Learning Journey

I’ve consciously placed myself in a scenario where if I expect to make it back to Seattle, I’ll have to push my boundaries and explore the peripheries of my comfort zone. Growth is rarely comfortable, but this has been a phenomenal learning experience so far.

The state that has impressed me the most so far has been Missouri. I think it did so largely because I just wasn’t expecting it (I think that’s also a big part of what makes street theater so great, the unexpectedness). I had lumped it together with Kansas in terms of what I thought it’s geography consisted of. It was forested with gentle hills and curvy roads, and though I don’t know what the source was (honeysuckle, maybe?), the fresh air in a large portion of the state smelled delightfully floral.

The ride across Kansas was honestly not as bad as I thought it would be. I wish I was able to get my fuel leak situated before I left, but leaving Kansas City at around 10:30am and finishing the days’ ride at about 10:30pm, I was able to get the plains out of the way and another 500+ miles under my belt. Wind wasn’t a bother until the second half of the day, where I ended up waiting an hour or two until it calmed down.

The skies were completely clear when I left Norton, KS where I’d been waiting out the wind. The visibility out there is insane, you can see for dozens of miles in every direction. I rode for another few hours, and as the last hour of light faded I was able to see a looming storm off the in the distance. It was like ink that slowly bled through the fading blue sky, sprawling out and widening, with a single tentacle that stretched to the Northwest of me. It looked like I was going to be able to ride past it, until the highway I was on banked to the right and started heading straight towards it. The Weather Channel app I was using wasn’t responding, and at around 10PM it was too dark for me to visually trace its progress.

Regretfully, I forked out the $40 for a motel. I was fully intent on camping, but the long days’ ride teamed up with the unknown looming storm to coerce me into staying indoors. Plus I’d spent the last few nights indoors, making me a little soft. Until I get a tent that is one solid piece capable of withstanding severe weather (current one is a bug net, single pole, and rain sheet), I won’t be able to take risks like that with confidence. I’ve been keeping a list of the gear that I would want before taking another tour like this (which I will, several of them in fact).

Preparedness. You can really only prepare for so much, but having the knowledge and skills are often more valuable than having the proper gear. Part of why I haven’t stopped in some town long enough to save up and buy better gear is because I kind’ve enjoy doing it with what I currently am using. Making the most of what you have is a skill unto itself, and this is a learning journey after all.

In the morning I left the Colorado/Kansas border with about 70 miles of fuel left before I hit reserves. The Eastern half of CO is not much different from the rest of Kansas, flat and boring. I ended up hitting reserve 22 miles sooner than I thought, the wind resistance and high-speeds reducing my MPG (or the leak’s gotten worse). I went through two more towns on my reserve tank, and neither of them had gas stations.

I began to acknowledge the idea of running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere, and was pleasantly surprised to find an absence of panic or anxiety. I played through the possible scenarios in my head:

–Hitchhike to nearest gas station, hitchhike back
–Walk to nearby farm and ask for gas
–Push the bike until I reached a gas station

I realized I didn’t yet have a length of tubing to siphon gas if someone stopped and offered, which is an example of a gear-related thing that I do need to be prepared with. I decided to stop going West and head South towards the Interstate, knowing I’d be more likely to find fuel. This turn also put the wind at my back, giving me a slight advantage. The road was less maintained than the highway I was on, fewer houses, and there was much less traffic. It was 26 miles to the interstate, and I eyed my odometer while doing my best not to worry about it.

I ran out of fuel with approximately 7 miles to go. As I coasted to a stop as I remembered a trick I read on a KLR forum online. I dismounted and gently laid the bike down on its left side and rocked it a little. This brought the droplets of fuel caught in a divot in the right side of the tank over to the petcock on the left. I hoisted the bike upright, gave her a moment to breath, and fired¬† back up. I made it another four miles before she sputtered and died. In the distance I spotted the outline of a semi on the interstate. Three miles ain’t a bad walk.

I tried the tip trick again, this time lifting the bike even further up. I was able to get her started again, and stayed around 40mph, alternating between coasting and throttling. I made it over the freeway and into a gas station, engine sputtering as I gave the throttle one last twist.

This was a great example of how doing your homework can help save your butt. I don’t remember what the thread was, but on the forum some random users offhand comment kept me from spending a big chunk of the day on foot in the middle of nowhere. The experience I have gained by going into this adventure with little preparation will only further enhance my adaptability down the line, when I have things like a GPS, waterproof boots, and a helmet that doesn’t leak.

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I’m learning tons of tricks like this that relate to street theater, by getting myself out there and meeting other buskers. It is such a fascinating lifestyle, and those that pursue it are never lacking in stories. I’ve been doing a few shows here in Denver today, and that has been pretty enjoyable. It’s great to be back in a liberal town, a little more my style. I’ve been earning stripes showing up in unfamiliar towns and feeling out the scene, where the pitches are, the rules and who the players are.

I’ve reached a point in the trip that I’ve been imagining. I’m basically living out of my hat, setting aside money for fuel and food. At the beginning of the trip, motels and $8 coffee/snack stops were frequent, because I had the slack to do it. It’s another scenario where I couldn’t learn certain lessons without the right set of circumstances, so I set out to establish them. I’ve had offers for cash (thanks mom) and loans (thanks friends), but until I’m in a third-generation emergency, I won’t accept them. Until my legs are too tired to make it to the gas station, I need these circumstances to really discover myself. I left New Orleans with nowhere near enough cash to make it halfway back to Seattle, knowingly, and with confidence.

“Courage is grace under pressure”

-Ernest Hemingway

I’m crashing in Denver tonight, and maybe staying tomorrow night as well. I was planning on hitting Boulder tomorrow, but I’ve been drawn by an event I saw posted downtown. They put pianos throughout the streets, for people to play. How cool is that. The event tomorrow is “Make Music Denver”, an open concert anyone can play in. I watched a young woman sing “This Girl is on Fire” twenty minutes ago, and it was phenomenal. t’s this kind of thing that encourages me to keep studying the streets. I have a feeling some really cool stuff is going to come out on the streets of Denver tomorrow, and I want to be around for it.

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Thanks again for coming on this learning journey with me. Stay tuned =)