The NO2SEA tour is over. I spent my first year learning how to ride a motorcycle by crossing the country. Twice. The entire adventure was funded by pursuing my passion as a performer. I experimented with working in a dozen different cities across the United States. Armed with a coin, a pack of cards, and a personality, I managed to convince strangers of every age, race, and economic class to come together peaceably to laugh and gasp as one. From below sea level all the way up to 13,000ft, I was immersed in just about every geographic variation this country has to offer. I leapt. I fell down. I got back up. I met a ton of amazing people. It was the most powerful learning experience of my life.
Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s a narrative of how the last week of the tour played out.
I had met up with my KLR buddy Nate in Boulder, CO, and he accompanied me to the week long gig I had in Telluride. We left there on the first of July, taking a dirt road through Gateway Pass into Utah, arriving in Moab later that eve. We arrived at 11pm in 80 something degree weather, & he offered to get us a room. We stayed in the same motel I stopped in when I passed through Moab on my SEA2NO trip. It was 105 degrees during the day, so after buying my new drive chain from Moab Motorsports (I managed to make it from Seattle to New Orleans and half way back on the same chain and sprockets), we headed West and then peeled North towards Salt Lake City.
We weren’t too sure what our plan was for the next couple of days. The rough draft idea was to explore some mining towns in Southern Idaho before Nate headed back to Reno and I continued Northwest. It was July 2nd, and we didn’t know where we were going to spend the 4th of July. As soon as we neared the Idaho border, I was struck by the fact I was only one state away from Washington. For the last month, whenever I looked at a map, it was of the East coast or of the Central US. For the first time in almost a year, the map showed states I was familiar with. Suddenly becoming aware of my proximity to home made me realize how close I was to completing the epic adventure I’d set out on. I became antsy to get back home to my Evergreen state.
I left New Orleans without enough cash to make it to WA because I wanted to prove to myself that I could use magic to survive on the road. Sitting in a Best Buy parking lot in Salt Lake City, I took stock and realized I didn’t have the funding to make it to the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene. I didn’t really want to backtrack South to Reno, nor did I want to spend much time in the Nevada desert during July, but I knew that there would be a crowd there for the 4th. I put my last $20 bill in my gas tank, stuffed my remaining $15 in my wallet and decided to follow Nate back to Reno. A year ago, I might’ve become a little panicked at the idea of being a thousand miles away from home with $15 to my name, but after overcoming the trials I’ve submitted myself to, confidence is one of my strongest allies. I had enough food and fuel to make it to Reno, I had a place stay, and I had my coin and cards. I reminded myself that it is what it is, & what it is, is enough.
We took highway 80 West into Nevada and stopped at a gas station so Nate could change his gear ratio from the lower off-road gearing up to something more freeway friendly. The switch was going to take a while, so I spent a few minutes looking over my steed, and then proceeded to set up my GoPro to capture the sun setting behind the mountains. The lot behind the gas station was occupied by an abandoned office trailer, desert brush clogged with trash, and a few tangled messes of scrap metal. I set my helmet down with the camera inside, a fun perspective I’ve been fiddling with considering the goal of the blog is to give you a glimpse through my eyes. I let the time lapse roll and walked past the dilapidated trailers back to the bikes, watching my step as I leapt over shrubs. Something at my feet caught my eye, and I bent down to pick up a crumpled $5 bill amongst the sand and trash. As I stood up I noticed a single sunflower growing from the harsh concrete in front of the railing of one of the trailers. I often navigate by intuition, and this sequence of events had me feeling confident.
Nate finished his modifications and we hit the highway. We rode well into the night, stopping around 3AM after spending a few hours heading directly towards a lightening storm. We slept a few hours on the side of the highway, got back on the road and arrived in Reno before six that night. From Moab to Reno, we covered 750 miles in about 36 hours on freeway-worthy dirtbikes. We got into town just in time for the weekly Bike Night at a restaurant called PJ’s. I realized I’d put in 16,000 miles and traveled cross country before I ever met up with a group of riders. I vowed to put more effort into actively seeking like-minded people, & we went back to Nate’s for some well-deserved rest.
We spent most of the 4th doing maintenance on the bike, and around 7pm I headed to the Golden Nugget casino in nearby Sparks, NV. It was the biggest fireworks show in town, with tons of people showing up early to stake out good spots. It’s always interesting doing shows in an unfamiliar area. I had no idea what the busking laws were in Reno, and though the air felt relaxed, I still was wary of the police and casino security officers present. At times I felt like I was playing Metal Gear Solid, or any other spy-game with sentry guards you had to avoid. As soon as a patrol of two walked by, I’d set up and do a show in their wake, knowing they wouldn’t pass through for while. In three shows I made a little under a $100, which translates to about 1,000 miles in fuel. I was now in range of Eugene, OR, where I had planned on working the Oregon Country Fair. We spent the rest of the weekend in Reno doing maintenance on the bikes during the day and watching motorcycle movies at night.
The highlight of our stop in Reno came as an unexpected filming opportunity. Nate is a R/C hobbyist and had some friends that got together weekly to fly their remote control helicopters and airplanes. Jim of aerialeye.org had recently put together a production company using a fantastic camera ship he’d built.
An electric helicopter with a camera boom, GoPro mount with a live-feed that rotated and pivoted. Jim flew the helicopter while an assistant operated the camera. I’d never anticipated getting aerial footage, but it turned out to be a fantastic experience with some really awesome guys.
We left Reno that Monday and camped a hundred miles out by a stream in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The next day we made it up to the foot of Mt. Shasta in Northern California. Life on the road was starting to really wear on me, and as I watched the sun set on Mt. Shasta I reflected on how much I’d experienced in the last year.
I began seriously considering finishing the trip in a dozen hours, rushing past the Oregon Country Fair and just going straight to my parents place in Washington. It was a Tuesday, I was only 200 miles from Eugene, and I had three days to kill before the festival began. The next day was dedicated to slowly drifting North, exploring Crater Lake, the deepest lake on the planet. It was an incredible sight, I’d never seen so many shades of blue in one spot.
By four thirty we were in Roseburg, OR. After three failed fuel-up attempts (no premium gas, then no debit cards x2), we were asked to leave the parking lot we’d been resting and looking at the map in. This string of annoyances, the three day wait before the festival and my $60 something remaining funds combined to push me over the edge. I decided to fly up I-5 and finish the tour that night. From 5pm to 3:30am, I covered 375 miles for a total of 575 miles that day, topping my miles-in-a-day record by 75 miles and providing a rigorous final test of my endurance.
I woke up Wednesday morning feeling refreshed, still a bit in shock that I was no longer on the road. When you ride through the night like that, after a while you reach an altered state of consciousness. At one point I did have to lay down for a while on the curb aside a gas station, but after 2am I caught a second wind and felt fully alert. I felt great all day Wednesday, crashed early that night, & got myself ready to head into Seattle to do shows that Thursday. As I prepared to head into the city, the weight of my final push avalanched down on me. Like a severe workout, it took a day and half for the lactic acid to settle into my muscles, and suddenly my entire body was sore. I succumbed to a nap from noon to three, my body completely wiped out. I must stress that the kind of motorcycle I ride is a single-cylinder, which means there is a piston pumping directly upwards towards the seat. They’re nicknamed “thumpers” for this reason, and no other machine on the road vibrates more. Covering 500+ miles a day on this type of bike (without an aftermarket seat or other vibration dampeners) is a feat of mental and physical endurance.
On the notion of aftermarket parts, a large reason I ended the tour early was because of my gear. I had two months from the time I bought the bike to when I left for the first 5,000 mile tour in September. The sleeves have almost fallen off my riding jacket, which has been sun-bleached in some spots from a fluorescent orange to a light peach. The zippers on my tank bag are safety pinned together. I slept in a $40 tent I had from a backpacking trip to Hawaii, which barely withstands a moderate windstorm. My helmet leaks through a broken piece on the top and the visor is scratched to hell. The fingers of my gloves are torn open, and I don’t have waterproof boots. I want to continue experimenting with this lifestyle, but I need to do a little reinvesting in my setup beforehand.
I’ll chapter this update here, more stories to come soon. The next step is to continue editing the 100+hours of GoPro footage and keep pumping out writings for a short eBook. Stay tuned <3