May 31, 2011

Reputations and Reality

I clearly don't understand motorcycle history. Today, I found myself in another discussion about the "rise of Harley Davidson" and that company's misfortunes and fortunes. The HD expert informed me that Harley's fortunes turned around after the terrible years of "AMF's Hardly Ableson" mismanagement. He went on until I escaped about Harley's tremendous advances in engineering in the last decade, but I remain unconvinced.

1972 XR750
I've heard that story many times, but when I got home today I found an email from Harley's marketing department in my Inbox that described Harley's race success of the week:

"Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Factory rider Kenny Coolbeth finished fourth in the opening round of  the Grand National Twins portion of the 2011 AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship on  the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The race was won by RogersLake/ Blue Springs Harley-Davidson rider Jared Mees on a Harley-Davidson XR750.

Springfield was delayed until late Sunday afternoon to allow the track to dry following heavy rain on Saturday. Coolbeth placed second in a heat race to qualify for the 25-lap main. A lead pack that included Mees, Kings Kustoms rider Sammy Halbert, Brad Baker on the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati, Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer’s Harley-Davidson rider Jake Johnson, and Chris Carr on the AMA Harley-Davidson . . . "

All of the competing Harley riders were on XR750s, one of the company's all time most exciting, successful motorcycles. In fact, other than some Buell models, I don't know if HD even exists in racing outside of drag racing in very restricted classes. The deal is American Machinery and Foundry (AMF) bought Harley Davidson in 1969 and sold the company in 1981 and the XR750 race bike was produced from 1970 to 1985. That means that AMF was responsible for the only successful Harley Davidson race bike ever and that motorcycle continues to be successful against far more modern motorcycles (in its limited class). You'd think, if Harley's engineering and production capability had improved dramatically since Beals and Davidson bought the company, they'd have managed a new race bike by now. Wouldn't you?

Reagan's 45% import tax on over-700cc Japanese motorcycles gave Harley the opportunity to outsource practically every complicated component on their bikes improved quality, but at the cost of becoming an "assembled in the United States" rather than a "made in the USA" company. Of course, they're not the only company pulling that stunt, but they are the noisiest of the bunch. The closest thing to a replacement for the XR750 was 2009's XR1200, which did a fair job of matching the cosmetics of the legendary Harley but has been a racing bust. With so much of the product being engineered and produced in high tech countries, I will always wonder why they have stuck their racers with a product that should be linked to the period in the company's history most reviled by their fans? Couldn't they get one of their partners to build them a race bike? The XR750 colors and styling are pure AMF retro and while it's still the coolest looking bike the company ever made, its continued support confuses me.

Explain please?

May 30, 2011

Product Review: REI Luggage Tag/Key Case

All Rights Reserved © 2007 Thomas W. Day

From the copyright date above, you can tell this is one of my older product reviews that didn't find a publisher until the product disappeared from REI's shelves. However, it's such a cool product, that I'm hoping someone will point me to a similar replacement. 

You'd think this would be an obvious product for somebody to make, but I haven't been able to find one anywhere; a key case that holds more than two keys and doesn't scar up my motorcycle. Think all you want, but I don't think this product exists. Maybe the problem is that I'm a homeowner and motorcyclists aren't supposed to be homeowners. We're supposed to be carefree vagabonds who only need one key for the motorcycle's ignition and we're on our way into the night.

Nuts, I don't ride at night either. Too many drunks and hoofed rats for my tastes. I go home at night or put up my tent or hammock and go to sleep. I'd love to live up the stereotype, but my wife would miss me. She says she would, anyway.

So, I'm stuck with the problem of carrying at least four keys and, sometimes, more. I tried a leather case my locksmith recommended, but after only a week the lame ball-end swivel popped out of the case, dropping all of my keys in the parking lot (lucky for me). I tossed that piece of crap into the trash and went back to looking.

During a shopping expedition to REI (looking for something to cover my video camera on the bike), I was prowling the luggage and travel gear area when I spotted REI's Luggage Tag. At $3.50, it's probably the world's most expensive luggage tag, but with a little modification, it made a terrific, secure, abrasion-free motorcycle key case. Just add an ordinary metal key ring (twenty-five cents at my local hardware store) and you have a nice looking, practical key case. There is even a window for storing your business or address card, in case you lose the case and someone honorable finds it and wants to return it (fat chance, I know).

The "luggage case" has a large hook-and-loop closure that allows you to really snug the unused keys into place, so they won't slip out and gouge up your console or handlebars. I'll admit that it's a little bit larger than ideal, but it's the best I've found for the purpose. And on the Geezer's Night Out, it saves me the trouble of buying a cucumber for that "big man on the prowl" look.

May 25, 2011

Tossing Away History

Now that I am freshly stocked with exceptional riding gear, it's time to clear out the garage. I have five pieces of riding gear that I will never wear again: my original Aerostich Roadcrafter suit (from 1983-84), my Motoport jacket and pants, the infamous deer guts Belstaff rain suit, and a pretty decent prototype jacket from the mid-90's. They are all on Craig's List, if you want a laugh:

With two full sets of Aerostich Darien gear, I don't need any more spares. I do need the garage space, though. I'm fighting my way through a spring garage cleaning and there could be all sorts of weird surprises for me in there. As usual, I'll be following my anti-hoarding rule, "When in doubt, throw it out."

May 24, 2011

Long, Good Day

Today ripped! Started off with one of the strongest Basic Rider Classes I've ever taught. If "teaching" is what I'm doing here. The worst rider in this class would be the strongest rider in some past classes. The average age of this group is probably about half of the current rider average for the US, which always accounts for a quicker class. Even the older students are listening and working hard at learning the skills. Nobody scared me at all anytime this morning.

I'm battling one of the many fine adventures of aging, arthritis, these days. My hips and low back have been grinding away bone-to-bone for a few years and about two years ago I think my lubrication system ran dry. I wasted a lot of time and a few thousand dollars on a doctor who didn't seem to know anything that hadn't been fed to him by his HMO directors or the drug distributors and after a year of assuming I was just going to grind to a halt, I changed doctors and lucked into a guy who pinpointed my problem immediately, talked me out of using my home surgery kit (an X-ACTO knife set and a bunch of dental and surgical tools I picked up at Axeman) to fix my back myself, and shipped me grumbling all the way to a physical therapist. Four weeks ago, I couldn't move quickly without feeling like I'd freshly broken a rib. Today, I'm getting better every day and almost feel human again. An old human, for sure, but at least not like I'm heading for the crematorium willingly and fully awake. Physical therapy rocks.

After my therapist appointment, I hung out at Barnes and Noble sucking down coffee and scanning the latest in western novels (a contradiction in terms, if there ever was one) until it was time to head south to Dakota Country Tech College for the rider-coach get together. First time to work out the new WR on a closed track. What a great bike. The usually boring ride down 52 to the school was at least slightly more interesting because of the bike's maneuverability. The first few laps around the course were the easiest I've ever taken on that course, including a KTM outing a few years back where I got to play with all of KTM's supermotos. Honesty, if I had to pick one bike to own for the rest of my life, the WR250X is damn close to perfect.

To top it all off, one of my favorite people from my years in Minnesota, Pat Hahn, showed up on break from his new job with Team Oregon. Honestly, I'd have ridden the 50 miles just to get to hang with Pat for a while, but getting to play on a twisty closed course and catch up with Pat was the topping on a beautiful day.

Today almost made me forget I'm old.

May 22, 2011

What You Missed Yesterday

Yesterday was the end of the world and Aerostich held a motorcyclists' garage sale to celebrate. I'd been planning on making the ride to Duluth on my WR250X, but with the morning downpour and the weather prediction for the day (80% chance of rain, thunderstorm and tornado warnings, 40-55F temps) I chickened out and rode the V-Strom. That was a good move, since the rain turned from strong drizzle to roaring downpour before I escaped it a few miles north of North Branch and the temperature dropped at least 15F slightly north of Rush City. I usually make the 140 mile trip to Duluth without a stop, but I stopped twice yesterday morning to add layers and seal up tighter. Approaching the climb into Duluth, the clouds touched the earth and I rode past Spirit Mountain in a dense fog that would have reminded me of San Fransisco if SF was ever that cold.

When I got to Aerostich, about 11AM, there were a pack of motorcycles and motorcyclists hoovering over tables of cool but weird stuff in boxes, on the ground, and hanging from racks in the hallways. I had a couple of dream products in mind and hunted those down first, snagged a basket, dropped my gear and my first finds in the basket, and went looking for Andy.

I found him about half-way down the hall to the RiderWearHouse store and he led me to the breakroom and pointed me at the coffee and donuts and cookies. Apparently, my hand was cold enough to make him uncomfortable. Four cups of coffee and a plate of donut holes later and I made it back to the garage sale tables. Since I was riding my "big bike" I had snapped on the side cases before I left and it began to look like I might need to take advantage of Aerostich's free shipping. In the end, I filled one case and wore the bulk of my purchases.

My big score of the day was a prototype Darien HiVz AD1 jacket made from lighter-than-my-old-Darien's 600 denier material and with waterproof zippers everywhere and more pockets, zippers, sealed flaps, and accessory and pad attachment loop pads than I have ideas for things to attach. Since I've long battled with the neck closure on my old Darien (that design has been dramatically improved since 2005), I opted to move my armor to the new jacket and ride the rain back home even more hermetically sealed. I didn't feel a drop of the drizzle I rode through for almost 70 miles before I hit clear skies just north of the Cities.

I suspect I'm not telling stories out of school, but the reason a company like Aerostich has a "first ever" garage sale is no different than the motivation for all of the garage sales in my neighborhood this weekend; the economy sucks and they need revenue. A lot of great businesses are stressed to the breaking point by the wind change of the downsizing of the United States and an innovative, product-driven company like 'stich is exactly the kind of business that will come out of this in better shape, if there is an "other side" (both the economy and the business) to come out of.

I went through this with QSC Audio Products during the seemingly-endless recession of the 1980's and we had the advantage of Pat Quilter's wealthy family to fall back on; and we fell back on them often. As Pat so honestly said in a recent L.A. Times interview, "It got to where my mom would grab her wallet when she saw me coming." Aerostich and many other great US small businesses do not have a mom's wallet to dip into.

If you know me at all, you know I am an incredible cheapskate. So it is saying something when I told Andy that I felt a bit guilty for the bag of goodies I left Duluth with. In his typically generous manner, he asked "why?" and thanked me for coming and spending my pinched pennies, but any observer would know the answer. Of course, part of my sympathy for Aerostich comes from knowing that I left that still-wintery place to return "south" to the Cities and 20F warmer weather. The other part came from buying a lot of stuff at 50-90% off of list price when it was obvious that many of those products were a labor of love that had gone unnoticed by the buying public.

Now, the US motorcycle market is changing (read "aging and growing poorer") and the world market simply knocks off Aerostich products the cheapest way possible. Today, it's almost impossible to remember when you couldn't find textile, durable, waterproof, purpose-designed motorcycling apparel, but 30 years ago when I went looking for an all-season suit in southern California the only game in the world was Aerostich. For the next decade, BMW Motorsport Collection, Honda Gear, and the dozens of high and low-end motorcycle gear manufacturers sprung up from the market that Andy Goldfine and his Duluth conspirators created. Sure, there were a few Old World alternatives like Belstaff that made raingear that made waxed cotton gear which had the abrasion resistance of a decent pair of jeans and required as much maintenance as a pair of old fashioned cross country skis. Good looking gear, for sure, but no competition for leathers when it came to protection and even Belstaff made a urethane-coated nylon "rain suit" intended to be worn over their "waterproof" cotton gear if the wearer really wanted to stay dry. I know, I still have one (Want to buy it?). That first Goretex lined, cotton padding "armored" Aerostich Roadcrafter was a breakthrough in commuter riding gear (I know, I have one of those, too. Want to buy it?). 

In the political area, everyone keeps babbling about how small businesses are what create middle class jobs, innovation, and stabilizes the economy. While all that is true, the Powers That Be spend all of our tax money on too-big-to-fail and too-dumb-to-survive "financial services" speculators and tax breaks for giant corporations that hoard our cash in off shore banks and move jobs to whatever country is the most desperate and least ethical. Letting every Misfortune 500 CEO starve (or knocking them off more directly) is the first step to fixing our economy. Anyone who has worked for one of those cultural disasters knows competence is purged from those mental deadzones as fast as it can be identified. Not long ago someone said the real purpose of the Misfortune 500 was to drive competent employees into starting their own businesses.

Even knowing the importance of small business, that valuable segment of the economy has no one to speak for it in Washington, so it's up to us. Aerostich and the rest of the great companies who service specialty motorcycle requirements count on us to pay back the some of the loyalty they give to us. If you like 'em, at least tell them so if you can't afford to buy their products.

May 16, 2011

More of Wendy Moon's Video Work

I admit it, I think Wendy has some interesting comments on US rider training and motorcycling in general:

Dangerous Profits: Rider Education Goes to The Movies

An interesting and entertaining perspective on the all powerful Motorcycle Safety Foundation and motorcycle safety training:

The one thing that keeps me listening to the critics of the current programs is the MSF's constant reminder that safety training doesn't result in reduced crash or fatality statistics. Explain please?

May 11, 2011

Seriously Funny Ad from Kawasaki

Ok, it's definately politically insensitive and moderately irresponsible, but it is funny.

May 7, 2011

Ride-On® Motorcycle Tire Protection System

All Rights Reserved © 2007 Thomas W. Day

If buying stuff on user recommendations is they way you like to shop, you're going to feel solidly confident about buying Ride-On Tire Protection System ( When I first started looking for a tire sealant for my 10,000 mile 2007 Alaskan expedition, I went on-line to the adventure sports sites and found a few recommendations for slime® Tube Sealant, mostly from KLR riders. I ordered slime® from an adventure touring gear website and the the first clue I got that this wouldn't be useful to me was a warning on the bottle "for high speed application (over 45mph/75kph) use only as a repair . . ."

The website hadn't identified slime® as "tube sealant" (which is what it is) and I planned to ride a good bit faster than 45mph between the Cities and Prudhoe Bay and back, so slime®  was clearly the wrong stuff for my application. When I mentioned this dilemma on a V-Strom riders' list, I received a couple of strong recommendations for Ride-On. I did some more research and found that Rider Magazine gave Ride-On an unrestrained recommendation. Ride-On--"a tire sealant containing fibers six times stronger than steel--" is claimed to "eliminate 85-95% of your flats in tubeless tires from objects up to 1/4" that penetrate the contact area of your tire." That sounded good to me. Ride-On is also "designed to actually hydrodynamically balance tires at highway speeds . . . as high as 150mph." Now that's more like the kind of road speed I'm looking for, if only the V-Strom would go that fast. A whole list of tire manufacturers recommend the use of Ride-On and using it does not void their warranties. That's a pretty strong recommendation, too.

I got four bottles of the stuff and, before I took off for the thawing north. , I loaded up my tires with Ride-On and ended up with a little more than 1 bottle of Ride-On left for future repairs after applying the recommended dosage to my tires. The documentation that comes with a direct factory order is extensive and I followed their advice as accurately as possible. Immediately after refilling my tires, I took a long ride to distribute Ride-On. A few days later and I was on the road to Alaska. A real engineer would have intentionally punctured a perfectly good tire a few times to test this stuff, but I have abandoned my real engineer credentials in exchange for a moto-journalist's whims. I just figured, if my usual luck held, I'd find a way to test Ride-On somewhere between Alaska and home. 

The tires used in this "test" were Metzler ME880 bias-plies. They were recommended by several LD riders and their recommendations implied that I could expect nearly 20,000 miles from the tires. Being the gullible type, I accepted this advice as gospel and left my backup tires sitting in my garage, instead of shipping them ahead to Glenallen, AK as I'd originally planned.

One of the things I worried about, regarding using a tire sealer like Ride-On, was heat build-up and rapid tire wear. I've seen how quickly a tubeless tire dies when you install an emergency tube and I half-expected something like that to happen with a tire sealer. There is no way for me to prove, or disprove, that Ride-On caused my tires to wear faster than expected, but they did. At 6,000 miles, the rear tire was down to the wear bars. At 6,600 miles, threads were showing and I yanked the tire. The front was also wearing weirdly, but I left it on for the ride back home. At 10,000 miles, I replaced the rear tire, again, and installed a new front tire.

When the good folks at Seattle Cycle pulled the back tire, the mechanic said the goop was slightly less messy than other tire sealants. The remaining sealant was still gooey and had pretty well covered the area inside the tire's contact path. The Dempster Highway had nicked chunks out of the tire and in the center of the tire (see the dent in the goo, pictured at right) a fairly large puncture had been filled by Ride-On. I have no idea when this damage occurred, but I'm glad Ride-On worked.

May 5, 2011

All the News that Didn't Fit

Celebrate RTWD
June 20 is, officially, Ride to Work Day. So, put away the video game controller, leave the SUV in the garage, and ride that piece of garage candy to work. As the press release puts it, "The date marks the twentieth annual worldwide ‘Ride to Work Day’ event. An estimated one million riders become two-wheeled commuters on that day to help demonstrate that riding is an efficient, economical form of personal transportation. Participant-riders are of all ages, occupations and from all walks of life." Even you.
85-90% of the Race
Nothing in motorsports is more exciting than the gate dropping at a motocross. Honda Powersport's YouTube site has a new video called "The Art of the Holeshot." Honda riders Trey Canard, Josh Grant and Ashley Fiolek tell you how to get moving "when it's go time" and how to look cool while spraying champagne on the trophy boys and girls afterwards. In fact, the whole Honda Powersports YouTube page is worth checking out:
Zero News
In the "Coincidental? I don't think so" category, on March 3rd Zero Motorcycles received a $25 million cash infusion from it's principal investor, Invus, LP. Invus has been Zero's cash daddy since 2008. On April 5, Zero Motorcycles announced that its "long-time CEO," Gene Banman, was "retiring from the operational management of the company." I supposed 4 years is a "long-time" for an electric motorcycle company. Banman said, "I plan to get some R&R and travel, and then do some part time work with non-profits." He will continue to be a board member. I smell the acrid resin odor (similar to cooked brakes) of a golden parachute.
On the non-financial side, Zero announced it will have an entry in the 2011 AMA MiniMoto SX on May 6 in Las Vegas, advertised as "the world’s biggest mini bike event." Zero's electric motorcycles will be taking on the world's fastest 150cc gas-powered motorcycles. 
Had to Lay 'er Down
Eight riders (reportedly all were on Harley-Davidson motorcycles) were traveling in a group on Kentucky's Interstate 65 when they approached a road construction area and the scene of an earlier crash. The police reports stated that "the ones in the back didn't recognized that traffic had slowed. They had to lay down their bikes to avoid a rear-end collision." One rider, Jeremy D. Byrd, 33, of Dayton, Ohio, was airlifted suffering from life-threatening injuries. Two others, Peter A. Sendlbeck and Christopher Kauffman were taken to a hospital where Sendlbeck was treated and Kauffman refused treatment.
While the Kentucky police appear to believe that falling down is a valid emergency tactic, most of us suspect that tires and properly applied brakes will stop a moving vehicle faster than sliding metal bits. A more accurate crash description would have been "they panicked, grabbed their brakes, and fell down."
Even LEGO Hates Us!
LEGO Creator has included a motorcycling bad guy in the "Prisoner Transport" toy set. The set includes a "police officer and robber . . . [a] motorcycle, road block, money sack and money brick. I'd be ok with the concept, except the robber is riding a dirt bike. Whoever heard of a dirtbag dirt biker? Come on LEGO, get your stereotypes right.
From the I'm Crazier than You Mailbox
The wizards from Parker Brothers Choppers have assembled the nuttiest bit of garage candy yet. It's based on the Huffy Green Machine but it's a lot sillier. This goofy Big Wheel has a 45-inch front wheel and an 80hp Harley Evo power plant. Jeff Halverson, Parker Bro's nuttiest employee, took the thing up to 50mph and survived. The company is looking to get into Guinness Book of World Records with the world’s largest wheel on a trike.
The French Take A Crashing Course
France, a country already losing its patience with motorcyclists, saw a 49% jump in motorcycle deaths in March 2011 (compared to March of last year). 2.7% of all vehicle deaths were motorcyclists. Keep that up and French motorcyclists will have to do their riding in Quebec.
Jesse James Quits
Back in 2009, bad boy Jesse James saw the coming of the Honda Fury and sensed the beginning of the end. His exact words were, "I think it signifies the end of the whole chopper craze.” After having his day in the media sun, West Coast Choppers closed its doors and James is down to his eco-burger joint, Cisco Burgers. James said, “I guess I’m better at making burgers than I was at making motorcycles” and we can't disagree with that. Supposedly, he has 25 burger franchises in the works.

May 3, 2011

Despicably Cool

The 1997-2011 Honda VTR250 is one of the hippest motorcycles ever built. The faired, sportbike version of the VTR was imported into the US from 1988-1990, but it was too small (layout-wise) for most US riders and the 1989 pink graphics turned off anyone who didn't carry a purse. Being a lifetime courier bag kind of rider, I owned a 1989 VTR for several years and loved the bike.

I sold it to my brother and he went on to put even more miles on the little guy. He hasn't forgiven me for neglecting to warn him about the pink lightning bolt, though.

Honda intermittently imports the VTR to Europe and Australia, but their Asian sales of the little Monster-clone keeps the production line busy enough without bothering with EPA/Euro 1-5 export/import issues.

For my money, the red paint/black frame 2002 model is the coolest looking version of the bike, but I'd go for any iteration if it ever became available here. 2009-and-newer models have fuel injection, which makes them at least 200% hipper.

My Alaska Adventure

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day

When I was a kid, growing up in flat-as-a-pancake and boring as television western Kansas, I led a kind of Walter Mitty life. On the surface, I was a normal kid. I went to school during the week, went to movies and church on Sunday, played sports, threw a paper route and had part-time jobs, and tried to act normal. Under the surface, I read science fiction and adventure books, listened to jazz records, and planned my escape. My two favorite writers were Mark Twain and Jack London. My two favorite escape destinations were California and Alaska. I lived in California for almost a decade and discovered that frontier had been overpopulated long before I got there. Alaska is different.
I read about Twain and London's adventures in the wilderness and among men who risked their lives for a chance at doing something unusual and imagined myself living that kind of life as soon as I ran away from Kansas. I imagined myself saddling up a couple of horses and taking off for some remote part of Canada or Alaska, never to be seen again. The phrase, "this isn't Kansas anymore, Toto" held nothing but positive connotations for me. I couldn't wait to get as far from the Midwest as I could travel. Life didn't turn out the way I'd imagined and I've spent most of my life near the center of this country, including a dozen years in Minnesota. Now that my kids are grown and on their own and I'm in pretty good shape, financially, and in reasonable shape, physically, some of that old wanderlust returned to itch at me.
Three years ago, my 60th birthday was on the horizon and a collection of unrelated events jumpstarted my interest in traveling to Alaska. I began to seriously plan an extended trip to Alaska in the spring and summer of 2007. "Extended," for me, meant more than two weeks. I've been employed since I was 14, so two week vacations have been the limit of my adventures for more than 45 years. I planned to take 30 days to ride to Alaska and back. I mapped a route through northern Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, up through Alberta, nicking British Columbia, into Alaska. I'd hoped to hit every significant historical and natural high point in the Alaska before I headed back down through British Columbia into Washington. I had a fairly extensive route planned for my return, too. There was a lot of wiggle room in my plan, because I'm usually pretty spontaneous once I get on the road, but I had a specific set of goals in mind for my first real adventure.
Then my wife stepped in and starting maneuvering some "security" into my plans. She, apparently, decided that I'm too old and fragile to do something like this on my own, so she recruited a work friend, Michael, to ride with me. She and I had dozens of conversations about how this wasn't going to happen, but I lost. "Conversation" is the word wives use for "argument" and "agreement" is the word they use for "I won."
For 50-some years, I have done almost every cool thing in my life on my own. I backpack alone, scuba dive alone, bicycle alone, and I dislike riding in a group, even for short distances. A "group" is two or more people. Having someone else along on my first month-long trip was a major concession for me. "Concession" is the word I use for "losing."
Michael and I met once, in January, as part of my wife's plot to get me to take on a co-rider. My wife introduced us. Michael asked when I wanted to leave. I said, "the first of June."
He said, "That's too early, it will be cold."
I said, "That's when I'm going."
He said, "Huh."
He rightly seemed to think I was far too stupid to ride with, if I thought Alaska in June was a good idea. I figured that ended that and went back to planning my trip. In May, my wife mentioned that Michael had put in for his vacation days and had been given the time off from work.
I said, "Huh?"
She had, apparently, continued recruiting him for the trip all through the winter and he'd decided that June was good enough for him. Now I had a co-rider, so I began to rationalize how this might turn out to be a good thing. By mid-May, I'd almost convinced myself a traveling companion would be less uncomfortable than a sharp stick in the eye. I figured we could start off together and, if it didn't work out, we could go our own ways. We'd both been on long solo motorcycle trips and we'd proven we could do it alone. That's the ointment I used on myself to keep from giving up on the trip altogether.
We had one more meeting, a week or so before June 1, and I discovered that Michael had his own route planned and it was a lot different from mine. I assumed we'd be going our own ways a lot sooner than I expected. You know what "assume" means, I assume.
Due to two cases of Midwestern Guilt and both of our well-evolved desire-to-get-along genes, it took us ten days to split up. The first 3,500 miles of my trip plan were scrapped for a route that Michael picked and one that only included a few hundred miles of my plan. I'd waited more than 50 years to make this trip. Some of Michael's plan was better than mine, but I'd have rather gone where I wanted to go. We went north, mid-Montana, into Saskatchewan instead of making the crossing at Glacier National Park where I’d planned to exit the US. We attempted to ride the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, where I crashed, separated a shoulder, cracked a collection of ribs, bruised a kidney, busted a bone in my right hand, and gravel-rash’d my bike and luggage. The Dempster had not been on my route plan, but I'd hoped to make a run at the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse. 

In Glennallen, Alaska after a day of rest and maintenance, I was sort of back on track; although I was off schedule and busted up. Michael and I shook hands and began two different adventures. He needed to get back home for work. I needed to get used to being on my own with my mending injuries. I arrived at the base of the Dalton Highway, just north of Fairbanks, where it took me an hour of staring at the road to accept the fact that I was too beat up to take on 1,000 miles of dirt road. As I turned south to explore more of Alaska and Canada, I also realized that I was completely in charge of where I’d go next. The next 6,500 miles and 18 days were some of the best moments of my life, let alone on a motorcycle. Nothing beats being by yourself, in the middle of nowhere, knowing that you are in control of everything that happens in your life at that moment.

So, if my wife ever tries to recruit you into going on a motorcycle trip with me, she's working on her own agenda, not mine. If she tells you I'm old, feeble, incompetent and suicidal, she's probably right. If she tells you that I need someone to take care of me in the wilderness, she's still probably right. If she says I want someone to ride with, she means she wants someone to ride with me. She is working from the purest of motivations. However, she is also working with poorly socialized material; me.

I'm as likely to want company on the road as I am to want you to slide your foot into my airport bathroom stall. I'll call you if I want company, otherwise, I'll be on the road; alone and enjoying my solitude.