July 30th. 5 am. I wake to the force-irritation-straight-into rage sound of my alarm clock going off, but the rage abates in a millisecond and I jump out of bed quicker than is ever possible before work. It’s time for vacation! It’s time to ride like I’ve never ridden before! I take a shower, brew a cuppa-joe and eat breakfast. Once I’m fully awake I slide into my leathers, race boots and gauntlet gloves. I throw the already packed saddle bags on my shoulder, grab my extra “road” jacket, and snag a hold of the tank bag. Putting it all down once I get outside of the garage, I wheel the motorcycle out of the garage and plop all the luggage onto the various areas where it needs to go. Slowly working the ear buds into my ears I shove my face into my Monza Red Shoei RF-1100 and I’m rolling out of Denver, Colorado by 6am. A racer on an almost raced-out Ninja 250R headed off for a tour of the country. Right, Deal’s Gap, here I come!
The morning is cooler than it’s been, and I appreciate that a lot, being in full gear. It wouldn’t last long though. I stop every 100 miles or so, and the standard chain I put on the bike as an experiment seems to be holding up alright. At about 10am I roll through Salina, KS right as the temperature breeches 110F. I check the chain, bad news. In the last 300 miles it has stretched like I’ve never seen a chain stretch before. It has also lost its master-link clip, but graciously decided to leave both sides of the master link. I spent an hour alternating between hydrating, cooling down, and figuring out a way keep the master link on the chain until Cincinnati, at which point I’ll have a day to get a new chain.
I end up buying some 14ga audio wire I’m assuming is intended for truckers to wire up extra speakers in their big rigs, judging by the surrounding items for purchase. I also pick up a crescent wrench because prior to the trip at some point I had decided that I would never need the axle wrench provided with the motorcycle. By yanking the blue loom off the fine copper wires underneath I’m able to get something which works reasonably, and proceed to tie a tight figure 8 between the two pegs of the master link, finishing it off with a tight twist of the ends. Hopefully it holds. And there’s only 1 way to find out. I use the brand new crescent wrench and adjust the chain slack. After an hour of futzing with the bike I shove my now dripping-with-sweat face back into the Shoei and head off towards lunch in Hayes, KS.
I hit 80mph and a chill goes down my spine. I’m cold all of a sudden. All that sweat-soaked leather starts acting as a giant radiator, evaporating the water and cooling me to thorough comfort. The temperature in the suit drops from an estimated 140F to a chilling 85F for about 20 miles, and then it’s back to sweating. Regardless, I’m still in fairly good spirits, just slightly worried about the chain, but I’ve been through worse with worse and the miles roll by as my rear-end starts to smart slightly.
This Corbin seat does not come with a proper price-to-comfort ratio, and at best, I deem it’s extra comfort worth maybe $50 over that of a regular seat, not 5 times that. I stop again at 80 miles to check the chain, and although the master link clip fix is holding just fine, the chain is stretching a lot, and needs to be lubricated and adjusted again. I stop in Hayes and ride what feels like 30 miles off the freeway to find a diner, which turns out to not be a diner but rather quite a nice restaurant. I feel quite awkward walking underneath the stares of the yokels in my race outfit. I mind my business and enjoy some really good pork and asparagus along with a healthy bodied beer. After another liter of water (probably up to 6 or 7 by noon, now) and another smoke I head out back on the road and proceed to repeat the 80 miles, hydrate, smoke, adjust/lube chain routine up until roughly 40 miles west of Topeka, KS.
Having done just over 600 some odd miles the full afternoon heat kicks in. I have no idea how hot it is, but I can feel streams of sweat pouring down my face in my helmet and no matter how much ice water I pour down my leather at the invariably 80-mile-apart maintenance stops, I can’t seem to keep my core temperature down. This is just ridiculous. I can’t wait for night to fall so it will be a bit cooler riding. Initially, my goal was to head straight through to Cincinnati, with the majority of the trip done at night, because it would be cooler, but the powers that be just wouldn’t have it!
For the past 60 miles I’ve been trading places with a Honda Civic, 5 miles at a stretch. My speedo needle was locked on 80mph, and I guess this high school kid didn’t have much practice at maintaining speed, or texting or whatever. Didn’t bother me much, at least it gave me something to do on the grotesquely straight and mind numbing “Mainstreet of Kansas” – I70. For what seemed like the hundredth time I go to pass the civic has he decided to pass me and slow down again, but he pulls even with me with a quickness I did not know a Honda Civic would possess. Due to the flashy rims and racing stickers all over the car I think he wants to race after getting bored of changing places for so long. I look over to shake my head and deny a race, for I have a long way to go, and the 250 only has 20mph left in her anyway, so a futile exercise it would be.
I am however shocked to see the darkly tinted window of the all-black Civic completely rolled down, the driver leaning half-way out of the window pointing vigorously at the back of my bike with eyes wide as saucers yelling what I lip-read to be “You’re bike is on fire” above my tunes and the wind noise buffeting my helmet. For a hot millisecond I think he’s joking and almost laugh, but the expression on his face convinces me he’s being genuine and I proceed to stop as quickly as a loaded down 250 which is supposedly on fire is capable of.