We got sick of being cooped up. No one expected 2020 to be a time of such isolation. We decided it was time to break out of the city and catch some fresh air, so — we hopped on our bikes and hit the West coast. No destination in mind, no routes planned, and not fully sure where we would be spending each evening.
My buddy Blaine hit me up asking if I wanted to go on a two week trip out west. Only catch, it was a week and a half away. After being locked up in quarantine since March, the idea of being on the road again far outweighed the reality my 500cc around town bikes would not be up for the task.
Luckily our pals at Triumph hooked us up with two of their new bikes for the trip, the Tiger 900 and Tiger 1200 to be exact. This is not an ad for them and is not a paid sponsorship. Triumph is an amazing company and we are lucky enough to have their North America headquarters literally a few miles from our office in Atlanta.
That said. We are really glad we didn't take vintage bikes. They probably would have blown up.
Both Blaine and myself have done plenty of moto trips to know traveling from Atlanta to Colorado is a pretty snooze worthy ride, since we wanted to make the most of the trip we hauled the bikes out to Denver to start the journey. The overwhelming amount of corn while driving through Kansas was a great reminder of how terrible that section of U.S. riding is. If you have ever done it before, you know what I'm talking about.
Like two kids on Christmas morning we packed up the bikes at our friend Thomas's place. Packing for a larger trip can be tough, especially when you plan on camping most of the trip.
After packing up we had no plans other than - heading West and getting away from the city. I don't know about you, but have you ever got on a bike you are not familiar with? It's nerve racking until you get used to the throttle response, brakes, and overall weight. Luckily we had the opportunity of getting used to the bikes while breaking away from downtown Denver's morning traffic.
You quickly forget how noisy your life is when you have no cell service and a billion stars blanketed over you. We found a great camping spot near the Arches national park. Still not sure if we where allowed to be there or not?
Although the plan was to stay as far away from people as possible. We did happen to run into local Atlanta legend - Daniel ( @beastinthbushes ) while grabbing a morning cup of coffee in Moab. He has been on an epic trip around the U.S. in his Tacoma. Smash his follow button for a good time.
After what felt like a lifetime of desert riding, we finally hit California. Unlike when I've visited before, the state smelled like a giant campfire. As if 2020 had not done enough, California was literately on fire. Not only that, the temperatures were quickly rising.
The entrance to Yosemite Park felt post apocalyptic with a haze covering the sky. Side note: During a global pandemic, check to make sure you are allowed to visit parks before going to them.
California on fire. Riding through the California hills during sunset the sky literally looked like some crazy photo filter.
Blaine learned the kickstand on the Tiger 1200 does not work very well on small inclines. ( Don't worry triumph, it was a slow embarrassing "fall" ).
We hit a heat wave. The temp soared from 45º to 103º by noon. You can never drink enough water.
We stopped by Kyle's house ( who happens to be Blain's brother ) while in California, just long enough to ( socially distance ) say hey and peek at his old BMW R75/5, which is one of the first bikes I road.
We thought 103º was bad... But things got worse, as the temps climbed to a staggering 115º. Riding at that temperature is like having a hair dryer blowing on your face. You find yourself having a hard time breathing. This is the point I know we would have been in major trouble riding vintage bikes. I don't think an air cooled 40 year old bike would have held up in these temps.
Luckily by the time we reached Tahoe the temps had normalized to a chilly 80º.
While escaping the 100º+ heat we cruised back East. Not sure where we would settle for the night. We thought about crashing at "The world famous clown hotel" but the "oldest graveyard" next to it kinda spooked us out.
From one extreme to the other. The temp started dropping to 50º while riding through long stretches of the desert. The sun was dropping, our gas was running very low, and we hit 500 miles of shivering desert stillness. One of our goals was to sleep at a sketchy motel and the "Alamo inn" was it. Only able to grab some snacks from a nearby gas station we settled into... an amazingly dated motel with the wood paneling to prove it.
Trips are also about the goofballs you meet. This was Sammy - When he saw us packing our bags the next day, he yelled from across the parking lot "they got free coffee in here!". Waving us over as I held up the cup of coffee I was already sipping on. He rolled on over to give his thoughts on the desert and how he had started living at the hotel when the pandemic hit. He explained it was to "get as far away from people as possible". He shared his stories of riding through the Rockies on his old Harley and the times he had to change out the jetting to keep it running right. Also, something about his new Camaro blowing up in the desert just a week prior.
On our way through another state park we passed a trailer full of custom BMW's and a Harley. If that was you... What's up!
Guess they where headed the same way. We followed along for a while - honestly, it was kinda nice riding with a few other bikes for a while.
Blaine being a fan of shooting film, spotted Kodachrome State park near by. Named after the actual Kodak film for its amazing colors. We hit a bit of dirt and settled into a totally empty park for the night.
Canyonlands National park - After a long day of dropping temperatures we ended up catching the sunset, while sneaking our tents into a "camping" area.
Not only was it a chilly night, there where plenty of creepy sounds throughout the night. Needless to say, I was thankful to see the sun rise.
The long stretch - Going from a heatwave in California to an unprecedented cold front sweeping through Utah and Colorado we decided to head back to home base in Denver.
I really wish I could have captured the last portion of the trip. But with my hands holding tight to the heated grips through the mountain passes as we reached the snow-line and 30º temps, I took the safer approach of being in the moment.
We got back to Thomas's house shivering - but stoked at what we had experienced.
Some thoughts from the trip:
The desert is a brutal place. We don’t have the control we think we do. The world is huge and there are a lot of people in it. Tons of cool cars covered in dust in the desert. Who chooses to live 80 miles from the nearest civilization? Silence is nice... a lot of silence is creepy. If on a hill make sure you are in gear when you have the kickstand down. Experience the moment instead of thinking of the right angle to frame the photo in. Change your socks. Bring more than a pair of socks. Always go to the bathroom before settling in your tent at night. Drink water. Slow down at the curve. Don’t forget the best views could be behind you, but if you are not looking ahead you can't see what's coming. Bugs don’t taste good, but they will keep you alert.
The bikes did excellent for this kind of Adventure touring. Both had more power than my vintage bike bones could handle. Riding something this modern was new to me and made it one less thing to worry about during the trip. I do wish they came outfitted with proper dual sport tires, so we could have done more dirt. But at the end of the day not worrying about a bike blowing up while cruising through the desert was nice.
Photos by myself & Blain ( shot on film. )
How about you? What's your favorite motorcycle trip memory or a dream trip you would love to take? Leave a comment below!