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I bought this
motorcycle for a mere $600.
My tax return that year was $600.
I sold this motorcycle for $600.
It was a very good year.
I was moving to California.
And I got the crazy idea to ride a motorcycle across the United
States. My father thought it was nuts. There was still a foot of
snow on the ground outside the window when I told him.
I didn't even have a motorcycle
And I didn't know a thing about motorcycling.
Makes complete sense to me.
A change of tires for the cross country trek
|Buying the GS850 was very
exciting. I found an ad in the paper and went out to look at the
bike. Until I actually saw the motorcycle- I had no idea what a
GS850 even was. Or what it would look like.
garage door opened and my first thought was- that thing is huge! Compared to my
Suzuki GS450, it was. The guy rarely rode it anymore. It was the
first and only bike I looked at. I rather blithely assumed the bike
would be big enough to make the trip across the United States. I
told him right there I would take it.
|I secured engine guards, added highway
pegs, and put new Spitfire SE11's on the bike. I borrowed the
saddlebags my little sister used with her horses and someone gave me an
old army sleeping bag. I went to the DMV, took the driving test and
rode home with a smile. I had hardly ridden the new motorcycle.
I figured I probably needed a shakedown
run. In preparation for my 5000 mile trek, I merely rode over to the
next town, 15 miles away. And promptly froze my kiester off.
It was April in Wisconsin. You southern people have no idea.
It was cold! Where's the heater on this thing? Somebody gave
me a Dennis Kirk catalog and I bought the largest fairing available on
National Cycles' product line.
It was snowing when I left.
Trying to get up to Mt Evans
The Highest Road in the United States
Guanella Pass, Colorado, el. 11,665 ft.
I did no homework on the route, sights along the
way, or much of anything. A direction of west was the
general idea and I had ten days until I had to check into my new unit. I headed south into Illinois to escape the snow.
Then into St. Louis, Missouri to escape the flattest land imaginable in
northwestern Illinois. Up into Kansas into my first intense downpour
on the plains.
It was exhilarating. I cried war into the sky as
the winds and rain tossed the bike back and forth across the road.
Across Colorado until I rode
up on the Rocky Mountains through Kiowa wondering what the early pioneers
must have thought. Above Denver is literally a wall straight up into
Past Mile High Stadium and up to Mount Evans to the
highest road miles and miles. Darn, it's still covered under piles
of snow. How about Guanella Pass? That was opened only days
earlier. I slip and slide up the dirt road to 14,665 feet up in the
air. The highest pass in North America and then over to
Leadville- the highest town in America. I attempted to reach Aspen
but the road still had four feet of snow on it. So that's why there
was no traffic coming back the other way!
descending into the Utah desert and into Zion National Park on backroads.
South to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. Hmm, the Grand Canyon is
right over there...
Highway 82 near Aspen, Colorado
Riding across Utah's San Rafael Desert
I left Hoover Dam and headed for
the Grand Canyon leaving the freeway as dusk fell. I couldn't see
anything beyond my headlight but the signs said it was just ahead. I
found the south rim and a campsite and settled into the coldest night of
my life. My ancient sleeping bag was made of paper mache'
and I shivered the hours away completely unaware of just how cold it
Before dawn, I awoke simply unable to sleep any longer.
I was surprised to see a heavy layer of white frost covering everything,
including my sleeping bag. No
A short distance away, the
temperature read 19 degrees! What I failed to take note of was the
elevation markers. The south rim of the Grand Canyon was 6000
feet. I was sleeping on a mountain top.
Down through Sedona, and toward
California. At the border was a sort of border crossing where
everyone had to stop. I had not encountered anything like this in
all my travels. Did I have any fruit? Fruit? Do I look
like I a guy who's carrying fruit? Does this thing look like a fruit
truck? My first experience with the state border inspections.
The zip-loc/scotch tape map solution
Clem Church Memorial Highway
aka Utah's Highway 12
Across the edge of Mexico on
Interstate 8 into San
Diego and then up the coastal highway. The first of many trips along
the Pacific Coast's Cabrillo Highway, aka Highway
I checked into my
reserve unit and worked the summer riding to work daily on the
bike. I didn't know anyone and work didn't offer much opportunity to
develop friendships. Instead I would hop on the bike and
explore. Sometimes putting my rollarblades on the back and riding to
some locale like Monterey- three hours away.
started school and the luggage rack worked great to hold all my
books. The exhaust pipe rusted through (a common problem I am told)
and I stuffed steel wool in through the hole which worked great.
|One time I was headed to the night job
I worked. I would leave the house at 1 in the morning. While
turning into the last corner, I hit a patch of gravel kicked up from the
heavy trucks pulling out and went down. The wipeout was fortunately
at low speed and the bike merely slid a short distance and stopped there
in the middle of the road. My coworker behind me in his car saw the
whole thing. His eyes were as big as saucers when he hopped out of his
car to see if I was alright. I had ripped the knees out of my jeans
pretty bad and scrapped some skin off. Other than than, I was fine
and rode into work and worked the shift.
When I got home, I realized
the left aluminum engine casing had actually been ground down to the point
where I had put a tiny hole in the engine casing in which oil was seeping
out. Not good. If you go to an auto parts store and they do
not know what JB Weld is, then you are in the wrong store. We
whipped this up, slathered some on and plugged the hole.
No, that's not Celsius
Not having a car can create some odd problems,
How to get this trunk home...
I had grown a little too attached to my M16A2 while on
active duty and purchased a Colt Sporter- the civilian version of the
M16A2. It's essentially an exact copy without the 3 round burst.
I would split the rifle in half, bungee it to the back of the bike and ride
up into the national forests, and hike around until I found a suitable
makeshift firing range.
Fortunately, I soon sold the rifle to garner
some cash to buy the next motorcycle. Otherwise maybe I would have
turned into some militant nut rather than a motorcycle nut.
One of the things I failed to do
as I began looking for a new motorcycle is figure out what the GS850 was
worth. I sold it to some kid for a measly $600 because my next 6000
mile trip was fast approaching and I wanted a bigger bike. In
California, my bike was worth twice what I paid in Wisconsin. The
mileage was still under 20K although it wasn't perfect, it was still in
80's street bikes are fast becoming a memory but they will always be great
starter bikes. They're reliable, inexpensive to operate, and
durable. They'll always be my recommendation if some wants to get
into motorcycling for minimal dollars.
In front of me lay
50,000 Miles over the next three years on an '83
Yamaha Venture XVZ1200.
Routine Maintenance and such