Took the motorbike out for a vacation a couple of weeks ago. I was firmly reminded of a few lessons I’d obviously forgotten. Primary among them was: don’t trust the weather reports.
When I left Calgary the long term forecast showed that we’d be going through a heat wave for the rest of the week with temperatures in the thirties. Based on this I decided to not take the second dry bag with my extra layers in it. I was already sweltering in the heat we had I didn’t foresee any need for more layers. And I was right, for the whole vacation… except for the last two hours.
I’d also forgotten the lesson I learned riding from Seattle to Portland and back last year: I need both bags for complete back support. The one bag by itself is big enough that I can lean back on it, but that puts me at an angle that puts a lot of my weight right on my tailbone. After a few hours of that my ass feels like it’s going to seize up permanently.
I managed to fix that a bit, eventually, by shoving my minimal toolkit into the outside pocket of the backpack. This added about an inch to the bag and pushed me forward enough to take the pressure off of my tailbone. The downside of this was that the contact point on the back became a square, fist-sized lump of metal in the center of my back. If I can just remember how that felt I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget my secondary bag again. And if that doesn’t work…
My ride back was a lot less sunny than the ride out. I skirted several storms on the way. I kept hitting the edge of rain, occasionally getting some mist on the face-plate, but escaped the majority of it. That is until just short of Banff.
Between Lake Louise and Banff I hit cold, bitter rain, and the rain kept up all the way into Calgary. By the time I got home I was soaked head to toe and chilled to the bone. The one saving grace is that I was home and could dump my cold, wet clothes and jump into the shower immediately to get warm again. It took a good twenty minutes in the hot shower. One of the side effects of being as big as I am is that my body is very slow to change temperature. In cold weather this can be a benefit as I can stay warm longer than most, but once I’m cold I’m in serious trouble because it takes that much longer to get warm again.
So… metal fist in my back and bone chilling cold and wet… both of those should remind me to never opt out of taking my additional layers with me.
The ride itself was beautiful. I’m fortunate to live within a few hours’ ride of some incredibly majestic scenery. I’m a crap photographer but even I can’t take a bad photo of the places I rode through.
Which is doubly fortunate as I can’t really afford to ride anywhere right now. I was only able to ride out to Quesnel because Shane and Dianne were willing to help me get there. Without their assistance I would have been spending my vacation at home playing minecraft all day.
I did do some things right, though. I packed a couple of big bottles of water, half frozen, and took lots of breaks. I probably stopped every hour or so to drink water and stretch my legs. It turned a ten hour trip into twelve hours but it was definitely necessary to rest. Since I couldn’t afford to stop half way in a hotel I had to make the entire trip in one shot. Stretching and drinking frequently were about the only things that allowed me to do that.
And now I know I can. Better than that, if I pack my bag properly, I’ll be able to do it even better, and possibly handle a longer trip.
Okay, random bits:
I confess that one of the reasons I was able to handle 12 hours on the bike was because I wore shoes instead of my motorcycle boots. Not wise, necessarily, as that leaves my ankles unprotected and my feet rather vulnerable, but honestly… biker boots have such a heel on them that they torque my ankle into unnatural angles as I ride. I’m either going to have to save up for some cruiser pegs or some good hiking boots. Personally I’m leaning towards the hiking boots, although having both would be idea. I just wish they could produce biker boots that don’t have a heel. Any time I have to walk in my biker boots I feel incredibly guilty about enjoying watching women walking in high heels. It looks great, I know, but I can also imagine that it must be hell to walk in for any length of time. The heels I have on my boots are probably less than half an inch but I still feel like I’m risking a broken ankle walking in them. Admittedly some of that risk is due to my weight, but still… heels are stupid.
At one point I had a small black bear cross the road in front of me. I had plenty of time to slow down, didn’t even need to touch my brakes, but the roar of my bike downshifting into first from high speed second really spooked the little guy and he scrambled up the scree on the other side of the road like hell itself was on his heels. I felt guilty about that. He didn’t need the scare, I’m sure.
I was worried about having enough gas to make it through the Glacier National Park, but that tourist trap at Saskatchewan Crossing was a life saver. Still, not knowing for sure I decided to pack a gas can with me anyway. But I grabbed the wrong gas can. I had a new one, somewhere, that has since gone missing. I thought it was the one I was taking with me but when I decided to fill it up at Deadman Flats I found I’d grabbed the old one instead. The one missing the pouring spout. I’m glad I never had to use my reserve gas as there was no way I could have avoided a horrendous mess. But now I have a full can of gas in my left hand saddle bag an no way to safely empty it. I’m going to have to buy a new gas can again just so I can use the spout.