Oddly enough, my parents gave me the idea for the trip. Even though they were more worried than anyone else. They were preparing to set off on a month long bicycle tour of eastern Canada and upstate New York, and I was enjoying a farewell dinner with them. Well, I had only taken 4 extra curricular days off from work in the past year, and needed a vacation. I sell bicycles for a living, and ride bicycles just about every day, so a vacation from the pedals sounded great. Toss in drifty turns and fast whoops, and the goal was set. Riding from Mexico to Canada in the desert sounded good- that would be the goal, and if I couldnt make that happen, Id get as close as I could. In late September, I finally found a decent XR650R. Serendipitously, my YZ125 sold 24 hours prior to checking out the XR. Driving to yet another bicycle race, I stopped and took a look at the XR. It was used, and had a few small quirks, but it was legit and everything checked out. Preparing for the trip, I really didnt know what to do. The plan was to just wing it for a route, more or less ask for directions, and just guess which roads and trails would be best. With a brand new bike, that sat for a few weeks as the stator was getting rewound and awaiting a new clutch cover gasket, I had maybe 100 miles on her prior to departure. In short, she was an un-tested beast. The days leading up to departure were jam-packed. Bicycle rides kept getting in the way of trip packing, and I was a bit sleep deprived with all the stuff to organize and prepare. Part of it was just nerves, too, as Ive never before really done a trip like this. Thursday, I worked a full day. Came in late, as I had little sleep the whole first week leading up to the ride. Wanted to pack up and be 100% ready to go straight from work. Come quittin time, around 5:30pm, I jumped in the truck and charged north. Made it (thanks to Monster Energy) to Ashland by 11:30pm. Drove aimlessly towards the east side of the valley and found my way up to Grizzly Peak. Friday morning, I got coffee and groceries in Ashland, OR. Noticed for the first time that it was fall in other climates. The rest of the day was spent jamming north to Portland. My plan was to find a good mini-storage spot and got the truck parked. Thank goodness for cell phones and GPS, as I neglected to actually plan this part of the trip before arriving in traffic in Portland. Anyhow, found a spot, and got the bike out and loaded up. Big problem- I didnt fit on the bike! With all my gear, my backpack would hit my dry bag on top of my panniers. The only solution was to completely re-prioritize, lose the big backpack, and to go with the ultra small CamelBak. Finally, all set to go around 6:15pm Excited, nervous, anxious- I throttled out from my truck, did a sweet wheelie, and roared out from the self-storage yard like Johnny Campbell starting the Baja 1000. A few minutes later and the headlight didnt come on. It was getting darker by the minute. This is what I call an impediment. Well, it might just be a dead battery I rode around the industrial area of town with no headlight in the dark in an effort to charge the battery. No dice. I pulled into a motorcycle dealerships parking lot and used the lights in the parking lot to re-configure the headlight wiring. Got it to work once, then it died again. By 10:00pm, the headlight still didnt work consistently. It was time to chill out, rest, and think about a solution. I was beat, starving hungry, stressed, and frustrated. It was also on the verge of raining. I got a cheap hotel and called it.