I knew I’d made the transition from just plain silly to absolutely irresponsible as soon as I saw the Arizona DOT plow trucks. Like a lobster boiling in a pot, I slowly got used to ever increasing levels of danger without really noticing until it was too late. I’m slowly freezing myself, hurtling down the interstate at 75 miles per hour, but inside my head I’m just counting down the mile markers as they tick by. It’s so very cold, but what’s the worst that could happen?
Oh, it’s just rainy and 40, I’ll be alright. Oh, temperatures are starting to drop, but as long as it’s not snowing, I’ll be alright. Oh, it’s snowing, but as long as it stays above freezing, I’ll be alright. Oh, it’s 30 degrees but as long as the road stays wet and not slushy or icy, I’ll be alright. Oh fuck, I can’t see half a mile in front of me because it’s whiteout conditions, 28 degrees, and my thermal socks are soaked through. It’s time to throw in the towel.
How do you stay warm on a motorcycle ride like this? Well, the first move is to dress for the experience. I didn’t particularly ace that one, but my torso and head were in good shape, which goes a long way. I alternated between tucking my right and left hands either into the warmth between the Indian’s seat and my soft fleshy backside, or reaching down and touching a cylinder head for a while. Neither worked very well. In order to keep my hot breath from fogging my visor, I needed to leave it cracked, which meant my beard was eventually coated in the same icy veneer as the front of the bike’s fairing. Thank fuck for that fairing, but I would give up my entire kingdom for heated grips.
I’m convinced after this ride that I’m living in a very realistic virtual reality simulation. As I lost feeling in my toes and fingertips from the encroaching cold, I started to realize that this particular simulation was one called “How to be a complete dumbass”. That’s the only thing it could possibly be. Why else would anyone take on such an absurd task? Why would they continue in the face of ever increasing danger?
I’m in Sedona tonight ahead of the first ride of Indian’s new Chief. I decided the best way to get there was by taking this gorgeous blue Indian Challenger down the spine of Nevada and across the open expanse of Arizona. I did this rather than take a plane, you know, because planes are dangerous.
I’ve tried to explain this phenomenon before, but as someone of midwestern descent I have this sensibility that hard things are worth doing because they’re hard. Even if I hate doing them, even if it’s probably a very stupid thing to do, and even if my life is put in danger doing it, if I commit to the bit and make it out the other side, the joy of the endeavor comes in the later telling the story of how I did it. Even now, I can feel the endorphins flooding my dumb lizard brain telling me what a good boy I am for having toughed it out. I might even be rewarded with a good dream tonight.
This morning in Las Vegas it was 50 degrees and sunny, so of course I didn’t put on my rain pants. By the time the rain started falling, it was already too late. I was given a false sense of hope when the rain stopped for a little while, but then it came back worse than before. As I gained elevation heading east toward Flagstaff (which is at 7,000 feet above sea level, in case you didn’t know) the temperature on the bike’s display plummeted. My choices were to either tough it out or turn around, and I was already 650 miles into a 720 mile trip, so the latter really wasn’t an option.
At my lowest moment, with rock-hard feet and fingertips, totally devoid of feeling, I stumbled into a gas station with an attached Subway AND McDonalds to attempt to warm up. After panicking about the whiteout snow, calling Indian to tell them I would be late and might need alternate transportation, I had a McFish (there is no McFish), calmed down a bit, changed into dry denim, wringed out my socks in the gents, pulled up my rain pants, and decided I would press on regardless.
Thankfully, the snow had decided to dissipate and about 20 miles later I was on the downhill slide out of Flagstaff. As I lost elevation I gained hashmarks on the thermometer, and my desperation slowly dissipated. It sucked while I was in it, but it’s a story I won’t stop telling for a while. Obviously. I need those kernels of serotonin.