My First Grand Adventure
A trip around the country with a marriage on the line!
It started with a conference in Miami. My favorite aunt and uncle, and the inspiration for my buying a BMW (they were the 13 rallies a year kind of couple) lived in Tallahassee. Figuring the logistics for flying into Miami and then renting a car and driving up to Tallahassee and then back to Miami - too complicated. Clearly, I’d have to ride instead. Did I mention I live in San Francisco?
Thus began my first grand adventure. I roughly plotted a loop across the Sierras and then South to Las Vegas and on East, hitting as many friends and family as I could along the way. I may have also fit in the Grand Canyon, a couple of twisties, and two-lane state routes any time I could – along with 37 or so burritos!
But this wasn’t just any grand adventure. At home, I had an incredible girlfriend, Avra. And she had a clock! I tasked myself, in not so many words, with producing or removing myself from the toilet, shall we say. If I couldn’t figure this out in roughly 10,000 miles and 26 states, well, maybe that’s the answer… So, with a head full of decisions, a bike full of gear, and a country in front of me, I set off.
The first day was up and over the Sierras (still had snow in late June – grateful for the heated vest I threw in on a whim on my way out the door!), and down the other side. Wouldn’t you know it – I don’t even get out of California before I’m passing “Bridal Veil Falls.” Y’know universe, you could have given me at least one day of riding before you tell me what to do… I ended that day at a hot spring at the end of a long dirt road. Camping night one, to the tune of the coyotes. Not too shabby. Maybe this would be an easy trip and an easy decision after all?
The days passed, as did the states. The high deserts of Arizona and bright red rock took my breath away. Avra kept trying to convince me of the beauty of Arizona, but I didn’t buy it – deserts just make my skin dry. Plus, I hate being hot! Probably shouldn’t have ridden across the South as June turned to July then…
The Grand Canyon was a big hole – looked like the postcards – but camping in the national forest above it was the best night of the trip! On across Texas (skipping about a week here – Texas is BIG!), and to my grandparents in Arkansas. Here my grandpa humored me – sat and chatted while I took the bike apart and put it back together again. You can see his picture in the 200 Miles Before Breakfast podcast I did. I flew Avra in to meet them, and ride a few days with me to Tallahassee to meet my Aunt and Uncle. After all, if we can’t do a 3-day ride together, what’s to decide? Little did I know, forces greater than myself were conspiring. Rumor has it my grandma took an immediate shine to Avra, pulled her aside, and said “get him to stay a few more days, and I’ll have him proposing before you leave!” No arguing with grandma.
We dropped down the Mississippi to Vicksburg, one of the highlights of the trip. Flowers were in bloom, the streetlights were genuine gas lamps, to Avra’s delight, and we stayed in an antebellum mansion with a hole in a ceiling joist from a Union cannonball. It very nearly made up for the sopping day of 90 degrees and 90% humidity. We turned West towards Tallahassee and probably got about halfway there when the whole thing nearly came apart at the seams. Not the bike – it’s a Beemer! With the heat and humidity, Avra was done. Motorcycles were awful, trips were awful, and I was definitely awful! And then, there on the horizon, saving grace! Baskin Robbins. 31 flavors plus air conditioning. Hallelujah!
With an ice cream or two retrieving our sanity, we made it to Tallahassee. We swam in sinkholes, saw alligators (luckily not at the same time), and more family loved her. She flew back to California, and I turned South for the ostensible purpose of the trip – my conference presentation.
With that minor detail out of the way, I could get back to the business at hand – the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Snake, and empty roads through nowhere. Is there anything more soothing to the soul?
After a week with my parents in Ohio, I turned West to high tail it home. I managed to get from Detroit to Nebraska in a day (and what a day!). I allowed a little interstate coming out of Denver (even the interstate in Colorado is divine!), and wiggled my way toward Washington. I came into Idaho with a thunderhead just over my left shoulder. I kept it there across the whole state and came out dry on the other side. Wending my way along the Columbia River, I stopped for a particularly beautiful waterfall. Looked at the plaque – sure enough, “Bridal Veil Falls.”
I finished my trip coming through Klamath National Forest, down the Avenue of Giants (even got to ride through a redwood!), and on down the fabled route 1. As home drew nearer, I was excited to be back, to sleep in my bed, and to hold Avra again. But, if I’m honest, I still didn’t have my answer. Ten thousand miles, 26 states, and I couldn’t say with certainty – Yes! Forevermore, with no hesitation.
Well, luckily for me the arrival home was a self-imposed deadline, and Avra was not waiting with crossed arms and a question mark. It’s a couple of years later now, and she and I are setting off on our next grand adventure. My wife and I just had twins! These days most of my riding happens by moving the bike from one side of the street to the other for street cleaning (did I mention I live in San Francisco?). But I hear these days pass all too quickly, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the Grand Canyons, a couple of twisties, and two-lane state routes in the world.