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Our Big Adventure!

(Taylor Typing)

My wife Jessica and I are about two weeks away from pushing off for our big adventure motorcycle ride that we’ve been planning all year, and this will be our main way to record the trip. Our big goals are to see as many new places around the US as possible, as many friends and family as we can, and to meet new people along the way! We’ll be touring on our new-to-us 2012 BMW GS Adventure. Its a large two-person motorcycle that is able to go off road if needed. We bought it in February this year, and it has all the upgrades and premium equipment we could ever want!

We’re running two concurrent blogs, this one to catch more of the travel and adventure aspect, as well as a “Epic Rides, Ride Report” on Adventure Rider for the more technical side of the trip planning, and to get insight from more experienced riders.

We’re planning for a 4-6 week trip. We have a lot of flexibility this summer, as Jess is a Teacher, and I just returned from a deployment (Army National Guard) and have some time off. We don’t have any kids yet, and this seems like the ideal time to set off for an adventure!

During our planning, we have acquired paper maps for almost every state we’re driving through (we’ll have to wing it with a couple). Using those we have lined out a rough path, which we expect to deviate from at our whim. The plan is to stick to scenic routes and avoid busy interstates as much as possible. We have loads of camping food which we are in the process of splitting up to mail ahead in sections at different points, so we can always have some snacks and quick meals available. We are bringing our camping gear and – while it may be rough at first – the plan is to camp as much as we can along the way to keep the budget low and the adventure real!

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Go West Young Man, Haven’t You Been Told…

We’ve been lazy about posting again, but here is our ride from the Hoover Dam through California and up to Washington state…

(Taylor Typing) 

We left the Hoover Dam dreading another day of brutal heat, but for some reason the second day wasn’t as bad. In fact, it may end up being one of my favorite days on the trip! It was certainly still hot, 110 and above, but we endured it better. We’d had a good night’s rest, hydrated well, and stopped at every gas station to soak our towels, bandanas, and gloves. The highway was straight and empty so we pretty much cruised at 85 mph through the Nevada desert. Jess put some music in our headsets and we ate up the miles. As we moved into the high desert closing in on the border of California we had some spectacular views of the rugged mountains topped with bizarre cloud formations from the moisture on the other side. After a few hours we came to our turn, and it caused us some…incertitude about the route I had highlighted on the map. This section I had created by myself, picking a winding road through the mountains north of death valley. We were looking an absolutely dead-straight road toward the mountains with no signs of life on the horizon. The first sign we saw said “No Gas 56 Miles”…but what’s there to do? This was our road! So we kept the tunes pumping and went for it. When the road finally hit the mountains it went from pre-cooked spaghetti, to a noodle spun in the air and dropped on the mountain. We climbed turn after turn, up and up, and watched the thermometer on the bike plummet from 110 to 75 – what an improvement! We came down into valleys of California ranches, went back up into ancient pine forests and eventually crested over a hill and saw the Sierra Nevada’s, which blew us away. Neither of knew what to expect, and this segment was added to the list of amazing things we’ve seen, that we never knew about! 

The following day we made our way to a stop we’d both been looking forward to. One of my best friend’s parents live in California, and are fellow Adventure riders, so they had agreed to host us for the night. It was a great chance to swap ideas and stories, get an amazing dinner, wash our sweat soaked gear, and rest up. The Potters were super gracious hosts and we can’t wait to return the favor whenever they ride East! 

Leaving their place we aimed for the coast, with some route tweaks courtesy of Mr. Potter. If we had followed that, we may have hit the coast sooner, but one missed turn and a road with more switchbacks and crazy drivers than I’d ever seen and next thing we knew we were camping in Napa Valley! All I can say about Napa is that there are a lot of grapes, and one very tasty but pricey Mexican restaurant. 

Our original intent on this trip had been to use back roads as much as possible, and few sections have been as true to that dream as the last section before the coast. As we closed in on Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean, the last 60 miles was unmarked, occasionally gravel, barely traveled farm roads through yellow California mountains and sections of the Redwood State Preserve. I forgot to brief Jess on our route that morning, so she spent a solid hour convinced I was lost and unwilling to admit it. To be honest while I knew where we were, I wouldn’t have placed money on it…

Once we saw redwoods we knew we were close, and sure enough we turned a corner and saw deep blue water through the trees. We both had a reality check moment, but sure enough, we had ridden our motorcycle from Geogia to the Pacific Ocean. 

We made our way up the Califronia coast and about half way the Oregon coast. We cut in to Eugene Oregon for a new back tire (the old one was getting worn) and then came north (Through Redmond OR!) to Washington. We’ve spent two nights with Jess’s college friend Janessa and her family. It’s been a great time to reconnect with them and catch up on some rest! Her husband Isaac is a youth pastor at an awesome church, and we were lucky to be here on a Sunday and got to hear a great message. 

Jess goes full Texas Bandit when it gets chilly 🙂

Janessa and (tired) Jess

Arizona and Nevada

 More like Idon’twanna and Neveragain…

(Jess typing) 

I want to preface first off, that I really am having an amazing time! This trip has been not only filled with amazing sights, but has taught me how far I can push myself through something uncomfortable or even painful; this brings us to Arizona and Nevada.

After reluctantly leaving, we packed up camp and set out from Cortez, CO with our goal in mind: the Grand Canyon! Neither of us had ever been, and I for one, had been anticipating this stop throughout our planning. I was so excited the day was finally upon us. 

However, it was hot. I mean, hot like- both of our mothers were continuously texting to see if we were alive and sending warnings of the heat wave that people were dying from in the areas we would travel through- kind of hot. And we know they only meant well 😉 So, we took precautions.

Now, if you’ve never heard of a “Frogg-Togg,” they are amazing. These little towels can hold so much water in them, and are excellent for wetting and placing around your neck for cooling. These things pretty much saved our lives over the next couple of days. We of course were drinking tons of water, Taylor through his camel back, and I with my hydro-flask; but at every stop we would also re-wet our frogg-toggs, and it made a world of difference. 

Continuing on…we took our new friend Chris’ advise to go through Mt. Elmo pass. It was pretty awesome with its turns and farm-like land. Then we came out a little more into the open. Imagine being on Mars, that’s the only way we could describe it. But then! Wild horses! I had never seen them before; so beautiful. We came upon a group of them that were super close to the road, so Taylor slowed to almost a stop, and a white and brown speckled one kind of panicked and hopped across the road in front of us, just as I turned on the go-pro! Now that was cool.

Pressing on through Arizona, i.e. Navajo Nation, we continued to feel more and more in the middle of nowhere. The giant rock forms there are beyond description. They are massive from a distance, towering like guardians of the desert. Somewhere along the way we saw a sign for Navajo jewelry, and stopped at a tiny stand, in the middle of nowhere, and bought some matching bracelets that we just think are the coolest 🙂 Heading back to the bike, Taylor took a sweet pic of the bike with the giants in the backdrop. 

We then saddled back up on the bike, only to attempt a sharp right turnaround in the soft sand, and slowly but surely…down we went. First drop of the bike! From Taylor’s descriptions you may know that this is not a small bike, plus the weight of our gear on the back. So after 3 different attempts, one of me flying backward into the sand (laughable moment) we teamworked and  hoisted that bike upright, and onward we went. 

Let me fast forward for you….there’s so much to say! 

After being in the middle of nowheresville for hours, super hot from above and below, we finally came to an incline! The craziest part of this is that we were just enduring 100+ temps, and now our temperature gage was steadily dropping, and then there were green plants, and then trees! We twisted and turned up to the mesa, toward our goal, the Grand Canyon. Y’all it’s a whole different world up there! The cooler air rejuvenated us as we raced the sun to the North Rim in hopes to catch Sunset. 

Then, we were there. My heart was racing as we stepped up to the rim, yes because it was so far down, but mostly because I was so overwhelmed with emotion. How far had we come through scorching heat, sand dried faces, and burning eyes? Only to be cooled and refreshed by the wind at the top of the Grand Canyon. (There’s a life lesson in there somewhere ;)) All I could do was sit and stare out; trying all I could to soak up the goodness that is God’s creation. If you’ve never been, go. 

On our way back to the lodge at dusk, we saw hundreds of deer grazing on the mesa, got a bite to eat, showered and went straight to sleep- exhausted from a hard days ride; little did we know what the next day would bring. 

Nevada- in summer heat waves- no thank you. 

We had almost forgotten about the heat, but once we drove the short ride down from the mesa, there it was. As we got closer to Las Vegas, the temeperature was 113-114 F. Now just imagine with me for a second- imagine you go into a sauna- some people like that I guess- now let’s say, oh but you really need to put on these socks and black moto-boots, and black moto-pants, and here’s your long sleeved moto-jackets. You’re set! Oh wait- let’s cover your face with a helmet- now you’re good! No, no- stay in the sauna like that and we’ll turn it up to 117 F. “Gosh it’s hot!”- you say? Ok fine- we’ll give you some wind…queue blow dryers on hot mode blasting at you from all angles. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, I don’t know what else to say. 

Dry heat? Yea, if you’re in shorts and tank top. I was miserable. I sat on that bike in disdain that day- and what for? To see the Hoover Dam. Sorry y’all, but that day, I couldn’t give a Hoover Dam to set eyes on it in those conditions. It was not worth it to me lol. Admittedly- an amazing engineering feat of man- maybe go in the winter? 

And if I never see Nevada again- it will be too soon. Peace out. 

A Week in Colorado

How 3 days in Colorado turned into 7…

It’s been a few days (over a week, whoops!)  since we’ve posted a blog update, because we’ve been too busy falling in love with Colorado. I’ll try to summarize as best I can, but spare me some fawning along the way.

We left Kansas on the morning of June 14th (day 11) and rolled into Colorado. We had to stop at a welcome center to plot our route, as we didn’t have a Colorado map ahead of time. We essentially picked a few hot spots, traced the scenic routes on the map, and decided to play it by ear. (Little did we know that would put us 4 days behind schedule. But what a fantastic way to spend those 4 days!

We got into Manitou Springs, a quaint/touristy mountain town right outside Colorado Springs, and decided to get a B&B room since we had a few days to settle in, and we were celebrating our anniversary on the next day. We unpacked and headed to dinner. We parked next to a Harley motorcycle, and chatted with the owners Brad and Gloria for a half an hour. They are in their 50s, and have been riding since before we were born. By the time we parted ways, we were convinced we had to adjust our route North to include Rocky Mountain National Park, which was described by Brad as “Stupid Beautiful” (spoiler, he was right).

We hung around Manitou Springs for the next few days. We Hiked the Garden of the Gods, Rode Pikes Peak (amazing!) and had a blast at my old friend Zach’s wedding on the 16th. On June 17th (day 14) we made our way to a campsite just outside of Denver.

Leaving there we made the scenic drive north to the Rocky Mountain National Park. That entire day all I could say was “This is the best motorcycling I have ever done!”. One thrilling turn after the next, incredible views, and a million other bikes to wave at – they are everywhere out here, and we fit right in.

Rocky Mt National Park was – as advertised – stupid beautiful. It’s more-or-less a straight drive through, up and over the pass (camping is only allowed in the designated sites – sad face) Curve after curve took us up and high into the mountain tundra, and where we had been baking in the 90+ degree heat less than 2 hours before, we all of a sudden stopping to dig out thermal gear and firing up the BMW’s grip heaters. The views can’t be described so I won’t try, but I’m pretty sure Jess muted her headset after the 97th time I said “wooow”.  Jess saw a moose (she claims) through the trees in an open field, right when I couldn’t safely stop to look. But at the top we both freaked out when we saw the first Elk. A small female trotting along the road. The next turn we took floored us – at 12,000 surrounded by snow drifts we saw a massive herd of Elk hanging out 100 yards or so from the road. We endured the cold long enough to get some pictures, stare and freak out the way only a couple of southerners can when they see wild Elk for the first time. THEN we camped in the park while more Elk wandered through the campsite munching on grass. It was other-worldly for both of us, and something I am so glad we got to share together.

We knew we had spent a couple of our spare days by adding this extra park to the trip, but we both agreed it was well worth it. We set out the next morning with the intent to cover as many miles as possible and start working our way towards the next big destination, the Grand Canyon. That was going great until 1) we got missed a turn and drove 30 mins the wrong way, 2) the right way was a dirt road, 3) Half way through that very long and gorgeous dirt road I saw a camp ground right on the river that had a white-water rafting operation adjacent to it and I absolutely had to stop. We had already picked our campsite for the night and decided to stay when we found out we were too late in the day to go rafting. We opted to stay anyway, and Jess pointed out to me that we had only covered a whopping 60 miles of our route. Yeesh.

The next morning we were REALLY determined to make up some miles and set out at a record 25 mins late. “Late” is a relative term, but we never make it on the road at the time we mean to, we’re slow morning people anyway and breaking camp/packing the bike is a series of chores. This was the closest we had made it to leaving at our goal time.

We had an amazing and scenic route marked out through the Rockies on our map but realized we had to get moving, so we decided to hop on the interstate and chug away the miles, abandoning our wandering route. That’s when we met Chris.

I pulled into a parking lot to stretch and get some water at the intersection we had marked to bail from our route. From this point, we would bee-line to interstate for some boring (but efficient) miles out of the state.

A middle-aged guy with a light German accent pulled up to chat (everybody wants to chat with us, that’s a whole blog post itself). We learned that he has 6 bikes, rides constantly, and has been on every road in the west. Before I knew what was going on we had 3 of our state maps out, I was taking diligent notes, crossing out or highlighting routes, and suddenly, we had our next 4 days of riding laid out to the hour. Where to get gas, where to camp, which roads would take our breath away, or be boring but necessary. He compared the new route with the “cheat route” we were about to turn onto, and declared “about an hour longer – an hour well spent”. He knew what he was doing. The roads he added for us are ones I will remember the rest of my life, and certainly come back to.

Each day in Colorado I’ve told Jess “This is THE BEST motorcycling I have ever done”, and each day it has been true. The mountain passes are all so different, challenging and rewarding. We’ve seen things we didn’t even know existed (Red Mountain has gold mines…and its red), met a ton of great people, and we have hardly even touched what Colorado and the Rockies have to offer. It almost feels irreverent to ride into some of the places we’ve been this week, look around, and leave again. The famous John Muir quote is going to resonate with us in a different way after this trip; “The mountains are calling, and I must go”.

Tomorrow we move further west, to the Grand Canyon!

Jess on our Anniversary:

20170615_162346

Timber Creek Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park:20170618_170712

Wild Elk in Timber Creek National  Park:20170618_201130

The biggest dandelions Jess has ever seen, Crawford State Park (recommended by Chris the German) 20170620_191853

Crawford S.P.20170620_195449

Red Mountain Pass, AKA The Million Dollar Highway DCIM100GOPROGOPR0789.

If I never see Kansas again it will be too soon

Clear skies, straight roads, and crosswinds.

(Taylor Typing)

When that one chick told that dog that they weren’t in Kansas anymore, she must have been so thrilled, and I don’t blame her. 

We’ve wrapped up day two of riding in Kansas, and it has been just the worst…

We left Springfield MO and enjoyed some small farm roads and Shire-like landscape through rural Missouri and into Kansas as we made our way towards the main highway we’d take across the Great Plains

(Side story if you want to know what motorcycle travel is like) We were looking for one County Road 80, which would show up on the odometer at/about 20 miles from our last turn. At exactly 20 miles a small road appeared marked “BB”. 

I yelled over the crosswinds into my mic; “I think this must be it”

Jess replied over wind static; “Yeah, Bee Bee!”So I turned, since she had the GPS up on her phone. 

Then she says “What the heck are you doing??”

“road BB!”

“No! I said, it says BB! We need 80, eight zero!” 

Turning a 1200cc motorcycle with 2 people, 3 loaded boxes plus camping gear around on a tiny county road is super easy to do, so I didn’t mind the confusion. 5 mins and one long, accidental horn blast later we were back at the last intersection where we finally saw a tiny sign next to BB that read: C.R. 80 – the right freaking road. Jess almost fell off the bike laughing as we turned back around again. 

Once we made it to the highway, the mood swung. It was a one lane each way, state route. We are trying to avoid major interstates to enjoy the drive more, and boy did that backfire. The Kansas wind was blowing out of the South at 20-30 mph all day, both days, without ceasing. Heading due west, we had to endure constant crosswinds from our left. It was made worse by the steady stream of cattle trucks heading East. Semi trucks have a strong turbulence anyway, but passing a few feet from them at 75 mph, downwind – I cannot overstate the discomfort. 

We struggled our way into Wichita, and the next day unanimously agreed to bail for the interstate. At least that way we would be going the same way as the trucks we were nearest to. 

Day two was better, technically. Passing trucks was not as brutal, but there was more traffic in general. And the wind continued. We were assured by a local farmer that it’s not usually like this, but that doesn’t help us much! We spent the day leaning left to balance in the wind. 

Jess has thoroughly impressed me through all this. She sits higher on the bike than me, and got to endure the full force of the crosswinds all day, both days. I can duck behind the windshield for some respite if I need to, while she is exposed the whole way. But she has a way about her when she’s set on something, and it’s so awesome to see her push through a brutal few days and stay so positive about what’s ahead of us still. We set out on this trip asking God to teach us more about himself and each other, and today I learned my wife will not relent once she’s committed herself to something *, and when it’s really hard she’ll set her mind on the good things, the things that inspired us to ride a motorcycle around the whole dang country in the first place! 

*I didn’t learn it for the first time, but I got to see it again, up close 🙂

To be fair to Kansas, there were some neat things too. Here’s a comprehensive list of neat things we saw in Kansas: a Coyote, a million giant windmills, pretty creeks, and a pre-fab home jammed under an overpass with the roof scraped off. Kansas, if I never see you again it will be too soon.  

PS my phone’s pano mode couldn’t figure the windmill out 🙂

Thankful for family

Family and adventure go hand in hand!

(Jess Typing)

The first leg of our trip has pretty much been centered around seeing my family, and I’m loving it! It has been so good for my heart so see everyone. Even though each stop is never long enough, we feel that each individual stop has been quality time well spent. 

A few things we did with the fam: 

We grabbed some amazing Texas BBQ (my absolute favorite meal), saw Wonder Woman (highly recommend) and had some Bluebell ice cream :). In Arkansas/Missouri, we visited with my best friend Becca, my brothers and their wives, and played with the cutest nephews ever! Daniel loves the ” ‘cycle ” and wearing our helmets! Alistair is so smart and animated, and loved meeting his Uncle Taylor for the first time 🙂 They are both growing so fast! 

We have been so blessed with great families and they all were so gracious to give us a place to sleep and some food to eat each night. We are so thankful! 

In these pictures you’ll see that my sister Des got to go for a spin on the bike, pics of some amazing breakfasts, got me a Texas scarf, our stop at a peach stand for a snack in Arkansas, marked our home city on the map at the Skyline Cafe in Mena, AR and just had a blast! 

Dad and fam.

Mom, sister Destiny and her bf Hunter!

My scarf goes on my neck 😉 

BFF 🙂

Bye Texas!

Day 6 of 42 on the road, and we finally tried out the camping gear!

(Taylor Typing)

We’re breaking camp on day 6, and about to be out of Texas, which is crazy to me. It’s starting to feel like we may actually be doing this thing. We’ll spend this evening with more family, then for several days we’ll just be on the road and camping as we move west towards parts of the country neither of us have ever been to. I have this feeling that this is about to turn from a fun trip into a real adventure! 

Last night was our first night camping, and it went well! We stayed at a KOA campground, surrounded by RVs. Turns out even among outdoor/adventure travelers we’re a little crazy. The site has a pool which was great after a long ride day, plus nice showers etc. After dinner we watched a movie on the laptop and crashed! 

Now we’ve got to pack the bike up and head north on scenic highway 71 to Rogers AR! 

Short ride day

First day of good weather, and we only had two hours to ride!

(Taylor Typing) 

We’re at apx 900 miles, and finally got some great weather! We spent the night at Jess’s Grandparents house after a hot rainy day, and had a great time visiting and hearing some hilarious stories. Who all has been run down by a buck they just shot? JM has! Also he recently thought the lady giving him a pedicure had painted his toenails pink when he dozed off, but I can’t do the story justice, you’ll have to ask him sometime. We had a hearty Texas breakfast and drove the two hours to her Dads place, with a quick stop by a river to cool off. 

Also I added a bandana (with cold water) to my riding equipment list, and it is hands down my favorite item. Jess is sick of hearing about it, but I’ll convert her eventually. 

Visiting more family tomorrow, then heading north, then west! 

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