By: K.D. Bang
I have been riding a motorcycle for the past 13 years. Currently, I have the nicest motorcycle I have ever owned. It is a 2008 1200 Roadster. I have always wanted to go to Sturgis, but being a wedding photographer my summers are pretty booked. This year I finally got to go. I had a two week break in August, and it happened to be when the rally was going on.
I started a list in my head of what I would need, then "Googled" what I should bring on long motorcycle trips. I got some great ideas, like a first aid kit and "fix a flat". I started getting small camping gear that would fit into the saddlebags I still needed to buy at that point.
I started a little pile of what I planned to bring, ordered saddlebags and then made another list.
It looked like this:
tarp, tent, sleeping bag, bedroll, map, passport and other important paperwork (I was going through Canada), first aid kit, Leatherman, fix a flat, camping burner with gas, toothbrush and toothpaste, knife, pepper spray, clothes, rain gear, duct tape, lighters, cell phone and charger, food (i.e. soup/granola bars), water container, camping towel, and of course, my wallet.
I let my friends talk me into buying AAA, of course I had to get the primo service because the others didn’t include motorcycle coverage. (This came back to bite me in the a** later.)
Of course I wanted either or both Merry Pain or Liv Dangerously to go, but they both have regular jobs (I am sorry) so it was just me… if was going it was going to be just me.
I had a rough time line, including a date to leave. As I got closer to the date I was leaving, I tried to make sure that everything fit in my saddlebags and back pack, as I would be living on a bike (or "the road") for two weeks. I planned to camp the entire time and had made a reservation in Sturgis, South Dakota for a camp site. I didn’t want to take highways the whole time so planned a 2,100 or so mile trip up and around through Canada; I had high hopes for this leg of my trip.
When the day came to leave I brought my dog over to Katastrophe’s house. She made the trip possible by watching him. I walked away with tears in my eyes and was resolved to leave. I hadn’t practiced packing my bike, (that’s not how I roll), so when it came time to pack, I was in some trouble… nothing seemed to fit right or wanted to stay on. Luckily, I have an anal-retentive roommate who came out to help. It took us about 45 minutes and the sky was getting darker because a storm was rolling in, but I was still planning on leaving. I got my comfy jeans, layered shirts, motorcycle jacket and boots on and off I went.
The plan was: I-87 north to Canada and then at Montreal, cut over to the left to go around Lake Superior. Aside from stopping to get my bags adjusted correctly, the first few hours were uneventful. Customs was fine; the standard stop, "What is your trip for?" Etc., etc..
Things got exciting when I got to Montreal. First of all, the signs are all in French, and as in most cities, are super confusing. I had my trip tick, which is impossible to read while driving a motorcycle. Plus, I couldn’t even read what was east or west, north or south. Coupling this with the nastiest looking clouds rolling in, I started to get a little nervous. After pulling over multiple times to look at my map and put on my rain gear, I appeared to be on a road that would get me where I needed to go.
That’s when it started pouring… outside Montreal… somewhere. If you have ever ridden a motorcycle on the highway in the rain you know it is sketchy at best. I couldn’t see, my feet were getting soaked, and I wasn’t any bit sure as to where I was.
I decided to pull off the highway at what looked like a truck stop. It was raining buckets and I wanted to try and wait it out. (Keep in mind it was my first day around 5pm and I was in a French speaking territory). When I got off the highway, I noticed that there was no cover, but then I spotted what looked like a diner and drove up to it. When I got close I saw it was A STRIP CLUB! I was like "F me! I am dripping, sopping wet, my stuff is soaked, I don’t speak French and it is pouring." Plus, I had just shaved my head and thought I could scare the locals.
Of course I wanted to go in the strip club, but I envisioned how I would look dripping all over their floor and being spoken to and not understanding. It is easy enough to spend all your money in a strip club...top it off with not being able to speak the language! So I hunkered under the side awning and waited for someone to come out and yell at me. I waited about 30 minutes until the rain calmed down and then hopped on my bike, still soaked, but ready to find a campground. No sooner than I got on the bike and hit the throttle, it died on the way out of the parking lot.
"WTF, really? This is a 2008, it should have no problems," I was thinking.
So, on the side of the service road in front of the strip club in a French speaking territory, my bike broke down on my first day. All I was thinking was my roommate saying, “if you break down in Canada I can’t come get you.” Oh shit, I pulled my bike off to the side and thought about Ted Bundy and other serial killers that must have loved strip clubs while I tried to find a loose wire. I know a little about bikes so I fiddled around with it, but then I called triple AAA. I was so happy I bought that the day before.
When I finally got someone, she asked me "Where are you?"
"Uhm," I said, "I don’t really know."
I figured out some markers and she said "be right back," she needed to call my AAA home office to approve a tow.
"Ok, cool. Thanks," I replied.
Hahahaha! She came back and said, "I am sorry. Your home office has a 72 hour minimum as to when they will pay for a tow after you pay triple AAA."
"WHAT WHAT?!? No one told me that!" I was so mad, and stuck. I got super mad said, "nevermind" and resolved to deal with this problem. I had an idea: it was a short and I was going to go after it with my Leatherman.
I ripped the side cover and seat off, took the pig tails off and started touching wires.
I tightened the bolts, and holy s***! After 2 hours of being stuck on the side of the road and thinking my trip was over, she started! I quickly put it back together and needed to find a camp site! I jumped on the highway to find a place to figure out what I was going to do.
...To be continued...