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Unbridled Happiness

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Hppants
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Unbridled Happiness

Post by Hppants »

Unbridled Happiness
May 2022

Recently, I had 4 days of riding the motorcycle in Arkansas. A Spring moto ride in the Ozarks is nothing new to Pants. I’ve been there more times than I can count. But this year, things were different. This year, I rode the Dual Sport.

For years, people have been encouraging me to get a Dual Sport. I made up every excuse in the book. When I was a very young adult, I had a couple of dirt bikes – the ole wing dingers. They were hard to ride and the single-track trails around my home were technical and tight. I knew I didn’t want to do that again. But riding gravel and wide dirt roads seemed appealing and with my retirement imminent, my curiosity could wait no longer. I bought a gently used DR650 in the winter and couldn’t wait for Spring to get here.

My good buddy Josh from Illinois was at the front of the line egging me on for this. He’s had a D/S bike for a while and I must admit: seeing the pictures of his adventures was envious for me. Josh and I have ridden and camped all over the country together on our FJRs, including many Spring trips to Arkansas.

Jasen from the Dallas area is another riding buddy that Josh and I have known for years. Our paths have crossed from time to time at FJR gatherings, but we haven’t had much opportunity to ride together. Jasen has had a DRZ400 for a while, and after learning that I bought a D/S, he invited us to join him in Arkansas for the Memorial Day weekend. And so we were 3.

We camped at Shady Oaks Campground near Harrison, AR. Under new ownership (again), the accommodations were fine. It was crowded, but for the most part, people were quiet.

We ate, we drank, we laughed, and we rode our Dual Sports. I can’t believe I waited so long to do this. I hope you enjoy the pics.

Day 1: Lafayette, LA to Shady Oaks, Harrison, AR, Approx. 500 miles (by truck)

So I’m kind of a purist when it comes to Motorcycle Trips. I’m not much on trucking or trailering the bike. For me, the fun starts when I leave my driveway. But the DR is not made for long distances, so I took the truck instead.

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The views from the cockpit were still kind of nice.

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I got to the campground mid-afternoon. Josh and Jasen arrived the day before and were presumably out on the trails somewhere. I set up my tent and settled in.

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The site is a bit cozy for 3 tents, bikes, and trucks, but we made do just fine.

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This one is brewed in Little Rock.

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Soon, Josh and Jasen arrived, and it was great to see them again. It has been raining up here for a few days, and the front is just passing through. Tonight, it will be cool enough for a fire.

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I was delayed one day getting here because last night, my wife and I hosted a family gathering. I took all of the left-over Horse Divers and we called it dinner!

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I might as well confess: Pants has a sweet tooth. And my wife knows how to get to my heart!

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We sat by the fire and discussed the meaning of life. And it was good. Tomorrow, my adventure starts!


Day 2: 160 miles of mostly Dirt and Gravel, Ozark Mountains.

I slept good in my tent and woke up early excited and if I’m being honest, a little bit nervous. I don’t want to die today, and for weeks now, I’ve been stressing to Josh and Jasen to take it easy on this newbie off road. I hope they heard me.

Josh bought this nifty camp stove and he wanted to try it out.

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There is something about a good cup of morning coffee at the campground.

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I give Josh’s oven a resounding thumbs up!

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We packed up and hit the road.

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Josh brought an extra Sena 20 communicator and installed it on my new D/S helmet (Scorpion AT950). They put me in the middle. Josh led the ride and would let me know about obstacles on the trail, and the preferred line. Jasen rode sweep and was also giving me great pointers about my riding position, best lines, etc. It was like having my very own private riding class.

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The water is running from the recent rains everywhere.

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I liked it immediately. First and obviously, with NO one else on the “road”, I quickly realized that I could relax a little with respect to watching out for others to run me over. We are out here by ourselves. Well, these ladies are also out here, but they are not looking to run me over.

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Another thing that quickly dawned on me is the view from the gravel is unobstructed.

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Pretty good shot of Jasen on a fly by.

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Sweet!

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To be abundantly clear, I have no firm idea of where we are going, and we have all day to get there.

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I’m really enjoying this relaxed, easy pace. Over this entire trip, we averaged like 26 mph.

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We wind our way down through the Ozark National Forest and end up at an old favorite.

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All 3 of us are using the Garman XT for our GPS. I’m a long time Tom Tom user but relented to the Garmin after hearing about how good the XT is. Over the weekend, I would learn to appreciate it very much. After lunch, Josh leads us toward the Mulberry River. I remember the Garmin showing the road he chose as “red”. I think that means “more difficult”, or if it doesn’t, then it should. It was pretty challenging negotiating the rocks and ruts, but my big ole bush pig did the job pretty good. No pics for that road – I was too busy trying not to die!

We get to the top and were rewarded with a stupendous view.

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For a second there, I thought Josh was going to try and cross the river, but discretion was the better part of valor.

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Still heading generally north, we wind up in Kingston just in time for my afternoon sweet tooth!

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Late afternoon, we stopped in Jasper for groceries, and then wound up back at the camp just in time for happy hour.

When Josh is cooking beef on an open fire, just get the hell out of his way!

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Oh we are roughing it, man. We got it sooooooo bad, LOL.

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After dinner, we put on some good music, and I sipped on the shampoo bottle a bit. I found a new world today, and I like it.


Day 3: 115 miles of fun, Ozark National Forest

Tossing around the dual sport is more physical than the FJR. I was tired and I slept very well.

The steaks last night were so huge, we couldn’t finish them. Josh warmed up the leftovers for breakfast.

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Pretty good sandwich.

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Then we packed the bikes and hit the trails. I can already tell it’s going to be a terrific day.

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My confidence is growing and I’m getting more comfortable with the DR650. Not overconfident, mind you. Josh led us through another section of the forest and every bit of it was fantastic. The newness of it was exhilarating.

We got to a water crossing and had to stop.

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My new Forma Adventure riding boots are keeping me dry….. for now.

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This is one of the best pictures of the trip.

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We rode without a care in the world. When we got to a road crossing, if left looked good, we took it. It didn’t matter to me where we went. I was liking all of it.

We came to another larger water crossing and Josh went right across with no trouble. The water was much deeper than the one earlier in the day and I hesitated. Josh was giving me pointers over the comm system. I started going across and things were going pretty good, until they weren’t. I found the algae on the center part of the crossing and before I knew what was happening, the front wheel washed out and down I went.

So my boots are waterproof right up to the top of the gaiter. Unfortunately, the water was just a smidge higher than that, LOL. I stepped in the water and killed the bike’s engine. Josh walked over to give me a hand. We lifted the bike and walked it to the other side. No harm, no foul.

Jasen crossed over and we move forward about another 200 yards before the 3rd water crossing presented itself. This one was a bit too deep for us, so we turned around to where we just came from. This time I studied the crossing, figured out what I did wrong, and crossed with no problem.

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Jasen went rock hopping this time and had to put a foot down, but his experience pulled him through.

We rode around for a while and ended up just outside of Jasper for lunch.

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I walked into the café and asked the server for a table. Out of the other room, a gentleman walked up and said, “hey I know you, come sit with me, I’ve got a big table.”

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Josh and I met Mike in West Virginia at the Eastern FJR Owners meeting last fall. It truly is a small world. It was great to see him again. Mike recommended the chicken sandwich, and it sounded good to me.

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Although today he was riding his Yamaha FZ-07 (awesome bike, BTW), Mike informed us that he also has a dual sport. One thing led to another, and he offered to come meet us tomorrow at the campground and show us around. Cool deal for me – see ya tomorrow, buddy.

After lunch, it was back into the woods to see what we could see.

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I got this cool pic of Josh styling it on the two-fifty

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We got to this water, which is either the Little Buffalo River or Abb’s Creek, and decided to walk the motorcycles across. The water was much higher and moving very swiftly. If we fell, we surely would have been swept.

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I could have drank out of my boots this time.

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Then it was straight up hill on a very steep climb. It was a bit daunting from the water, but Josh took the lead and I gave him enough space to scout the best line for me. The Shinko 244 rear tire gripped real well, and the Bushy Pig was pulling 2nd gear with no problem.

We get to the top and were rewarded handsomely. The map doesn’t identify this particular mountain near the old logging community of Murray, Arkansas. In all my years, I have never seen the Ozarks in this light.

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The others were kind enough to patiently wait for Pants to take this photo, and to stand there in the shade for a minute and have a moment.

As I looked over the world beneath me, a feeling came upon me that I can only describe as “unbridled happiness”. For years now, my wife and I have been enjoying ourselves immensely. She’s been retired 3 years, and with our kids long grown and nearly all of our responsibilities more than handled, well… life’s been pretty dog gone good.

As I have moved toward my retirement, it has occurred to me that despite my happiness, and my longing to enjoy the moments in my life, the constraining factor has still been “work”. My career is one that cannot be tabled until I return. Practically speaking, I’ve been “on call” for 25 years. My over inflated sense of responsibility tugs on me constantly, and it can kill any buzz if I let it.

But now with my retirement imminent, it’s all over but the crying. I’ve had some time to let my guard down and let my career fade in my mind. I’ve done my work, and it’s time to stop worrying about it anymore. As I stood there on that overlook, I felt the unbridling of my mind, and it made me very happy.

This morning, I suggested that we might want to do a short walk today to stretch out our legs. I’ve always wanted to see Hawksbill Crag, but never did because of the gravel road leading up to the trailhead. Well, today is the day.

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Jasen treks out ahead and appeared to be a man on a mission.

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This is a nice place.

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In the Ozarks, you know you are at an altitude of about 2000 feet whenever you come upon an exposed seam of Sandstone.

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Breathe slowly, my friends. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

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I suppose it kind of looks like a hawk’s bill…..

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Boys will be boys….

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I got to work on my Warrior Pose

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Back at the trail head, our boots are drying out nicely.

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We check the map and decide on a series of roads that move us in the general direction of the campground. This is Walker Mountain. What a day we are having.

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As luck would have it, there is a decent liquor store near the campground. The clerk recommended this as a good “inexpensive tequila”. It’s not bad at all, and after the incredible adventure we had today, I insisted on a celebratory toast.

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In another wonderful turn of events, my old buddy Gus, who I have known since I returned to motorcycling, saw my Facebook post of the trip. Gus now lives close to Harrison and decided to come down and join us. When we returned to the camp, I was very happy to see my old buddy. Gus now rides a Triumph Tiger Adventure, but it was outfitted with half worn street tires, so he camped with us, but didn’t ride.

We knew that the campground was preparing smoked pork for everyone, so the dinner choice was easy.

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After dinner, we made a low fire for ambiance only as it has warmed up. We put on some music and sat around re-living the dream that came true today.



Day 4: 150 more Ozark Miles

The overnight low was about 68 degrees F. That’s about my upper limit for comfort in the tent. I had all windows open and I slept on top of the sleeping bag.

Yesterday, we picked up groceries to cook breakfast.

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Josh is working on a nice toast for the English Muffins.

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Bon Appetite!

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Mike showed up on time with his Yamaha WR250, and away we go!

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I repeatedly told Mike that I was a newbie. He assured me that at any point we could turn around if I wasn’t comfortable. Josh let me follow Mike to study his lines and I learned a lot.

We come out of the woods in Pruitt, and crossed Hwy 7 to go check out the Buffalo River, which was still flowing pretty good.

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Something is not right with Jasen’s DRZ.

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That’s a motor oil trail. The seal for his countershaft sprocket took a dump. Very lucky to have discovered it before the motor ran out of oil, but unfortunately, he’s done for the day and the trip. He was glad that this happened on his last day of riding, but I was disappointed for him.

The inconvenience was very minimal. Josh and I rode 8-ish miles back to the campground. We put Josh’s bike in the back of Jasen’s pickup truck and doubled back to meet the others. We loaded up Jasen’s bike and since it was lunch time and we were close, we all convoy’d to Jasper for lunch at the Subway.

Jasen went back to the campground after lunch, and Mike, Josh, and I pressed onward. I requested waterfalls with Mike this morning, and he was all too happy to oblige.

This is twin falls near Mt. Sherman, Arkansas. With the great flow today, it’s actually triple falls!

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Then it’s back into the woods for more adventure!

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We stopped to pee somewhere, and something didn’t feel quite right.

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How I found a 3” drywall screw in the middle of the forest is a mystery. None the less, we got busy with it. My friend Alex has a 3D printer and a knack for design. Another friend gave me a crutch to cut and Alex made me these nifty attachment pieces for my “field bike lift”.

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Josh had only a 21” tube and for a second, I was concerned. But apparently, you can put a 21” tube in a 17” tire. I’m learning all kinds of things on this trip, including a LONG list of stuff I gotta get.

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Two guys in a side by side came upon us and made sure we didn’t need any help, but in about 20 minutes, its was all over and Mike was leading us to the next place – Carwash Falls.

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This is a great place located near Hagarville, AR on the Big Piney Creek. The road follows along the creek and the rider is rewarded with a nice cooling shower under the fall.

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When I contemplated buying a Dual Sport motorcycle, this is what I hoped it would be.

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A bit further up the trail was the Hurricane Creek crossing, where the water was at least 2 feet deep and running. Josh was game, but I threw a flag on the play and declared “no thank you”. So we turned around and headed back.

The views in the other direction were just as good.

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About 10 miles ago, Josh had to switch to reserve. We were not concerned about fuel – he’s got a spare canister of fuel on his bike and if push comes to shove, I’ve got plenty of extra gas in my 5 gallon tank to share. We get back to Jasper and Josh is on fumes, but he decides he is going to run it out to determine his reserve range. About 2 miles later, he runs out of gas and we pull over. Unfortunately, nearly all of the fuel in his spare canister has evaporated somehow. But he adds the 6-8 ounces left to his tank and it was enough for the 250 miser to get back to Jasper.

It's getting late, so at the out of gas pull off, Mike breaks away for his house. We thanked him kindly for the day, and I hope to ride with him again soon.

At lunch, we asked Jasen to get the groceries for dinner. As soon as we got back to camp, Josh and I got working on that.

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The chicken salad was dam fine.

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Today, we rinsed, we lathered, and we repeated. And it was just dandy.


Day 5: 75 miles solo on the Ozark trails.

Another warm one, but again, I managed. Today is Memorial Day, and as I woke, I am immediately reminded of my personal pledge every year:

“Today and every day, I promise to live my life in a manner that is worthy of what you did for me. That is the sincerest way I can thank you.”

Today the others have to go home, but I don’t and I’m having so much fun, I decided to stay one more day. After coffee and breakfast, they started packing and I geared up. I bid them farewell, but not goodbye, and thanked them for the company.

I was taking a risk not having the means to change another flat tire, but it was a risk I was willing to take. I figured I would bring plenty of water and walking shoes, and never get more than 5-ish miles from a highway, a distance I could easily walk to and get help if necessary.

No doubt, the juice was worth the squeeze….

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I stopped at what appears to be this old abandoned General Store. Lots of cool stuff lying around.

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I looked at this old farm implement and thought that its metal seat surely must be very uncomfortable.

Wrong.

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Along the way, I came upon this man walking a small dog. I stopped to tell him good morning and we talked a while. Turns out he’s from a town not too far from where I live, and retired years ago to the Ozarks. He assured me that if I have trouble, just to walk to the nearest house and anyone there will be happy to help me. I believed him, as the sincerity of his voice was quite welcome. Retired people are looked upon as “slow”, but I think it’s more than that. Retired people are not burdened with the constraints of time. They can enjoy the moment without concern about what ever is coming up. I am so excited about the prospect of that lifestyle.

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I ended up where I wanted to go this morning.

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I threw on my walking shoes, packed my lunch and some water, and off I go.

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The waterfall was really nice. A great place to eat my lunch and get wet.

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Moving on….

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Finding the ice cream shop in Kingston midafternoon was no coincidence. If you ever ride with Pants, rest assured, there will be ice cream. I couldn’t decide between Chocolate and Strawberry, so I got both! I can work out when I get home.

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The solitude of this kind of riding is quite addictive.

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At one stop, I made some friends.

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What a trip, man.

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I got back to the campground about 4 pm, a bit earlier than usual but again, I was being very conservative, leaving myself plenty of time for a problem to get solved.

But hey… it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

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I didn’t feel much like cooking for just myself. So I took a shower and drove the truck into Harrison to a favorite Pizza place, Brick Oven Pizza. They always have something local on tap.

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And the pizzas are good.

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Now it’s too warm for a fire, so after dinner, I went back to the campground and hit the sack early.

Day 6: Shady Oaks to Lafayette, LA, 500 miles (trucking).

I woke up rested, but a bit warm. I made coffee and packed up my stuff. About 8:30, I rolled out the campground inside my comfy air-conditioned truck. The drive home was uneventful. At times, I enjoyed reminiscing about my great adventure. I arrived home safely about 5 pm, and in her usual welcoming fashion, my wife greeted me happily. I’m sure she was also relieved to know that I didn’t get hurt – I know she worries, but I’m careful and she understands my NEED to do this. In our own tradition, we went out to eat and I got to tell her all about my adventure.

I’m realizing that the new world my dual sport is showing me comes in two contexts. The physical one was expected. I’ve always gotten to the end of the pavement and wondered curiously “What’s it like down there?”. The answer is now well within my grasp.

But the new mental world was unexpected. Unbridling my new found happiness as I move into retirement is exciting. People always say “I can’t wait until _______”. Me? I can now wait for tomorrow. I’m having way too much fun today!

Stay thirsty, my friends…….
Last edited by Hppants on Sun Jun 19, 2022 7:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by Bugnatr »

Excellent report and pictures but I believe I gained 3 lbs just reading the food porn. Nice to see you are learning the dualsport thing from a couple experienced riders, really helps short cut the learning curve off the pavement.

When you come west next year allow an extra day so you can you throw a leg over my 650 and we'll tour Tahoe National forest from the dirt.
Spklbuk did that for me when I was in his hood a few years back. It's great to ride cross country on a street bike and then see the local color of West Virginia from a 650-I loved it.
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by bigjohnsd »

Great experience and a fine documentation thereof.

Glad you are seeing the transition to retirement through clear eyes.
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by gixxerjasen »

Bugnatr wrote: Sun Jun 19, 2022 4:55 pm I believe I gained 3 lbs just reading the food porn.
I gained at least six pounds living it! :D

It was good to watch the fire pit masters do their thing after seeing the photos in so many ride reports. I'd like to straighten something out though that Joey fibbed on. He said we couldn't finish the steaks. Let me be crystal clear, I had every bit of ability to finish that steak. When the other two announced they were saving steak for breakfast I sadly cut part of my steak off to do the same. In the morning I was happy I did because breakfast was amazing, but I could have easily finished it the night before.

Joey definitely took to the DS thing well and was ripping it up by the end of the second day. We also all swapped bikes and that might have ended up costing Josh quite a bit of money as he's realized that there's no replacement for displacement. Joey also got to see and try out some different things and I think he's got a good plan for making the Bushy Pig a perfect weapon for this type of riding.

I've done a full RCA on the DRZ and am waiting on a few things and she'll be all good again, along with a bit of maintenance items that were needed.

Oh, and damn that pizza looks good. I missed out on all the waterfalls AND some good pizza. :(
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by Panman »

Pants, as always you do a great read. I like your attitude, even when the days aren't so good!
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by Cav47 »

Such a fine report. I think I may have some pics to add.
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by CraigRegs »

Outstanding report, Pants. That looks like a perfectly organized trip with a couple of experienced riders to help you learn quickly, and great moments of serendipity thrown in.
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by D-Eagle »

Great report. You guys looked like you had a blast!
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by FJRPittsburgh »

Fantastic report Pants! I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it and I'm very good at looking at pictures. I don't think you guys are allowed to have that much fun, but I'm glad you did. Thanks for sharing the adventure. Well done!
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by dcarver »

Loving this shit! Well done guys..
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by fontanaman »

Terrific ride report and pictures Pants. Enjoyed this one very much. Retirement is great, I have zero regrets.

Good to see your are getting the DR a bit dirty. The DR photos at the beginning of the report remind me of ~G's FJR, much too clean! :D
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by Hppants »

Doug - count on a dual sport day with Puppychow next year. I'd love to try out the KLR. Pick some easy stuff, man. I don't want to be picking up motorcycles all day. I can hear the wind chime now....

If you moto-camp with Pants, there will be food porn and ice cream. We ate pretty good on this trip. Jasen's right - I do recall that he reluctantly gave up the last 1/3 of his steak for breakfast. What he lacks in height, he certainly makes up in appetite.

Carver - next year when I'm over there, I want to ride with you. Take me to the Candy Ass stuff you show in the central valley. I gotta see that stuff, man. Lunch is on me!

Jim - the DR is dirty and a bit scratched. As indicated, I dropped it twice. I would have been devastated with the FJR, but for the DR, no worries.
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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by Festus »

Be thankful you didn't go for your first real ride with these guys....

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Re: Unbridled Happiness

Post by Festus »

Looks like the obvious answer from this point forward is if the creek is too deep, you simply jump it.
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