A bit back I was talking with my friend Jim Banks.
I had just met Jim fairly recently, as he had ridden along with long-time Backroads alumni Mike Mosca and Ken Hilley to Alaska the year before.
Riding to and from Alaska, and especially Prudhoe Bay and back, is a monster trip.
The calcium chloride that can coat the bike is an absolute bear to remove, and it seems to stick around for years afterward. While talking with Jim and Mike, Jim pointed out a bit of the white grit that still lingered on his R1250GS, near the steering stem.
I reached out and touched it, and jokingly rubbed the tiny dot on my head – Ash Wednesday-style.
Jim kind of looked at me, and it was semi-funny – but later I thought maybe I should not have touched it at all. That was Jim’s calcium chloride, and he and his GS earned it.
This thought hit me when I washed my own GS after our Grand Finale Road Rally.
I think all riders of larger ADV machines want to have a layer of dirt, grime, and miles on their machines at times – but for me, I like to clean my bikes thoroughly on occasion; as it lets me take a close look and seek out anything amiss, broken, in need of fix or adjustment.
During this last rally, we had several gravel roads…In truth, I do my best to avoid these unpaved roads during our rallies. Yes, some riders look at them as a fun and exciting challenge – especially solo riders on ADV or dual sport machines. But others are riding two-up, on larger touring machines with road tires which can get tiresome
I can understand their trepidation of 10 miles of gravel that goes up and over a mountain – especially when there is a freshly paved road that snakes around the same big rock.
For me, I had some additional dirt duty as we had one rider MIA on the first night and the only clue to his location was a short, confused, and dying cell phone call about a dirt road just miles to the east of the Cacapon Lodge in far northwest West Virginia.
That evening found me and my GS pounding along a good number of miles of deserted gravel roads of West Virginia’s Appalachian Ridge in a futile attempt to find the lost rider; who, by that time was found and taken to a local ER for a few broken ribs.
It's funny how gravel and dirt work. In the beginning, you try to get a feel for the surface or lack thereof; but, as the miles go by and confidence goes up, the gravel becomes more and more fun.
A sun quickly dropping to the west was what finally brought me in.
Just a few hours before Shira and I had ridden through a serious tempest. We saw it coming over the mountain but were surprised by the fierceness of the storm. Hard cross-winds, and a hard cold rain that was just about to decide to change to hail.
It was painful and a bit nerve-racking for a good set of miles. From there anything gravely or dirty just clung to the bikes and, by the end of the Grand Tour, the GS and Shira’s Suzuki V-Strom looked as if we had crossed the mountains behind Hannibal’s elephants.
After getting back home I had tons to do, and the GS sat covered with dirt and grime – looking much the worse for wear.
Eventually, I took a hose and bucket to it.
A few years back I did a piece on watching the dirt come off my Aerostich after a long season and the knowledge that the dirt equaled great memories and this same thought drifted through my mind as well this around too.
No one gets through life unscathed. Dirt, dents, scars, and shit happens. In body, mind, and bikes. Embrace the dirty work – it is part of what makes life so much fun.