I crashed four times, flooded the engine once, burnt out my starter switch another time and stepped in my own poop.
And you thought your commute was bad.
The steed for the journey was a small motorcycle, a 2012 Yamaha XT250. It’s a nimble dual-sport that’s at home on twisty dirt roads and forest trails.
It’ll make it up to 70 mph but the single-cylinder 250cc engine will be screaming for mercy.
Get As Much Dirt Under My Tires as Possible
It wasn’t going to be a smooth highway cruise. The goal -- aside from making it to work on time -- was to get as much dirt under my tires as possible. This involved taking the Trans Eastern Trail to Virginia, making a pit stop in South Carolina and then hopping on the Trans-America Trail in Tennessee.
The Trans-America Trail runs through Nevada and ends in Oregon but there wasn’t enough time to finish the whole thing. I’d have to hop off the trail in Oklahoma and sprint the last 1,000 miles to Sin City.
Things went according to plan, kind of. I made it to Vegas on time, alive, in one piece. That was on the itinerary. The crashes, the cold fronts and the rolling thunder storms weren’t really expected or appreciated.
It was hard to get a good night’s sleep with rain and wind beating on your tent, threatening to send bits of it flying into the New Mexican desert.
So why do it? There are definitely easier, cheaper and far more efficient ways to travel to Las Vegas right?
You'll Make it Through Because You Have To
True. You can hop on a plane, watch a movie, take a nap and wake up at your destination.
Or you can really travel. You can ride through time zones and watch the country go from forest, to mountains to plains to desert.
You can zoom through major highways in a car or ride through muddy switchbacks in America’s national forests and set up camp under the stars. You can ignore the person sitting next to you on a train or experience the kindness of strangers as they offer you supplies, a bed or a warm meal.
You’ll tackle difficult roads and face some tough situations, but you’ll make it through. Because you have to.
You’ll grow to love a machine. You’ll take care of it and it’ll return the favor. It becomes a well-coordinated dance where the bike reacts perfectly to the slightest hint or movement. You’ll learn to listen to the machine and feel when something’s amiss.
No Plane Ride Has Ever Felt Like This
Things will go amiss too. Parts break, accidents happen, tires pop. But you’ll fix that too and get back on the road, feeling accomplished.
It becomes a journey, an adventure. The destination becomes an afterthought and all that matters is the ride. And it’ll be a ride you’ll never forget.
So yeah, it’s a damn tough commute and parts of my body I didn’t know could get sore did. Who knew clutch fingers would get sore? When the Las Vegas strip finally came into view I couldn’t stop smiling.
Happiness, relief, accomplishment, pride. No plane ride has ever given me that cocktail of emotions.
I was just on time too. In fact, I was a bit early. Sixteen days of riding into the sunset and I got to Las Vegas 20 hours before the start of the first event. There was enough time for a much-needed shower, some whiskey and a good night’s sleep.
Now it’s time for a different grind. The 2014 WSOP has kicked off and there’ll be several weeks of poker madness swirling across the Rio. We’ll get a whole new crop of bracelet winners and see a bunch of people put up $1 million apiece to play a poker tournament.
We’ll see some stars rise, others fall and we'll narrow the list of potential world champions down to nine.
Then, of course, I’ll have to take care of the ride back.