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On Planning an Adventure




No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time. - Lewis Carroll

We currently have now in our possession one Butler map of the Great Colorado Rides, two commitments from friends to let us camp at their ranches, and two used GS bikes. An expedition is presently underway. Or better, the massive planning phases of an expedition are underway. We’re about 2% prepared at this point.

With apologies to Mr. Carroll, we thought it would be helpful to speak of adventure before it happens. This is where most of the joy lies, and this is where the faint of heart too often abandon ship. We’re planning a trip, one full of unknown developments, Nature’s fickle hand, and obviously some risk. In many ways I don’t think you can plan adventure in the truest sense of the word, but we can put ourselves in its path in the hopes that something unexpected and timeless will sweep us up and carry us away.

As long as we can stay afloat. Or astride, in our case.

photo by eye of rie

This coming summer, several of us will undertake an expedition on dual-sport motorcycles through the wild expanses of the Colorado mountains looking for streams to fish, for roads without tarmac, for conversations about things that matter, and perhaps for some of that elusive adventure that we crave in the deep places of our hearts. And to capture it all on film.

Truthfully, we’ve longed to go on a motorcycle trip for years. It goes back to our love affair with the BBC series Long Way Round. The only thing holding us back was access to said motorcycles. Oh, and the ability to ride them.

Well, now that we’re planning the trip we must have crossed both those obstacles, right? Kind of. We have no idea what we’re getting ourselves into, nor do we have the equipment required for our venture. At some point we realized that if this was going to happen then we needed to begin preparing for it.

The humor and hubris required to write about how to plan an adventure while still figuring it out for ourselves was not lost on us. Actually, it caused some of the appeal to attempt to do so. Like the old idiom goes, it is often not the teacher but the student who knows what the real questions are.

It begins with dreaming. On one of those stolen moments around the holidays we sat around and talked about trips we wanted to take, about shared excursions and endless possibilities. We could sail to Bermuda. Or climb Mount McKinley. Or ride through the rugged passes of the Continental Divide. We needed to explore unspoken ideas and discover shared dreams of what might be possible if only we tried.

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Man has crossed the world with such wind beneath his sails.

Once we shared a vision, research came next. We want to ride motorcycles, but where? For how long? What kind of skillset do we need? What kind of equipment do we need?

So we turned to those who know more than we do. During a meeting with an adventure motorcycle consultant (really just a fella who owns a rental company…) he asked us if we had done the entirety of the Colorado Backcountry Discover Route, to which we replied, “no, not the whole thing.”

Afterward we were grateful that he hadn't asked the follow-up question: have you ridden any of it? Which would have been embarrassing, because no, we haven’t. In fact, many of us still haven't ridden motorcycles off-road at all.

Our days now are filled with scouring Craigslist for GS bikes (our plan to fund the expedition is to buy the bikes, ride them, and sell them afterward.) We’ve signed up for an off-road motorcycle course. We’re talking to folks who have done similar routes. We’re passing around lots of YouTube videos for inspiration. Massive prep lists. Route planning. You name it.

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Here are a couple tangible categories we are thinking of:

Companions: A crucial category. Who do you want to sleep in a tent with for a week? Probably not your buddy who whistles show tunes.

Food: Don’t scrimp here. Easy cheese can't sustain you for any length of time. We find food to be a big source of joy on a trip, like when you bust out that Elk pasta.

Lists: Make them, amend them, add to them. Lists are everything and can really help get the ball rolling. Maps also fall into this category, and there seems to be no end for the amount of usefulness and dreaming an open map can bring.

Equipment: Get the right gear. A bad sleeping bag ruins a backpacking trip; a bad pair of shoes can put you on bed rest for weeks. We’re doing extensive research on what kind of helmets, boots, jackets, and other riding gear will suit our situation.

First aid: Don't scrimp here either. Obviously it also helps to know how to use everything.

That should be enough to get you started.

The point isn't always to stay where you’re comfortable, but when we wade into unknown waters it helps to test the footing with a long stick. So this summer, before the actual trip itself, a couple of us will do some scouting of potential routes, an adventure in itself. Everyone will prepare for the ride by getting out and on some bikes this summer, and by taking that off-road class to ease the transition from asphalt to gravel.

I love the buildup. The kind of ventures that require you to train and build a new knowledge base—that spills joy and excitement over and blurs the lines between when the trip really begins. That’s what I’m after. And in those cases, the planning is really just inviting the adventure into your life long before the tide pulls us out to sea.

photo by eye of rie