We have a motorcycle!

Catching up on the past week! I got word the bike would be ready Thursday so I booked a flight to Spokane. Wednesday night I got word that it wouldn’t be until 6pm Thursday, so I got to the shop at about 1pm. I sat down with shop owner and he said “we have 36.5 hrs into this thing” at $100/hr.” With tax the bill was a little over $4k. I said that was a problem because when I dropped the bike I was told 10hrs and given assurances that if it exceeded that estimate, they legally had to get my permission to proceed. The rub is the mechanic that started the job left for another shop mid-way through the engine. The owner says he called that guy (John) and nobody has recollection of telling me 10hrs, and there’s nothing in writing. (Nor any waiver of written estimate)

By this time it was dark and really cold so I called a friend and asked to spend the night. I told the shop owner I’d need to get some legal advice and come back in the morning. I didn’t want to ride back to Seattle 5hrs in the 37° F darkness. I’d prefer to wait till it’s light and 38° F!

So I spent some time in Spokane drinking and researching WA state consumer protection laws which were pretty clear regarding mechanic estimates. I should have got it in writing, and now I know!

 Jack and Dan's: Gonzaga bar
Jack and Dan’s: Gonzaga bar

I decided that the next morning I’d take out $2000 cash and go back to the shop and say “look, either accept $2000 cash or charge me what you want on a credit card and just know I’m going to do everything I can to get it back”. Friendly ultimatum! Before I could get my take-no-prisoners game face on, Bill the shop owner said “Josh, sit down I tried to call you last night. There was a miscalculation of hours the job should take- the total for the engine was 14hrs, plus the other work is 17hrs. With fluids and taxes it comes to $1955.” Now THAT’S how you negotiate! 

 So I happily paid and rode quickly back to Seattle where I packed up the bike while listening to Rachels dad’s band rehearse for their upcoming show. 

 The next couple days were always supposed to be a rush through the cold wet weather. I was very fortunate to stay dry, and the heated gloves and vest I had came in very handy! 

Saturday night I stopped in Jacksonville, OR. For my first ever Couchsurfing experience. My host, Mary, was working at a bar in town so I planned to meet her there and get instructions. After setting that up I realized I had a friend Anna in nearby Ashland, and we agreed to meet for a beer at the same bar. She showed up with several of her friends from nursing school and we had burritos and played Cards Against Humanity and Yahtzee simultaneously. Really great crew! 

 Left to right: Josh, Allison, Anna, Chloe, Narin, Perry and Jim.
Left to right: Josh, Allison, Anna, Chloe, Narin, Perry and Jim.

Turns out my CS host Mary knew several of the people in Anna’s group- small world! My stay at Mary’s was great and she was a terrific host. We had coffee and a great talk before I hit the road in 30° weather. 

 Josh and Mary in Mary's trailer
Josh and Mary in Mary’s trailer

It was another long freeway day, but I made it to San Francisco and met Rachel at our friends Irene and Yves’ downtown SF apartment- now the real fun begins!! 

PS we hit REI on the way out of SF, but Rachel got overwhelmed by the packing cubes and had to take a seat: 

Patience Practice

Wow, this is my (Josh’s) first attempt at writing a blog post in a long time, so please bear with me while I get back in the swing of things. I’m also writing this on my phone because I sold my computer last night. And for my final excuse, I just stole one of my father-in-law’s apple fritters and my fingers are sticky.

Sometime early last year, I got it in my head that I wanted, no NEEDED, a KTM Adventure 1190R motorcycle, the baddest of asses, long-trip, off-road, on-road, 1200cc’s of pure power, big suspension, sexy, orange, photogenic beast of a motorcycle. The problem was I couldn’t afford one. So I did a dumb thing that I tend to do and bought one from a salvage yard in El Paso, Texas sight unseen and had it shipped up. This is the second time I’ve done that… the first was off eBay and I had never even ridden so much as a dirt bike when it got delivered. I figured it out.

Anyway, the reason insurance had deemed the bike salvage was the crack in the engine case. KTMs are all of the adjectives listed above, but their Achilles’s heel is that they inexplicably continue to mount the kickstand right to the engine and it cracks when you crash your bike. Which you tend to do with these things. I was so excited to have the bike, and decided I could ride it for a long time just by patching the crack with some JB weld epoxy. That worked for about 6,000 miles with minor oil leaking out wherever I parked. Rachel helped me come to the decision to get it fixed before our big trip to South America.

That was late August. The shop I found in Spokane to do the work of replacing the engine case with one I found (again, eBay) quoted me 10hrs of labor. I dropped the bike off the first week of September and let them know I was leaving town October 23rd, and needed to ride the bike to Seattle. Today is November 13th, and the motorcycle is still in Spokane. The shop lost their key mechanic halfway through the project, and the back-up works part time while he gets his diesel mechanic license. I’ve been checking in regularly with the owner, and usually conclude our phone calls by politely hanging up and then crouching down and screaming the F-word a dozen times no matter where I happen to be. Sorry QFC.

After I cool off, and Rachel talks me down, I have to laugh at myself. We’re heading into an adventure in places where things might not happen exactly as we mapped out in our minds. I tend to think “once I get to Mexico THEN I’ll be laid back, THEN I’ll roll with the punches.” It has been a good lesson that I don’t get to be the one to decide when patience is required of me. But it has certainly been hard to plan and get our packing dialed in when we have no bike and one of our luggage boxes is still in Spokane.

The last talk with the bike shop didn’t end in loud cursing, which was great because we were at two friends’ beautiful wedding. The engine is back together and back in the frame, the fork seals are being replaced today, and a new front tire goes on tonight. I’m flying to Spokane on Thursday to give them a buffer day, and I’ll ride back to Seattle that afternoon to pick up all the gear. From there, it should take two days to catch up to Rachel in SF and we will dodge fires on our way down into Baja.

Now the adventure really begins, luckily we got some patience practice before we set out.

 -JOSH

Packing For a Year: What Are We Bringing?

For everyone who has asked us, “what do you pack for a motorcycle trip,” the following is a comprehensive post about everything we are bringing. I should note that—yes—we are bringing a lot. Maybe too much. But we made sure to have few attachments to most of our clothing so that we could offload items as we discover what we do and don’t wear. With little knowing of what articles we will reach for and what will never see the sunshine, we decided to slightly overpack and unload as we go. For some reason, we thought this was wiser than under-packing and trying to fill in the gaps as we go. Again, flexibility will be key, and we never know what we’ll need.

Below is an image of all of our items laid out for our first mock-pack. We did a mock-pack in Spokane to get an idea of how much we could really bring and where things might end up.

The bottom half of the floor is my clothes, shoes, toiletries, jackets, and accessories. The top half is Josh’s clothes, shoes, toiletries, and accessories. We will bring a laptop, camera, drone, tripod, and necessary cords. We have one first aid kit, a GPS tracker, and necessary paperwork for respective countries and borders. The only items not pictured are our helmets and motorcycle gear, as we will always be wearing those when we ride and as such are not packing them in luggage.

In the second picture, you will see everything all packed up.

Everything fits in two paniers (the black boxes), two duffels, a pelican case (the grey box), and tank bag (the small black bag). The paniers will sit on either side of the bike (think bicyclists’ side bags who go on long French trips). The duffels will get strapped down to the top of the paniers. The pelican case is affixed to the back of the bike, almost like a seat rest for me. I told the Cycle Gear employee who sold me my helmet that I was too paranoid to lean back on it, and without flinching he quipped, “Oh, you’re on that bike for a year. You will.” The tank bag will clip (or velcro, or fasten, or I-don’t-know-that’s-Josh’s-expertise) between the handles up front. Approximately, our luggage will add 80-100lbs to the bike.

To make things easy to pack, locate, and unpack, I devised a packing method (for anyone who saw our wedding itinerary, this will not be a surprise). The method highlights items that need to be accessed always, accessed only once we arrive at our hostel, or “other.” The hierarchy informs where items get packed (top of a duffel, bottom of a box, etc), which should make it easy for us to quickly unload only what is neccessary or find valuable items at a quick stop.

To increase organization and overall fun-ness, we personified each box and duffel with an animal: The left box and duffel are the Lion Box and Llama Bag (Rachel’s belongings) and the right box and duffel are the Rhino Box and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Bag (Josh’s belongings). You might think Rachel’s effects should go with the right side, since it seems we are following a first-letter naming system. Let it be known that 1) Josh’s nickname in Brazil was “Night Rhino,” and 2) when the bike is parked it tilts to the left, which means luggage on that side of the bike will be lower to the ground. For anyone who missed why that is important, I am 5’ 3” on a good day and 5’ 2” at the doctor’s office.

We are hoping (fingers crossed) to get in another mock pack before we load up the bike on Monday. We have already offloaded a few items that we know we won’t need, and I imagine we will leave a few more things behind before taking off. In the meantime, please enjoy this timelapse of us stuffing a year’s worth of crap into bags!

Until next time monkeys,

Rachel

Island Life: Pre-Motorcycle, Post-Employment

Previous Location: Whidbey Island

Current Location: Lopez Island

Next Location: Seattle

Today marks the 6th day that Josh and I have been without a home. As of Tuesday, October 23rd, we have been staying with family as we make our rounds before heading off on our motorcycle. After a quick overnight in Leavenworth with Josh’s brother Tucker and his girlfriend Kaylin, we had a cozy stay at my in-laws’ Whidbey Island property. After toasty nights in the Dadu, Josh and I would dash through the dewey grass and warm ourselves inside the main house over a cup of coffee. After breakfast, we spent our time deep in conversation with his folks or ruthlessly defending ourselves in card games. Misty mornings and afternoon showers gave the island an endlessly dew-droppy feel, and the fall colors dripped off leaves like a softly painted watercolor.

On Saturday we made our way to Lopez Island, where my mother lives with her partner Alex. The property here is always getting updated, and since the last time I’ve been here the house has grown into it’s fresh yet rustic red paint, and the toilet gleefully gurgles with it’s new flushing capabilities. With deer as second residents, it’s a good thing that dozens of apples fall from the trees to feed all the guests, including us. We stay in the cabin about 100 yards from the main house, which boasts views of the ocean through the evergreens outside.

 Josh is drinking Yerba Matte tea on his parents’ couch in Whidbey Island. I am smiling, loving him and pretending I don’t think his dirt-flavored caffeine is undrinkable.
Josh is drinking Yerba Matte tea on his parents’ couch in Whidbey Island. I am smiling, loving him and pretending I don’t think his dirt-flavored caffeine is undrinkable.

The days here aren’t too different than on Whidbey, and we are learning there’s a way to island life: sleep in, eat good food, and don’t piss off your neighbor. Here we like to curl up by the fireplace and drink our coffee, sometimes practicing magic tricks, other times doing some light reading or researching our travels. If the skies are clear (which they are for a few hours a day), we’ll take strolls along the island’s many walking trails which remind me of the coasts of Ireland and the English countryside. The greens here are more vivid this time of year than they were this summer, and I sometimes catch myself forgetting what part of the world I’m in.

Tomorrow we leave the island life, and I have a feeling the pace of the Seattle city will infiltrate our energy the same way the slow way of life here has made us feel so calm. Though our motorcycle trip hasn’t truly begun, there is a sense that we are beginning.

Until next time,

Rachel

for more pictures from our San Juan adventures, visit this link: https://flickr.com/photos/142291320@N08/sets/72157702971093325

Why Is It So Hard to Find Women’s Gear?

S.O.S. BECAUSE I’M 5 FOOT 2, I WANNA DANCE WITCHU, AND I’M SOPHISTICATED FUN.

Ok. So I’m really 5’3″ (still not model height) and I’m more of a one-too-many-martinis fun. But I do wanna dance, and it would be really nice to have some quality motorcycle pants to show off my moves. 

For the last month, Josh and I have been ordering thousands of dollars worth of motorcycle gear from Revzilla, the website Josh swears by for all his biking-gear needs. So far, the only item out of the dozens of boxes we’ve received that has worked for me are a pair of shoes. To be fair, these shoes are incredible. I tried on several pairs, all of which fit my very specific demands:

1. Must be cute.

2. Must be protective.

3. Must be comfortable enough to walk from the bike to the bar (not back, don’t worry, no drunk riding here), or around town if we stop somewhere.

The boots I ended up choosing fit the bill. I went with the TCX Smoke WP Women’s Boots, which have the look of a trendy Doc Marten motorcycle boot and the feel of a super comfortable snow shoe. They are super thick, which tells my feet they are safe. I know very little about the technicality of motorcycle gear (still learning), but Josh vetted them before we ordered and he confirmed they were top notch for riding safety. 

My favorite thing about these boots is that they have a little heel, which I’m hoping will actually help when it comes to the pantaloons hunt. So far, every single pair of pants we’ve ordered for me have been a bust. This is not because the gear is poor in quality: this stuff is the top of the top (don’t worry mom, I’ll be covered in a protective shell that could prevent rhinos from harming me). The pants are just too damn long. 

Part of the challenge is finding gear that not only fits me physically, but that matches with the type of riding we’ll be doing and the climate in which we will be riding. The closest pant I found that could have worked was the Dainese New Drake Air Women’s Textile Pants, but the knee pads sat way below my knees (think shin guards instead), and sadly they weren’t adjustable. I’m crossing my fingers the Dainese Travelguard Gore-Tex Women’s Pants will do the trick; they’re similar in comfort and fit to the New Drakes but have adjustable knee pads.

As for a jacket, I haven’t found a thing. We’ve ordered tons of different styles and brands, but everytime I put one on I’m transported back to the first time my parents put me in a snowsuit. My body goes completely stiff and I feel like Veruca Salt when she turns into a blueberry. Josh refers to me as “The Michelin Man,” when this happens, which is everytime I put on a motorcycle jacket.

I have high hopes that we’ll find a jacket that fits in such a way where I don’t feel like a paralyzed marshmallow. When that time comes, you can be sure I’ll write a very neccessary post dedicated entirely to my new favorite jacket. 

Until next time, monkeys!

Rachel

Motorcycling With My Beau: Why the Hell Am I Doing This?

In my wedding vows, I told Josh we would ride to South America on his motorcycle. Little did I know, one year later, we would be doing just that.

In January of 2015, Josh and I were living in a two bedroom home in Seattle’s funky and salty West Seattle neighborhood. Josh was a salesperson in the lighting industry by day, and a dreamer and inventor by night. I was a recent discharge from an eating disorder treatment facility, facing the reality of unemployment without directi. While this is not a story about my recovery or Josh’s career dissatisfaction, it is a story that we cannot tell without transparency and complete honesty.

So, there we were, two misfits of our society in such different ways: Josh, yearning for a business he could call his own, but paralyzed by the stability of a well-paying job and approval of his peers; and me, desperately trying to reintegrate myself into a “functioning” career-world when I myself felt entirely dysfunctional.

In the winter after I left my eating disorder program, I decided to channel my dysfunctional energy into something functionally relatable: I applied to Eastern Washington University’s Masters program to become a counselor. As I have done with every career path, I dove in full force, committing myself to this newfound passion.

I have a history of changing career paths: I’ve been an actress, a teacher, a waitress, a photographer, and—for a short stint—a mental health counselor. Each time, I believed I’d found my calling. Each time I thought, “this is it. This is my passion in life.” When the passion wore off, (or more often, my mental health issues kicked in,) I had to take a step back and review my choice. Is this really who I want to be? Is this really what I want to do, forever? 

In the winter of 2017, a year and a half into my graduate program and two years after Josh and I moved to Spokane from Seattle, I started having panic attacks at work. I was interning as a mental health counselor in one of Spokane’s largest community mental health organizations, and my clients suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. Most of my clients had comorbid diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. Many of them were suicidal and had previous attempts of suicide in their history. I slowly lost my ability to separate my life from my clients’ heartbreaking stories and pain. I started to believe that I was incapable and unqualified to serve their needs. It wasn’t that I believed their problems were too big or unsolvable, but that I was not strong enough or wise enough to solve them. This paralyzed me at work, and I started to break down.

Eventually, I withdrew from my masters program, and the whole life I had pictured for myself, once again, crumbled away. I started to take a hard look at myself. This was a pattern in my life. Finding something I believed I was destined for, throwing my entire identity into it, and then feeling less than capable to follow through on those desires. I started to ask myself, is it really me that’s the problem, and not these career choices? Am I, the one constant in this story, to blame?

I spent months doing some soul searching, and though I haven’t come to a final conclusion (I don’t believe such a thing exists), I have discovered a few important things: Number one, it’s ok to try something new and to fail. Number two, it’s not only ok, but valiant to fail and find the resilience to get back up and try something again. Number three, maybe it’s not me, and maybe it’s not the careers that are the problem. Maybe it’s that I’m not built to live in the type of society that praises careers and financial success. Maybe I’m designed to live in a different box, one that’s a different shape, temperature, and color.

I have always loved to travel. In times of uncertainty, fear, or even too much stability, I find myself yearning to get away. I used to think that maybe this was unhealthy escapism. Am I avoiding my real life by running away? Is this just avoidance, disguised by adventure and culture-enthusiasm? I later decided that, no—it’s not. Anything can be perceived as an escape from reality. It just depends on what your perspective of reality is. For most of Western culture, what’s real is the American Dream: a family, a house, a good job, money, safe retirement… the list goes on. So yes, if that was my reality, then perhaps going off to foreign countries for weeks at a time is escapism. But what if travel was my reality? What if exploration, working for trade, and creating my own method of sustainability was its own reality? What if I got to create my own culture, and find other people who’s lives and values shared that same reality?

Exploration, discovery, learning, language, geography, nature, and human connection across boundaries and borders: my reality. If that was my reality, then to me, wouldn’t the escape be hiding behind the security of a home and a steady job? I say this not because I judge how many Americans live their lives—I believe people should live whatever reality suits them. I say this, because for me, and for Josh, this life has felt like someone else’s reality. This life has felt like the escape from what we really want.

In August of 2017, just months before I left my masters program, Josh and I got married. In my vows, I promised that one day we would ride his motorcycle through South America—a dream Josh has had for years. In the wake of leaving my masters program, we were faced with a choice. We could go back to Seattle where our friends and family were, find jobs, and settle in. Or, we could take this opportunity to do something different. We chose the latter. 

After eight plus months of saving, waiting, and keeping our plans relatively on the down-low, the time has come. We now spend our days selling most of our belongings, slowly telling loved ones our plans, and grinding through logistics meetings. We have absolutely no plan, other than a departure date, a mode of transportation, and a direction. 

Let the adventure begin.

XO-Rachel (the other Havie) 

 

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