Wild Wild West, Part 1

A migraine is no way to begin an adventure. One should never make life altering decisions when dealing with the kind of ache that a concussion brings forth onto the cranium. Thankfully, this tomfoolery was concocted a year before it happened and the aforementioned head trauma was easy enough to navigate around with the right amount of extra strength ibuprofen, caffeine, and sheer FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out – I’ve got it, bad). How much dosage of this self prescribed witchcraft? As much as I could shove down my gullet.  

The trip plan was simple enough: Leave Portland, head towards Denver, climb Pike’s Peak and meander through Colorado and Utah on the way to see the Grand Canyon, then head home through the California and Oregon coast.  The Wild Wild West, on motorcycles, as it was meant to be seen.

We knew there would be a fair amount of off-the-beaten-path roads ahead of us and we wanted a set of tires that could withstand anything we’d throw at them, considering we might encounter anything from dry to wet, ranging from 35 to 100+ degrees fahrenheit.  I put on my white lab coat, took copious notes on brand offerings, product reviews, and forum gossip (it’s a deep, dark place, and I recommend a stiff drink for the journey) and came up with one very interesting brand, new to the US ADV-moto groups: MotoZ. No one knows exactly how to pronounce the name: Mot OZ, since they’re from Australia, or Moto Zee?  The MotoZ Tractionator GPS, a mouthful, is a hefty and stiff, all rubber bunch of kick ass that sounds too good to be true with promises of ultra-long distance wear, off-road prowess and wet weather grip. What more could an ADV-tourer ask for?


The heroes of this tale, Jonas and I, were full of excitement with zero apprehension for what was to come. Our steeds, two Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduros, were freshened up and looked ready for this task at hand, clad with all the necessary farkles to keep us comfy and ADV-cred enough to impress the passing SUV’s, U-Hauls, and big rigs. Camping-ware? Check.  Freeze-dried foods? Check. Axe? Check. Espresso maker? Yeah, man, we’re not animals!

Headache be damned, I’m jumping for joy!


Back to this headache – my sidekick for the whole trip – that goaded a heartfelt “hey man, if we need to start a day late, we’ll start a day late.”  A true friend, Jonas with his offering of a relaxed start, who had no idea of the gumption that was pushing me towards this journey. Frankly, I knew the damage I had incurred, a few weeks prior, was going to linger beyond the extra day offered to me by Jonas.  We decided to take it a hundred miles, at a time, to see how I would hold up. Do as I say, and not as I do, and don’t begin an adventure with a migraine. The decision to head straight to Denver was made with promises of a whole day of delicious downtown Denver food offerings, so we pushed on through to Mountain View, ID, and pulled into Gem State RV Park as the sun set.  A cold can of PBR helped drown the ibuprofen and relax the muscles for a restless, train horn filled night of sleep that made a point in my mind: during an adventure, restless nights in a tent are completely forgivable. I don’t know who wrote the rule book, but I’m here to abide.

Sunset at Gem State RV Park.

When deciding to blast through to Denver, we realized that we’d have to dig deep into our souls to deal with the hellacious experience of I-80 as it cuts through Wyoming. At the beginning, as we cut through Utah, it was magical but by the first 50 miles, and the jumbo jet strength gusts of wind that blew us from side to side made the 700 mile day take years off of our lives.  That’s the price of strapping down on the super-slab for soul crushing mile after mile on a motorcycle. That’s what minivans are made for, not motorcycles. We maintained radio silence for the better part of that day with the occasional outburst of expletives to paint a verbal picture of the bleak landscape in front of us. It was our own doing – Wyoming is beautiful, I am sure. As night settled, we took a detour to cut through the Colorado country, through route 287 and Google Maps decided to have a sense of humor as it directed us to make a left into a gravel road, CR-80, with the promise of connecting us to I-25.  It wasn’t lying but after a whole day of painful highway riding, we were ready to end the night and my migraine wasn’t nearly as amused as I wanted to be with our sudden adventure. Jonas, a typically eloquent speaker, exclaimed “what the fuck?” which may have sent me into a hysterical fit of giggles. He was the voice in my head and it spoke truth.

Denver slowly crept up on us at the same pace as my migraine and the last few miles were a blur.  What was clear, however, was the address to my aunt and uncle’s home which confused me a bit. They are the kind of people who open their homes to you without need for reciprocation and offer comfort and kindness without a second thought.  They are a home that is made up of a Shah-era Iranian Air Force pilot husband and a wife with British sensibility and Dr Who-esque humor with an eye for antiques and they’ve seen me grow from a skinny kid to a tattooed motorcyclist with the same amount of love and support from day one.  What they aren’t is downtown Denver loft-dwelling hipsters who sip whatchama-lattes at the Denver Art Museum. Or so I thought, as I rode weary eyed through myriad one-way streets and met my uncle’s warm embrace at the garage door of his ultra-hip downtown Denver loft tower.

“I didn’t think you guys were this cool!” I exclaimed as I gawked at the high rise views of Denver and all of its noises.  The kind of sounds that help me relax because I know the city better than I know the country.

“Well, we are.” cooed my uncle, with the poise of an Iranian air force pilot who still fits in his bomber jacket and will beat you at backgammon, with a kind smile on his face.  

A warm shower and fresh laundry washed the stink off of us and we slept like coma patients, that night, with the kind of luxurious surroundings that concrete walls afford you.  My migraine was forgotten about for 8 hours and it felt like we hadn’t covered 1250 miles in the last 38 hours.

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