This year I had itchy feet to take on another challenge. I have been stagnant for quite a while in the travel department and needed to get out on the road again. With reality weighing in constantly, I knew I wouldn’t be able to completely escape as I did in 2007 for my big North America trip. I had customers that I needed to keep happy and my servers to keep online. A friend of mine on the East Coast, that owns an alarm monitoring company, needed some PHP software development work done. Which I might add is what I specialize in. I flew out to Charleston, WV for a couple weeks initially to start working on the project. As the days passed we realized the project would take much longer and I would need to be in town for a good amount of time. Other obligations required me to fly back home for a short duration before I could continue work on the project.
During my flight back to California I started playing with the idea of riding the 1982 Honda XL500R I had recently bought back to West Virginia. The idea was exciting and scary all at the same time. I have never done any multiple day trips on a motorcycle before, let alone riding across the whole country. Needless to say I had my own reservations about doing the trip. My friends and family also kept pushing me to just take my truck or fly back. Gas for the truck would be over 1000 bucks while the bike would only be about $200. The price definitely enticed me. Going back through photos of my North American adventure I remembered the similarities. Everyone was nervous and was essentially trying to get me to change my mind. Coming to that realization I knew I had to do it or I would never have another opportunity to take a bike across the USA. Sure, its possible I may later, but I never want to take a chance. With life the way it is, you never know.
I started to prepare the bike. Researching online for any other adventurers who’ve done a trip on an old bike was first on my list. What did they use? How did they load their gear? I parsed all sorts of forums and blogs then condense down to what would work for me. First thing first, I needed a way to strap my sleeping bag and a tent to the back of the bike. Being cheap I used a piece of 3/4 inch EMT pipe. I cut to length and flattened the ends for bolt holes. I bent the pipe in a sharp bend to fit the width of the rear seat. Bolting the front to the seat mounts and attaching the rear with some hose clams along the fender support. Not ideal, though should work with light loads. I made a trip to the store to grab a tank bag and dry sack. I found a cheap five dollar lunch box that, after some modifications, worked out for a tank bag. I did get lucky and found a SealLine Baja Dry Bag on clearance for 17 bucks.
At my brother shop I started to organize my gear then loading it on the bike. I went through a few times and kept getting rid of things I knew I would never need. Then I realized I didn’t have any tools or oil. I took an old tool bag and repurposed it as a front fender bag. I bolted it into place directly on the fender. Converting handles into cinch straps, I was able to keep the bag tight around the tools. Scouring my tool set I packed smaller bags with sockets and small wrenches. Next I moved onto the headlight. It was stock and very dim. Although I didn’t want to ride at night, I did want a brighter light. Reusing one of my old Hella Rallye 4000 lights with a 50 watt bulb fit the bill. I created a new bracket to hold the housing and wired it up. Over a few weeks I worked on the bike and even replicated the classic XL500 sticker in a newer fashion. I did a few test runs up into the mountains near Idyllwild, CA and was happy with how everything turned out.
The day before departure I unpacked all my gear, double checked everything and repacked it. I also got rid of stuff I wouldn’t need to eliminate weight. Most of the day I had a knot in my stomach. I knew the feeling from before. My big North America trip was the same. Its the gut feeling that you are about to leave. Many travelers will tell you the hardest thing to do is to walk out the door. This feeling is what they are talking about. To me its such a strong feeling of the unknown. You are about to take a big adventure and there is no guarantee. The instinct reaction is to cancel the trip, as if the trip will end badly or something will “happen” while you are gone. As strong of a feeling this is to stay and not take the adventure, the more you have to force yourself to do it. At least that’s how I felt this time around. Usually a few hours after you leave you’ll start to relax and the feeling goes away.
Tomorrow I start the 2400 mile journey…