Coast to Coast in 50 Hours – Day 1

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My father likes to say that there are three kinds of people: those who learn from their own mistakes, those who can learn from the mistakes of others, and those hopeless souls who don’t even learn from their own mistakes. As I found myself starting yet another road trip behind schedule, I tried to quantify how disappointed he’d be in me for not learning from my previous delays. Thankfully, I was about to hop on a bike that has no problem making up for lost time. Besides, I had a few days to go east. Time would be a much bigger factor on the return trip – going coast to coast in less than 50 hours.

Day 1 – October 18th, 2018 – Los Angeles, California to Tucson, Arizona: ~500 miles
You may remember that when this idea originally came up, I asked you for suggestions on what I should ride. My first choice to cross the United States was the homegrown Motus MST-R – it seemed appropriate to use something built in the US for such a ride. I had some wonderful conversations with Lee Conn, President and Co-Founder of Motus, but he said that Motus had some big things coming up in October and he wasn’t able to spare a bike at the time. Of course, Motus went out of business in early September, rendering the whole thing moot anyway.

I never got a chance to try the Motus for myself, but Walter Barlow was kind enough to share his impressions after a test ride.

I looked at all kinds of other options – MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800, Ducati SuperSport S, and even the new Honda Monkey! But the option I most seriously considered was Kawasaki’s H2 SX SE, a sport-touring version of the insane supercharged H2 sportbike that was released in 2015. Marketing for the SX has been more “sport” than “touring”, but I figured that the best use of a supercharger on public streets was the open road.

With that in mind, this is a travel story in which I’ll drop small pieces of a review along the way. Don’t worry, I’ll wrap everything up with a regular review at the conclusion of the trip. Let’s start with the first thing I interfaced with: the bags.

Before I could hit the road, I had to pack. While the end goal of the trip was the 50 hour cross country challenge, I was going to Orlando for a work conference – meaning I didn’t just have to bring the usual requirements for a 2 week road trip, I also had to pack work necessities, including dress clothes. I typically pack light, but I was still expecting it to be a challenge for me to carry so much stuff on what started as a sport bike.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the H2 SX SE uses Kawi’s color-matched KQR 28 liter bags. They were able to swallow up everything I needed except for my 15″ laptop, so I also used my Chase Harper Deluxe Hideaway Tail Trunk for computer/future souvenir duty.

Obviously, Baby Jack would be tagging along as well. Photo by Nathan May.

The Kawasaki bags work great and they’re intuitive to open/close, but one of the first things I wrote down in my notebook was how difficult I found the mounting system to be as the action requires way too much force. Is there a term for foreshadowing that becomes relevant just minutes in the future?

I didn’t bring my Aerostich Windstopper Jersey because I wanted to pack as light as possible, but the instructions are so simple that even I can follow them. Let’s go ride!

Before I truly started my journey, I swung by Nathan’s house to loan him a boom mic for his Sena 10C communicator. He’s recently switched to a Shoei Neotec modular helmet so he needed a different microphone for us to be able to talk to each other on the return trip. I navigated the city streets of Los Angeles towards his place, splitting traffic at approximately 30 miles per hour when I heard what sounded like a moderate car crash behind me.

I peered in my right side rear view mirror expecting to see two cars that have become one. Instead, I’m terrified to see a green plastic box sliding along the pavement towards the sidewalk curb. It looks suspiciously like my right saddlebag, but that can’t be…right?

My right hand slides off the throttle and reaches back towards where the bag should be, but there’s nothing for my gloves to touch. Shit.

Not an auspicious start.

I pull over and dejectedly walk over to the bag, fearing that I’ve broken it. This is going to be a tough one to explain to Kawasaki – and if I’ve broken it, how am I going to carry my gear? Thankfully, I don’t need to answer that question as the saddlebag is intact. It’s badly scratched up, but it’s intact. Can I pretend this is a durability test? If so, test passed.

Amateur hour. At least the bag held up very well?

I mount the bag back on, triple checking to make sure it won’t fall out again, then I double check the left saddlebag to make sure that’s secure as well. Let’s see if I can learn from a mistake after all…

I deliver the mic to Nathan and we take a moment to sort out last minute details. If all goes well, the next time I see him will be in Florida in about a week.

Finally, it was time to hit the road. Considering my late start and the fact that I’ve already seen everything on the 10 through Texas, I had very little interest in stopping at my usual sites. I just wanted to chew up miles and get to new stuff as soon as reasonably possible.

Still, I had to stop at Cabazon to get a photo of a T-Rex. Maybe the H2 can be Godzilla?

A few hours later and I was in Arizona. Helmets optional, lane splitting prohibited.

A Bike-urious reader (AZgman) reached out to me with the kind offer of a meal or a place to stay. Originally, I thought I’d be able to see him for a late lunch, but with my postponed departure I had to make it a dinner date instead. I always enjoy the opportunity to meet readers, and AZgman was a pleasure to chat with. He and his wife made some delicious brats and salmon, and over dinner I got to learn about his background, what brought him to Arizona, and why he went back to riding BMWs after a few years with a Triumph Trophy.

I’ve told this story before, but it feels appropriate because it explains my obsession with salmon:

My father started a textile manufacturing company many years ago, and he was one of the first people in his industry to have a website. Because of that, he once got a request from an Alaskan salmon fishing company who was looking to have filters made for their diesel boat engines. My dad asked why they were reaching out to him, seeing as we were out in Massachusetts – turns out no one they asked in Alaska was willing to deal with such a small order of filters.

So, my dad waits for all his employees to leave for the day, sets up all the dies, and runs the manufacturing line late at night to create the filters. For compensation, he didn’t ask for cash – he instead asked the fishing company to send over as much salmon as they thought was fair. Our family then woke up to a styrofoam cooler about 18″x36″x12″ of fresh Alaskan salmon delivered to our front door every Tuesday for about 6 months. That’s how I got addicted to salmon…and why I pretty much can’t say no to at least a taste whenever someone offers.

Thanks, AZgman!

AZgman and his wife generously offered to host me for the night, but I wanted to cover some more miles and I think it’s a little rude/awkward to stay in someone’s place and then leave at 4am the next morning. As I zipped up my Aerostich Roadcrafter R-3, AZgman’s wife noted that she was impressed with the amount of armor and how easy it was to get into the gear. He made an offhand comment about how there’s a reason it’s called the “Aerostich Motel”, a description which made me chuckle. Apparently it’s a fairly common way to describe the Roadcrafter, as people have been known to sleep in it on the side of the road or on a picnic table. I’ve slept in my gear only once: 10 years ago I was doing an Iron Butt Association challenge of 1,500 miles in 36 hours and I needed a nap so I hid beneath an underpass at 3am and napped for 40 minutes on the sidewalk. I have no plans of doing that again, but I guess the Roadcrafter would be a decent option if necessary.

I hit the road for another 70 miles and figured I should stop for the night in Tucson. Poking around my Hotels.com phone app, I found the University Inn in Tucson, and I thought it was such a great room for the price that I feel obligated to mention it here. I fought the luggage mounting system to take the bags off, emptied them out in my room, wrote some posts about bikes for sale, plugged in my electronics, and tucked in for some glorious sleep. Tomorrow would just be a long boring slog on the freeway, but it’d be worth it for future adventures!

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