Tag Archives: backroads

To “Go and See”

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Sometimes “go and see” became a much bigger adventure. A trip to check out the spill way of a dam became an instant playground for Abby and the pups

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An awesome “go and see” with our good buddy Carl, took us to some awesome mining areas in Idaho

I blame it on DNA in my family. Old family homesteads, final resting spots of famous explorers, a house somebody was born in, and other countless road side stops and detours. As a kid I remember traversing landscape in the middle seat of a 1969 Ford F-100 to see the stomping grounds of Zane Grey and keeping myself entertained as we hit other unique wonders in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California. In other years and other trips, the year and brands of transportation stayed the same, but always on four wheels. 1964 Comet, 1973 Chevelle, and 1979 Ford Bronco. Friday night often ended with the words, “in the morn’n, we’ll go ‘n see”… Could be where a sawmill used to be…or any other countless small tidbits of history.

This traversing to historic signs and ghost towns wasn’t limited to just my parents, it was passed down biologically from both sets of grandparents. I have postcards from the largest bowl of pea soup and a key chain from something called the “Muffler Man Museum” to prove this long lineage of exotic exploration.

Throughout my adult life I have found that I as well love exploring the unique. On my recent trip to Washington for the Overland Rally, I found I would stop or even re-route to visit some out of the way…way out of the way historical site.

My poor family has endured all-day long trips to visit the three remaining logs of where some poor soul breathed his last breath. We have seen Cadillacs buried in the ground, birth places of unknown individuals, and monuments made of copper pipe to some great thing in a historical microcosm we never even knew about. I have literally looked at a map and decided to drive hours of dirt because some unknown to us at the time person has a monument.

Speaking as an American, we love the road. It’s in our DNA to explore and seek new places. I point to evidence of our own westward expansion. Following our curiosity of the unknown. We were dumped here in small colonies to fend for ourselves and the hearty, the mobile, the curios have survived and spawned its children of the west.

I love this part of who I am and grateful that both my parents and grandparents provided this genetic trait for me, and nurtured it through all the crowded and cramped road trips we took when I was a kid. I still love the odd detours, the driving an extra 80 miles to see where my family once used as hunting grounds, or a bridge that was built by immigrant labor. I am fascinated by these parts of our history. I live in one of the most target rich areas for “go and see”. Old mines, dredges, plane crash sites, shoot-outs, and rocks with the paintings of ancient and pre-modern people abound. Much of my modern-day adventure is based only on the “go and see” desires I can’t control.

The weekend is coming soon and whether it is with family on board, or if it’s just me and my pup in the Jeep, I will drive out-of-the-way to find something new.

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Aborting a weekend aviation trip to Oregon became a “go and see” in style…we rented the fastest thing in the lot and thankful they never checked the rear tires when we brought it back.

Light Bike Travels

There was a time I was much more carefree in my adventures, and quite honestly the naivety could have gotten me seriously hurt.

I had just returned from Europe with a short detour through the middle east, mainly the hot spots of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, with a bit of Turkey in the mix. Life had smacked me with a recent divorce, the main culprit …. a woman who did not understand my adventurous nature and my unwillingness to be a stay at home couch potato. After being accused of nearly every sin in the book, I cast of my desire to conform with anything, except what the military deemed necessary to be termed “Good Conduct”.

Part of this rebellious streak included buying a motorcycle. My Suzuki Samurai had yet to be returned from the ex, and I was not going to wait around to travel the U.S. now that I was back. I had not been allowed motorcycles when growing up, so combined with the need to travel, soothe my soul, and the need to be far-away from post prompted my purchase of a 1983 Yamaha XT-250.

A barracks mate of mine took me down to buy it. I had some money saved up so we hit the local Yamaha shop. I knew I needed something small with it being my first bike. I also wanted the ability to travel off-road.

After paper work was signed, a small finance package from the dealer who was used to working (read “working over”) service guys, I drove my buddy’s car back to base and he rode my new bike.

I had never ridden a bike except around base camps in southern Turkey and Northern Iraq, so we set up in the parking lot, and I learned the ins and outs of motor-biking. Fortunately my friend was a motorcycle safety instructor for the post and I had great 1×1 instruction on the safety aspects of bikes. For a few weeks I limited my bike rides to our parking lot and on occasion the BX. Eventually through practice, I ventured off-base for a little more freedom.

At the time I was working 12-hour night shift with a three-on/ three- off schedule. I would get off duty around 0600, get a ride back to the barracks, shower and change out of uniform, and be on the road no later than 0700. I had all of Texas to discover in a few days, and packed with a credit card, small tarp for a tent, toothbrush, and change of underwear I was off and down the road with my little 250.

I knew nothing about chain tension, how to change a flat, or other minor maintenance needs of my bike at the time. In those early days I made horrible decisions about riding in rain, fog, and even ice. Looking back, I was gaining experience, simply by being lucky. Within the first three months, at the awe of the dealer, I had put over 12,000 miles on the bike. It wasn’t until I took it in for a negotiated 90 maintenance that I learned both of the need to change or adjust the chain and other preventative task for the bike. The dealer was blown away by the amount of milage I had made on such a small bike. If it had not been for some of my other obligations, a few short trips with lay-overs, etc I would have logged more miles.

While most of my trips had me exploring Texas, after the 90-day period (and a crash course from the mechanic on roadside repairs) I started exploring New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and even a trip into Mexico. With more confidence in the bike and aversion to interstates, I made most of my trips on the older highways and backroads. While it was slower in ticking the odometer, I was more into racking up scenery and interaction with the locals more than I was about simply adding numbers to my stats.

What I learned about small bike travel has not only shaped my travels today (which is perhaps what drives my wife insane), but paid off several years later when she and I traveled all over Texas on a 250 Virago. Here is a basic outline of the lessons learned that I still apply today.

Rigid Flexibility: I had an idea of where I wanted to go, but I wasn’t afraid to meander, delay, goof-off, rabbit trail, or hang out. I never made the destination the priority unless it was getting back to post on time. I made sure to follow my curiosity. Not once did I book a hotel that I had to be at by a certain time, and never committed to a time of arrival for meet-ups.

Two-Thirds Rule: As far as time allocation, it ties in with the above. I would look at the overall area that I wanted to go to and plan from there back to my home how long it would take to get back using 2/3rds the time I had. Then I would use my rule of rigid flexibility to plan the first 1/3rd of the trip. Was never late to the first formation, and in fact, planned sleep time before showing up for my first shift.

Map Recon: This comes easy as I love maps. I would check out the general area I wanted to go to and during long and boring hours of guard duty I would commit the maps to memory. I would have others quiz me about the section I was going to be traveling in. This also (in one way or another) let others know where I was going. I knew in advance where gas stations, hotels, camp grounds, and even emergency contacts (friends and family of friends) were when I needed them.

Dress for the Crash: I put that bike down three times. Once was jumping it in a vacant lot, the other was avoiding the hood of a truck. The final time, I was over-loaded and entering the interstate outside of Weatherford, Texas. The bike had too much weight on the rear and as I accelerated, the front came up and flipped me backwards. All three times gear kept me safe.

Travel Light: I learned the hard way (above) you can only pack so much on a light bike. It disrupts handling, and is just more stuff to carry. I opted to travel in style since I was on so many backroads, and since most of my “day-job” involved living in the field, I opted to stay in less expensive hotels. Having a pool is great for summer-time travel in southern New Mexico.

Imodium: still in every travel pack I own. At some point you will eat a bad burrito.

Pictures and Journal: Though I still have many of the journal notes, I really wish I had more pictures from this time in my life. Even if it would have just been the bike at a roadside stop or a scenic overlook.

My travels taught me and shaped so much of who I am today. While I long for independent travel still, I also realize that this was perhaps one period of my life, and I have made choices that prompt me to move along. For a young guy who was in the state I was in, it was great. Now with a family, others who depend on me in my company, and other obligations, I have shifted my focus to four-wheel travel. But I do believe that every man needs to have this Lone Ranger era in his life….

Now that I have introduced this period of my life, I will have to post some of the specific trips at a later point…