Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Adventure Begins


Kevin, Tim, Pat, and Sean Kearns will depart on the journey on August 5, 2012. We will be traveling about 400-500 miles a day and will cover 8 states and 3000 miles. We plan to document our travels on this blog with pictures and highlights of the day. So check back and I am sure you will be amused.

The Fat Hogs

The Route

View Motocycle trip 2012 in a larger map

Place your cursor on the map and drag to center the view.

You can also use the zoom arrows on the upper left of the map to see a more detailed view.


Sean getting in a some practice time on the Susuki Boulevard.
1500 cc and fun to ride. This will be Sean's ride on the trip.

Day 1 - San Jose CA to Reno NV

Our first day was a success. Hope that is a trend that continues. Although not with out its fair share of excitement. And of course, God's reminder that He is always involved in some fashion.......

Beautiful scenery, which was good since we managed, even with GPS to get lost around Tahoe. So, after traveling the long way around, we decided to stop for food since Reno was still quite a ways away. I (kevin) looked at my bike and noticed a small but fair amount of oil around the engine and each time I stopped, a little smoke would cascade from the exhaust area. Rather than risk ignoring the possibility of something more serious, we decided to find a motorcycle dealer in Reno and swing by. We found one several miles from our destination which would still be open by the time we could get there. We made it just in time and confirmed that the problem wasn't serious. Pat and Sean then found a church that was starting mass in 10 minutes and guess what, it was only one mile from where we were. So, we quickly headed in that direction and got seated just ahead of the Priest entering down the aisle. Nice church. During the mass we became aware of a lady with two small girls that, through no fault of her own, had been the recipient of a few left crosses from "life" and they were now living in a tent. She had an amazing attitude, and the two little girls were so sweet. It was hard to believe they were dealing with such obstacles, but as she found it hard to avoid the tears that came easy and often, there was no doubt that the trial they were enduring was real. But what a sweet smile. The girls too. Thankfully, again, only because God has chosen to bless us with so much abundance, we were able to help in a small way. We weren't alone, others did too. I know she felt blessed to receive the help. We felt many more blessings to be able to do so.

So, lets bike which is in great condition, gets a surprising oil leak.....which causes us to detour to a place not even close to our final destination......and then find a church only 1 mile away......and after riding all day find that we were just in time for Mass......and just happen to meet a lady in need......coincidence??? God's plan is amazing. And always unfolding. Just have to look for it. And if you don't, He just may get your attention.

Ok, next stop, Salt Lake City. 500 miles. Wonder what He has planned for that little portion of our journey.... (kev's perspective)

Day 2 - Reno NV to Salt Lake City UT

Rain drops kept falling on our heads........ song of the day!

Maybe another song title befitting of the day was "long, lonely highway"....Ok, well, wasn't really lonely. But is sure was long. And wet. And windy. After a decent night's sleep in Reno, on the last mattress we would see for the rest of the trip (for me and Tim anyway...Pat and Sean decided to start "camping" in the room early), we set out with high hopes for an amazing ride to SLC. We were sure we would make great time and even possibly get a dip in the pool at the KOA campground we had as our destination. The problem with "high hopes" is that the higher they start, the further they can fall....and they did. Make no mistake, the ride was definitely memorable. And, with the proper perspective, the seemingly endless rain clouds, even had shiny silver linings. Lets see....well, the ride was long. But we got to do it together. We thought we could beat the first torrential downpour, and although we didn't, we did find the only overpass for 50 miles to hide under for much of the storm. (not even the wild hogs got that lucky) The bike Sean was riding got blown over by the wind. Thankfully Sean wasn't moving and could jump off, avoiding any injury (other than pride). The toppled bike resulted in a broken turn signal. But is was the same turn signal that was already broken prior to the trip. And we had super glue and duct tape so we were quickly back in action. The last 100 miles, through the great salt flats area had severe winds, and, well, ok, no silver lining on this was tough. We made it though, so that has a certain silver glimmer. And finally, by the time we got into SLC and got our tents set up, dried off, we were starving. We found that on a Sunday night in SLC, after 9pm every restaurant had already closed. Except Denny's. Which was close enough to walk. And we love Denny's. So see, to some, it could have been a day that seemingly would never end, posing one trying challenge after another. But to us, it was just another wonderful adventure to share together. And it even provided humor to start the next day. Wouldn't have wanted it any other way....mostly.

Time for a good night's sleep, then next stop...Yellowstone!! And the motto for the day...rain rain go away....
(more useless perspectives from kev.....)

Day 3 - Salt Lake City UT to Yellowstone WY

Rainy days and Mondays.......

Ok, so good thing we got the windy, rainy day out of the way on Sunday when we slogged our way from Reno to SLC. Or so we thought. Little did we know at the time that we were just in training for the next day.....Monday......when we made the dash to Yellowstone. The ride was actually quite beautiful for much of the ride.....but then mother nature decided to play tag. We were overmatched as we really didn't measure up to her enormous Squirt, better yet, sponges, no, even better yet, water coolers just waiting to dump on four innocent bikers.

We really weren't that far from Yellowstone KOA, and if we just rode faster, maybe we could get there in time to set up our tents, gather our goods, and safely "weather" the storm until the sun pushed his way back into the picture. If we just rode the wind.....that Herculean wind, that seemed to just keep coming, always from a different angle when least expected.....but always coming..... We did make it to the park just before the huge, torrential dump....signed in, got to our camp site, broke out our tents.....and almost made it thru set up. Almost. But not quite. Not nearly quite. Soaked again. Pat and Sean did manage to spread their tent over their bikes and that helped. But Tim and I tried to make it through set up and ran out of time. Oh well, A for effort. S for soaked. RS for really soaked.

After about 20 minutes the rain petered out and we were able to finish set up. Once done, time to ride through the park to see Old Faithful perform as He has done for so long....consistently.... And we were not disappointed. How majestic. How faithful. No wonder OF is a "He" .........

Riding back to our camp, it was easy to get lost in the beauty of Yellowstone. Amazing place. Almost as nice as our sleeping bags...which felt great after such a long day.

Another blessing filled day. Time to sleep. And tomorrow....Missoula her we come!!

Day 4 - Yellowstone WY to Missoula MT


What a beautiful State, Montana. By far the best ride so far. Leaving Yellowstone early in the morning we snuck out before wind, rain or anything other than sun could join our adventure. Sure it was a bit nippy, but dressed for it, we gladly accepted the opportunity to just sit back, ride, and soak it all in (for once, not literally soak it in....).

Mostly back roads, we were able to really enjoy the massive, endless beauty of Montana. Sure, we narrowly missed a family of deer that decided to tempt fate, and our bikes, to cross just in front of us, but no harm at all.

Arriving earlier than usual in Missoula, we were able to comfortably set up camp, and even got a chance to jump in the pool. With temperatures already above 90, the pool was heaven. Then, a short walk, we had a date with Buffalo Wild Wings....mmmmmmmmmm.

A short walk back and we were ready to turn in. A most eventful, uneventful day. Boundless natural beauty, relaxation, and a forthcoming restful night. Really looking forward to tomorrow. Should be a nice ride and we finally get to visit the Buck Knife factory.....more on that tomorrow.

What a blessed day.

(more kev nonsense......)

Day 5 - Montana to Idaho to Washington

Day 5 - American Made…and still the best!

Our journey continues, on our way out of Montana, and our memory will be just how pretty this State is. Well, assuming one finds the great natural outdoors pretty as opposed to the concrete and steel of the great urban jungle. Idaho is just as pretty. And although the people of Montana were sure friendly, seems the folks in Idaho raise the bar even higher. Pat has shared that he can envision living in Idaho sometime down the line. Sure can’t argue that choice.

One of the best memories of this trip came quite unexpectedly. Tim and I decided we needed something special to commemorate this trip. Something unique and long lasting, but also useful. Recalling that our Dad had always spoke highly of Buck Knives, we decided we would design a custom knife, have four made, present them to Pat and Sean at the start of the trip, and then be able to each carry them along the way, and hopefully for a lifetime. Using the time honored “110” style, we picked Ram Horn for the handle and with a few other tweaks, added the engraving “Wildride 2012” and had our four names on each blade. Once the order was placed, we realized that the turnaround time was 4-6 weeks. Problem was that we were leaving in less than 4 weeks and had to have them in time. We sent an email to Buck Knives and shared our predicament. The response we received was quick and positively amazing. We were very fortunate to get connected with Janet, and she moved mountains. With the support of her supervisor Sylvia, they finished our knives in one day. Custom, hand-built knives, American Made, in ONE DAY! We had them by the end of the week and they looked fantastic. I reached back out to Janet to thank her and discovered that they were located in Post Falls Idaho, which coincidently (really?), was right on our path. We knew we had to meet her in person.

We arrived at the Post Falls factory (and HQ), and found Janet to be just as nice as we imagined. Sylvia too. What we didn’t expect though were the two gentleman who wanted to meet us. None other than CJ Buck (President/CEO) and Chuck Buck (Chairman). After a very nice 10 minute chat, we were leaving, and Chuck learned that we were too late for the first factory tour, and the second one was sold out. Exhibiting the same concern for “customer satisfaction” we would learn was at the core of everything they did, He decided the only resolution was that he would personally take us on a tour of the premises. Really? The Grandson of the original Buck? He shared the next hour of his time with us, and insight he shared was illuminating. What a blessing, and a memory we will never forget.

With a few Buck keepsakes safely stowed away, we set off for Ellensburg, Washington. Looking forward to continuing with our journey, but will fondly keep this day with us for a long time.( In the video you can see both Janet and Chuck Buck.)

Day 6 - Washington to Oregon

Day 6 - It’s the Simple things…….

Ellensburg, Washington. Probably a really nice place with really nice people. On a motorcycle though, the most compelling reality is how darn windy it is! But at least it didn’t rain, which was a very welcome change of pace. Setting out for Waldport, Oregon today. Leaving east Washington, what a difference from the perception of Washington’s geography. Rather than the trees and forests of the other side of the State, the rolling plains really were not nearly as pretty. At least there wasn’t any traffic, which was quite the opposite as we experienced going through the Bellevue area. Maneuvering through the miles of heavy stop and go (mostly stop) traffic, Tim and I got separated from Pat and Sean. We pulled over to wait, and after several minutes, and no sign of them, our wonder of their whereabouts transitioned into worry. Heavy traffic and motorcycles aren’t always the safest combination, and it wasn’t like them to be separated from us for this long. We were about to turn around when we spotted the two headlights coming our way. Turned out Sean had a littler mechanical problem with the clutch and the speedometer, but they were safe. Our wonder to worry had now evolved into joy and we counted our blessings again. All perspective. And trust. 

Beautiful coast in Oregon. If there was a “weirder” place than California, Oregon would probably be it. Nice chatty people in Oregon though, seemed everywhere we stopped, people talked to us. Bikers and especially non-bikers alike. Surprised to find all the gas was “full” serve. Well, they didn’t actually do anything other than hand us the nozzle, but other than on the Indian reservation, we weren’t allowed to grab the nozzle from the pump. Some strange remnant from a long ago effort to stimulate the economy….seems some things never change. 

Our camp site was dirt and not grass for the first time. No rain though, so wouldn’t be a problem. We did find a quaint Mexican restaurant in town and the food was fabulous. Best chimichanga ever. Learned today that our brother Mike would be having his foot amputated in the next couple weeks.  Ultimately will be the first “step” in helping him get back to good health. Hard to imagine what mental gymnastics much be going on in his head though. Once again, just another reminder to identify and cherish every blessing we have, and there are so many every day. Trust, trust, trust…….

Ok, making the turn south tomorrow, heading back to California!

Day 7 - Oregon to California

Day 7 - Where else does a 40 foot Giant Lumberjack hide?

Leaving weird Oregon for weird California. But it’s our weird California. For now anyway, but that’s another story for another time. For all of the Golden States issues, and there are plenty, one thing for sure, there is nothing like the California coast. And the giant Redwood forests. Some of God’s best artistic work can clearly be found in the Northern State. Driving along the coast and through the forests in a car is nice. Try it on a motorcycle though, and its breathtaking. (Breathtaking also were the short stretches of road construction that were currently scored and covered in gravel….very unstable on two wheels….)

As we made our way to Eureka, destination for day 7, we happened upon a California Redwood tourist site. Can’t recall the name, but greeting any and all who approached was none other than Paul Bunyan and his great ox Babe. All 40 feet high of them!! For decades I (kev) have been trying to remember where this place was, cherishing a memory from when I was only 1 year old and came here with my Parents. I have always remembered sitting on Mr. Bunyan’s bunion, but had no idea where it was. Probably something to do with sitting in the back seat, strapped tightly in a car seat, not paying attention to our route back then….

But mystery solved!! Reunion with Paul and Babe completed, we ventured on to our day’s destination, Eureka, California. Temperature dropping as we approached the coast, we were glad to reach the camp site. Having become quite proficient at setting up our tents by now, we were quickly ready to experience some good coastal seafood. Imbibing in a couple local brews, the tone was set for enjoying a nice campfire and a good night’s sleep before our final day of this great adventure.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 8 - Eureka, CA to San Jose, CA

Day 8 - Home Again

We decided to get an early start today. For the first time of this entire journey, we had a time deadline. Had to get the rental Harley Pat was riding back to the rental place by 3pm. Having experienced unexpected delays all the previous days, we wanted to take no chances today. Plus, I think we all were experiencing some degree of appreciation for a great experience, but also a desire to get home. Good mattress envy perhaps.

The beauty of the forest during the first part of our path was overshadowed by the very cold temperatures. Maybe not freezing, but definitely the coldest we have been. We stopped for gas after the first 30 miles, and of course, morning coffee. Then our goal was to make at least 100 miles before stopping for breakfast. The first 50 miles were tough with the cold. But the next 50 miles added another challenge we had yet to experience. Not sure whether it was just that we were tired, or also cold, or maybe also possibly the mesmerizing effect of the curvy rods surrounded by heavy forest, but I really struggled to stay awake and focus on the road. I knew we had a deadline to meet so didn’t want to pull over. Come to find out though that Tim and Pat were experiencing the very same calamity. Thankfully we made it to our breakfast stop and didn’t have a reoccurrence the balance of the trip. Then after a few more small towns along the way, a run through the Napa area winery territory, we spilled into the very familiar urban sprawl of the greater Bay Area. And soon, home again, safe and sound.

I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect with this wonderful opportunity together. Setting out we had high hopes for an abundance of fun, adventure and certainly many, many memories. However high the bar was set for each of us, we all agree that our reality far exceeded our expectations. Hot, cold, rain, wind, sun….. almost 3,000 miles of pavement (mostly), 8 States in 8 days……what an amazing adventure. Wish our other 3 brothers and sons/nephews could have also come along, but this was truly a special trip together.

Thanks to Tim and Pat for their endless picture and video taking. And to Pat for his wonderful daily video production. He sure has gotten proficient at capturing the highlights of each day. I appreciate the opportunity to add a few words to share our daily encounters. Most of all though, and the reason for this trip, thanks to Sean for making the decision to volunteer this next phase of his life to protecting us all and joining the Air Force Special Ops division known as the Para Rescue team. They are lucky to have him, and assuming he is a reflection of that entire group, we are all lucky to have them as well.

Thanks “Fat Hogs”, it was a very special adventure.