LA-Barstow-Vegas 2016 – Preparation

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First of all, I apologize for the relative lack of bikes over the last few days. Getting ready for LA-Barstow-Vegas has been kicking my butt and not leaving me with much time to write the usual posts. With that said, we were able to complete the ride (sort of), so here’s what happened. I’ll tell the story in four parts – we’ll start with the prep before the ride.

It all started in August, just four months ago. I was in Julian, California at the launch of the Yamaha SCR950 for RideApart, and the welcome dinner was in full swing. Most of the invited journalists were based in Southern California, so everyone drove or rode bikes to the event. That’s why I was surprised to see a couple of guys show up with luggage halfway through dinner. One of them looked familiar – it was Spurgeon Dunbar from RevZilla and their recent initiative to get into media content with Common Tread.

I’ve been a big fan of RevZilla’s recent original content with Spurgeon and Lemmy, so I made it a point to introduce myself and talk shop about creating videos. We kept in touch after the event and we ended up seeing each other again at another Scrambler launch – this time for the BMW RnineT in New York. There, Spurgeon and I discussed some silly ideas I’ve wanted to do in the past. When I mentioned that I riding LA-Barstow-Vegas on a Honda Grom, Spurgeon’s eyes lit up. So we made plans to give that a shot, and Spurgeon started shopping for flights to Los Angeles.

I reached out to Honda and Kawasaki about using their little 125cc bikes (the Grom and the Z125). We’d throw skidplates on them, work on the suspension, and slap on some knobbies from Maxxis:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pull that request off. So we started brainstorming for alternate options. Somehow, an idea came up that we should forget riding separate bikes and instead ride together in a Ural sidecar. I was on the fence about this but Spurgeon immediately thought it’d be entertaining. Frankly, I did not think Ural would say yes to my request, but kudos to them for being up to the challenge and letting us use one of their rigs in this demanding event. Even better, they offered up a limited edition Gear Up Sahara. It’s equipped with racks, lights, even a shovel – all the stuff you’d want on an adventure. Probably.

So, with some of the logistics out of the way, Spurgeon and I went to the Long Beach Motorcycle Show a week before LAB2V to check out an example of the Sahara. We had to try it on for size, of course:
ural-long-beach-motorcycle-show

Before the show, I had been on the District 37 Forum doing some research. I also got in touch with Kieth Huff, the President of District 37. He told me to find the D37 booth at the Long Beach show and that the group was going to have a “stuffing party” that I should check out on the Tuesday before the ride. At the show, I stopped by the D37 booth and I got to meet some volunteers that were very helpful. They gave me some more online resources to research and also suggested I came by on Tuesday.

Tuesday rolls around so Nathan and I head on over to the stuffing party. Despite the proximity to Thanksgiving, the name has nothing to do with turkeys. In this case, stuffing party refers to the get together where a wonderful group of volunteers stuffs all the envelopes for riders so that their information is ready to go at registration. It includes rider wristbands, maps, emergency information, and more. They’ve got it down to an art (which is good, because they were around 600 envelopes to stuff)! Knowing that these were all off-road enthusiasts, I figured they’d appreciate the Rev’It Project 95 bike I had on loan, so I brought it along. It’s a custom 2WD KTM 950 Super Enduro and it’s absolutely bonkers – I’ll have a story on it soon. (UPDATE: here’s that story.)

Photo by Nathan May

Photo by Nathan May

The stuffing party:

Photo by Nathan May.

Photo by Nathan May.

Julie from District 37 shows off some maps:

Photo by Nathan May.

Photo by Nathan May.

The envelopes that everything went into:

Photo by Nathan May.

Photo by Nathan May.

We also had selfish reasons for coming to help out. We were told that the route map would be available for us to look at, and I thought that was imperative as we were nervous about how much of the route the Ural could actually handle. Nathan did a little recon:

In the typical Bike-urious way, we were too ambitious and weren’t able to handle a lot of the important stuff until the last minute. Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) was dedicated to grabbing bikes and gear – we were scheduled to pick up the Ural, goodies from Alpinestars, a support Jeep from Club EagleRider, and a XR650L. The XR was for Nathan to use as he rode along in the dirt and filmed us. Nathan and I took off early from our respective jobs and headed over to EagleRider first. I keep mentioning how I’m surprised that they rent more than Harleys. Impressively, they also have a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that they’ll rent out from the Los Angeles location, and I thought it’d be a great support truck to follow along. I somehow managed to forget to take a picture of the Jeep when we picked it up, so here’s a shot from that night:

We took the Jeep over to Honda, where Nathan picked up a XR650L:

Before we left, I noticed a crate. It was for the one RC213V-S that American Honda apparently has for their office (or promotional purposes). I didn’t even get to see the bike, but just the crate got me a little tingly. I recently featured a RC for sale if you’re looking for more information.

Then we picked up Spurgeon and all of us headed over to grab the Ural at a local dealership. We were supposed to have picked up the bike the day before, however there was a problem with the left exhaust (it kept falling off when they’d ride it over a curb) so Ural overnighted a pipe. When we got there, the exhaust was…still not on. This is what we call foreshadowing:

Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

While the exhaust was being secured, we explored the dealership and drooled over a bunch of KTMs and Ducatis. We also somehow managed to take a photo that looks like it’s an album cover. Spurgeon actually used to be in a band, which is why he knows how to pose. I just look like I’m lost:

Photo by Nathan May.

Photo by Nathan May.

Eventually the exhaust was finished and the manager of the dealership gave us a quick walkthrough of how to engage reverse and 2 wheel drive. He told us that the typical learning curve ranged from 4 days to 2 weeks, depending on the proficiency of the rider. He then asked us when we’d be taking off. Our answer of “tomorrow” did not inspire confidence.

Photo by Nathan May.

Photo by Nathan May.

With no prior experience on a sidecar, Spurgeon was now in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles at night:

Last year, Nathan and I simply got up super early on Friday morning and drove from Los Angeles to Palmdale for the start of the ride. With the slow Ural and all of our filming equipment, we all decided that it made more sense for us to get out to Palmdale on Thursday so we could just wake up a mile away from the start line. Unfortunately, this meant everyone had to sacrifice their Thanksgiving.

Nathan kindly let us use his house as our base of operations, and we promptly took over the driveway:

Photo by Ellen Oliviera

Photo by Ellen Oliviera

The OEM tires on the Honda are fine for riders who spend most of their time on the street, but we wanted it to be a little bit more dirt capable. So Nathan swapped on some knobbies:

Neither Spurgeon nor I were expecting to get any sort of Thanksgiving meal, but Ellen cooked a fantastic meal for us all in between all of the packing and preparation. She’s a lifesaver:

Photo by Ellen Oliviera.

Photo by Ellen Oliviera.

After the meal, it was time to leave. I tried to convince everyone that I should carry a shotgun while sitting in the sidecar but the group wasn’t having it:

Photo by Ellen Oliviera.

Photo by Ellen Oliviera.

As it was getting dark, we left West Los Angeles for Palmdale. Baby Jack was along for the ride, too.

Photo by Ellen Oliviera

Photo by Ellen Oliviera

The ride was slow, cold, and windy. I immediately regretted wearing MX gear. We took the peaks off of our dirt bike helmets and just fought through the cold for an hour or so until we got to our lodging for the night. The District 37 folks were hosting a little get together at the Embassy Suites, so we stopped by to say hi. Here, Spurgeon chats with Kieth and Jenny Smith. Jenny is the Managing Editor at Rider Magazine, and she’s awesome. She was also our competition, as it turns out she was doing LABV on a Ural as well!

As nice as it is to drink beer and chat about motorcycles, we had to get back to our motel and get some sleep. For the second year in a row, I have a picture of Nathan wheeling his bike into his room:

And just like that, the ride was set to begin in a few hours. Read on to see what happened on Day 1.

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