I won't lie - I slept like garbage the night before. I tossed, turned, and just couldn't drift off for the rest I desperately needed. When I finally woke up around 8am on Friday, September 10th, 2021, I did the only thing I could - I got moving. I showered, shaved my face and head, and got dressed. I'd laid out everything the night before.
My riding outfit - a white t-shirt, my thrifted Mountain Hardware hiking pants, and my new boots (thanks Fly Racing: I'll be here for a sponsorship when y'all are ready!)
My bright-yellow North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag, aka my wardrobe for the next 80,000(ish) miles.
My red Mountain Hardware bag, filled with all sorts of dried foods, dehydrated meals, my french press, my cook set, etc., aka "my kitchen".
My rock climbing pack.
My camera bag, a Lowepro bag that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would serve a VERY important purpose in a few days.
My suit for the wedding, for which I was immediately departing.
Then the miscellaneous items - a camera bag that needed to be shipped back to my sister-in-law's mother (thanks again Janet!), my sleeping bag, water bottles that would be carabinered to the duffel bag, and others.
I got to work, laboriously moving the bags out of my friend Kendall's guest house, placing them all in front of the bike. It stood there, green as can be from the fresh wash the day before, and stared back at me with its massive, polygonal eyes. I'd put 16,000 miles on
it in three years since purchasing it from the Triumph dealership down in White Plains. The longest trip, a 1500 mile weekend up to Lubec, Maine in 2018, was about to be dwarfed. I don't think the guys working at the Suzuki factory ever thought that this machine, this chunk of metal, rubber, and vinyl, would be taking some guy on the journey of a lifetime.
I looked at the pile of gear, thinking to myself, "How in the holy f*** am I going to fit this all on there." There was no way I was going to fit it all - the stock suspension was already strained from the heavy Pelican side-cases, custom wrapped with vintage National Geographic maps, bolted on there with some serious Macguyver-like persistence.
In spite of my worries, I put the bike up on its center stand, and got to work loading up. The left case would be my "house", containing my tent, sleeping pad, camping pillow, and hammock setup. This case would be harder to get to during the day, so I put the stuff I'd only need once a day in there. The right-side case would contain my kitchen, being the easier of the two to get to. The top case contained my tools, a few books, some documents, and other miscellaneous stuff that wouldn't go anywhere else. The duffel bag and my suit go strapped to the pillion seat, and my camera bag was strapped to the top case - it fit perfectly (for the time being).
After cinching down the last of the straps, I stepped back, looking over my work. The rock climbing pack was ditched and replaced with my guitar; there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to handle the weight of 70 pounds of climbing gear, as much as I wanted to bring it. The rear wheel nearly scraped against the inside of the fender, and the weight of my luggage had the rear wheel firmly planted on the ground. The front tire sat high in the air, and I strained getting the bike off the center stand.
Kendall, being a documentary filmmaker, grabbed my camera and conducted a short interview. All the standard interview questions; who am I? What am I doing? What am I most excited about? The classics. The last question got me - "Why are you doing this?"
I only had to think about it for a moment.
"I want to live a life that I'll be proud of when I'm older. I want to be able to look back when I'm 60 and be proud of what I did with my youth."
And with that, I threw on my jacket, tightened my boots once more, and threw my leg over the bike. As I pulled it off the kickstand and roared the engine to life, I immediately felt the weight of the luggage. I hadn't done a "dry run", so I wasn't exactly prepared for the weight of it all. I said goodbye to Kendall, and pulled away, clumsily avoiding the Belgian block curbing of her driveway. I got to the end of the driveway, turned right, and started off on my adventure. My trip odometer read "0.0 miles". At the end of the block, I realized I'd need a soundtrack for the start. After a quick second, the obvious song popped into my head, one that I hadn't thought of, much less listened to, in years: Roll me Away by Bob Seger. I punched it into Spotify, and the clean piano riff started up.
"Took a look down a westbound road, right away I made my choice. Headed out to my big two-wheeler, I was tired of my own voice."
I paused, closing my eyes and breathing in the late-summer air.
The bridge came through:
"Stood alone on a mountain top, Starin' out at the Great Divide. I could go East, I could go West
It was all up to me to decide."
I smiled, and pulled away.