Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A North American distributed motorcycling network

It's the time of year again.  My next chance to go for a ride is months away.  As the dark descends I need to get my head out of the idea that I'm stuck in a box for the next four months.  I wonder what it would cost to set up a series of self-storage nodes across the southern US to enable year round riding.  With some clever placement I'd be able to fly in and access a wide variety of riding opportunities all year 'round.

Looking at companies that provide self storage I like the look of Cubesmart.  They get great reviews, offer good sized storage units with electricity and lighting and look to be well maintained.  They also offer parking and other services that would make picking up and dropping off a bike easy.  Storage with the same company means I'll also get looked after better.  Setting up all three nodes in the south near airports means I could fly in and be on two wheels in no time.

WEST COAST NODE: a storage unit in San Francisco

The Cubesmart I'd aim for is in Freemont, about 40 minutes from the Airport.  $140US a month gets you a 90 square foot storage area that could easily swallow a bike or two and some gear.  

There are dozens of best rides around the city, so this makes for a target rich centre for motorbiking. A winter ride doing the PCH north of SanFran and through the mountains back to the city would be a lovely idea...

If San Francisco were my West Coast base I'd have access too all of California and could still reach out to the South West even in the winter months.  That'd be the nicest time to ride the deserts anyway.

EAST COAST NODE: a storage unit near Knoxville, TN

Cubesmart has a 10x10 foot storage unit just north of Knoxville for under ninety bucks US a month (about half what San Francisco is?).   It's about an eleven hour drive from where I am now out of the snow and into the Smokey Mountains, or a couple of hours by plane.

I could proceed south to the Tail of the Dragon and further on into Georgia, the Atlantic coast and Florida or west towards New Orleans.

The run south into the Smokey Mountains is a quick one:

Austin, Texas and the lone MotoGP appearance left in North America is only a couple of long days west.  Then again, Austin would make another good network node...

Central/South West Node: a storage unit near Austin, TX

There'a another Cubesmart less than 20 minutes away from the Austin airport.  Like the Knoxville one it's less than a hundred bucks a month for secure, lit and electrified storage (which will be handy for getting the bikes ready to go).  

Circuit of the Americas where North America's last MotoGP race is held is only twenty minutes awayThe Twisted Sisters, one of the best roads to ride in North America, are only an hour away...

Outfitting Each Node

I'd build up a package to keep with the bikes in each storage depot.  A duffel bag with basic tools, fluids, an extension cord and a battery jumper just in case I have to give things a spark to get them going.  I'd make a point of putting the bikes away well, but you never know how long it might be until someone is back to exercise them, so having the kit on hand would be helpful, especially if I'm getting there at 4am after a red-eye for some much-needed two wheeled therapy. 

Licensing bikes in Ontario for riding elsewhere would be a stupid idea as Ontario is one of the worst places to own a motorcycle.  If I could find a reasonable place to make a residence (like BC or Alberta), I could license a number of bikes and leave them scattered around North America.  If I hadn't been there in a while all I'd need to bring along is maybe a new plate sticker if needed.

Off hand, my 3 remote stables would look like this:

West Coast
Kawasaki Z1000R:  my favourite super naked motorbike.  With a look like something out of Pacific Rim it would keep up with the image conscious West Coast.  As a canyon carver little comes close.   It's a bit extreme, but isn't that what riding the West Coast calls for?

I'd have an SW-Mototech EVO cargo bag that would let me turn the big Zed (and the Suzuki below) into a tourer for those longer trips.

East Coast
With the Tail of the Dragon right around the corner, Knoxville calls for a bike that can handle the corners but can also cover distances if I wanted to ride to the Florida Keys or New Orleans.  Most sports bikes look small under me, but not the mighty Hayabusa.  It isn't as skinny and dynamic as a sports bike, but it's still more than able to handle twisties while also being a surprisingly capable distance muncher.  BIKE Magazine just took one across the USA.

For long distance reach and also the chance to ride into the desert when needed, I'd go for the new Triumph Tiger for the Austin depot.  A good two up machine that'll do everything well, it also has good cool weather capabilities for riding in mountains in the winter.

That's three very different machines for each storage point down south.  Swapping machines between depots would also be a cool idea, so riding the Triumph to San Francisco and then riding the big Zed back to Austin if I felt like changing up the options.  Setting up each bike drop would also make for a good end of season ride down south.


California Dreaming

The snow is blowing sideways in the dark, only visible as it passes through the dull orange of the sodium parking lot lights.  The car crunches to a stop in knee deep drifts.  I shut it off and the cold immediately begins to creep in through the cracks.  Grabbing the duffel bag on the seat next to me I make a mad dash for the monorail entrance at the end of the long term parking lot, the car is already being buried in snow.  A big Boeing thunders overhead, lights invisible in the swirling darkness.

Image result for snow at night airport
The monorail slips silently through the night into the terminal.  The airport is dead, barely a soul in sight.  With a printed e-ticket I walk straight to security and US customs and pass through quickly.  Two hours later the Airbus is thundering down the runway and I'm watching snow vortex off the wings as we slip into the night.  Its a five hour and forty minute red-eye flight ahead of the coming dawn; we land in San Francisco at 4am local time.

With no luggage to wait on I'm out of the airport in minutes and in one of many waiting cabs heading to Freemont.  It's a foggy nine degree night as the cab quickly makes its way down empty streets to the storage lockup.  Sunrise is beginning to hint in the east as I unlock the roll up door to reveal a covered motorbike in the shadows.  The bike underneath gleams black and green in the predawn light as I pull the blanket off.  If I was tired before, I'm less so now.

I transfer a few clothes from the duffel to the hangover soft panniers and belt them to the bike.  I give it the once over and make sure everything is ready to fly.  With the key in the ignition I turn it and watch LEDs play across the dash.  The breeze outside smells of sea salt and the fog is beginning to lift; I feel like I've landed on another planet.

Image result for pacific coast highway north of san franciscoThe big Zed fires up on the touch of the starter so I roll it forward out of the container and let it settle down into an idle.  I check everything again and make sure the panniers are secure on the back.

While the bike warms up I change out of travel clothes and leave them in the duffel hanging on the wall.  A few minutes later I'm in boots, riding pants and leather jacket and feeling warm in the cool morning air.  It's mid-winter here too, but a Northern Californian mid-winter is a very different thing from Ontario.  The forecast is calling for fifteen degree days, no nights under five and mostly crisp, sunny weather.  This would be ideal fall riding weather back home and this Canadian riding gear is built for cool days like these.

 The PCH is calling so I throw on my helmet and saddle up as the sky brightens.  The 880 is still quiet as Oakland is just beginning to wake up around me.  I'm through Oakland and over the Bay Bridge before rush hour builds.  Traffic is just beginning to build in town as I roll through San Francisco and out through The Presidio and onto the Golden Gate Bridge.

I pull into the Shoreline Coffee Shop in Mill Valley just north of the bridge for a big plate of eggs and bacon and some good coffee; it's just past 7am.  I've got six days ahead of me to explore the coast and mountain roads around here before I've got to go back to the land of ice and snow.

Image result for pacific coast highway north of san francisco