June 27, 2009
I finished packing around 7PM and relaxed with the family before going to bed at 10PM. The alarm rang at 1AM. I was out the door at 2AM. I rode to Jim’s house and we were on the road at 2:30AM. We met up with Iron Butt at 4AM at the pre-arranged spot. We were finally on our way to Alaska.
We cranked off the interstate miles as it got lighter and hotter. By 8Am we were fighting heat, boredom, hunger and fatigue. We stopped for breakfast. The clouds of doubt became thicker and darker within a few hours. I had noticed Iron Butt leaving his headlights on when he shut off his bike. I had thought I was being a good riding buddy by pointing out that his ignition was on and his lights were on. No need to ruin a battery in the middle of nowhere on a 10,000 mile ride. The first few times I noticed it, he quietly turned them off. I began to wonder why he continually forgot his lights. Then he explained in a very official safety minded voice that the MSF course teaches that you “should always turn your engine off using the kill switch, that way you have practiced it and know where it is when you need it in an emergency.” I pondered the logic of this particular dogma. At first I dismissed it as narrow minded and not particularly helpful. The more I pondered it and the more I saw him leave his lights on, the more it nagged at my own sense of logic. At some point I was afraid that perhaps during my 42 years of riding motorcycles with nearly 300,000 miles of riding experience, I had perhaps learned it all wrong. I recalled using the kill switch once or twice when I rode dirt bikes. I thought back to all the times I shut off my motorcycle and could not recall routinely using the kill switch when I had a perfectly good key that did the same thing with the added benefit of not allowing me to park my bike and walk away leaving the battery to discharge.
I brought up my concerns many times over the next few days. It may have contributed to some friction between Iron Butt and me. At least I had a new call sign for Iron Butt. From now on, I would think of him as “Captain Kill Switch”.
There is not much to say about riding through I-5 and the areas around Bakersfield, Stockton, and Redding in late June. By the time we got to Redding the outdoor thermometers at banks were reading 107 degrees!
We were ready to have dinner and get out of the heat. After refueling we chose La Conquista Mexican restaurant next door. Captain Kill Switch (CKS) dropped his bike while putting down the side stand. I was next to him and told him hold on and I would help him lift his bike. But CKS couldn’t wait. It must be terribly embarrassing to have one’s bike lying on the ground and the tendency of people is to get it back up as soon as possible. He bent over at the waist using very poor body mechanics, ignoring help from two others nearby. I told him, “Wait, you are going to hurt your back.” Perhaps he had his iPod playing and paid no attention to me. He continued to lift. I reached over and pulled on the closest thing I could grab (the right grip) while still seated on my bike. The bike righted itself without falling over on me. All was again right with the world.
After a mediocre Mexican meal and a beer, we set off to find a camping spot for the day. We found one on the south shore of Lake Shasta. It was hot. We were tired. The camp ground was not pretty and there were small mites and ants invading our tents. Jim struggled with putting up his new tent. He had never used it before. It was quite entertaining. By 9PM we were all snoring in our own tents.