Saturday, May 29, 2010


So I needed a motorcycle. Truth be told, I've actually been looking at motorcycles secretly for years. I kind of knew what I wanted, but needed a little push to actually commit to a bike.

For the past 8 years or so I've spent a lot of time in Seattle. Primarily I've been there for work, but Seattle is a place that grows on you beyond the normal bounds of work travel. Yes, the weather is interesting, but it is an incredibly beautiful place - mountains and water and music and great people. Buying the bike in Seattle just seemed to make sense, and it gave me a great excuse for the trip.

What bike though? Over the past 8 years I've made a few friends in Seattle. So when I mentioned the motorcycle conundrum to a friend who's a longtime dirt bike guy, he told me, "You need to talk to Joe."

Joe is a BMW guy. Which was good, since I seemed to be spending lots of time on the BMW website looking at dual-sport bikes. When I mentioned my fixation on BMWs to Joe, about 5 minutes after I met him, he smiled and handed me a motorcycle magazine with a review of the bike I was looking at, offered me space in his garage to keep it, and offered to help me get up to speed riding it. Two weeks later I was the proud owner of a F800GS.

Well, it wasn't quite that easy - next post I will get into the details of how NOT to buy a motorcycle.

Friday, May 28, 2010


There are lots of issues when you decide to do a cross country motorcycle trip and you have no motorcycle, no license for a motorcycle, no helmet or any kind of gear, and a 30 year gap since you've actually ridden ANY kind of motorcycle.

When we were growing up we didn't have motorcycles. Fortunately for us, and probably to my mother's dismay, a lot of our neighbors did. We would jump on their bikes and toodle around the neighborhood. We crashed only occasionally, and never told our parents where the road rash came from.

So, where to start? First I needed a license, and to get a license I needed SOME kind of training. Since I have a six year old son, training was important. Killing myself on a bike was not in the plan. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) was a great discovery. They have courses in every state, assume you know nothing, provide the bikes for the course and the helmet, and have a test at the end that will get you a motorcycle endorsement on your license. I signed up in September last year. Fortunately I passed the course (having a blast in the process - who knew a Nighthawk 250 could be so much fun) and got my license on Sept 17th, 2009.

Now what? Well, I guess I needed a helmet. It would be a start anyway. So I started looking at helmets. As a side note, when I started looking for a helmet I really started noticing the difference in communities among riders. There is the HD crowd, the sportbike crowd, the dual-sport crowd, the dirt bike guys, and the touring crowd. More on that later, the different culture of each of the communities is interesting. Finally settled on an ARAI Vector - with the really cool blue/spiderweb graphics. It's the first time in years I had an excuse for wearing something that tacky - and all in the name of safety!!

Now I just needed a motorcycle.


This blog is about the cross country motorcycle trip I've been planning for a long time. A really long time. I lot of people I've talked to about this trip (family, friends, co-workers, guys on the street), keep asking me "Why?" So I thought I'd dedicate the first post to the primary reason. Obsession....really.

When I was 14 I became obsessed with a book about motorcycles. It used as a primary plot device the story of a 17 day motorcycle trip across the US. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig is about metaphysics, relationships, facing your past, and motorcycles. It's two-thirds memoir and one third philosophy, with the philosophy focused on reconciling "classical" vs "romantic" thinking. While I've read the book many times the reason I always came back to it had more to do with the motorcycles than any kind of real interest in philosophy.

Flashing forward thirty years I have a real motorcycle, 2 weeks of vacation, a brother willing to accompany me and a detailed itinerary from Seattle, WA to Leonardtown, MD. I'm blaming ZAMM for putting this idea in my head when I was 14.

We leave from Seattle on June 9th. We hope to be home (Sean to Atlanta and me to MD) by the 20th of June. We have stops planned for Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Sturgis, and any other interesting places that we can manage along the way. Yes, we are looking for suggestions.

Sean is riding his 1995 Triumph 900. I am riding a BMW F800GS. Neither of us has a whole lot of experience motorcycle camping. This should be fun!!