I've liked motorcycles for as long as I can remember...
When I was maybe 10 years old, growing up in Berlin (West) in Germany, I remember flipping through a coffee table book at my local library. The book had beautiful full-page pictures of a motorcycle trip through the “Wild Wild West” of the United States. It showed deserts and long roads with absolutely no sign of human existence in sight.
I stared at those pictures, and my 10-year old brain thought:
“….whow, I can't imagine what it must be like to ride through that kind of landscape. I wish I can make it to the USA just once in my lifetime, that would be awesome. Riding a motorcycle in those places will probably never happen though, might as well dream about riding a bike on the moon.”
Fast forward 40 years…
I’ve been living and working in the US for the last 15 years. I came here, started working immediately after getting my permanent residency (=“Green Card”) and have not really had a break since. The few days of vacation per year were spent either visiting my family in Germany, visiting my wife’s family, or soaking up as much relaxation as I can fit into the remaining 5 days of vacation….
Even when I changed jobs I never really had a break, just packing boxes while still working, driving the moving van to our new place over a weekend and unpacking while I was already working again. It even happened that my jobs overlapped - working during the day at my old job, then driving in the evening to my new job to get briefed on the future systems and projects on my plate.
Needless to say, I got burned out….
Earlier this year I changed jobs to work for the most awesome company in the world.
During the hiring negotiations I pointed out that it would be good for everybody involved if I could take some time off between jobs to get some much need R&R time. It took some negotiation, we agreed that I should start with (almost) no break and take some unpaid leave later this year instead.
So this is how I ended up with 6 weeks of partially unpaid vacation. Now I only had to figure out what to actually do with that time…
Remembering the dream...
What to do with those six weeks - maybe backpacking in Asia? No, I’m working remotely now and can work from anywhere. Discovering the popular co-working hotspots in countries like Thailand sounds like something to do while I’m actually working.
Maybe a bicycle tour in Europe? Oh, wait. I remember. I’ve already done that.
Then I remembered that old coffee table book with the motorcycles in the desert. What seemed like the most exotic place on earth growing up is now a whole lot closer and reachable. It might not (yet) fulfill my childhood dream of riding a motorcycle around the world, but this sounds like a good start.
Oh, and I have this old-ish Yamaha V-Star 650 in my garage, waiting to go for a ride!
Planning the route…
I currently live in Michigan, and quickly decided that the goal is to ride to Monument Valley, Grand Canyon and Canyonlands National Park. I’ve been to Colorado multiple times, so looking at the map the logical route seemed to just ride "around” Colorado, visiting Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota on the way.
How should I get back to Michigan? I remembered a sign I saw in Chicago a few weeks back that read
“Route 66 begins here”.
So wait a second - where does Route 66 go again? It starts in Santa Monica, then goes via Flagstaff (Arizona) back to Chicago. Sounds like the perfect route to get back to Michigan from the Grand Canyon.
I have that previously mentioned Yamaha V-Star 650, 17 years old, which I bought several years back with only a few thousand miles on the clock. It’s not a cool adventure bike by any means, and all the weekend sunshine Harley riders look at me like I'm riding a scooter (nothing wrong with scooters!). My V-Star however has been very reliable for me, is comfortable, and can go 80 mph all day long if necessary (I try to avoid riding highways wherever possible, it bores me to pieces!).
I already have some some Givi cases and an old (like - 25 years old!) dry bag that I used for motorcycle tours in when I was still living in Germany.
Basic camping gear - check.
Basic tool kit - check
Maybe a new helmet and boots - check.
That’s basically all I did for planning - six weeks USA roundtrip, and I spent less time and effort planning than I did for some weekend trips across the border to Canada.
Beginning of June 2017 I strapped that dry bag on the back of my bike and left Michigan...