On June, 9th 2017 -after about 3.5 years for me in the US-, I took off on my motorcycle for a farewell trip: On a 2005 BMW R1200 RT that I just bought a few weeks prior.
Not just to have yet another epic adventure, but also to simply “wrap it up” in my head that I was about to move once again over the big pond. Back to Europe. To leave friends behind. To start a new chapter in my career. To think about all the amazing times that I have had with Troy, Lukas, Christina, Rachel, Rory, Brendt, Ashley, Ben, Rebecca, Melissa, Elsa, Henry, Butch, Chelsea, Greg, Fawn, Matt, Michael, Fahad and all the other ones that I forgot (shame on me…).
I was thinking about how I came over with all of the typical clichees in my mind – and how I learned that the truth about them is often in between. So I meditated for two days over all of these moments while just driving straight and making distance through the flat and boring states (sorry, but… not sorry), the real deal started at the Badlands.
Shortly before, I met Shane from Ontario who was on a very similar trip like me. Rode together for a while. Arrived there. Almost overheated. Got stoked about the surreal place. Met Dan, who was shooting pictures on the perfect spot there still with a manual camera. Who is on the road since he retired. With my height, I was seeing how his hat was fixed up with duct tape… haha! Amazing fellow!
Still fighting with the heat, I was planning to sleep right where I was just under the nightsky but decided against it since I realized that I could deal with moose and bears – but certainly not with snakes and spiders who are likely to join you in your warm sleeping back. Nope!
So back on the bike. Free in my mind. Westbound. Towards the sinking sun. Towards a thunderstorm! Top-speed. Freedom. One of my happiest moments in my life. Lightning on the horizon. View to the left over my shoulder: Full moon. Perfect! 210 kph… don’t tell my Mom!
Didn’t want to stop yet for a motel or such. Kept on going. Full night. Whoup! Off-road… meh, whatever! Just find the right speed. Potholes, gravel, full concentration.
Stopped in the middle of nowhere. Took pictures of the lightning with the stars above my motorcycle and me. Decided to just sleep right next to the road… because “why not!?”
Took a bypass over the Black Hills: Motorcycle heaven! This is propably where I learned the most about cornering. Amazingly fun!
Dances with the wolves
South Dakota and Wyoming totally reminded me about Kevin Costners – Dances with the wolves! Totally weird to imagine how it must have been when the white men made their way over these hills. Dark chapter.
Smoking for world peace
Headed to Devils Tower. Was worth it! One big ass column in the middle of a scenic, hilly area… Holy place for the Natives. Smoked a cigar while thinking about sitting with them together and stared at this monument through a artsy sculpture from a Japanese guy. I remember that it was about world peace. I don’t really smoke… but a cigar for the world peace?! Heck yeah!
Wyoming. Endless views. Wide curves. Amazing mountains on the horizon. Dark clouds. Sundown. The road was mine. Again.
Fueled up at a gas station and grabbed a coffee. Got a call on my cellphone. Wasn’t a call but an Emergency Alert warning me about a tornado in my area. Whoup! Whole different league!! Checked out potential hotels nearby. Was acting fast. Checked in. Grandma on the counter was like ” Tornado warning?! Naaah… Not here. There won’t be a tornado.” Grandma was right. Felt betrayed.
Snow while on a motorcycle
Made it to Yellowstone. Expected bison! Got snow and minus 6 degree Celsius instead. Had to wipe the snow from my visor. Was propably an additional attraction for the other tourists… In the end, the heated gear as well as a concentrated mind saved me. I was popably lucky that the snow didn’t stay on the road. It was slushy, yes. But with low speed and no experiments it wasn’t that bad actually… Still felt badass af to be the only dude on a motorcycle around!
While riding through Idaho, I got yet another epic views on the horizon: These kind of endless spaces are so uncommon for us Europeans. I’ll never forget this kind of light behind the clouds!
On the map I did see the promising name “Craters of the moon”… Alright! Goal for the day was set! Arrived in the dark and pitched up my tent on a lava field. Yeah!
In Idaho and later on in California I did my first serious mistakes. In both cases, I was lucky that there wasn’t a car in my way. I was always able to catch it… and definitely made sure to learn about those situations! What I did mess up? I got exhausted and didn’t concentrate enough anymore! First time, I should have simply leaned more into the curve. Instead, in this second, I became scared and touched the brake… bullshit! The speed was totally fine. I went through curves with this speed many times! But all of a sudden, you’re tired, make a small mistake and end up at the other side of the road. Thank god, there wasn’t a truck coming!
Second time, I was going on high speed for way too long. Got used to it. And lost the feeling for the braking distance! My turn for Crater Lake came up… Hard deceleration. Could have worked out – nut not with the light gravel or sand in the curve! So instead, I simply had to dose the brake just enough so that I still make it over the small gravel without dropping the bike. Well, oncoming lane, once again.
Mistakes are OK… as long as you make sure to learn out of it.
Maximum usage of a rear tire
The night before my way out of the Hells Canyon over to Portland, I realized that my rear tire should be replaced soon. Checked out some dealer on my phone, called them up and organized it all for the next day. Jeez! How much work this must have been before the glorious days of the mobile internet…
So I rode all day over to Portland on a worn out rear tire. Against the clock. Because I was supposed to be there until 4:30pm or so… It started raining. For 6 hours. I got into the rush hour in the Portland area. Still against the clock. Lane splitting is amazing! Arrived just in time. Gave my bike into the right hands and warmed up a little. Thought about to look for an accomodation right there… But decided against it. I wanted to get out of this big city asap. Portland is an amazing city! No question about it! But not after 6hrs of rain and rush hour…
So I was aiming for the one big waypoint:
I arrived at the coastline when it was about to get dark. Still raining. Windy. I was soaked. But felt proud about that I did it: Half across the country on a motorcycle over to the ocean. But the trip wasn’t even over yet! There was still da date with Melissa and her friends further down at the Oregon Coastline planned!
So I felt like not just drying and warming up a little, but also to celebrate a bit. Got messages from friends per Facebook, suggesting places. My buddy Ray was texting something about a “Hardware Bar”. A “Hardware Bar”? So a bar with a hardware store, or what?! Kind of! A bar inside of a hardware store! Ha!
Talked to one of the waiters. Turned out that he lives in Oregon over the summer and the other half of the year in Vietnam. Talks even fluent Vietnamese. And knows the http://www.zencafedalat.com/ from my ex-collegue and buddy Alex who did emigrate there, married and founded this cafe and hotel there. The world is a village… Unbelievable!
The next day, I was totally messed up from the day before. My immune system was telling me that I better have some extra hours of sleep. You can’t just fight against the rain and low temperatures forever without paying the bill. So I had my rest day, tried to dry up all of my clothes and just went to the famous Cannon Beach later in the day.
Wasn’t really in the mood for photography – but still enjoyed my visit there. Beautiful place. Unfortunately overcrowded and a tourist magnet though.
The next day, I felt way better – and got super stoked about meeting up Melissa, Brett and Courtney at Tillacum Beach.
Arrived there, felt welcomed, laughed a lot, had a great time with them – and got ready to join them for another adventure on the list: Crabbing!
Stealed two boats, played pirates, rammed other boats, stole their gear and crabs, got drunk, escaped from the Coast Guard, started a fight in the Harbor Bar, made it back to our campsite, had a hell of a bonfire – and feasted together. Life was good!
Since the last waypoint was about the get in reach, I was making my way over to Crater Lake and planned to stay there for two nights. Arrived there, was stunned about how beautiful this place is, but had to realize that a campsite was further down – and not where all the fun is!
So you know… I did what a man gotta do, left my bike on the parking lot, wrote the Ranger a “Sorry… but not sorry but thank you” letter, geared up and hauled all the stuff up to a stealth-campspot on the snow.
I fully realize that places like this would be a mess if everbody would do it. But I am also a strong follower of the “Leave no trace” ethics. So in the end, if you do not leave any signs of your stay except the pushed down grass where your tent was pitched up, I am convinced that this is tolerable.
Even though I was camping on snow, it got pretty damn hot ever the day. Which lead to a lot a goddamn-mosquitos. Little bastards!!!! It was bad… Very bad! So just for the records: I did suffer for these pictures! I hope, you appreciate it…
After two days hanging out there and just enjoying the views, taking pictures and charging my batteries, the bike was still where I was leaving it and didn’t have a answer from the Ranger to my love letter. Thank you, guys! Seriously!
Last night before the Finish
Every trip has to come to an end at one point. My trip was supposed to end in the Bay Area at my buddy Matt where I was being invited to. So this last night was kind of special for me since I knew that the day after this, I won’t have a quite stay like this for a very long time.
Arrived at an organized and clean but abandoned campground. A lot of reservations on the campspots but all for the upcoming weekend. Well, the entire campground was mine! Haha!
Fought against the mosquitos again. Started a fire against them. With the hot temperatures in addition, I got rid of the bastards – but sweated my butt off! So I stripped down to boxer shorts and enjoyed a another victory cigar half naked with a headlamp and sandals on. Thank god, I was the only one there!
Off to the races! San Francisco – and over the golden Gate Bridge on a motorcycle. Even though Matt warned me about the traffic, I did it anyway – just because. Ended up with a sweet souvenir by the Toll Agency which sent a great picture. Was just 7$ or so… was suprised. Good deal! Seriously! Haha!
Well, and then I took the last curve up the hill to Matt’s place:
He’s standing on the balcony with his girl and another friend. Cheering. I stop the bike. Kill the engine. Get off. Take off the helmet. And are just happy…!
Beside of the big achievement, it is also a blast to see this dude again: I met Matt in Freiburg like 5 years before. Went climbing with him. Stayed in touch while living in the States. But never made it to figure out an actual visit. Until this time.
Matt, what an amazing way to end such a trip. Thanks again!
Also, of course, to Brian in the East Bay Area which I have only met through Troy. I am doing my very best to finally sell the bike and get it out of your garage. Thanks a lot for helping me out with this!
Just a few days later, I was showing up at my new workplace on the other end of the globe and started a new chapter in my life. Crazy world.
As of my GPS, I traveled 6701km (4164mi) in 13 days. If you keep in mind that I was just starting to ride a motorcycle last year, this is pretty rad… But where else do you get experience than out on the road? …So go out and just do it.
But please make sure to talk to somebody with experience. Ideally to someone who did travel on a motorcycle for about 10 months on his own through North-America:
Troy: For life! Thank you. I’ve learned a lot from you.
May there will be many more adventures together.
PS: May I ask you to bring Cheese Curds though?! 🙂
Cheers to the Wisco-Disco crowd!