2 Weeks In The West – Intro and Day 1

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Well, I was hoping I’d be able to share little pieces from each day of my trip as I was on the road, but I simply have not had the time. Still, here’s Day 1 and 2 – and more will come once I’m back in Los Angeles and have more time! Hope you enjoy.

This trip started out as my girlfriend has wanted to see the Carlsbad Caverns for years. As we planned out what it would take to ride out to Carlsbad and back, the discussion evolved into “If we’re going to ride out to New Mexico, why don’t we also see Denver?” Then it became, “Well, Denver isn’t THAT far from Yellowstone.” You get the idea.

I shared a quick post the day I left with a tentative route, and I was touched that many of you reached out to meet for a meal or a drink – or even to offer your place of the night. More on that later – but first I have to apologize for not giving more of a heads up about my trip. A few people from Phoenix reached out to me but by the time I got your emails I had already gone past your absurdly hot city. Sorry.

Possible Route

Many of you correctly pointed out that it was a stupid idea to head east through the states of Arizona and New Mexico during a heat wave of 120 degrees to begin the trip. Unfortunately, this trip had been planned out weeks before and my girlfriend already had a plane ticket to fly into El Paso, where the trip would begin in earnest.

June 18th, 2016- Los Angeles, California to Tucson, Arizona: ~500 miles.

So I loaded up my phone with some music from the Chemical Brothers and took off from Los Angeles with my trusty R1150GS, which had just over 80,000 on the odometer when I started:

I’ve had an Aerostich Transit suit in my closet for a few months, and now that I’ve finally started to break it in, I’m really enjoying it. Long story short, I wanted to use this trip to really put it through the paces and then do a review for you, but there’s two problems with that. First, the only real flaw with this suit is that it’s not well suited for scorching temperatures, and I was guaranteed to encounter that right off the bat. Second, Aerostich has had to discontinue the Transit suit due to supply issues of the waterproof Pro Leather, which means even if I heartily recommend the suit (which I do), you might not be able to buy one. Bummer.

All this meant I was going to go back to some of my tried and true gear: BMW Rallye 2 jacket, Aerostich Darien pants, and Aerostich Combat Touring boots, all of which I’ve had for nearly a decade. Combine that with a Scorpion R2000 helmet, Alpinestars GP Pro gloves, and a Kriega Hydro 3 backpack and I was good to go. I often get asked for gear recommendations because I’m lucky enough to have access to a variety of it, and while I don’t necessarily know what’s perfect for you, I don’t think I can give higher praise for a piece of gear than when it becomes part of my personal rotation and I use it on long trips myself.

I always try to take a photo of the initial mileage, but I forgot until I was about 50 miles in. This is close enough, I guess:

Normally on trips like this I leave LA early in the morning. This time around I couldn’t head out of town until noon, so I ended up fighting traffic and splitting lanes for quite a while. As expected, the 110+ degree temperature was pretty brutal, but it wasn’t as bad as the boredom of being stuck on the highway for hundreds of miles. I had to break up the monotony with quick detours on local fire roads, including this power line road in the Colorado Desert (yes, it’s in California, and it’s part of the greater Sonoran desert):

My GPS is 5 years old and I’ve been too cheap to update it, so occasionally I’ll pull up to a building that used to be a gas station. Somewhere in the desert I encountered an abandoned gas station where people had been writing on the pumps – it made me think of a modern day Oregon Trail. Unfortunately, someone decided to add a less pleasant message to the mix:

Ever wanted to know what the interior of a gas pump looks like?

Leaving California, which also meant I would no longer be able to split lanes until I got back to my home state:

Hours later I was in Phoenix for dinner, and I felt positively refreshed with the cooler ambient temperature…only to find out later that it was still 108 degrees outside. It was surreal to think of that number as being “cool” but after hours above 115, it actually felt nice. This behavior of how your body creates ‘new normals’ made me think of a comment James May once made after he tested the top speed of the original Bugatti Veyron – skip to 8:50 for the quote, but you really should enjoy the whole clip for context:

I got myself some delicious shrimp and grits, thinking I could kill 90 minutes at dinner and let the temperature cool down a bit more:

At 8:30pm it was still 107 degrees outside, so I decided to just get out of town. A couple of hours later I was in Tucson for the night and preparing to head out to El Paso the next day.

On to Day 2Tucson, Arizona to Carlsbad, New Mexico: ~480 miles