Central and South America on a Road King

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by RoadHD, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. RoadHD

    RoadHD Been here awhile

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    Thanks Larry,
    I've gotten a few "how'd you get here"'s, and lots of raised eyebrows. Going forward, I'll have to quote you, thanks.

    Your ninja looks sweet, I love seeing sport bikes with panniers.
    <a href="http://s784.photobucket.com/albums/yy121/roadhd/?action=view&amp;current=StrangersontheAstral.png" target="_blank"><img src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/advrider-photobucket-images/images/r/roadhd_StrangersontheAstral.png" border="0" alt="Stranger passing in the day on the Astral"></a>
    Surely one of the stranger combo of bikes to ever meet up on the Astral - a round-the-world VFR, KTM 990A, and a Road King Classic.

    Hey, I do my fair share of Harley bashing too, and I'm not insulted - I don't think my bike defines me... maybe adds a little to my character though. I think everyone is fair game. I agree about gagging on pack riding, I don't understand why someone would want to ride into the desert and bring their own rumbling traffic. When riding in a group, I'm concentrating on the bikes surrounding me and miss the scenery. I'm much rather ride on my own and meet up at the bar/camp site later. But for other HD owners, they love the camaraderie - to each his own I guess.

    Vinnie - I hope you had a great holiday as well. How's Anchorage, and more importantly, when are you heading back down to SD - I've got to try out these new duelsport tires! :rofl

    Thanks Cakeeater - I'm warming up my printer now. Good call!

    MODNROD - Thanks for the inflating my ego a bit. Sorry you missed your trip, tell you mate that you want to do it again and set a date.

    211mike - Sorry that I've managed to pissed off your "future" wife, :evil. I know you're kidding around (mostly) but you bring up a very real point. I'm convinced that the wives of two close friends hate the very idea of me; I think they have a very realistic fear their husbands may take off and join me on some adventure. You should hear how they subtly come down on my girlfriend for even letting me go.

    I'm really conflicted when I talk to friends, even acquaintances about my trips. I usually undersell the experience - I don't want to seem like I'm bragging, and I'll gloss over some of the best bits, which makes me a shit storyteller - drinks do help. Usually, I'll talk about how I fucked up, crashed or wound up somewhere I shouldn't be. I have to be pretty comfortable with someone before I really dig deep and share those rare moments of exhilaration - seeing something truly beautiful and fully unexpected.

    Even here on ADV, I've managed to put off writing about some of my favorite parts of last years trip (well anyway, that's how I explain away procrastination).

    I don't think someone is going to chuck it all, leaving the wife and kids because I told them a yarn about my silly journey on a very impractical bike, but I do disappear out of friend's lives for months at a time and when I come back, I'm honestly concerned that these very trips that I love could create a wedge between me and them.

    I'm solidly in my mid-thirties, most of my friends have made the altogether practical life-choices expected of a "good" citizen in the key 18-34 demo. They have responsibilities bigger than them: the career, the wife & kids, the mortgage - they simply can't cut away for a few months. To be clear, I want all of that in it's entirety, truly, I want family and security, but I've managed to kick the can down the road in the hopes of seeing some cool shit first. I feel like a dick talking about The Salar, Machu Picchu, Antarctica to someone who many be forced to put off a similar experience for another 20+ years, and maybe they'll never do it at all (I feel like an ass just typing that sentence, but it's there, in my head when I start talking about my adventures), so I usually stick to the darker moments: the accident and its aftermath, ostensibly implying that they've made the right choices, then change the subject back to them.

    I'm not implying I'm looking down on my friends, shit, I'm going to be working until I'm well past 70 because I've waited so late to start a family and find "security". I just find it difficult to share an experience with someone who hasn't done something similar, I'm just trying to work out why and what hurdle I need to get over (in a not so private forum).

    Sorry for opening up like this, but it's something that I need to work through while in the real world, and 211Mike's comment about his "future wife" really got me thinking... Wow, all this over a hypothetical wife.
    - Rob
  2. FatherX

    FatherX Hood Ornament Supporter

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    ^^^ Don't forget this part brother ^^^ We all get the hand dealt, and the rounds played, but we don't get do overs.

    Thank you very much for sharing this process and your riding.

    AND

    yes the X=10 and the they all want to ride :lol3
  3. hardroadking

    hardroadking Been here awhile

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    Glad to see you back on ADV rider.
  4. crashmaster

    crashmaster ow, my balls!

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    All is good cabron. I was going to come down to SD this week, but I have been busy on my 800cc 2 stroke mountain sled up here in Alaska. A really good, fun, and efficient way to kill yourself if there ever was one. :lol3


    Putas, all of them. No respect. :puke1


    If it does, they are not your friends. If they are really your friends, they will say, "you lucky bastard, I wish I could go with you." :1drink

    Lets meet up this winter for another ride, off the pavement. Maybe I should take you down to Baja, but on the Harley you wont be able to see it properly, but you'll get a taste. Lets try out your new tires. :D
  5. yamonda1

    yamonda1 Old but new

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    Epic trip, epic RR ... up there with the Postman :clap
  6. dengwynn

    dengwynn AT LARGE

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    Congratulations, You turned conventional wisdom on its head.

    You said you didn't know much about motorcycles so you bought a Harley and knew no better than to long distance dualsport it and then you showed that it performed very well in that capacity. Being as big as you are does not hurt either.

    It was not you who did not know, the naysayers did not know.

    You are not alone.

    I sometimes dualsport a Honda Shadow 1100 cruiser. Although it is heavy to lift, is clumsy in tight maneuvers, and has a poor suspension. On loose gravel, its fat tires and stability make it unequaled. My dualsport Yamaha, and my dualsport BMW don't cope nearly as well with gravel on primitive roads.

    After reading all of your well written travel log I polished my Honda, it deserved it.

    You have humor, and the ability to observe clearly and see beyond yourself. That makes you a very good writer. Thanks for writing.
    Dennis
  7. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    It's never the bike, even though the proper tool makes the job easier. Coming up, there was no classifications on bikes. You just road what ever you had where ever you could. My hat is off to Rob and others, that still do the same. :clap:clap:clap
  8. conchscooter

    conchscooter Long timer

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    I'm going to be working until I'm well past 70 because I've waited so late to start a family and find "security". I just find it difficult to share an experience with someone who hasn't done something similar

    I chose to live my life backwards as it were and I found that my experiences on the road and under sail improved my ability to adapt to the workplace when I picked up a late breaking career with a pension attached (though whether there will be enough money left over to fund the pension after the banks have picked the national financial skeleton clean, remains to be seen). The daily grind al;ways gets to you, but the older you get the more meories you have to fall back on and the wider your perspective becomes.
    Either that or you go mad, I suppose. I am certain I am much happier becuase I didn't follow the full on American catastrophe from the start.
    I hope I may encourage you to keep following your path until you feel ready fro a change.
  9. Yannick

    Yannick Asterix the Gaul

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    Hi Rob,

    At first, like all others before me, I wanted to congratulate you for daring doing that trip with such a bike. And as a Road-king owner too, I can imagine what you've been through. But your main advantage is that you're much taller than me. I can easily put my feet on the ground, but with the legs straight my ass is still on the saddle, so I think it would be a problem for me to try the same trip on my bike. All the more so I wasn't aware of the mexican topes, so I really think it's impossible for me with my bike, and either I buy a real dual sport bike or I built a Dirtster, the Doug's way. (I've already been thinking about it for a long time.) Well, I still have time to think about it, I'm not yet retired ...

    Reading your report with my frenchman spirit, I was surprised in that way : you buy a RK as a first bike without any riding experience, and some weeks later you take you first ride on that bike, but you don't tell us anything about your driving licence. I really don't know how it is in the USA, but in France, the driving licence for motorcycles is really much harder to get than the car licence. I'm not only talkin' about the rules of the road, but also about the exam itself. It's divided in 3 parts : the questions, the floor (or the track, I dunno exactly how to translate that), and the road.
    After having answered questions about safety, mechanics, maintenance, you have to walk forwards pushing the bike, and reverse. Then you have to drive slowly between doors symbolised by cones, alone first and with a passenger, and after you are timed on a slalom you must run between 19 and 23 sec, and at the end you have a shunning to do (like a car opening door) on the right or on the left, just before an emergency breaking.
    If you're successful to all that, you have the right to go on the road for the final part of the test, among the traffic.
    The people taking the driving test for bikes are really put a severe test, exactly the same that for the truck drivers, whereas diving test for cars is a game for kids.
    If I tell you all that, it's because I'm really surprised about your behaviour about breaking when you were on that winding road and your rear disc turned red. I just would like you tell me how proceed the bike licence in the US, is it just a stample on a paper or a real training period ? In Europe, every new biker has learnt how to deal with the brakes, and how to balance between fore and rear breakes, and also how to use the engine breaking, so as to never know what happened to you.
    I hope I didn't bore you with all these things.

    I also wanted to tell you, that I really like the way you're writing, it really changes a lot from the others reports. As I read the forum late at night, I really enjoy, it's better than a book
    Keep on ridin' this way, and if you ever plan a trip in Europe, PM me, two RK should be fun.
  10. WhicheverAnyWayCan

    WhicheverAnyWayCan Deaf Biker

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    Yannick,

    I guess that's the advantage of living in the USA where we have more freedom! :rofl On serious note, American can get motorcycle license in few different ways:

    1) You can go in to DMV (Dept of Motor Vehicle) and obtain learning permit to ride a motorcycle for certain period of time prior to taking a test of getting Motorcycle license upon passing. In this process, you will have to take written test (On computer) and bring your motorcycle in for a riding test. In each state, riding test vary.

    2) You can take Motorcycle Safety course and go through courses.. In most case, you will take a riding test and written test. Upon passing, they will give you two small certification size of business card in which you will take one to DMV and get waived from Riding Test but you will need to take one test, Written Test. Upon passing you receive your Motorcycle license then you can take other certification to your insurance and receive 10% discount for taking the course.

    After reading Rob's adventure which motivated me making me saying "Failure is NOT an option!", I have decided that I am going to use my 98 harley Sportster and do the Deadhorse and Ushuaia in one trip although I will have 4.2 Gallon of fuel tank to RK's 6 Gallons and still figuring out on fuel tank.. probably a 3-Gal and 2-Gal Rotomax fuel container.

    -Ken
  11. Yannick

    Yannick Asterix the Gaul

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    Thank you for answering Ken,
    Your first way to obtain the permit is simply incredible, for us in France ... learning by oneself how to ride before taking the test with one's own bike seems amazing, when here a young learner has to attend at least 23 hours of courses before being allowed to take test.
    Our bike permit is really harder, but on the other hand, as the training is exactly the same in every driving school, when a young rider gets his licence, he's really supposed to know how to drive a bike in any circumstance. Which doesn't prevent him from making mistakes, of course, experience comes with practice ...

    I saw the picture of your Sportster, which is a very nice bike, and I must admit that planning a trip through central and south America with such a shinning bike deserves congratulations.
    But the dark point is that your motor is prepared, and I've always been thinking that a prep motor was more fragile than a stock one. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, I'm very confident in HD motors, and I never had the least problem with mine during the last 15 years for all the trips I've done across Europe.
  12. RoadHD

    RoadHD Been here awhile

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    Hey Yannick,
    Wkheathjr is correct, each State is different, there is not a national standard for Motor Vehicle licensing - even the legal driving age and learners period differ between States.

    California has 37million people living in it (12% of all Americans), I suspect the State wants to encourage motorcycle riding to get cars off the congested freeways. As a result, the motorcycle test is dangerously simple, resulting in heaps of licensed motorcycle riders that have little idea how to handle their bike, there are fewer examples better than me.

    As Wkheathjr suggested, the Motorcycle Safety Program, overseen by the CA Highway Patrol, will instruct a new rider how to "safely" operate a motorcycle, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's learning to ride. When I bought my bike in '08, the wait period was two months; I didn't know if I could commit the weekends and potentially turn down work, as I wasn't legally obliged to take the course, I didn't bother. To be honest, I'd still like to take the MSP and have an expert instruct me how to properly handle my bike.

    Sadly, the Motor Vehicle Test in California is exceptionally easy and California didn't even hesitate licensing someone as green as I was. I had to retake the written examination, which only contain a few motorcycle specific questions, for example: riding between cars in heavy traffic, "lane sharing", is dangerous and "not safe" - True (but it is not specifically illegal in CA - again, I believe the State wants to encouraging motorcycle riding to relieve freeway congestion).

    Oh, I had to retake my license photo which I was not prepared for, but fortunately I think the DMV picture taker in Culver City (LA) must fancy himself a photographer - the lighting was perfect - and the photo came out alright. :D

    Even now, I would have trouble with the "road" course on an 800lbs bike, and I would have been a disaster four years ago. I found a guy on Craigslist who rented me a small Honda, he met me down the street from the Department of Motor Vehicles and gave me some quick lessons while I practiced riding tight circles.

    The riding test took place in the DMV parking lot - the course looks like a hair-pin - two straight-aways where I would have to slalom a couple road cones for 100', then a tight 20' in diameter circle connecting the slalom bits. The toughest part, the circle's riding area is around 2' wide, so it's easy for new riders to wobble and ride out. The State wants to see if you have the minimal control over your bike, the guy in front of me was on a Ducati Monster, failed after three attempts, this did not bode well for me. I got it first try and a new licensed arrive in the mail a few weeks later, just days before I was going to leave on my first cross country trip.

    My girlfriend has hinted that she wants to ride - rather than my teaching her everything that I know, she'll take the Motorcycle Safety Program and actually learn how to safely operate a motorcycle. :wink:

    I hope to be in Europe later this year and my bike is itching to stretch its legs, hmm. I'd enjoy clocking a few miles with you.


    Conchscooter - Thanks, I absolutely agree with you about building the memories early in life. During trips over the past couple years, I felt like I was living like a retiree - especially riding through Alaska, passing campers driven by octogenarians taking their BIG Trip, some of them may have waited their entire lives. It's hard to describe, but seeing people traveling in the twilight of life really messed me up. I first realized it gold panning outside Dawson City, several people on my tour didn't have the faculties to even get into the stream and pan for gold. DId they let their best years slip past them, delaying the experience to the point where they no longer had the physical ability to even bend? Really, that fucking sucks - we each only get one go at life, did they miss it?

    Or more likely, they've just been gold panning before, and previously been suckered into spending hours hunched over, shivering in knee deep glacial melt, stupidly digging shovel, after shovel of rocks, in the delusional hope of finding a splinter of something yellow. Maybe it was the experience of age that allowed them to skip one of the more masochistic means to make a buck. Yeah, this thought makes me feel better about life, and mortality, if they knew panning is hella boring and laughed as I frequently stubbed my toes on a river rocks. But just in case, I want to enjoy the experience while I am physically able.


    dengwynn - I'd love to see the photos of you riding your Duelsport Shadow. Maybe we should start a thread: "The Idiotic Places I took my Cruiser" - I absolutely agree with the logic that a heavy road bike with a low center of gravity riding on big fat tires adds stability in gravel. At least that's what I try to convince myself when the front end gets really squirrelly and I'm fixin' on dumping.


    achesley & yamonda1 - Thanks for reading.


    Vin, Baja - Fucking-A Right! You know I'm in!! Let me know the dates and I'm there!!

    - Rob
  13. 340hp

    340hp Long timer

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    Rob,

    I don't know why, but I clicked on the bookmarked link to your SA ride report today. Great report. It might have been the run up one of the dirt roads off of Trubaco Canyon this weekend on my Road Glide with a Buddy on his RK (or maybe my old 2-stroke ringing around the block on Sunday), but something led me back to your report this afternoon. Great report. I double the recommendation to print it out and bag it for the kids and grand kids (and for yourself).

    Don't sweat the wife and responsibility concern. The travel door is always open if you plan. I took off work for a year in my 30's to travel the South Pacific and to ride the American West thinking it would be my last chance at extended adventure travel. The wife happened a few years later, followed by another few years before taking several months off work for a trip around the world (with her). Then kids came on the scene and after ten years of parental responsibility we took off for over three months of travel in Australia (the nuclear family of four on extended holiday). Extended weeks of trips together on a bike are no longer possible, with four travelers it's out of the question, although the mode of travel is not as important as the act of going. The travel and adventure does not lessen it's reward with more responsibility. People, Couples, and Families travel if they want to, when they make it a priority. Travel only needs to remain an understood priority that is shared in the family plans

    The friends who care will understand, including the girlfriend or wife.

    BTW, can you remember some of the places where they are running the Dakar Rally this week (an example of the intimacy of good adventure travel that can never be taken away)?
  14. Yannick

    Yannick Asterix the Gaul

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    Well, with all theses explanations about the driving license, I understand better many things now. :D
    But I think that the most staggering in your story is the fact you start directly on such a bike without any other experience on a lighter one before, because when you entered that HD dealer shop, you saw that bike and it was "love at first sight".
    In fact it was a little the same for me when I was looking for a HD, I never thought I would buy directly an Electra (yes my bike was an Electra Sport before she becomes a RK, I'll have to explain that one day on a thread). Of course, I had an experience of riding since I was 28 and I began at the age of 14 with the kind of bike I show here in that thread, and I was riding a 750 Super Tenere then. I figured I would find a Heritage Softail, it's a good size to start with a HD, because in my mind, an Electra Glide was nothing else but an Ultra Classic. 2 friends of mine had this kind of bikes, I found them nice but for me it was just a road train, and I couldn't figure myself riding something looking like a Goldwing ... and I still can't. But the day I saw the picture of my bike for sale in that magazine, I just told me "I want this bike". Just like you. And 15 years later, I still own it, and I think I will never sell it. Maybe I could have other bikes (I would like a 1150GS) but I'll keep Electra for ever.

    All of you are right when you say we must try to live our dreams when we are able to achieve them. Seeing octogenarians doing the trip of their life because they could not do it before frightens me too. At first we don't ever know if we're gonna live till 80, and if we reach that age, it's not sure we can still ride. So, yes we must carry out everything to do the trips we're dreaming of till we can.

    Rob, if you come to Europe, let me know, and feel free to pm me.
  15. Norml

    Norml Been here awhile

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    Thank you so much for the RR, Rob. I ride an '05 Road King classic but have been dreaming of taking the CaSa trip since I got my first Harley. I still hope to do the trip one of these years soon but family is holding me here and circumstances just don't fit the bill...yet. So, again, thanks for letting me come along.
    U da man!
  16. MoreCheese

    MoreCheese Now less Cheezy

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    So there is more. POST IT UP!

    Really though, thanks for sharing your adventure. I have taken my heavy cruizer down roads that only off road trucks go down having been inspired by your adventures. Hearing "What the H** is he doing down here?" just encourages me.

    Your ride on your Road King has even inspired a co-worker to take trips on his Harley. He went from taking his HD bike to work or down the road to then next city to riding to other states on his bike after I shared this report with him. Well . . I assume it was this report that motivated him . . .

    Anyways, glad to read about you again. Hope there is more.
  17. WhicheverAnyWayCan

    WhicheverAnyWayCan Deaf Biker

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    Rob, Thanks for answering my questions and I enjoyed your lengthy respond. I suppose my asking questions were a perfect timing just as the 2011 was ending with you answering in time for 2012 riding year!

    PM me and let me know how the tire turned out in your Death Valley riding! I'm very curious about that because I contacted few manufacturers directly and most came back saying couldn't handle the load?

    As for gearing up my bike.. you are right! I am already getting parts and I will be revamping my HD taking out most of chrome parts and fenders replacing them with salvaged but good fenders. I already have mermite cans for saddlebags and mortar storage for my tools. Looking into bigger gas tank upgrading it from stretch bob 3.5g to 4.2g and going to change front pulley from 26 teeth to 32 teeth to drop RPM down under 2,900 on 5th gear (I don't have 6th speed like you do) and that will get my MPG up. I will includes all the transform details in the RR later so people will know the progress I prepared for the trip but for now a little teaser, I am including seat upgrades from Russell's Day-Long and mermite cans pic.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
  18. dixieoutlaw

    dixieoutlaw Let's Ride

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    Rob,
    Thanks so much for continuing your thread. It has been several months since I checked in on ADVRIDER and it was good to catch up with you. It does not matter how or when you continue your ride report (remember it is your ride report.) For those who have never done a long ride covering months and thousands of miles, they don't understand the priority of catching up on those tasks which were put on hold while you were doing your trip.
    As for myself I returned from my Alabama to Argentina ride on Christmas 2010, and throughout 2011 I only rode about 4,000 miles much less than my average of 20,000 annually over the past 10 year - hope this year will be better. Sometimes one just has to have other priorities other than riding and seeing the world.
    Rob I would again like to thank you so much for the advice you provided me through our PM's while traveling through SA. Your advice to use DakarMotos in Buenos Aires for flying the bike home was spot on. Javier and Sandra are good folks.

    wkheathjr,
    I commend you on prepping the bike you feel most comfortable with. I've often said I don't care what kind of bike you are riding if you are having fun. I took a 1150GS to Southern Africa and to Panama and Deadhorse, took a 1100GS to Copper Canyon, and rode a KLR tot Terra del Fuego. I just felt those were the bikes for those trips. No you will not get the gas you want at every stop. Like Rob I have taken gas from 55 gal drums and once from an old parked truck. Use Fritz the Cat as one possibility and consider the Stahlratte as another ship to get from Panama to Colombia (it is the one I took.); check the internet and you can find info on both - Stahlratte has set sailing dates. Like Rob said Stewart at the Mamalena hostel in Panama can arrange either. Take the one that fits your timing. My only concern with your bike is the cast wheels. You may well break one of them when you hit one of the unmarked topes in Mexico, and you will hit more than a couple at speeds you did not intend. I am also hard of hearing but not deaf and my knowledge of Spanish is very poor. Even if my Spanish was better it would not make much difference as each country has its own dialect and the spoken word comes at you at machine gun speed. Smiling and pointing can get you a long way. I think the idea of some pictographs is great.
    My experience of crossing borders in Central America is hell (save Mexico and Guatemala) where as crossing in SA is fairly straight forward. Doesn't matter where you are crossing allow at lease one hour for each border crossing. Insurance will be iffy in most countries. Required in Mexico (get it on line before leaving), Nicarauga, Costa Rica and Colombia. Don't think I had insurance anywhere else most times you can't even find a place to buy it. Bottom line - it's your ride do it the way you want. You will find the people of CA and SA very motorcycle friendly.
    Yannick,
    Licensing in the USA varies greatly by states. Here in Alabma it is almost a joke. The state grandfathers in people over a certain age or maybe the criteria is to be born before a certain date. For others only a written test is required - no road test. I was told this past week that there are over 1.6 million licensed motorcyclist in a state with a population of a little over 4 million, but only 86,000 motorcycle registrations.
  19. Yannick

    Yannick Asterix the Gaul

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    Thank you too, Dixieoutlaw, for answering. I can see how different it can be from a state to another one.
    Beyond the question of being correctly trained in a driving school so as to ride safely after, I don't dare to imagine the numbers of deads and wounded people here in Europe if getting the bike license was as simple as in Alabama. On the other hand, of course you don't have the same risk of getting an accident in a 4 million people state and in a 65 million people one, but to get back to the train of thought, I keep thinking the better you get trained, the most enjoyable is a trip (or a simple ride). Experience doesn't come at once, and when you decide to make a trip so soon after getting the license, like Rob (and it's the thread here) you feel more secured (and your family too) when leaving if you know you can handle your bike in any case.
    I keep thinking experience musn't be the sum of all the mistakes you don't want to do again.


    Nice saddle, wkheathjr, but with such a large backrest, it won't be easy to put a big load on the rear seat. I don't have any backrest on my RK, but when I travel I do like Rob : a large bag (but not so high) on the passenger seat that I can use like a backrest.

    By the way, any new from Rob ?
  20. hardwaregrrl

    hardwaregrrl Can't shoot straight Supporter

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    Wow! Cant believe I didn't know about this one sooner. Just an amazing story by a really cute guy!:D Thanks Rob, this one was a blast!!!:freaky:freaky