Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Texan in Tibet - Throwing In the Towel

I give up.  China has really screwed the world over with the Wuhan virus.  Global economies are collapsing and peoples' lives are being shattered.  Oh yeah, and they screwed me on this trip also.  I suppose it's possible that things might open up in Nepal, but I've grown tired of holding my breath and waiting.  I will reclaim the miles I spent to book air travel and start looking forward to another adventure.  It sucks, but I'm a pragmatist at my core and I hate wasting hope and emotion on something over which I have so little control.  I have something different in mind.

If you're read this blog recently, you'll recall that I rode Hester (my Harley) to the Arctic Circle back in 2011.  I got as far north as Coldfoot Camp; about 100 miles north into the Arctic Circle. My goal was to ride all the way up to the Arctic Ocean in Deadhorse at Prudhoe Bay.  While I was up in Coldfoot Camp, a massive cold front blew through and workers at Deadhorse were being evacuated to Coldfoot to wait it out.  It had been 100 degrees F in Fairbanks the previous day.  It was 40 degrees F in Coldfoot, and the workers told me it was 2 degrees F at Deadhorse.  Acting on the advice of those who were just there, I decided to head south out of Coldfoot and rode back to Fairbanks.

I've regretted that decision for ten years.  I should have just set up camp at Coldfoot and waited out the storm.  But part of me rationalized that I had accomplished (exceeded actually) my core goal and that anything north of the Circle park was gravy.  I'm the kind of guy who would rather regret the things I've done did than the things I didn't and this is a strange case where both apply.

Shark Week (the annual Road Glide Gathering) is in Lake Tahoe, NV next year at the end of June.  I've decided to return to Alaska and this time, ride all the way up.  I'll ride down from Alaska via the Pacific Coast Highway, spend Shark Week with my Road Glide brethren, and then ride home to Texas after.  My first trip up was pretty rough.  The roads were terrible and I was beat to death, but I made it.  I'm told that the roads are better and it's really just a long ride with logistics and planning; all three of which I am very adept.  I just completed a 1,374 mile ride in one day from Gettysburg, PA to my home in Texas.  I may be ten years older (if not wiser), but I can handle Alaska again.  What I might also be able to handle this time is company.  I have discussed making this trip with a couple of other riders who have never been.  Camping in the wild, crossing into Alaska, and slapping the Arctic circle sign were major physical and emotional accomplishments for me.  Sharing those experiences with another rider who is as passionate as I am about adventure riding as I am would be another special moment.  Of course, it has to be the right kind of rider; not just in stamina and riding prowess, but in attitude.

So stay tuned for more details.  I may start adding to the Alaskapade site, or I might just write about it here.   Perhaps I could post updates to both.

Alaskapade 2021??

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Shark Week X - Fuck You, China!

Shark Week X is on! 

For the uninitiated, Shark Week is not about fish and (so far) has nothing to do with the Discovery Channel.  It's a namesake given to an event attended by fans of a particular motorcycle.  My motorcycle is a 2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide.  I named her Hester in reference to the paint color - Scarlett Red.  There's a bit of double entendre in the name, but you have to have read The Scarlett Letter and think deep about bikers to get it.  But I digress.

Shark-Nosed Hester

Road Glide fans refer to our bike as the "sharknose" or "shark" due to the shape of the fairing. [pic]  Back then, appreciating the Road Glide was an acquired taste.  In fact, many people hated it.  I am a function-over-form rider and there are numerous physical and functional aspects of the Road Glide that I appreciated.  I knew in 2009 that I wanted to upgrade my ride to a touring platform (some call it a Geezer Glide) and it wasn't long thereafter that I could comfortably ride 1,000 miles a day - repeatedly.  Beyond that, I like the distinctive look.  Turns out, I discovered I was in good company through on-line forums and other dedicated Road Glide groups.  Then in 2015, Harley-Davidson released a redesigned version of the Road Glide and its popularity skyrocketed.  Prior to 2015, spotting a sharknose was uncommon.  Now, it's the most popular Harley-Davidson model.  As I mentioned above, Hester is a 2010 with the original (less popular) fairing.  I hang on to Hester for four reasons:

  1. We've ridden to 49 states together on all the scenic routes.  We have history.
  2. I have plans to retire in four years and dropping $30,000 on a new motorcycle is not in my financial plan.  I plan to ride Hester till the wheels fall off.  New wheels are cheaper than a new bike.
  3. I rebuilt and repainted Hester in 2016 after totaling her in an accident and rebuilt the motor in 2019.  She's a beauty.
  4. Riding a pre-2015 year model reminds the world that I knew the Road Glide was cool before the masses caught on.
Back to Shark Week.  Every year, a group of us gathers somewhere in the country to celebrate favorite motorcycles, ride the local scenic routes, bust each others' balls, and most of all, just enjoy each others' company.  As this is our tenth year, this is Shark Week X; hereafter referred to as SWX.

The first Shark Week (SWI) was held in Gettysburg, PA in 2011. Roughly 30 Road Glides showed up from as far away as California, Florida, and even some from Canada.  I missed it.  I wanted to go, but had just returned from my Alaska trip.  Had I known then what I know, I would have made the trip.  The camaraderie is as close to family or military bonds as I have ever experienced.  Outsiders think it's just a small rally.  Shark Week has to be experienced to be understood.  Just as I was content riding the "ugly duckling" in 2010, I am equally content being part of the Shark Week weirdo crowd.  A review of the first nine Shark Weeks follows:

SWI       2011    Gettysburg, PA
SWII      2012   LeClaire, IA
SWIII    2013    St. George, UT
SWIV    2014    Gorham, NH/ME
SWV     2015    Kerrville, TX
SWVI    2016    Canmore, Alberta, Canada
SWVII   2017    Cherokee, NC
SWVIII  2018    Durango, CO
SWIX    2019    DEadwood/Sturgis, SD
SWX     2020    Gettysburg, PA

I've been fortunate to attend all of the Shark Weeks except SWI and SWVI.  I already discussed SWI.  I missed SWVI because I was recovering from shoulder surgery after my Australian Outback adventure.

Thanks to the Wuhan China virus, SWX almost didn't happen.  In fact, as of this writing it still hasn't.  I'm typing this on Tuesday night and am scheduled to ride out Friday morning.  Our country's politicized handling of the China virus has thrown a wrench into our tenth anniversary event and many of our attendees have canceled.  Some bailed out of financial hardship.  Some bailed on legitimate fears of the virus. Others can't go due to work restrictions.  A few others refuse to go because they say wearing a mask infringes on their personal liberties.  I call bullshit on that.  Not going to Shark Week because of a silly mask is a far greater infringement on my personal liberties.  Again I digress.

SWX is heading back home to Gettysburg - where it all started.  I will ride out Friday, July 10th and head back home Friday July 17th.  My itinerary will have me stop somewhere in northern Kentucky Friday evening with a shorter ride into Pittsburgh, PA on Saturday.  There, I'll join a group of riders from all over the country for a pre-SWX get-together and then on Sunday, we will all ride to Gettysburg via the historic and scenic Lincoln Highway.  Those who know me know that I don't do well in large crowds of bikers riding slow and stopping often.  I make exceptions for Shark Week and the ride into Gettysburg is only 300 miles.  I can handle it for one day.  I'm mulling over the idea of riding straight home (1,400 miles) on Friday.  That will depend on how the week goes.

Here are some images of my previous Shark Weeks.

SWII - LeClaire, Iowa 2012

SWIII - St. George, Utah 2013

SWIV - Gorham, Vermont 2014

SWV - Kerrville, Texas 2015

SWVI - Canmore, Alberta Canada 2016

SWVII - Cherokee, North Carolina 2017
SWVIII - Durango, Colorado 2018

SWIX - Sturgis, South Dakota 2019

If you want to follow along as I ride to, from, and around SWX, you can follow the link below.  It requires me to remember to enable tracking form my phone and updates might be delayed a bit as I ride in and out of cellular service.  But if you want to play along at home, use this LINK.

I'll try to upload pics and updates from the event during the week, but I promise nothing as I tend to get sidetracked by the activities.