Motorcycling has been apart of me since some of my earliest memories. Granted, my memory is atrocious at best.. Although, I vividly recall being 4-5 years of age, and at the store with my great-grandmother begging her to purchase me a toy of a motorcycle. Graciously, she obliged! It was a 90s green Ninja of some sort. Growing up, no one in my family had a motorbike. Although, my father had one when he first met my mother. Both of them forbid me from ever owning one while under their roof. Shortly after turning 18, I was planning on purchasing one and my mother said she would never speak to me again if I did so. Like a fool, I respected her unreasonable wish. Till, I moved many states away a few years later. Found a good deal on a 250 Ninja, and purchased it. The only problem was I had no idea how to ride it. The girl I bought it from, dropped it off at my home for me, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Watched a few Youtube videos, and decided to ride around my development. It was rough, turning lead to going straight and throttle control didn't exist. It's a miracle I never crashed, or dropped that bike. That was 8+ years ago, and I've been hooked since. I've been a lurker here almost since I started riding, primarily enjoying the ride reports. Finally, joining only a few years ago. I've worked completely alone my whole adult life, only seeing other humans while going to lunch and coming home to my girlfriend. Now, that's a lot of time to be spent alone during the week. Reading ride reports while at lunch, or during down time at work was always a perfect escape. Years faded, and still no "epic ride" of my own. Always finding some excuse with myself, of why I've never taken one. Reality being, the only thing stopping it was ME. Last summer, things changed. The company I worked for, gave me two choices. Either move out of state, or be without a job. I've dealt with some serious highs, and real lows over the years on my own end- business wise. This event was different, I started to panic and could only see negatives with either choice given. I didn't want to move my girlfriend out of state, who had just been offered a new position she really wanted. But not moving, mean't "unemployed" I worked alone for so many years, with tons of freedom and roughly zero oversight. I couldn't see myself dealing with a boss, co workers, and none of that freedom I enjoyed so much. Panic started to settle after two weeks, and I turned down the relocation. Realizing, I actually wasn't happy with my "career" once I truly thought things over. Luckily, I've always had numerous endeavors that earned incomes, far exceeding my day job. With a new outlook on life, at 30 years of age it occurred I could actually retire and still lead a middle/upper middle class life. So, that's exactly what I did. Took that summer to travel the U.S. with my girlfriend and dog via car. It was one of the most enjoyable, and freeing experiences of my life. Few months after being back, I took my longest ride yet on a motorbike. Rode a few states away on my Ural, to the Barber Vintage Festival. Absolutely nothing buy praise for that event! So a few months ago, I decided this year I'm finally taking that "epic ride" on a motorbike. Briefly planned to do the TAT, but I will save that for next year. Settled on roaming around the U.S. with the only objective to hit the California coast and see as many National Parks as possible. I have zero time restraints, so this journey could last forever if I decided. Obviously, that's not going to be the case as I love my girlfriend to pieces, and will eventually want to settle back into seeing her daily! Not knowing when this trip will end, and very loosely planning things out is the major attraction for me. I also love exploring new areas, and seeing the vast landscapes this beautiful country has to offer. Oh yeah, the steed for this journey! I wanted the 790 Adventure, but it wasn't out at the time and still isn't. Browsing bikes at Eurosport of Asheville, when they informed me they just took in a used KTM 690 Duke with only 2,000 miles. They offered it at a great price, and dealing with them was the best dealership experiences bare none. The 690 Duke is extremely unpractical for said trip, but I'm in the camp of own what you lust after. I've owned many bikes over the years, but this has been my favorite. I feel it was made specifically for me. It's one of those bikes that always leave a permanent grim. Although, I might have a differently outlook by the time this trip ends! Two weeks ago, I decided to have preventative service done. The rockers on the 690s are a known weak point, and mine being an older 2013 model year, having them replaced is a wise move. While there I had them check the valves, flush coolant and toss in a fan switch that runs the fan at an earlier temp. I could have done this myself, but wasn't comfortable doing the valves for the first time if they needed any adjustments. Two of them needed the shims swapped out, which at 3,000 miles was a shock. I'm hoping no others will need touched during my trip. I will be picking it up tomorrow, doing an oil change shortly after and it will be ready to go! Since deciding to do this a few months ago, it has completely consumed me. Thinking about places to go, things to see, etc. Going to bed at night, has been nearly impossible. Staying up sometimes till 3-4 AM, brain racing and beyond excited. I could have been on the road already, but choose May as my month of departure. My girlfriends birthday is next week, and I wasn't going to be absent for it. She's a teacher and it's also spring break, which means the whole week she is off. Now this is where things take a turn, and remind you things are not always in your control. I'm not looking for an ounce of sympathy, and wasn't going to share this. But decided to, along with a few other personal details to make this a little different than "Here is where I'm going, and went" Historically I'm very closed off, and rarely share personal info with anyone. Recently I've discovered, that being more open is beneficial and feels good. Also, as stated at the start of this rambling I have a terrible memory. I'm truly writing this so I can look back, and remember this trip. . 2 days ago while out to lunch, I received an urgent text to call back the number I didn't know and was ignoring. Stating "family emergency" Instantly I feared it would be bad news about my Grandmother. Well, placed the call and it was my Father at the other end. My little brother passed from an overdose. Now, this wasn't shocking to me as he has been doing hard drugs for many years. He has been in and out of jail, and leading a destructive lifestyle his whole adult life. Sadly, I have been waiting to get this call for years. I have kept him out of my life, for roughly 8 years for obvious reason. Months ago he reached out, which was shocking and I decided to hear what he had to say. It seemed he turned a new page, and what I was hearing on the phone wasn't the person I stopped talking to so many years ago. I was actually proud of him, and remained cautiously optimistic. Relatives all stated the same, and said he has never been at this stage of life before. He had a job, and for the first time realized all the chaos he has caused over the years, and wanted to earn trust back. Over the last few weeks, I gave him some money for things he wanted to do. Fearing he would purchase drugs with the money, that first time I sent it I was a nervous wreck. To my surprise, he actually did the things he mentioned. Sending me photos along the way. Well, two weeks ago he claimed he was stranded due to a broken car and had no way to get back home. I didn't believe him, and waited it out for two days. Realizing he actually was out of state, I gave him money for a way home. Well, he was out of state but the story he gave me was a lie. Once I realized that, I informed him to never contact me again. Which I meant. Firm believer in you have to live with the decisions you make. Sadly here, his ended his life. Anger far outweighs sadness, and it's unfortunate my parents will have to bury their youngest kid. With that said, I will be traveling back to my hometown this weekend for the service. To move things from a depressing note, I've been letting my hair grow almost since last summers "retirement" I looked more homeless than anything. So here is my first "selfie", which is worthy of a good laugh! Now, looking slightly less homeless,yet brutally congested from this years pollen (Hence the screen name) Maybe strangers along the way on my trip will actually chat with me vs hiding their wallets or debating to run. Apologies for the novel! I will be keeping this thread current through my travels, if possible. I will most likely be setting off within two weeks.