I built a motorcycle, I bought a van and then I left...I left my job, my friends, my fiancée, my dogs and every other thing that brought me comfort.
It’s a humbling thing to live in a van and at first I was really paranoid. I would always enter and exit the van through the driver’s door, stumble around in the darkness to ensure successful deception and try to be as quiet as I possibly could. But the self consciousness wears out quickly, the fear of finding places to park and sleep soon follows. It only took a couple days for reality to set in and I stopped caring about appearances...I was living in a fucking van (A.K.A the Super 8 Cylinder Motel). My life was so different.
No longer were my days spent in the office, Starbucks and McDonalds were my place of work. My alarms were turned off and I went to bed when I was tired and awoke when I wasn’t. I cooked and ate oatmeal and raisins for breakfast and ramen for dinner. I got naked on backroads and showered with a hand pump sprayer and felt clean and cold and wild (and a little like a pervert). Every day was a new experience and a new place. I was in a relationship with the road and had a new companion loaded in the back.
One of the main concepts of the trip was to take the custom bike I had just rebuilt last winter, my 2001 Suzuki Bandit 1200S. In all honesty the bike was a blessing and a curse. It’s a challenge just to hunch around in the back of a cargo van for 5 months (I am boomerang-man), it’s more of a challenge when half of your space instantly vanishes. Maneuvering required a great amount of patience. I had to be conscious of hitting my head on shelves, tripping over tie-downs and getting probed by handlebars and footpegs...my back will never forgive me. There was also the less than pleasant scent of gasoline that accompanied me throughout the night that I’m sure will lead to premature drooling in my 50’s. Everything about van life is a process; if I could do it all again I would have customized a dual-sport bike that was smaller, lighter, easier to load, smaller, and also smaller. With that said all of these frustrations are directly related to the bike being stored inside the van, when unloaded and out in the wild it was a different story.
I’ve been riding motorcycles for 3 years but I’ve never had the type of relationship with a bike as I do with the Bandit. It’s a very surreal thing to trust your life on a machine that was once a pile of metal and rubber sprawled out on a table in the corner of a frozen garage. On the first couple rides during the early stages of the trip I would second guess myself as I started the bike and took off...“I hope you put this together the right way” I’d say to myself. But as the speedometer climbed and rattled clockwise and the mountain ranges came and went I found my confidence. What was originally a very reliable bike was again rebuilt into an extremely reliable bike and I didn’t have a single mechanical issue along the way, it’s something that I’m really proud of. The insane bark of the open exhaust and the seemingly endless amount of torque was enough to put a smile on my face each and every single time I rode. I’ve always fantasized about being an astronaut and the Bandit has filled that void...point it in the direction you want to go, accelerate and hold onto the rocket ship because it’s leaving orbit with or without you.
Some of my most vivid memories of the trip are while I was riding on this beloved machine. There was something about rolling my bike out of the back of my van...in a place I had never been and riding in utter solitude that was liberating and inspiring. When I’m older and look back I’ll realize that those times were the peak of my coolness as a person. Now as the days are getting shorter the Bandit patiently sits and waits for winter to run its course, and I’m happy to say it has turned into more than just simply a fast motorcycle, it’s a part of my story now.
I drove and rode over 9 thousand miles and am better off because of it...I rode my bike through the Badlands and British Columbia, up Pikes Peak and into Cape Flattery. I rambled at night through the Sand Dunes with a full moon overhead and got searched twice at the Canadian border. I hiked 12 miles through the Colorado wilderness and camped alone, I smoked a cigar and watched a lunar eclipse while the elk bugles echoed through the canyon. I blew the shit out of my van’s suspension in the heart of The Lost Coast’s backroads and cried and felt like a hopeless loser. I swam under a waterfall and caught the sunrise for a week straight at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. I listened to forgotten music I used to love when I was in high school. I lost track of days and thought nothing of money. I hit 125mph through Bighorn National Forest and felt utter terror as I shouted bliss into the cold air. I ran out of gas and coasted down a mountain in beautiful silence with nothing but the sound of wind and chain accompanying me. I stood and stared at the most beautiful set of stars I’ve witnessed in Joshua Tree and thought about things I’ll never have answers to and more, with this trip it was always more...
It’s hard to assess this journey and tie a single bow around it, but I can say that it has brought me more pride in myself than I’ve ever had before. It afforded me time to be open and emotional and happy and sad and alone and alive. Dreams are an enigma to me, and all too often mine were abandoned by my own practicality and honestly the fear of personal failure. But this one was different, there was an idea in my head and the power of 12 cylinders at my disposal...I feel accomplished, I feel successful and it was significant.