So Now What?

How do I follow up on an epic journey like I just had down Route 66? The truth is, I have no idea. In fact I’ve been in a little bit of a funk this week as the excitement of that trip has worn off, despite the places and events I’ve been visiting around LA. I’ve certainly enjoyed the visit. I’m definitely enjoying riding my motorcycle everywhere, especially when I can slice through traffic faster than everyone else (except native riders who are better at it than I am — I let them by). But it amazes me how I can feel as alone as I do in a city of nearly 4 million people.

I have some work to do while I’m here. I’ve tracked basically all of the van’s minor issues down to a single problem, a vacuum leak somewhere. I replaced the PCV valve, the most common cause, but it didn’t help. I’m pondering whether to continue trying to fix it myself, or to see if a local shop can help. The problem with a shop is they may be booked out weeks from now, and I don’t want to overstay my welcome.

Problems I can tackle myself include some interior bits that have rattled loose over the past few thousand miles. The beauty of having built this is that not only do I know how to put it back together, I probably already have the hardware I need to do it leftover from the build.

The bike should be getting some attention, too, in the form of a new chain and sprockets. Reuben loaned me his wheel stand for his Ducati, which amazingly works perfectly to lift my KLR’s back wheel off the ground. This will let me easily replace all of the parts myself. I placed an order for the parts on Tuesday, but then the place went dark and didn’t answer my call. I ended up canceling the order (hopefully) and ordering on Amazon instead. I prefer to support small business, but when the parts haven’t shipped and they should be here by now, that puts me in a crunch.

I want to go riding in the mountains a bit more, which Carolyn and I will likely do this weekend. We both also want to see the Petersen Museum, which is considered one of the best car museums in the country.

Today I did actually spend some time at the beach. I wasn’t able to celebrate arriving there at the end of Route 66. It was good to park next to the beach, walk down to the water, and touch the Pacific Ocean. I took some time to literally soak it all in a bit.

After LA

Once all this is done, where am I going? My first thought is Quartzite, AZ, by way of Joshua Tree National Park, which is right on the way. Anyone who knows about #vanlife has heard of Quartzite, as it’s the Mecca for nomads to spend the winter. There’s a ton of free public land there. Even the LTVAs (long-term visitor areas) only cost $180 to stay until April 15. I don’t know if I want to stay that long, or even stay there at all, but it seems worth checking out.

Although I haven’t been traveling very long, I already know people there, and am meeting others online. There’s a chance I might find the sense of community there that I’m looking for. Part of my problem finding this is that I’m constantly on the move, not spending time in one place long enough to really get to know it. That’s why I’m thinking I want to slow down my travel, and spend more time in the places I visit rather than moving around so much.

Hunkering down in Quartzite for a while will let me give this idea a try. It would also give me time to start writing a book about my journey so far. I’m not sure anyone would want to read it — YouTube videos seem to get all the views these days — but I won’t know unless I try. My therapist suggested starting a podcast. I don’t know if this is something I’m interested in doing or not, but I can look into it. After all, I do have a great face for radio.

After Quartzite

I have two potential plans after staying in Quartzite a while. Which one I follow depends on whether I decide to stick around all winter or not.

To Stay…

If I spend the winter, that puts me in the southwest in the spring. Temperatures will be rising, and I’ll be able to make my way up the entire Pacific coast. It’s all places I’ve never been, and I’d love to see Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, especially before the entire west coast catches on fire again like it always does in the “new normal.” I have friends I can visit in Seattle. Maybe I can even hop across the Canadian border into British Columbia. (Maybe even meet up with Vancity Vanlife if I’m lucky.)

From there, I’d like to revisit the Black Hills of South Dakota. I went to Sturgis Bike Week in 2019, and explored all the best places to ride on a borrowed Indian Springfield for RideApart. I’d like to do it again, but without a quarter million Harleys slowing me down everywhere. I’d also be properly equipped to explore the many dirt roads I found, particularly heading into the Badlands.

After that, it’s not too far to cut southeast and visit the Ozarks, where even more wonderful motorcycling awaits. It’s another short hop back to the Smoky Mountains, where I’d like to take a bit more time exploring the many roads I didn’t get to ride during my weekend there earlier this year.

And then, probably back to Florida. I have family there, and it might be fun to go exploring on my own this time. I’ll also be able to get some things done while I’m in what is technically my home state.

…Or Not To Stay

Quartzite may not work out for me. I’m concerned that cellular data slows to a snail’s pace in January when everyone’s there, and I still need to work. I might also just decide it’s not for me. I won’t know until I try it on for size and give it a fair chance.

In this case, I’ll start making my way east along a very southern route, likely near Interstate 10, trying to stay as warm as possible. I’d visit friends in Texas. I’d see New Orleans. And I’d end up back in Florida, just a bit earlier than if I wait out the winter, then do my big loop of the US. Depending on timing, I can always do that big loop in reverse afterward. Or something else entirely. Who knows?

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