30 days to go
It’s the end September, and I’m now down to about 30 days before departure to Santiago. In this post, I’ll talk about the last 30 days, and some of the fun that I’ve had while engaged in the final bunch of learning activities, and planning for the trip.
Since my last post, I’ve continued to have a successful recovery for my Rt Leg. My leg strength continues to grow, and I’m now working out with a trainer twice a week. Kevin, my trainer has done an excellent job, each week pushing me harder and harder.
Kevin generally splits our training session into about 30 minutes of strength work and 30 minutes of fitness work. During the fitness sessions, I’m somewhat famous for listening to him describe what we’re going to do, thinking about it for a moment or two, and then proclaiming that “no man could ever do this thing that Kevin has laid out. It is simply impossible and while I will give it a try, I do not think that I could ever accomplish it”.
It does need to be said that it seems that my complete denial for the work to be done seems to motivate me, and I’ve not failed to complete a single one of Kevin’s workouts. But, as they get harder and harder, who knows…
Since my last post, I’ve ridden about another 1000 miles or so, including 2 weekends of off-road riding up in Northern Sonoma, CA. I’ve found a number of fire roads in Sonoma where I can put in anywhere from 20 – 50 miles of dirt, including some hills, sand, tight decreasing radius turns, and other similar challenges. As it turns out however, a number of these fire roads are shown on the map as county roads, but they are in fact private roads, with a right-of-way for the fire department. So, it seems that it’s become common for us to be riding along, and to hit a dead end where we have to turn around and either find another way around, or give up and exit the complex of roads entirely.
My ride log now shows over 7000 miles since December 7th, 2013. My original goal was to be able to ride at least 5000 miles, in order to prepare for the trip to S. America, and I would say that my estimate of needing 5000 miles was probably a little bit too aggressive. I think that if I had ridden only 5000 miles, I would have been able to ride in Patagonia, but I do not believe that I would have had the proper level of skill.
It seems to me that you need to have enough riding, in numerous types of situations before you can consider yourself truly prepared for a trip like this one. This last weekend, as I rode to Yosemite to attend the Horizon’s Unlimited rally, I suddenly found myself in a downpour, and while this was a bit unnerving, it was very useful to have gone through it successfully.
The ride to Yosemite and back was about 380 miles or so. I had hoped to be able to put in about 30 miles of off-road riding through the fire roads of Yosemite, but unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and it seemed to me to be madness to think that the big GS would be able to travel the fire roads, immediately after the rains, with a rider (me) that did not have enough skill or miles under his belt. So, I gave up on the idea of riding the fire roads, hoping that the road home would afford me the chance to try them, but once again, the night before my return, the skys opened up again, and the ground became a muddy mess.
The Horizon’s Unlimited Rally
(Mariposa County Fairgrounds)
September 25-28th marked the 2014 HU rally, which took place at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, which is located just outside of Mariposa, CA. This is my 2nd rally, and as I’ve gained confidence on the bike, and as my enthusiasm has increased, so has my enjoyment of the HU rally. This year was somewhat extraordinary however…
I arrived at about 1PM on Thursday, and after watching a few presentations, I attended a technical demonstration put on by none other than Jimmy Lewis, the only American to ever step on the podium at the Paris-Dakar race, which is now simply called “The Dakar”.
Jimmy owns and operates an off-road training facility in Pahrump, NV. So, he wanted to show us some of what he teaches in his classes, so during the demo on Thursday, Jimmy showed us how to be smooth, the importance of balance, sliding techniques, and a number of other tactics that were quite useful. But, perhaps the most important point in his demo was when he mentioned that for Friday’s demo, he was looking for some volunteers, that he would coach, and that the audience could observe as they went through a severely abbreviated learning process, over the course of the 1 hour demo.
Will all volunteers please take a step forward
Being the fool that I am, once the demo was completed, I quickly made my way back to Jimmy and Heather’s trailer and volunteered for Friday’s session. And so, the stage was set for me to make a fool out of myself, or if I was lucky, I just might learn a thing or two.
In this picture, you can see me, along with another volunteer, ready to begin the hour-long coaching session. Perhaps you’ll notice that I’m in my “all business” posture. Well, I found the opportunity to do a little training with Jimmy to be a bit of an honor, and I wanted to get all that I could from the time that I would be spending with him. So, I got on the bike, set my mind to that zen-like focused state, and proclaimed that I was ready.
Over the course of the next hour, we did numerous drills, one of which was the braking drill. The objective of the braking drill is to use the rear brake to stop the bike by skidding, and then to force yourself to use your right foot to steady yourself when the bike has completely stopped moving.
The drill begins with you getting comfortable stopping by skidding. After attending another off-road training course, and from the miles that I’ve been logging in Sonoma, and at Clear Creak, CA, I was very comfortable sliding the bike to a stop. There was however one major difference between what I had been doing, with that Jimmy was asking us to do. He wanted us to slide the bike to a halt, and then stead ourselves with our Right leg, not the left leg. Try to imagine that if you don’t stop the bike completely, when you put your right foot down, you’ll still be moving forward, and will not have completed the test properly. So, after about 3 or 4 attempts, I was able to completely stop the bike, balancing for about 1/2 second before letting the bike lean to the right, and placing my foot on the ground. It was quite a bit of fun, and a great experience.
Over the course of the hour, we learned quite a bit, and gradually tried to shed our bad habits, replacing them with good habits. It is unfortunate that in the end, I determined that I still have more bad habits than good, although the coaching that Jimmy provided probably allowed me to improve by at least 25% from where I started just an hour before. It pays to have a good coach, and I would like to thank Jimmy and hi wife Heather, who worked with us, and encouraged us as we learned how to be better riders. After the coaching session was completed, I wandered by Jimmy and Heather’s trailer and took a picture to remember the day. What an experience!
Also in attendance at the event was Ramey Stroud, who is known in most circles as Coach. To say that Ramey is an extraordinary man is like saying that Chocolate is simply OK. Ramey was paralyzed in a motocross accident while racing more in November, 2003. After being told that he would never walk again, and considering what that meant to him, he summoned up all of his positive energy, and mental focus, and set out to heal himself. On Saturday afternoon, Ramey spent an hour talking to us about his journey, and then he also gave another 90 minutes of his time to coach us through a number of exercises that he put together to help us better understand the dynamics of the motorcycles that we love so much.
So, here I was at the Horizons Unlimited gathering, and I had a chance to meet two extraordinary individuals, both of whom offered to coach me and several other riders. Although these two guys are pretty amazing, we cannot forget about all of the other speakers that were in attendance. Each of whom has also done something extraordinary. For example, many of the folks at the event have ridden their motorcycles around the world, across Russia, through Iran, to the tip of South America, etc, etc, etc.
The HU events are quite inspiring, and I encourage you to attend one at your earliest possible convenience.
Others in attendance at the rally
Also in attendance was Ted Simon, arguably one of the first folks from the “modern age” to ride his motorcycle around the world. As the story goes, it took Ted about 4 years to do it, and he’s written a few books about the experiences of traveling on the road for those 4 years.
Ted delivered an inspiring talk that took us through his journey from those many years ago. Now, at age 83 Ted does not shy away from speaking his mind, and he made it a point to share his thoughts on how we should be more thoughtful, and more considerate of our fellow human beings.
Ted also spoke about how he’s been trying shed his belongings for many years, and how he’s trying to live a simple, yet full life. I also had a chance to spend a few minutes talking to Ted and he was kind enough to sign one of his books for me.
The remaining work to prepare for Patagonia
There are still numerous things that I’ll need to get done before the trip, but I must say that having begun to use the bike to attend rallies, with full loaded panniers, and also putting in as much as 350 miles or more in a single day, I’m feeling like I’m really ready for my trip.
I am still looking forward to this trip, as the trip of a lifetime, and I hope that you’ll come along for the ride. I’ll be blogging each day (if I can remember, and if possible), so watch for my stories, and tales from the road.