TLDR: Bought a moto on the east coast and rode home to CO. I should have bought a new front tire.
Day -250 My sister, brother and I planned a vacation to North Carolina to see family there and enjoy the beach. We all patiently awaited vacation time.
Day -20 The plan is everyone is driving out but me. Brother’s family is driving from Chicago, sister’s family is driving from Houston. I am flying from Colorado Springs to Raleigh, then getting picked up to head to the beach. I am scheming the best way to get home after vacation, when my sport touring interest is piqued. Instead of hitching a ride with one of them or just flying home, I start thinking about riding. I do the math and see that a fly and ride is possible before I have to fly to Alaska July 9th.
Day -5 After a couple weeks of research I find that the fuel injected Honda VFR hits my preferred price point/riding style/reliability mark dead-on. I spent a few days nosing around NC Craigslist when I see a decent bike for $2800. I text and talk on the phone with the seller who is not a complete pyscho, thankfully. I pack all of my moto gear except my helmet, which has been aged/dropped enough to be out of the running for a cross country trip. I fly to NC and enjoy the beach for a day before renting an Enterprise cargo van ($50/24 hrs good deal) and head out to pick up the bike. I check it out and proceed with the purchase. The rear tire is new, the front could use some love, and the motor/trans are super solid.
The beach was great for 5 days while I packed all my stuff, figured out how to load the bike and waited for my helmet to arrive.
Day 1 US-158/US-1/US-58/US-19/I-77/I-64 Nags Head NC to Charleston WV
The trip starts with a nice cool morning, and me laying the bike down in the driveway after putting my foot into the dewy lawn. Not a great start, but at least I was going zero miles per hour, and now I know how 500 pounds feels to pick up. I also thought I checked the tires, but apparently I forgot.
The goal is to meet my brother’s family in Charleston, WV that night to stay in a hotel. That 500 miles is no small feat, especially in the heat, in the mountains, having been off of street bikes for 3 or 4 years, on July 4th weekend. I start off by setting the goal of 100 mile chunks between breaks, or at least close to it. Without a throttle lock or cruise control, and with a bit of baggage encroaching on my moving around space, I am getting between 80 and 100 miles (1.5 to 3 hours depending on roads and traffic) between breaks. I had full camelbak that kept me hydrated, which really helps with the heat and staying alert.
I got to enjoy a whole bunch of State/US highways for the whole morning and early afternoon. I got to ride a bit of the Blue Ridge park way and bunch of other cool roads. I only had one major scare that proved to me that riding at or below 80% was a good idea on a trip like this. I came around a blind curve in a hilly part of WV to see the back of a boat in my lane. A guy had run out of gas towing and ended up in that spot, at a dead stop. Had I been going 45mph instead of 35mph things could have turned out much differently. I slowed and passed once I could see it was safe. There are inumerable fun, smooth, twisty roads in this part of the country. Doubly so if you spring for a slightly dirt oriented tourer (KTM twin, AfricTwin, etc.). It is hard to describe the views and roads, other than to say they seem to be built for motos.
The bummer about my route was that there was a 100 mile stretch in WV that is not easily doable on US highways, so I had to use the Tollway Interstate. It was not a fun way to finish. I was starting to get tired, the road is fast, curvy and steep, and it was pretty packed. Not enough to stop traffic, but enough that people were driving 75 to 80 mph very close to each other. It is a fun road to drive in a car. I’ve been through here a half-dozen times for work and liked it, but today was completely different. Trying to maintain any sort of reasonable buffer in front of me meant that people were piling up behind me. I decided to just find a semi in the right lane and stick behind it. It worked pretty well, even if it was slower. People just treated us as one unit and passed by. The turbulent air was terrible, but it beat racing through packed traffic or getting squashed. I got to Charleston around dinner time. When I was about 15 minutes from the hotel, the rain came on hard. I hydroplaned to a stop under a bridge to wait it out. It was pretty serious for a moment. The street around me was flooding around my boots and tires. 10 minutes later it quit and I cautiously made my way to the hotel. I got a room, ate dinner with the fam, and hit the bed hard.
Day 2 I-64/US-35/US-52/US-45 Charleston WV to Chicago IL
I woke up early and was riding before 7. I rode US-35, which is effectively mostly an interstate, but named a US highway, into Ohio and beyond. The morning fog was formidable but beautiful. I hit the flat lands west of the mountains and rode through Dayton, Muncie, then rural Illinois. I picked up US-45, which my parents basically live on, and traced it through Kankakee, IL into the burbs of Chicago. The technical part of the riding was basically easy, then over, but I could feel the effects of fatigue starting. I arrived around dinner time, locked myself out of their house because I was not paying attention, covered the bike minutes before a monsoon rolled through, and hung out with some friends and family.
Day 3 Rest day
I ride the bike around unloaded to visit people and it feels weird. At a buddy’s house we see that the front tire looks unevenly worn. There is tread left, but it is very uneven and not worn correctly. Pressure check shows 15psi. Well below 40ish that is recommended. Apparently I did not check it at all the day before. It was Monday before the 4th, in the afternoon, so my chances were slim on getting it sorted that day or the next. After putting air in, it held it and rode a lot better. I decided to press on, even though I could have stayed a few days and fixed it. I know that was not the most prudent decision. I get extremely tired, nap for 3 hours, cancel the rest of my plans, eat dinner and pass out.
Day 4 US45/US136/US24/US36 PonyExpress Hwy Chicago IL to Marysville KS
There is no real technical riding this day. Just packing in miles. A few hurried drivers going much faster than I was interested in passed me to get to their Independence Day parties. A woman from Utah drives up to about 6 feet from my back tire before deciding to change lanes. My wrist is getting tired from the throttle and my butt gets a little sore between stops. Sticking to the 100 mile plan most of the day. The views are pretty epic for flat country. Blue skies, endless fields and rolling prairie when there are no farms. I ride all the way across Illinois and Missouri today. I stop in Marysville KS at dinner time and enjoy the local fireworks show. The front tire is doing ok, as long as I ask it to go straight and not too much more.
Day 5 US-36/US-83/US-40/CO-94 Marysville KS to Colorado Springs CO
Fear is the mind killer.
I wake up with a bit of shoulder pain. Pop a few Addies (Advil) and hit the road before 7. The heat is on today. There is wind, but it feels kind of hot too. It seems like I was getting stronger the closer I got the the mountains, and my home. There was a definite feeling of invincibility and euphoria when I glimpsed Pikes Peak after lunch. Or I could have just been dead tired haha. I shed a tear when I got a view of the mountains. Probably the prettiest day since VA, due to the wide rolling views and thinning out of cars and people. CO Springs has notoriously aggro drivers, and that fact showed itself quickly, and thankfully nobody got hurt, but they definitely were doing some dangerous driving and passing.
The front tire has reached the end of it’s life. It held air, but there is definitely something wrong. Turning in and out of gas stations is precarious, but it is fine going straight still. I was about a half mile from my destination, in a mild 45mph right hand turn, when I felt the front of the bike slide on a tar strip then get upset. It shook my hands HARD mid-turn, then started to stand upright quickly and throw me up off the seat. I kept my feet planted, wrangled it, got it pointed straight, coasted down to about 20mph. Luckily nothing bad happened, but that was definitely something I hope I never have to ride through again. I babied into the parking lot sweating from the adrenaline.
I reached the COS Airport lot around 2:30PM. Drove my truck to get a Uhaul trailer ($55 for 2 days), loaded and secured the moto, and drove the last 100 miles to my home in Salida. It felt really weird being in a car. I managed not to load it too poorly and it stayed upright the whole way home. After I got back I found that the adjustably clip-on had come loose in addition to the tire situation, maybe it happened when the bike started to slide and shake.
I am a bit sore right now but I did not really do any prep or get ready for street riding position, other than drinking on the beach. For someone like me to hop on and do consecutive 500 mile days says a lot about the quality of the bike and riding position. The pegs will need to be lowered before I do anothe 2100 mile trip, but most bikes need that when the rider is 6'2". There are a few cosmetic things to touch up, but I think the VFR is otherwise ready to roll.