this, I decided to go in with as much speed as possible and keep steady throttle once I began my assent. As I set off I got up to about 15mph - which felt like 100 mph in the sand - and I started to fishtail before even reaching the hill and I panicked. I grabbed too much front brake and as a result found myself laying sideways on the ground with the bike pinning my leg to the ground. Luckily the sand provided a soft landing and I was able to free my leg with a little digging. I embarrassingly scrambled to lift my 400 lb bike back upright and started to shake off the nerves from my first official laydown of my trip. After a quick breather, I decided I better do this before I cooked to death out in this hot desert. I lined up for my second attempt and got up to speed again. The bike began to fishtail but I remembered to keep loose and avoid the front brake. I was able to ride through the turbulence of the shifting sand and began my ascent at about 15mph. I kept a steady throttle and adhered to my predetermined pathway. The whole ordeal only lasted about five seconds but it felt like a lifetime. At about half way my speed was slowly decreasing but I was still moving. As I got closer to the top, predictably the sand became less deep and glorious rocks began to peek out beneath the sand, giving my two little tires some much needed traction. Once I hit stable ground again I knew I was free at last and swiftly made for the exit. Once free from this sandy trap, I parked my bike to take a quick breather and enthusiastically celebrate my newfound freedom. I hugged my beautiful sand covered motorcycle and thanked it for not letting me down when I needed it the most.

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    After a quick safety check of my baby, I mounted up and headed off to find a campsite before the sun began to fall behind the horizon. My intended camping destination was still unclear but I had it narrowed down between either Gooseneck state park or The Valley of the God - which were both luckily close by. In the meantime, however, I was still coming off the euphoria from my recent sandy adventure. For the first time ever, I began to feel an emotional bond towards my little Ninja motorcycle. This little motorcycle had brought me over 6,000 miles at this point and never once let me down; not even when my own own immature decisions put us in dire situations. As a reward, I felt this machine of metal and plastic needed a name, a worthy badge of honor. After giving it some thought, I came up with a perfect name… “HoneyBee”. Why HoneyBee and not something like MAN-ly like “Yellow Jacket”?!? Well, several reasons. For one, my bike is yellow and black, the natural colors of the majestic honey bee. Next, squids commonly joke as an insult that my small 250cc engine sounds like an angry hive of bees. Third, this bike has been there for me in both good times and bad, it has been incredibly sweet to me… sweet like a HoneyBee.

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    Now HoneyBee was running low on gas, so I pulled into the next available gas station. Coincidentally while filling up my bike I got to meet four awesome moto campers! We chatted up for a bit and began discussing where everyone was camping for the night. We all had the same idea of either camping at Gooseneck or The Valley of the Gods, but it seemed the generally idea was to camp in the valley to avoid the gusting winds that were to come that night. With that said, I still wanted to check out Gooseneck, so I bid my new friends farewell and rode off into the dying light.

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    It was only a quick ride til I arrived at Gooseneck state park. This place was incredibly special due to the amazing curve of the river that cuts through the canyons walls right below your feet. There was no fence keeping you from walking right to the very edge and it was remarkable. Unfortunately the winds were really picking up and this flat plateau of an area would have made a terrible camping location, so I high-tailed it out of there to go find my moto friends at The Valley of the Gods.

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    If you have never heard of the Valley of The Gods, I suggest you change that before your next road trip. Basically the lesser known version of Monument Valley, this publicly owned area is home to jaw-dropping views and amazing camping locations without the tourists. To get there you must take a 18 miles dirt/gravel road, but this is a road where the journey is part of the experience. During my travels there was no other road that provided as many jaw dropping views and gave you a sense of being surrounded by pure nature. The conditions of the road were acceptable too and easily conquered by my HoneyBee.

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    After riding about half-way through the dirt road and not seeing a single soul the entire way, I noticed a small pack of motorcycles setting up camp along a rocky ridge. “Could this be my spontaneous new moto friends?”, I thought to myself. I rolled up to solve the mystery and sure enough it was! Back home it is hard enough to meet up with friends when you tell them exactly when and where to be. So to reconnect with friendly strangers you just met out in the middle of the desert without any planning was a real bonding experience that is hard to describe without experiencing it yourself. After greeting my new friends, I decided to set up camp on the ridge nearby. After being inches away from losing my tent to a gust of wind and having HoneyBee blown onto its side, I finally had my camp fully setup in a little under an hour.

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    As the sun began to set, I was invited down to join my friends and enjoy the bonfire they had prepared to celebrate the end of another day lived. After being mostly alone on my road trip for the past 5 weeks, it was a special moment to sit around a bonfire with a group of strange friends. A group of people who were united based of their love for adventure; age, sex, nationality, blue collar, white collar…. None of that mattered out in the desert. Billy and Trish were an inspiring Australian married couple who 7 years ago (at the time of my trip), sold their home and went traveling the world on their two motorcycles. I have never met such an amazing couple in my life and they told the most incredible stories around the campfire of their travels in Africa, Iran, and across the USA. Also present at the bonfire was our very own Kevinsinvegas and rtwPaul! In fact I just found this photo of all of us I never knew existed until now! Thanks so much for taking the photo rtwPaul!

    (from left to right - Trish, me, Kevinsinvegas, Bill)
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    As the sun rose in the morning, we as a group once again came together to share a simple breakfast before saying our goodbyes and parting ways. Its likely I won’t even forget these four people and they will always be a shining example that the best experiences on a road trip are not the pretty sights or expensive tourist attractions, it is the incredible people you meet along the way.

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    My next major stop was the beautiful and very cold state of Colorado! My first night camping here provided a gorgeous backdrop at the price of nearly freezing to death with 28 degree temperatures at night.

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    The following day was far more memorable though. It was early in the morning and I was making my way north-east up to Denver when the only major road through the mountains was completely closed for construction. I was told I would have to wait until 8pm until the road would open again! A whole day wasted I though, in this dinky little middle of nowhere town. I rode to the nearby gas station and just sat on my bike trying to find another route to Denver, but there was none. I was stuck. Then walking out of the gas station comes our own KawiMike! Naturally from his name, he noticed my little Kawasaki 250 with Pennsylvania plates and started chatting it up with me. Mike along with his wife and relatives/friends were on a group ride through Colorado and just happened to be stuck waiting for the same road to re-open as I was! He was super impressed my little 250 made it so far and talking to him just melted away my frustrations about the road closure. Even better, he knew something I did not, that the road would be re-opened for a very brief window at exactly 11:30am! Yessss! To pass the time, we all decided on having breakfast together at this quaint little dinner close by. What could of been a miserable experience and loss of time turned into one of my favorite days of my entire trip. Again being able to make friends with complete strangers, having them invite me into their group and pay for my breakfast, it was a bizarre and amazing experience that I am not used to experiencing.

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    After breakfast we geared up and took to the road to make it past this road closure on time. This was my very first time riding in a group and it was a such a fun experience, especially considering these people were literally strangers mere hours before. Mike and his group eventually reached their destination and I sadly had to part ways in order to keep on schedule and reach Denver by the end of the day. Looking back I wish I had stayed with them longer instead of feeling pressured to keep to my schedule I had set for myself. I did not really appreciate until after my roadtrip was completed that it was people like KawiMike that were the best part of my roadtrip and the reason to ride.

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    I decided last minute to stay in a Denver hotel for 2 glorious nights in a row as I was starting to experience long-term riding fatigue and needed a rest from camping and riding. I would like to say I had a fun time exploring Denver and going to watch a baseball game like I had planned, but really I stayed in my hotel watching cartoons all day. But wow was it amazing doing nothing and watching TV for the first time in 5 weeks!

    Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, I left the city of Denver but on my way out I did visit the highest paved road in North America, Pikes Peak! With an altitude of 14,110 feet, this road was no joke. My carbureted ninja 250 with stock jets really struggled due to the extreme lack of oxygen that high up. Despite all its struggles though, HoneyBee made it to the top! And with not a moment to spare. As soon as I arrived at the top, I was told to evacuate immediately down the mountain as a major hail/lightning storm was approaching. The park ranger was kind enough to let me take one photo and then escorted me back down the mountain.

    (Risked my life for this one photo)
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    Despite being a stupid risk, I could not help but pull over to take some photos of the incoming storm when I was low enough to feel (a little) safer. This caused me to have to ride through hail half way down, but it was worth it!

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    But then I got this amazing shot when the storm cleared at the bottom!
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    Week 6: April 26 - June 2

    My ride from Colorado all the way to Ohio was predictably uneventful. Sorry Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, you are just not that interesting. Plus it was nice to roll through some serious miles after being refreshed in Colorado.

    In Ohio, however, I wanted to make a stop at the National Air Force museum in Dayton. A remarkably huge museum with 3 large open hangers filled to the brim with interesting pieces of history.

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    Next was another incredible museum, The Henry Ford in Michigan! Another great stop for anyone with an interest in automobiles.

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    Then I did something crazy, I crossed the border into a different country! Okay, okay, it's Canada but it still counts, right?! Well I got to meet another awesome ADVrider up there who was so much fun! I had a really fun time riding with you, thank you so much for letting me stay at your place for a couple days!

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    When I was in Canada I even got to meet up with one of my longest and best friends Franklin! It was always the plan to try visiting him near the end of my trip and I am glad I was able to make it! We have been friends for more than 10 years playing online games together but this is the first time we got to meet in person! Really amazing friend and only a tiny bit awkward at first meeting someone you already knew for the first time, haha. We have become even stronger friends since and I now visit him whenever I get the chance.

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    It was also mandatory that he take me to a hockey game, as that was the agreement we set if I ever made my first visit to Canada with him. It wasn't a pro game, but it was legit Canadian hockey!

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    After saying goodbye to Canada and being back stateside, I did something crazy and extended my trip. Instead of going south to my home in Pennsylvania, I would now be OFFICIALLY completing my “coast to coast” trip by visiting Boston!

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    #4
  5. bbonds_007

    bbonds_007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Pennsylvania

    Week 7: June 3-6
    (the final countdown!)

    Before Boston I of course had to take a slight detour and visit Funspot Arcade in New Hampshire, aka the LARGEST video game arcade in the WORLD!!! Did I mention I was a geek?! Over 300 playable arcade machines!

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    After dragging myself away from heaven, I was able to make it to Boston in on time to enjoy ANOTHER Ingrid Michaelson concert! I saw her concert in San Diego and now I caught her doing the same tour on the east coast in Boston. Literally coast to coast. I felt it was a strangely poetic way to cap the end to my epic journey.

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    Per tradition, my Spyro tattoo touched the water of the Pacific Ocean so I had to do the same for the Atlantic!

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    However, the road was not done with me just yet and had one more surprise up its sleeve for me. As I left Boston I was making my way through a small town in Connecticut when I had to take shelter from a nasty rain storm inside a McDonalds. I sat down with some food and began waiting the storm out. Being the end of the road trip, I was so exhausted I did not even bother to remove my dorky high visibility rain gear while sitting inside. Anyone who saw me must of thought I looked absolutely ridiculous, in fact, I can show you how silly I looked!

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    The very energetic young man to the right of me is Adam. He saw me sitting inside the McDonalds and said “You look like an interesting person I should talk to!”. Without even knowing my name he sat down next to me and we started talking for what seemed like an hour while sharing stories. This man was so charismatic. He was talking to me, a stranger, as if he had known me my whole life. He started telling me stories about his family and how they owned most of the remaining woodland and farms in the area. He was so passionate about his family, he suddenly asked me without hesitation “Would you like to meet my family?” I was so taken aback by the unusual offer I decided to accept just because it was so interesting and bizarre. He then offered to let me sleep in one of his family’s barns for the night, which I graciously accepted. I figured if I am going to get abducted and killed by some axe murdering psycho, I might as well save $50 by not booking a hotel for the night.

    He told me to follow him on my bike and I did. We went for a drive and as I followed he began honking and pointing out the window at different landmarks and churches as if giving me an enthusiastic tour of his tiny little town. When we arrived at his uncle’s place, it was a rural house with a barn tucked deep inside the woods. While it was a bit run down, the barn was dry and allowed me to escape the rain and set up my sleeping bag in the attic. My new friend Adam did not live in his uncle’s house, but rather a very small caravan nestled in the woods next to the barn. He told me he was not a rich man. That he was too proud to live in a house he didn't own and refused to be a burden on his family, so he chose to live in his caravan that could be mistaken as a place for the homeless. You never would have guessed based on the joy displayed on this man’s face that he was in such financial hardship. He was so happy I was there and treated me like a guest of honor.

    He first introduced me to his uncle, a fine chap, and then told me to take a ride in his rundown truck so I could meet the rest of his family. He drove me around giving me an extended tour of his town as we stopped at 5 different houses owned by his relatives along the way. It was just so fascinatingly bizarre how this man and his large extended family were so warm and welcoming to meet me, a complete stranger, for no other reason than offering kindness to a wandering traveler who stumbled into their humble town. He continued the tour by showing me a new house his family was building from scratch as a wedding present to a newly married member of their clan. And then continued the tour by showing me the old lumber mill his family owns and operates, decorated with a old abandoned mail truck and all! Even though everything was run down and degrading, the amount of land and property his family owned collectively in this small town was incredible and must have been worth a fortune. He told me a story of how, despite his current financial situation, he actually acquired a 6 figure salary as an insurance consultant only two years ago. He self-taught his way into the industry and eventually got an internship where he impressed his supervisors so much that he was hired without having even a highschool education. He told of how he much money he was making and how he gave it all up to be with the girl he loved, for he quit his job in order to pursue her when she moved away. As he told me this, he began to cry. You could see how much he loved this girl. He told me he ultimately had to let her go for her own benefit and it was the hardest thing he ever had to do. However, he does not regret for a moment giving up his job for a chance to be with her. He said he would have regretted it for the rest of his life if he didn't try, even though he is now practically homeless as a result.

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    It was getting late at that point so we said goodnight and I went to sleep in his uncle’s old barn. As I woke up and checked all my organs to see if they were still there, I packed up my bike and prepared to head home. I thanked Adam profusely before I left and offered him $20 for letting me stay for the night, but he refused. Instead he gave me a book. He said he loved motorcycles and this was one of his favorite books. He told me to read it and when I was done, give it to another stranger on my next road trip. I gave him this special coin from Pax East 2014 as a thank you for everything and told him I would never forget his kindness.

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    One piece of advice he told me before I left is “Live life in a way where you always leave an impact on the people you meet”. Adam certainly did that to me and I’ve been trying to walk in his footsteps ever since.

    Conclusion:
    My last day riding home from Connecticut was peaceful and I made it home safe. It took me 2 years to write this ride report because of how busy I’ve been with college, but I am actually glad for that because it has given me a chance to add reflection to my story. People always ask me what was my favorite thing I saw or place I visited during my trip. I always tell them “the people I met along the way”. Seeing the Golden Gate was beautiful, as was Niagara Falls... but it was “the people” that had the most profound impact on who I am today as a person. The culmination of random people who wished me luck while filling up gasoline or people like Adam, Trish, Billy, and Mike are what make it hard for me to write this report without becoming emotional. Its simply remarkable how much joy and kindness can be in people who have so little to offer. I had complete strangers treat me better than people inside my own family who share my blood.

    I don’t know if a single person will actually read through this stupidly long story but if you did, thank you. I mainly wrote this for myself as a way to reflect on my amazing adventure but I hope it does inspire others to travel and experience new people, cultures, and ideas.

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    #5
    akupnt, Joris van O, rcan08 and 39 others like this.
  6. johnnybgood8

    johnnybgood8 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2013
    Oddometer:
    302
    Like it very much ;)
    #6
    bbonds_007 likes this.
  7. deanearny

    deanearny Aussie rider

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2014
    Oddometer:
    14
    Great report, thanks for posting.
    #7
    bbonds_007 likes this.
  8. TonyKZ1

    TonyKZ1 Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,126
    Location:
    Marble Hill, MO. U.S.A.
    Very good ride report, thanks for sharing it with us.
    #8
    bbonds_007 likes this.
  9. anglerdon

    anglerdon Senior Coot

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2005
    Oddometer:
    123
    Location:
    Northern California
    Excellent ride report.
    You learned what is important........the people we meet and the motorcycles we ride.
    Thanks.
    #9
    bbonds_007 and TonyKZ1 like this.
  10. finewayne

    finewayne Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    58
    What a report, Thanks for posting this

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    #10
    bbonds_007 likes this.
  11. Kawi-Mike

    Kawi-Mike Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    180
    Location:
    Peoria, AZ
    Bryan,
    I am so happy you got around to writing this Ride Report! It was a pleasure to meet you in Silverton, Co. and we were very happy to ride with you albeit for a short time. My wife commented at dinner that night I should have pressed you to hang with our group a little longer but I remembered your schedule to get to Denver. We are at our home in New Mexico and would love for you to ride with us out here. Take care and this was a great report. Live well and enjoy the ride!!!

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    #11
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  12. BigDogRaven

    BigDogRaven Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    152
    Location:
    NorCal
    Great job on this kid! Outstanding. Good on you for being ADV enough to take this trip. No doubt you learned so much about yourself, others, and the world. You made a fine move taking this trip. Things like this will shape you in your life, but you are already seeing that. Thanks for sharing this. Very inspiring.
    #12
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  13. Kawi-Mike

    Kawi-Mike Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    180
    Location:
    Peoria, AZ
    Bryan, just went through the pictures again. They are really good. Are you still on the 250?

    Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
    #13
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  14. PsammonOfDoubt

    PsammonOfDoubt Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 11, 2010
    Oddometer:
    89
    Location:
    Tennessee
    excellent RR, thank you!
    #14
    bbonds_007 likes this.
  15. Nurse Ratched

    Nurse Ratched Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2016
    Oddometer:
    197
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Your "Long Way Around" the USA on a 250cc machine has made me rethink my "bigger is better" philosophy.

    Well written and thanks for sharing.
    #15
    ShimrMoon, bbonds_007 and Kawi-Mike like this.
  16. * SHAG *

    * SHAG * Unstable

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2001
    Oddometer:
    5,324
    Location:
    Bradford, Pa
    Great RR!! Awesome pics and it will be something you'll never forget.......
    #16
    bbonds_007 likes this.
  17. Tejas99

    Tejas99 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2013
    Oddometer:
    44
    Location:
    The Woodlands, TX
    Excellent report! Well done!:clap
    #17
    bbonds_007 likes this.
  18. bbonds_007

    bbonds_007 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2013
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Thank you all so much for the kind words! I really do appreciate it :)

    Oh my I would so love to ride out to New Mexico again, I make no hesitation in saying it was my favorite state I visited. I will definitely contact you when I am in your area again! And if you are ever in Pennsylvania or on the east coast, let me know so we can catch up!

    I still have my awesome yellow 250 but it is mostly retired now with some mechanical work that needs done. I just purchased a 2014 white Kawasaki Ninja 300 with ABS about 3 months ago and really love it!
    #18
    Kawi-Mike likes this.
  19. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    9,553
    Location:
    The Bluegrass
    Your trip covered some of the same ground as trips I took as a 20 y.o. in '75 , 22 y.o. in '77 and 54 y.o. in '09.

    Your life will be forever changed, good job !
    #19
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  20. HBLQRider

    HBLQRider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2016
    Oddometer:
    161
    Location:
    Southern California
    Really enjoyed your ride report.

    You made some gutsy decisions along the way and hit the jackpot. Congrats!
    #20
    bbonds_007 likes this.