I rode across the South Dakota state line smiling ear to ear. Nobody saw that big grin behind my full-face helmet. But when the other two riders from our staff looked over at me, it was as if they knew I was having my moment of personal glory. I'm not sure what I was grinning more about-the fact that I had done it or the fact that I had hung in with all the guys.
I had nothing to prove to anybody. In fact, I had expected my Sportster XL 1200L test bike to live at least half the 1500-plus mile road trip on Triple Threat Choppers' chase vehicle. Speaking of road trip, this was our 5th annual Sturgis ride, with staff members from this magazine, Hot Bike, and Street Chopper, as well as several advertisers. I was relieved our little road trip was planned over four days. Aside from desiring beauty sleep, I also needed the extra time for my lack of riding experience.
My nerves were shot on the morning of August 2, 2006, as we geared up to leave our Anaheim, California, office for Sturgis. This was my first time going to Sturgis. Hell, this was my first time riding over 100 miles without any stops. It seemed like yesterday, actually about a year ago, I was telling the editor I'd give up going to all events throughout the year just to go to Sturgis. Next thing I know, I'm Sturgis-bound on my Sporty, with no windshield, and roughly 400 miles of riding experience. I was excited and scared at the same time...pumped about the opportunity, fearful of the unknown.
The first day we were riding to Mesquite, Nevada, roughly 350 miles. It was hotter than hell and the highways were bumpy getting into Nevada. But at least the roads went straight-no curve balls in my path, yet. The third fuel-up was a turning point for me. I had ridden over half the distance to Mesquite and it wasn't as hard as I had expected. By that time, we had broken into several smaller packs, with the editor following in the chase vehicle. Ernie Lopez and Eric Ellis got stuck with me, and my girlish ways, nose powderings, helmet issues, and 20-minute intervals to gear up. They were troopers, and each had become my wingman by the time we hit Mesquite for the night, as well as the remainder of the trip.
I figured since I had ridden the first day and enjoyed the experience, I'd take a stab at doing it again on the second day. We left Mesquite and were headed to Grand Junction, Colorado, roughly 430 miles. I was told this was going to be one of the most beautiful legs of our trip. I wanted to see the scenery from my bike, not from a window. At first, I was intimidated by the long distance to Grand Junction. But we took longer breaks between fuel-ups, which enabled me to stay well rested to try to make it there. As we rode through Utah and into Colorado, to say the scenery was beautiful would be an understatement. Seeing it from a vehicle is one thing-seeing it from a bike doesn't even compare. It's funny how your perspective can change about something when you see it from a motorcycle. I was engulfed, merely swallowed by nature-the sky, the mountains, the water, and the very curvaceous roads. I not only made it to Grand Junction, I made it there with almost a new perspective on life.
By the third day, I had become a road dog dirtball and loved it! I didn't care about makeup, beauty sleep, or even being clean-OK, somewhat clean. I cared about pointing that Sporty to Sturgis and having a hell of a time along the way. We left Grand Junction and were headed to Estes Park, Colorado, roughly 300 miles. This day was the most intimidating, unnerving leg of the trip going to Sturgis. For starters, we hit a storm and I didn't have any rain gear. If the gear had arrived at our office in time for the trip, there would have been plenty of space for it in my saddlebags. I had to ditch the hair dryer and red boots at home. Otherwise, essentials I needed over four days-plus tools-fit well in the saddlebags. Something that did arrive on time for the trip was the XL 2-Up custom seat. You may recall the Sporty seat install in our November issue. Nonetheless, I tried to break it in the first 200 miles, and then borrowed a gel pad Ernie had brought for me. The breaking in phase is to be continued. Anyways, back to us hitting a rainstorm. There we were, getting drenched beside the highway, while Ernie and Eric basically MacGyver-engineered Ernie's rain suit into something for me. His camouflage suit was a mere five sizes too big, so they electrical-taped it to me and added a couple of bungee cords for added security. Did I forget to mention I've never ridden in the rain? There I was, riding through Mother Nature's wrath, with the rain suit blowing up in all the wrong places. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see faces pushed up against car windows, while other riders did double takes trying to figure out what the hell was rolling down the highway. It's one of my fondest memories. Then came the Rocky Mountain National Park...the place where I earned my nerves of steel. All I can say folks, is the experience was incredible, and my wingmen were there every hairpin turn. Regardless of the horror stories I heard prior to riding the umpteenth feet up the mountains, Ernie and Eric gave me a pep talk, and I didn't let fear get the best of me. But there were a few times, like the unexpected elk in the road, where I looked for the oh s!*t handle. Nevertheless, I was proud of myself, proud of all of us, especially when we reached Estes Park for the night.
The last leg of the trip was through Beulah, Wyoming, continuing on to Sturgis, roughly 450 miles. Aside from some unnerving experiences, I was having the time of my life. I wasn't going to stop on the last day. It was a long haul getting to South Dakota, with periods of rain, as well as wind patterns that drove me nuts riding through Wyoming. As mentioned earlier, I didn't have a windshield on the Sporty. But I wasn't about to become a sissy girl and give up. We finally crossed the South Dakota state line and rode into the sunset. It's one of my fondest memories.