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On the morning of May 26th, I arrived at San Francisco Airport after an uneventful flight from Chicago. From there, I took the Bay Area Rapid Transit up through the city and across the bay to El Cerrito where my Halcyon was waiting for me. The train trip was quick and easy. I disembarked from the train and walked about 15 minutes to where we had shipped Halcyon #68. We had shipped the bike to our friend Benji’s moped parts company, Treats, also known as the Independent Republic of Treatland. Benji was on hand to let me in to the warehouse and access the bike which was uncrated, ready, and in perfect condition.
I got a quick tour of their new warehouse which was formerly the El Cerrito Steel Co. and then spent around 2 hours making final adjustments to the bike, adding some extra farkles, and prepping myself for the ride back through Oakland to Hayward, where the Wyman Challenge riders were gathering. Benji recommended that I take an alternate route back to the hotel through the mountains above the bay. After saying my farewells twice (I forgot my spare keys and sunglasses), I headed up into the hills for my first ride in the San Francisco Bay area. The ride turned out to be spectacular with gorgeous views of the bay, San Francisco, and the surrounding country. I had a good deal of fun on the twisting mountain roads, but was careful to take it easy with my only means of returning home!
When I arrived at the hotel, the rest of the riders were out at dinner with Marti Wyman Schein, the granddaughter of George Wyman. Marti and her husband run a historic map store in San Francisco with a focus on maps of the city. I decided to grab a bite to eat across the street and get some rest while I could.
The next morning we set off for Lotta’s Fountain in downtown San Francisco, the official start point for George Wyman’s ride across America. Riding right up onto the sidewalk around the fountain, we took turns posing with our bikes while Tim photographed us, while confused pedestrians wound their way through the collection of motorcycles and riders.
I then decided to make my way to the Golden Gate Bridge and see the view. I laughed as I rode across the bridge because, due to the fog, I could barely see 100 feet above me, much less the bay beneath. However, I did get a glimpse of the bridge from the other side looking back. What had been a warm sunny day on the other side of the bridge turned into cold and fog with a stiff breeze off the Pacific. I rode up the Marin Headlands above the bridge and into the fog where the temperature dropped even further. Not being able to see even the ocean below me, I decided after a couple of miles to turn around and head back into the city. My next stop was the famous winding section of Lombard Street. Just getting up the back of the hill to drive down the street was challenging. The hill was so steep that I could almost picture the front wheel lifting off the ground and the whole bike flipping over backwards. The tall gearing I had installed also made the climb difficult even in first gear. On the way down, the traffic was bumper to bumper with sightseers, but the small size of the Halcyon made it easy for me to stop and snap some pictures among the tourists.
After a quick trip back through the city, I decided to head back to the hotel for our afternoon presentation on the history of the George Wyman’s ride, logistics and strategy for making the long stages of the journey, and best of all, the opportunity to see one of only three known 1902 California motorcycles. This specific machine is owned by Dave Scoffone, who purchased it from a well known collector in 2006. Wyman’s original motorcycle was stolen from the Golden Gate Park shortly after his transcontinental ride. This machine turned up in a garage in the 1970’s and, due the the rarity of the bike, could very well be Wyman’s original motorcycle. While more evidence is required to prove its provenance, it is hard not to believe the story and imagine Wyman riding this very machine all the way from San Francisco to New York across rutted, mud-filled roads, and along hundreds of miles of railroad ties.
After a great presentation on the history of the motorcycle, Tim Masterson and ride master Cliff Wall went over the rules, suggestions, and logistics of the George A. Wyman Memorial Grand Tour, a sanctioned Iron Butt Association ride. As everyone apart from me was a seasoned IBA member, many having more than one Iron Butt Rally to boast of, each rider was planning out how to earn as many points as possible during each leg of the trip. Points are awarded, in typical rally fashion, for visiting (and properly documenting) bonus waypoints along the way. In this case, the bonuses were stops that George Wyman had made along his historic journey. Since I was not a IBA member—indeed never having heard of long distance riding until a few months before—I opted to just complete the ride by getting from Lotta’s Fountain in San Francisco all the way to 1904 Broadway in New York City. As I was to find out all too soon, my top speed would mean that I was only able to make one out of the week’s evening meals with the rest of the group. The rest of the time I got into to the rendezvous point hours after the rest of the riders. At the end of the presentation, we had a chance to meet George Wyman’s granddaughter, Marti Wyman Schein.
Last, Cliff and Tim pulled me aside for quick strategy meeting. They went over the basic math of long distance motorcycling: overall average MPH (Ovg) is the total miles ridden, including stops, divided by the total time. Moving average MPH (Mvg) is total miles divided by total moving time. To illustrate, if I could maintain a moving average speed of 58 MPH (between 55-60 MPH) and plan on 13 hours of total riding time, the math of the first leg would look like this: San Francisco to Wells NV, 13:00 hours total time (6am to 7pm), 600 miles: 600 / 58 mvg = 10:22 hours. 13 hours total time minus 10:22 hours = 2:38 hours stop time for fuel/sightseeing. Ovg = 600 miles / 13:00 hours = 46.2 MPH Ovg.
They reminded me that I did not need to attempt to collect bonus points and that my main goal was just to arrive in New York City in one piece! Tim and the rest of the IBA members have collectively put an extraordinary amount of riding, thought, and knowledge into the study of competitive motorcycle riding. Tim describes the art of long distance motorcycling as ride craft which he defines as “the collection of knowledge, skills, and abilities used by a long distance motorcycle rider to maintain a consistent ride pace, manage risk, and achieve navigational objectives.” What sounds way too complicated for most motorcyclists is just the beginning for long distance riders. As I quickly came to find out, every decision, every item of gear you did (or didn’t) bring, every minute you spend on a particular action, counts when it comes to logging long miles on a motorcycle. Another popular saying I heard throughout the week was, “plan your ride, ride your plan”. In an activity with so many variables, from weather, traffic, fuel range, distance, and exhaustion, obsessive planning is essential.
After the presentations and great advise, I headed outside to make any last preparations to my trusty Halcyon #68, put on its cover, and go through my gear one last time in preparation for my early departure the next morning and the beginning of new adventure. The next day my goal would be to leave the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, cross the Sierras mountain range, transverse the deserts of Utah, and end up in the town of Wells, Nevada, sixty miles short of the Utah border and 600 miles from where I had started in the morning.