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September 2, 2011

The California Bike: Day 5 - Home Sweet Home - Green River, UT to Morrison, CO

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in my trailer in the Injured Squirrel Trailer Park near Morrison, Colorado.

Vital statistics for Day 5: September 2, 2011
Miles driven today: 330.8
Miles this trip: 1,437.9
Photos taken today: 194
Photos taken this trip: 4,424
Weather today: Clear, sunny, warm

Gps Stats:
Trip Odometer: 336
Max Speed: 91.1 mph

Day 5

I wake up this morning and turn on my laptop. Laptop says it's only like 7:30 a.m., which is nice. Gives me some time to play with my photos from yesterday which I haven't touched.

I download all of the photos into the laptop and start culling through them. Not many good ones, but you just try to pick out a few half-decent ones to post. So that you might convey some idea of what is there. It's so hard to look at a printed map and have any idea really what a place is like.

I select a few shots, resize them down to something that the internet can handle, and post a few of the shots on my web page.

At 8:30 a.m., I decide it's time to get moving. I've got to pick up Jennifer at 3:00 p.m. from school. So, it's going to be close. Only I look at the alarm clock and see that it's actually 9:30 a.m. My laptop was set for Pacific time. Doh!

So, I'm an hour in the hole starting out. By the time I gas up and hit the road, it's 10:00 a.m. I've got to go a little over 400 miles in 5 hours, which I figure means that I should drive about 80 and make it on time. So, I climb onto the bike with the knowledge that I'm going to have to drive 80 miles and hour for 5 hours, and I'll probably still be late, no matter.

So I bust out of the gate and I'm off to the races. This isn't about catching a ride any more. Even if I could find a truck or a trailer with an open spot for a bike, those people don't usually make good time. I need to run 80 mph for 5 hours and the only way I'm going to be able to do that is on two wheels, I'm afraid.

So I get out onto the road and open her up, heading east.

There still aren't many vehicles on the road until I get past the exit for Moab. Now, still heading east, I see cars more occasionally. Still not what you'd consider traffic, mind you. But there are other vehicles on the road.

I-70 is sort of funny because it just peters-out in the desert of the American southwest. Like, really, it's probably mostly people from around Denver heading out to Moab. Beyond that, the traffic falls off to nearly nothing. It dead ends into I-15, but it loses the "interstate grade" traffic volume long before that.

Most of them are heading west and I'm wondering why. Why is it that I'm heading east and they're all going west. I have a problem with this, and it's something I think about a lot. It appears that I'm going the wrong way.

Normally, this is just an illusion. I'm moving with traffic, so I don't see as many vehicles going the same direction as me because unless they're overtaking me (not likely) or I'm overtaking them, then I don't see many vehicles on my side of the highway.

However, this time, it's more than an illusion. All of these land yachts are racing west, pulling rafts of ATV's and dirt bikes and jeeps and I'm thinking..."hey...wait a minute. I want to go where they're going."

Slowly it dawns on me. They're going to Moab. And it's Friday. And it's Labor Day weekend. They took off early. I should be in Moab.

And Moab is cool. No doubt. It's a very fun place. But I'm not going back there this weekend. This is not in the cards. Not today.

I'm headed east, hell-bent for leather.

You can really learn the sounds of your engine after you've ridden a few thousand miles. I can hear when the chain wants oil. I can smell if the engine gets low on oil. I can usually tell by the way the bike handles how much gas is in the tank.

The bike is running like a dream, of course.

Now, at the exits, I start to see signs of civilization - signs for gas stations, restaurants, and motels. Before, this was not the case. West of Green River, all of the exits say "Ranch Exit - No Services", meaning, I assume, that if you own the ranch, you can exit here and access the ranch, but short of that, there's no real reason to exit here. No McDonalds. No Exxon. No Motel 6.

It's hard to describe how far away from civilization I was, but I was truly very far out there. Crazy far out. It's hard to think about that.

Just after I cross the state line in Colorado, I see a cop on the side of the road with a rollover accident on the shoulder. I circle back for a better look. Rolling through the grass ditch, I pop back up on the shoulder and start shooting the scene. It's not pretty.

Police can't stand to see people doing as they choose in a free society. It cuts against their grain. Immediately, he leaves the wrecked car and approaches me. Police are trained how to act and how to walk. Eye contact. This is all covered in Police Academy. You walk tall. Head high. Shoulders back. Chest out. You look them straight in the eye and call them out. This is what he does. He comes walking directly toward me, all puffed up like a pigeon in a snowstorm. He has on the uniform, badge, gun...you know the story. Very official. Deadly serious.

"Are you with this party?" he asks, pointing to the totaled car upside down in the grass.


"Then why are you taking pictures?"

There's nothing on earth I hate more than cops. I think if they were all ground into fishmeal and fed to grub worms we'd be better for it.

Everything in my body wants to flee. I hate cops. They love to write tickets. They love to push people around. The reason cops are so pushy is two fold 1) @ssholes are drawn to the profession like maggots to rotting meat. If you like to boss people around, you're going to love working for the border patrol, police, etc. If you want to assert your authority and will over people, you're going to love being a cop. So, that's the first reason. And 2) because, even if normal people end up being police, they become assholes because most of the people they run into are criminals, and they start to see people as all being a criminal class worthy of nothing but scorn and contempt.

So, now you get some idea why the police are such roiling flagrant authoritarian jack@sses. This one is a perfect specimen.

I look the fat, uniformed, puffed-up, authoritarian dictator cop in the eye and say "Because I feel like it."

And the way I say it stuns the rotten bastard.

"Well you'd better get going then," he replies, but he's truly shaken. He stops approaching me. I've got photos of him, the van, and his car. He knows it. The royal-jack@ss blood is up to his eyebrows, seething, boiling, like a kettle on the stove with the whistle welded shut.

"Is he OK?" I asked.

"Yeah. They airlifted him out," the cop replies. He turns to walk away, unsure how he lost the confrontation. Uncertain why all the posturing, direct commands, eye-contact, and steady, deliberate, authoritative approach had failed to intimidate the curious party. He'd done exactly as he was trained in police academy.

"What happened?" I ask

"He blew a tire," the cop replies. "You should check your tire pressure to make sure they're set to the recommended amount."

"OK. Thanks," I replied to the confused cop. "I'll check my tire pressure at the next fill up."

Now, what he didn't say was that the dimwit made a crucial mistake. He locked up his brakes when the tire blew, which is a major mistake. That's what caused him to lose control. Not the blowout. The blowout scared the hell out of him, and he over-reacted by standing on the brakes, locking them up, and sliding for about 30 yards before the SUV started rolling.

And I think about that. I think about rolling across the Great American Desert at the @ss-end of summer, screaming across the desert on a sun-scorched paved road, tires so hot they're about to unravel, running triple digits beneath the August sun. Exhaust pipes glowing purple. Valves floating and knocking.

If I blew a tire, I'm not clear that I'd survive. Like, if you lose control at triple digits, I don't want to survive that incident. I'm sure of that. And it's not like it's something you don't consider. I'm sure every motorcycle rider thinks about it. You'd be negligent not to consider the possibility.

Always, I think that I'll wake up in some hospital, with tubes and hoses everywhere. All the white sheets and linens and a bunch of faces around me I don't recognize.

"What happened?" I ask.

"You were in an accident."

I mean, sure. You consider this. We all do. But, oddly, for some reason, it hasn't happened. For some reason, the bike holds together and we keep rolling down the road.

Somewhere around Grand Junction, the traffic stops. People are out of their cars, walking around. I-70 is a parking lot. I take to the shoulder and take the first exit. Then take the entrance back onto I-70, and now rolling down the shoulder again. People out of their cars. This does not look good.

Still rolling down the shoulder, but very slowly, because other people may try this also. Normally, when people are moving onto the shoulder, they don't look back (surprise). So I'm driving very slowly, diligently, performing this delicate little maneuver.

As I get close to the epicenter of the snarl, a cop spies me and yells at me, "HEY!!!!" He yells so loud it shakes the bike. I look at him, and then look back, and just keep on my way.

See, the only possible role police can have is to impede traffic and create accidents. It's their nature. They don't see your time as having any value at all. So therefore, if you have to sit and wait for 2 hours, it's no skin off of their back. They don't view you as being important. You're not a citizen to them. Just a sub-human. So, if you have to sit on the interstate, they don't care. It costs them nothing. There's no benefit to keeping the traffic flowing.

If there were, they'd be like "Oh my God, people. Don't' just sit there! Go! GO! Drive down the shoulder. Look at the backup. Oh My God GO!

But they don't care. So, to see someone actually driving past the accident site sets them on edge. It goes against their piggish nature.

But, he's flatfooted. He's not in his car. His car is blocked in by traffic. And I'm on a dirt bike that goes 100 mph. So, his only chance is that I'll respond to his rude, stupid, challenge by stopping to see what he wants. Fvck him. I know what he wants. He wants to castigate me for driving down the highway without his permission. Fvck him. I keep going. Now, I pass an 18 wheeler they've just retrieved from the median and are preparing to tow away somewhere. I roll past and never see the stupid pig again. But, I'm sure I ruined his day by doing what everyone else should have been doing - namely, moving slowly forward, past the scene of the accident.

When I get to Grand Junction, I've only gone about a hundred miles since I left the hotel, and I want to go as far as possible between fillips, to optimize my time driving and minimize my time stopping and getting gas, of course.

So, keep going to Palisades, and beyond. I keep seeing the names of towns popping up on the interstate signs, always 10 or 20 miles down the road. So, I figure I'll keep running until I hit reserve, and then I'll pull over for gas.

The problem is, I'm not hitting reserve. I get to 160 miles and I still haven't hit reserve, and the brain struggles with this. It tries to come up with reasons why I haven't hit reserve yet, when I was expecting that I would be getting very poor gas mileage due to the following:
1) Speed - I've been running 80 mph and above for at least two hours
2) Elevation - I'm in the high desert, and generally have been above 5,000 feet above sea level since I left the motel this morning.
3) Gas tank level - I wonder if I put more gas in the tank somehow, by really filling it up close to the rim.

But, none of this makes any sense. There's no reason that I haven't hit reserve yet. The brain works with this for some time. Digests it as we're rolling across western Colorado and finally, the brain figures out why we haven't hit reserve yet. The brain figured it out. I forgot to take the tank off of reserve back at the last gas station when I filled up. This was a critical mistake. Worse still, it means that I may run out of gas at any second and be completely out of gas. No more screwing around now. I have to get to a gas station immediately, and I'll be lucky as hell to make it to one.

Fortunately, there's an exit for gas about a mile up the road and I promptly exit and fill up the tank. I was lucky. I made a simple mistake and it almost caused me to be stranded on the side of the road. That would have sucked.

When I fill up the gas tank, I'm surprised to see a Vehicle Locator Slip for the parking lot at the airport in my wallet. I try to think about what that means. The phone rings. My phone is so screwed that it's completely blank. I answer the phone. No clue who. They're telling me that I got the project I interviewed for while standing on the side of the road in the Utah desert yesterday. Trucks rolling by with jake brakes blasting. Ducks landing in the irrigate marsh. Somehow, through all of this, the feel like they need me on the project.

"But dude. That sucks like so hard. I told you that I didn't want to work any more. I thought I made that clear."

"They need you man. You start September 12th."

"September 12th? Are you high? I have even started to take a break yet."

"You drove your bike from San Francisco to Alaska...back to San Francisco...and now to Colorado...how much time did you need off?"

"I was thinking like...at least a year..."

"Come on man. This is a perfect gig for you. I'm sending you the contract. I need you to sign it and get it back to me right away."

"Dude...I'm at a gas station on the side of the interstate in Western Colorado...I can't sign anything here."

"Just do it when you get home. They need you there on September 12th."

"When is that?"

"You seriously don't know what day it is?"

"No. But I didn't think there would be a test. I know it's Friday. I pick up my daughter on Friday."

"It's a week from Monday."

"You b@stard!"

I hang up. I hate him for this. For making me work. I think that drug addicts fall back into the habit of using drugs due to their circle of friends, mainly. It's the same way with work, I think. You've got to find a new group of friends that doesn't believe in working and go with them. It's the only way out I think. To make a clean break and get away from the working class altogether.

I'm driving down the interstate, heading east. Always east. Trying to figure out why I have a parking slip in my wallet. That bothers me. Something isn't right. It means my truck is at the airport. This is not something I'd considered. Somehow, it never dawned on me that, if I flew to SF and drove my bike home, my truck would be stuck at the airport. But it's out there. Stranded. And I have no way to get it. And, by extension, no way to get Jennifer. Because she always brings a suitcase to my house, so even if I picked her up on my bike, I can't carry her suitcase on my bike.

When I get home, I try to start my other Tahoe, but it's so dead that it won't do anything. Won't even turn over.

So I go pick her up in the neighbor's car and bring her up to my trailer and we sit around eating Vienna Sausages slathered in mustard and watching The Other Guys. I'll deal with the Tahoes tomorrow.

Of Riding A Bike

My neighbor Mark made the observation that you feel the temperature changes more on a bike and smell the land better as well. And he's right. When you drop down through a little valley or pop over a little rise, you can feel the temperature drop a little.

And you can smell the valleys. In the Pacific Northwest, the valleys often smelled exactly like honey.

So, you're closer to the earth when you're on a bike. Not that that's always a good thing. In a rainstorm, it's not so much fun. In high winds, it's not ideal. I did get a few bee stings on my chest and arms over the last few weeks.

Of Endurance Driving

My neighbor Will raced in 24 Hours at Daytona and he described to me what it was like:

"It's like, you're racing against the best drivers in the world, and the race just goes on and on. So, you're driving like mad for hour after hour. It's intense, but grueling. I know..you're probably thinking...why would anyone want to do that?" he offers.

"No. I was actually thinking that it sounded totally fvcking awesome," I reply.

And, so it is with driving a dirt bike across North America. Some people are probably thinking..."Why would you do that? What's the point?"

Plenty of people say I should get a bigger bike. Or a different brand. But to me, that's just the point. Sure, I could get a Harley. Or a BMW GSA 1200. Or, I could get an RV. But, the goal for me is to get out of the comfort zone. To really push the limits and try to get far out away from civilization for a little bit. To get a little closer to the end. To push the envelope a little further than before. I want people to be shocked when they hear what I did. Anyone can fly to Alaska and do a cruise of the Inland Passage. Boring. If you have a dirt bike in the hull of the ship though, it changes things. It changes things a lot.

I did it because I could. Because life is short and there so little in the world that's both fun and legal. Granted, what I did was far from legal, but it was fun in a big way.

Posted by Rob Kiser on September 2, 2011 at 3:33 PM


Well Hell Rob sorry I got you a little lost out there by Coulterville.......
Looks like you go it figured out.

Wish I could make the time right now to join ya on the road.....it's where i would rather be.

But if your up Yosemite way again let me know. I know a guy over there......

Posted by: Jay on September 5, 2011 at 12:06 AM


I couldn't remember what you said to do in Coulterville, so I stopped and asked the guy. It seemed like the best move was to take that little cut off at Coulterville. I think it's J132 and then you come back onto CA 120 right before Rainbow Falls and Cherry Oil Road. It was an amazing ride, but you've really got to focus on those turns. I kept thinking about work and I'd have to get out of it to make it through the turns. Beautiful ride though.


Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on September 5, 2011 at 10:15 AM

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