Coast to Coast in 50 Hours – Day 2

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Day 2 – October 19th, 2018 – Tucson, Arizona to Midland, Texas: ~630 miles
Today marked a returned to normal riding. For starters, I didn’t drop an expensive saddlebag within the first 5 minutes!


Missed Day 1? October 18th, 2018 – Los Angeles, California to Tucson, Arizona: ~500 miles.

I left Tucson and hopped on Interstate 10 heading east. My departure highlighted a sad truth: I can only enjoy the full power of the H2 SX SE when I’m merging on to a highway, and it only lasts for a surprising couple of seconds before I’ve blown through the speed limit. What’s surprising is not how quickly the bike accelerates but how subtle the acceleration is.

The obvious draw of the H2 SX SE is the supercharged 998cc inline-four motor, which is very similar to the engine in the H2 sportbike (and less similar to the $55,000, 300+ horsepower, heavily hand-made H2R). Kawasaki has changed a few aspects to make the ride more user-friendly. I could throw a bunch of numbers at you – the throttle bodies are 20% smaller (down to 40mm) and the compression ratio is up from 8.5:1 to a very impressive 11.2:1 – but I think what’s truly important here is how the drivetrain feels, and it feels good.

Here’s a difference between the H2 and the H2 SX SE. Do you care? You do not.

The takeaway here is that this bike is still stupidly fast but now it’s easier to ride, and that’s key when you want to cover hundreds of miles in a day. The SX trades terrifying top-end power for better mid-range push. You still have the low RPM lugging that’s endemic to inline fours, but now the joy starts around 4,500 rpm instead of nearly twice that number with the H2 or H2R. More importantly, the ride-by-wire throttle is much, much smoother. Plus, the addition of ride-by-wire means Kawasaki FINALLY has cruise control on a touring bike, but we’ll talk more about the touring-friendly technology in a future post.

If this doesn’t make you happy, I’m not sure we can be friends. Photo from Kawasaki.

There are a few numbers I do want you to know: 197 horsepower at 11,200 rpm (jumps to 206 with the ram air intake at speed) and 101 pound-feet of torque at 9,500 rpm. Again, the numbers are one thing, but the riding experience adds more to the story. It’s obvious that this bike is fast, but I was truly shocked with how easily the H2 SX SE picks up speed. I’ve been on plenty of quick bikes, but nothing has ever felt this drama-free. It’s surreal: the bike doesn’t feel like it’s trying at all, so you as a rider don’t feel like you’re going that fast…until you look down at the speedometer. The H2 SX SE is the best argument I’ve ever heard for why the federal government should bring back the National Maximum Speed Law and why they should make the new number 95. Cruising at 70 mph on this bike just feels like a waste of its time. It’s much happier at 90 and above.

Another number you should know: the supercharger impeller spins 9.2 times faster than the crankshaft, which means, at max engine speed (12,000 rpm), this sculpture is rotating at 110,400 rpm. Photo from Kawasaki.

Because this motor is barely working at street-legal speeds, you can actually get some decent gas mileage if you want. At 65 miles per hour, the instant mpg readout typically shows between 45-50. If you’re at 90 mph, the display shows approximately 30 mpg (which isn’t bad, considering). With a 5 gallon tank, one could theoretically cover over 200 miles with ease before needing to refill. But who’s riding this bike with fuel efficiency in mind?

Somewhere in Arizona I got to see clouds get boxed out by mountains.

To test the gas mileage claims, I kept a log on this trip. By the end of day 2, I had made 8 fuel stops. Let’s take a quick look. Remember that I started at home in Culver City, California:

City
1. Palm Springs, CA
2. Blythe, AZ
3. Tonopah, AZ
4. Tucson, AZ
5. Bowie, AZ
6. Las Cruces, NM
7. Van Horn, TX
8. Monahans, TX
Gallons Consumed
3.607
3.687
2.983
4.102
3.637
4.605
4.480
3.630
Price Per Gallon
$4.139
$4.299
$3.499
$3.119
$3.999
$3.799
$3.439
$3.729
Miles Covered
116.2
133.3
99.2
156.5
120.4
158.5
182.1
129.7
Miles Per Gallon
32.215
36.154
33.255
38.152
33.104
34.419
40.647
35.730

Note the sign up top…”To The Moon, Alice”!

A Model T pulled into the parking lot and immediately u-turned.
Didn’t he know I wanted a chance to admire his car up close? UPDATE: As many readers have pointed out below in the comments, this ain’t a Model T.

Covering those miles meant I had plenty of time to decide if the H2 SX SE is what a normal human would consider “comfortable”. My biggest complaint is the seat – the shape is fine but it feels too thin after an hour or so. But the ergonomics are much better than I expected. The seat height is 32.9 inches, and the seat-to-peg distance was ideal for my 6’2″ frame. The reach to the bars required a slightly greater amount of forward lean than I was hoping for, but the tradeoff was a lean angle that perfectly counteracted windblast above 65 miles per hour. I was genuinely worried when I first got on the H2 SX SE that I had signed myself up for a long trip on a torture rack, but Kawasaki has made this a pleasant place to chase the horizon from. In fact, considering the sport-oriented nature of the H2 and H2R, the H2 SX is actually the easiest way for the average rider to experience the thrill of a supercharged motor. And now Kawasaki is enabling you to enjoy it for days at a time instead of short blasts on the dragstrip or on a track.

The passenger seat doubles as a mini backrest – helpful for long distance comfort and for keeping you in place when you demand peak boost from the supercharger! Photo from Kawasaki.

One of my favorite “Welcome to this state” signs in the country. It’s minimal, but it’s different!

Couple of spicy peppers!

I am a “Riding Indian” – meet my cousin.

As I plodded through New Mexico, a friend of mine named Mike Ngo started a similar trip from Los Angeles. Honda had kindly provided a Gold Wing for Nathan to ride alongside me for the 50-hour challenge on the way back, but I needed to get that bike over to Florida so Nathan could fly in and ride it back. I asked Mike (who works for iXS) if he’d be willing to ride the loaner out east. It didn’t take much convincing…

It would be quite a while before I’d see another “Welcome to this state” sign.

When I stopped for gas in Van Horn, Texas, I looked online for an interesting place to eat. I wasn’t expecting much, considering the town has a population of less than 2,000 people. I just assumed I’d have to grab some fast food from a national chain and continue on. Turns out that I sold Van Horn short, as it’s home to a lovely hotel from the 1930s called the Hotel El Capitan. It was imagined by an architect named Henry Trost, who also designed the majority of buildings in downtown El Paso in the 1910s and 1920s.

The hotel was recently restored, and the dining room was calling my name.

I sat down at the bar and ordered my usual beer when I’m in Texas, a Shiner Bock. A solitary TV on the back wall caught my attention, and I realized that game 6 of the NLCS was on. The Dodgers were up 3 games to 2 on the Brewers, but it was the third inning and the Dodgers were already down 5-1. Being from a suburb of Boston, I take great joy in watching LA sports teams lose, so I took a photo to tease several friends with. The Dodgers would go on to lose 7-2, and I would go on to receive many angry text message replies over the course of the evening. Doubling my joy during the game was the in-house restaurant’s signature dish of Pistachio Fried Steak. “8 oz Sirloin in a Hand Crusted Pistachio Breading Served on Piping Hot Mashed Potatoes, Jalapeno Gravy and Asparagus“. I try to eat light when I’m traveling so I can avoid food comas, but I couldn’t help myself. Consider the dish highly recommended. Full of food, I hopped back on the bike to cover some more distance before calling it a night.

Vy made me include this photo because the dish sounded so good to her that she wanted to see it.

127 miles later, I ended up in the town of Monahans, which may have more pickup trucks than residents. There were also plenty of cheap hotels, so I picked a random one and got ready for bed. While writing up some daily posts for Bike-urious, I discovered that I had left my laptop charger at the University Inn last night. Oops – looks like I’ve got an errand to run tomorrow…

I pulled off the highway for a stretch, but there wasn’t any lighting to be found. I thought the headlight shape of the H2 was interesting. This bike looks better in low light.

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