As expected, jet lag woke me up at about 2am saying, “it’s morning time, Charlotte – up you get!” Jet lag is not my friend, so I gave her the finger and went back to sleep. At seven, I came downstairs to find Steph and Suzanne already packing their bikes, ready for the off. All we needed to do was to be down at the DMV for 0930 to get my title and plates sorted out and we could be off…Unfortunately, when we got there at about 0920, there was already a queue about six deep and just one person on the desk when they opened up, so it was about an hour and a half before I walked out the legal owner of a highly modified 1978 XS650 motorcycle.
We weren’t on the road until about 1100, which meant we didn’t make our planned ferry across to Port Townsend and had to catch a later one. But we made really good time after that by riding pretty hard for a good few hours.
Although they’re hardtailed chops, Steph and Suzanne’s bikes were built for long days in the saddle. They’re both fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks on the rear rack so they can do 300 miles or more without stopping if needs be. Riding with is a bit imtimidatig – Steph and Suzanne are veterans of numerous cross-country stampede events and have both racked up the sort of mileages that make my backside hurt just thinking about it.
They went easy on me though – and we had a decent break for lunch and a stop for petrol so I could stretch out for a little while. The XS is an incredible bike and rides better than I could have imagined. It’s fast, loud, low and mean looking, but with it’s air-shock seat and secondary highway pegs, it’s actually pretty comfortable. Ape hangers look cool, but the drag bars on this bike are set at just the right place to stop your hands getting too tired (although I did start to feel the effect of the vibrations after we’d done a hundred miles or so.
Steph warned me that because it’s so low, with he exhausts tucked under the frame, you’re got to be careful round the corners as it’s all too easy to drag the exhausts. Being a kinetic learner, I’m afraid I did manage a moment of SCRRRAAAAPE as I took a right handed a bit too enthusiastically at one point. My bad.
By the time we pulled into Seaside, the (admittedly wildly innacurate) odometer on my bike says about 240 miles for the day. We worked out that I was getting about 48 miles to the gallon, which isn’t too shabby. That, by the way, is US gallons – which are ever so slightly smaller than our ones in the UK.
I will admit to being a bit shaky when I got off the bike. Mainly due to not realising how cold I’d got over the last few miles. I’d been wearing my hoodie and padded fillet under my armoured denim jacket, but as the evening mists rolled in over the sea, the temperature plummeted and I think we must have lost enough heat that it took a good ten minutes in front of the hotel room’s hot air fan heater to feel even remotely warm-blooded again.
Suzanne showed me a pretty cool biker trick as we were unloading our bags. She gave me a hotel shower cap to put over the air filters so that if it rained in the night, they would still be dry enough not to leave me with an unstartable bike. Genius!