Sunday, August 19, 2012

Up for Adventure: Stan Evans' 4,000-mile ride on a Triumph Speed Triple

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Stan Evans tells the story of his 4,000-mile journey on a Triumph Speed Triple. It's an adventure, and if you love to ride motorcycles, it's a story you must read...

Salt Lake City > Bryce Canyon > Colorado River > Grand Canyon > Route 66 > Lake Havasu > San Diego > Los Angeles > Santa Barbara > San Francisco > Salt Lake City

It's difficult to get lost these days, cellphones and GPS make it impossible lose my way and with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram I can take the world with me at will. I'm guilty of it but the roar of riding a motorcycle drowns out the voices of the technoverse. Answering phone calls at 100 miles per hour is not an option. The oncoming rush of the road and the freedom of escaping the box to see without blinders awaits.

Sure it’s dangerous. I’ve laid a few bikes down but what keeps me coming back is living in the present. I love that feeling so once a year I go on a pilgrimage to put myself out there(and hopefully make it back). This year, my loose plan was to ride a giant loop from Salt Lake City, San Diego Santa Barbara, San Francisco back to Salt Lake City. I’d always dreamed about riding Hwy1 on my motorcycle. Other than that my plan was pretty open. The day I was to set out, my morning departure turned afternoon. Outside of St. George I’m stopped by a herd of sheep crossing the road and soon, dark encompasses the landscape. A roadside ditch becomes accommodations for the evening.

Morning leads to unexpected surprises. I make decisions based on which road looks curvier. I ditch hwy 15 in favor of the 20 to the 89. I’ve never ridden either and an unexpected race with an Audi S4 brings the excitement up a notch. Barns and farm animals whisk by but occasionally a thrift store or abandoned car catches my eye and I stop to take a picture. Bryce Canyon blurs in the distance as the heat rises in my leathers. The shade of Kaibab Forest offers a perfect sanctuary for a nap but I moving on to the Colorado river. Raging across the plains I make it to the Grand Canyon by late afternoon. The light is amazing. Lines and shadows are slanted so much that it’s almost impossible to get a bad view but I blow it because it’s going to be dark soon and I don’t get to see as much as I want or really take enough photos to satisfy.

Williams is the next town on the map. It’s a good hour and half away and it’s already getting cold. I manage to make it and eventually realize I'm on Route 66. Conjured thoughts of James Dean enter my head but I’m freezing too much to really process them. My mind is focusing on finding a hotel room and a hot shower.

With sunrise comes the realization that I haven’t made it nearly as far as I though... I need to be in Oceanside by nightfall. Land speed records are tossed aside with reckless abandon in the desert. I only hesitate as I pass 6666 on the odometer. Is it good or bad omen? Hesitation doesn't linger and before I know it I am at Lake Havasu. I scan the horizon looking for party-rocking houseboats blaring techno but the weather is foul and ASU coeds are nowhere to be found.

Crossing into California I pick up a tail on a cruiser. The desert is hot and flat so we keep it at a consistent 110mph watching sand formations blur in my peripheral. The speeds slow in Palm Desert but the roads become more interesting. On the other side of the mountain I lose my riding partner because he’s got a date with a cowgirl at a ranch somewhere out here. As he turns down a dirt road I still have a ways to the beach. Fog is coming in and I feel like I'm riding on the moon. I should stop and take a photo but it's cold and getting late. I hate riding in the dark so I push onward. Turning onto the 78 and I can almost smell the ocean and 30 minutes later the last light of sunset is fading away but when I take off my helmet I can here the waves crashing against the shore.

The next week is a reunion of friends. JJ Thomas, a professional snowboarder and Mike Gollhofer, a commercial pilot are my main surf buddies who eventually become my main fly buddies. An afternoon paddling in the Pacific leads to flying above it. We’re streaking across the coast at nearly 200mph. It’s like the comedy scene from Top Gun that got cut yet here we are, above it all. I wish I could share this sensation with everyone but it’s over quickly and I’m back on the ground before I can really comprehend what happened.

The next day I depart to LA. I'm always amazed by traffic here. So many people driving alone it’s ridiculous. Most of my time in the city, I spend center lining. It’s like the most intense video game I can’t fuck up. No extra lives but I don’t have the patience for traffic. Although, in my time on a bike I’ve ridden up on three fatal motorcycle crashes but I carry on. I just I put it out of my mind and continue as if nothing’s happened. In Hollywood my buddy Sinuhe and his dog Charlie treat me to lunch. Some hilarity ensues watching a girl who looks barely old enough to drive, parallel park a Ferrari to drop off her laundry. This place is definitely a trip.

The next stop is to the studio /office of another photo friend, Ture Lillegraven. His walls are lined with a smorgasbord of photos that make me feel like a kid in a candy store. He also has probably one of the finest Nortons in all of LA and is an encyclopedia for good rides so I hit him up on where to go next. He gives me some misty directions to the backside of Topanga Canyon, which sounds amazing except there are lot of exits and turn. We ponder it for a moment till he comes up with the genius idea of writing directions on a post it note and sticking it on my tank.

Waa laa! I’m on my way. Taking some beautiful shots along the coast I’m lost in the moment watching surfers take turns on a perfect wave except I realize that I need to be in Santa Barbara by evening. A storm is blowing in but luckily I avoid the brunt of it as I arrive and take a load off at a Mexican restaurant awaiting for my host Tiare.

The pitter-patter of rain awakes me next morning. Gloomy skies are out the window yet Tiare is a gracious host and makes toast, eggs and coffee to help me delay the inevitable. The rain does die down ever so slightly. I have the best intentions of making it to San Fran today but it is brutally cold. Cows, trees, lighthouses, rocks, cliffs, boats… I stop at any occasion to take a picture and warm up I’ve got on everything I own and look like a leather Michelin man with a ski mask. The coast has a layer of grey with veil of mist that I cant shake. I am imaging this is what Ireland feels like and pretending I’m in another country. That eases the pain but not really, so I figure stopping at a bar for a whiskey to warm up might work?

I estimate it’s about 30-60 miles to a hotel where i can check in but I forget to take into account that this is one of the curviest roads in America, right now it is marred with construction from road slides. As the light fades I realize I’ve made a huge mistake. Combine that with the rain picking up and my gas light turning on and it’s a comedy of errors. The road is too narrow with no emergency lanes to pull off on and my main fear is running out of gas and getting rear ended by a car of truck not paying attention. I start scanning for anyplace to pull off and sleep. I’m creeping through the Ventana National Forest and I find a small gate to a fishing spot. I have just enough room to squeeze through with my saddlebags but on the other side there is flat ground and some protection from the rain. This is home for tonight.

Morning shows a quaint meadow just down the trail and I take some time to splash away the road grime in a stream. The sun is shining and the day is looking good...til my first gas stop. As i look over my bike I notice a large nail stuck in the back tire. Luckily enough I’m not losing air but there’s no way I’ll make it to San Fran at speeds of 80-90 mph. Way to sketchy. I get to an area with cell service and start searching for moto shops. Three or four are close but they aren't even open yet. So I wait and wait some more. Finally I get a hold of one shop and they have the tire I need and tell me to come on down but once I’m there they don't have the time to put it on. I look at them as if they are from mars! Are they missing the huge nail stuck in my tire. Obviously Monterey Peninsula Power sports is not familiar with the karma of the road and not sending a traveler out to potential death when they have the means to help with minimal effort. So my word to the wise, avoid that place. After pulling teeth to get another option, they give me a line on a chopper shop down the street. Wild Bill’s..??!! It may or may not be open and they may or may not be able to help me on a Saturday... Encouraging…..

Luckily it’s only two blocks away and when I arrive it’s like I am transported back in time. A black guy on a British bike just stepped onto the set of “Easy Rider.” This is 4th dimension type shit… I’m in awe of all the custom designs and memorabilia when the owner “Wild Bill” comes out to greet me. He’s a slight man with questionable facial hair and dark sunglasses. He doesn’t say much but looks over my bike then asks me where I’m from? “Salt Lake” I reply. With that he raises an eyebrow and looks at me. “On this?” he chuckles a bit and says “we can help you out.”

Unfortunately they don’t have the tire size I need so I have to go back to the other shop buy the tire from the douchebags that wouldn’t help me out in the first place and bring it over to the chopper shop. With some gear removal and finagling I manage to strap down a motorcycle tire on my saddle bag and get it over. A hour at the chopper museum was a welcome detour and I’m back on my way.

While it’s warm for a bit, I can’t seem to outrun the fog. In my minds eye I was envisioning this glorious sunny ride up the coast where the song Zip-a-dee-doo-dah is playing in the background... but its not... It’s cold. Occasionally breaks in the clouds urge me onward. Just enough to keep my bones from becoming totally frigid and in the final thirty minutes to San Fran the sun comes out and stays out. I feel like I’ve found an old friend.

I pull into the mission and my concern turns from flats to not having my bike ripped off. A few strategically placed bike locks and my steed is secured. Mike Hays an old skate homie from SLC is my host here and like any good host his first concern is finding me some good food and a beer. Day meanders into night as we traverse the city. My favorite place is a spot called Radio Free Habana. The places oozes so much Cuban folklore that it’s over the top. It’s as if Fidel Castro himself puked on the walls and left.

I’m well rested and the morning is anew with sunshine and good coffee brewed on the spot at this boutique coffee place called Philz. We meet up with a traveler Mike met yesterday at the coffee shop. He‘s an art school student from NYC that is on a road trip himself. When I inquire where he lives he replies living in “the ceiling of his art school.” Mike and I are amazed when he goes on to tell us how he and other students smuggle mattress in during the day and put them in the air ducts to sleep up there.

We all have a good laugh comparing our adventures but it s time to get outside. A jaunt up Bernal Hill gives a magnificent view of the city. After all my constant moving it feels good to sit still and take it all in. Families and pets meander by embracing the rays of sun and the tall grass. I could stay here forever but the day is young and there’s more to see. Wandering through the neighborhoods the uniqueness of each house is telling of its occupants and to top it off on the quirky side we finish the day at Dolores Park watching kids and hipsters frolic in the green grass. A pair of trained parrots circling the park tops off the circus act.

The next morning is dreary and my aversion to a damp ride is mounting but I put on all my leathers and once I get going I'm reasonably comfortable. I stop across the Bay Bridge and snap some photos of the city. They are nothing to write home but as I’m leaving I find a nook to stuff my bike into and take some photos above the bridge. That’s the best thing about a motorcycle, the places you are able to stop and the unique angles you just can’t see from a car. I’m on my way back and the sun starts to shine till I start ascending passes in Tahoe.

After years of traveling by motorcycle I always think I’m going to have enough clothes but I always end up needing more. Til I’m on the downgrade... then it gets hot and hotter. I’m stripped down and sweating like a pig in a blanket. This is the part of the trip I’ve not been looking forward to. Straight line through the desert and even though I’m cruising at well over 100 the horizon never seems to get closer. My eyes are burning from over 600 miles before the sun finally starts to fade at my back. I’ve considered camping one last night, but on the map I’m just too close to home - so I stay with it.

Small hills start to form in front of me as complete darkness surrounds. I can see the glow of Wendover’s city lights when i run out of gas. Luckily I keep a small aluminum canteen of gas with me just in case and I manage to limp into the pseudo gambling town a winner. I’ve got 100 miles to go and it’s 9:30pm. The final push kills me but at the same time I’m smiling as I turn onto my street. I look at my watch and its 11:30pm. I wander inside drop into the couch, take off my leathers and consider burning my socks right there on the spot. It’s been a good trip….Too good not to share...

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For more of Stan and his work, visit his website and connect with him on Twitter

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