American Skid Marks
Setting out on a great American motorcycle roadtrip.

Trip Report and How I Almost Died!

I am a fucking idiot, but more on that later.

Last Wednesday I set out to put some miles on my bike and my body. Saturday March 6th I was signed up to take the Experienced Rider Course taught by Puget Sound Safety so I really needed to get the feel of my bike under under me. Nothing beats a few hours of me and my bike hugging corners together, of growing closer with my machine until it truly feels like a part of my body.

I set out for Neah Bay on the Northwest Washington coast. This trip was a bit impromptu and so rather than setting out by 11 am as I had originally planned, I spend several manic and frustratingly long hours gathering my supplies and packing them away (there’s always something else to think about ;)). I didn’t get rolling until around 2:30 in the afternoon and since I was tenting, I had to stop with enough sunlight to set up camp. Once the light started to get long, I decided to roll into Salt Creek Park, a few miles outside of Port Angeles, for the night.

motorcycle at campsite

Camping at Salt Creek Park

This was a beautiful spot to camp, but it got cold; I’m guessing it dipped into the mid 30’s right there along the water and my mummy bag (despite being rated for 15 degrees F) was pretty well stretched to the limit of it’s comfort zone (I guess I sleep cold).

  • Travel Tip:

    My sleeping pad is only a half pad and stops at my knees, leaving my feet (despite being in the mummy bag) on the cold, cold ground. The stiff foam back-plate in a riding jacket can make a reasonable extension to a sleeping pad to keep your feet elevated and insulated from the turf. I just laid the jacket out below the base of my inflatable sleeping pad and put the bottom of my mummy bag on top.

The gurgling and crashing of the midnight high tide woke me up several times over the course of the night. That combined with some sort of creatures’ nocturnal mating screeches made for only a moderately restful night. Don’t get me wrong though, I was absolutely lovely sleeping out in nature again.

Thursday morning I rode out the rest of the way to Neah Bay. The road was absolutely beautiful but not in the greatest shape, lots of lumps and loose gravel and lots of logging trucks flying along the winding roads. I would have enjoyed myself a bit more if the road was in better shape and if the temperature had peaked a bit higher.

View from road to Neah Bay.

View from the road to Neah Bay.

A few years back, on another motorcycle trip, I stayed in Ocean Shores at what my friend Seth proclaimed was, “The Shitiest Motel in The World”. Well, I’ve been to Neah Bay and can safetly report that Seth was wrong. If you come here, I recommend sleeping outdoors.

Anywho, this trip was also a chance for me to try out my new saddle bags. I’ll be using these on my trip this summer.

  • Gear Review:

    The Bags-Connection Speedpack Wide

    There is a good amount of room for my gear, but I’ll still need to pack light. I need to pick up a few compression sacks to free up some extra room for this summer. The waterproof liners that are supposed to attach to the inside of the pack just get in the way when they are mounted. Essentially, they ended up being a convenient set of stuff sacks that I’ll use for now and replace with compression sacks for the big trip.

    These bags are very stable side to side once all of the straps are tightened down, they don’t swing back and forth as I corner at all. However, there is a little too much play forward and back. When I brake hard, they slide forward a bit and push on my lower back. To get them back in place I have to push back with my butt to ‘re-seat’ them. I’ll need to buy some extra straps to hold them in place or figure out a better mounting system. They are designed to fit over the rear seat, so the typical stuff that goes in the trunk (toolkit, paperwork, chain lube etc.) can still be stored there.

    When the bags are packed light the whole bag can by folded over on itself to a smaller volume. This is a very convenient feature that reduces their profile substantially.

    All in all I think with the addition of a large tankbag these will accommodate my gear nicely this summer. I will, however, have to do some more work to dial in the positioning of these guys just right.

Speaking of gear, I believe I mentioned being an idiot? Indeed I did. So, to accommodate my tent I also purchased the Bags-Connection Tentbag. By the way, when properly mounted this thing integrates flawlessly with the Speedpack. When Properly Mounted being keywords here. The tentbag mounts to the main bag with a set of 4 plastic clips, two on the back and two on the front, connected together by nylon strapping. If you unsnap two of them to get into the main bag to … oh, I don’t know, get some warmer clothes out … but then forget to snap them securely back you’ll end up with a tent bag hanging down onto your rear tire dragging along its surface as you blithely fly down a winding highway. Yup, I rode for about 20 miles from Neah Bay to Clallam Bay with the tent bag dragging on the back of my tire. Worse, after the friction tore a hole into the tent bag, the tire started to drag along the blue plastic tarp that was immediately inside. The friction literally melted the plastic tarp; by the time I stopped in Clallam Bay because “something was kinda weird with my bike” the tarp was melted into a solid mass and some of it had welded itself to the outside tread of my bike tire. The back of my bike was covered with shredded blue plastic and nylon. The tent inside was partly shredded as well. When I think about how much worse this could have gone down, I get the heebie-jeebies. The strapping and nylon chords in that bag could have gotten wound up the spokes of my wheels, the metal tent poles could have worn holes in my tires, the whole thing could have gotten wedged god only knows where back there etc. etc. … etc. I was very, very stupid and very, very lucky.

Once I stopped, I tried to scrape the plastic off of the tire but could not, I mean, it was really melted on. Since the melted plastic was only on the very outside of the tire (essentially, about double the width of my ‘chicken strips’) I decided to ride back to Seattle without leaning the bike very far. I know it sounds strange to say, “… ride my motorcycle without leaning very far” but it actually gave me a chance to start playing around with getting my ass out of the seat and leaning my body into the turns. The shift in the center of gravity allowed the bike to stay much more upright and I managed to stay off of the edges of my tires all the way back to Seattle. I got home humbled and angry with myself, but safe.

The next day I spent an hour scrubbing and sanding the plastic off of my back tire.

At least the fuck ups are happening on these warm up rides and not on the main trip. I’m sure there are plenty of mistakes for me to make on the big trip, but hopefully nothing this boneheaded and dangerous. You know, the more I live, the more I want to live. The more I ride, the more I can’t wait for this trip to start.

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2 Responses to “Trip Report and How I Almost Died!”

  1. NO JOKE you were lucky!! I recall one of my friends ex girlfriends getting their sweater caught in the spokes of her front wheel. Keeping the story short she had to get facial surgery and after that was completed she was able to get teeth implants to replace the ones that were lost. And this incident happened on a bicycle!!

    • Yup. I rode the whole way home repeating “stupid, stupid, stupid”. The silver lining is that it’s a lesson learned, better this kind of shit happens within 100 miles of home rather than 1000 miles away.


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