I Got Lost

It was supposed to be a simple, short, day trip (Gilligan’s Island, a three hour tour plays in the background). If you haven’t been following along, I’ve declared this year as my “summer of George”. The plan is to travel, mostly by motorcycle, and visit as many off the beaten track sights as I can. Phase one was changing my work hours to make this possible, and purchasing the right motorcycle. With that done, it’s now time to start the actual adventures. I have a handful of rides on the new bike under my belt, so I felt ready to do a mini-adventure to test things out before I hit the road on a multi-day trip.

The plan was to ride to a quirky museum I’d found on-line called Cleo’s Ferry Museum on the banks of the Snake river. It was about an hour and a half away, traveling entirely on backcountry farm roads – no interstate travel. I also wanted to experiment with how to document the trip (and future adventures). Do I want to make YouTube videos or just photography? I’ve seen plenty of YouTube motorcycle travel videos and it looks pretty simple. A couple of GoPro cameras, chat about the scenery as you cruise through the countryside, then give insightful commentary once you arrive at your destination. I got the GoPro’s all set up and loaded up my tank bag with extra batteries, memory cards, various accessories, and my regular camera. Time to ride!

The ride out to farmland went great. I was busy chatting away to the camera and enjoying the first real warm day of spring. Discovery number one was that turning on/off cameras one handed while riding a motorcycle and wearing leather gloves is challenging. It’s impossible to see if they’re recording or not. I had multiple instances where I was babbling away like an idiot only to realize the cameras never started recording because I didn’t fully push the button. Or that I’d thought I’d turned them off and ended up recording another 15 minutes of nothing, draining the batteries. You think texting and driving is bad? I can easily see myself riding into a ditch as I stare intently at the GoPro and fumble with the on/off button with gloved fingers.

Discovery number two was a known issue that I thought I was prepared for, but failed miserably. As I’ve chronicled previously, I’ve had an issue with the USB connection on my phone, Android Auto, and the navigation display on the motorcycle. It’s been randomly shutting off leaving me without a map. I’m 90% certain the USB C connection on my phone is the problem as it connects/disconnects if I wiggle the cable around. No biggie, I’d looked at my route on the computer pretty carefully and felt like even if it cut out a few times I still had a good sense of where I was going. Almost on cue, as soon as I hit the winding backcountry roads the navigation display started cutting out. In person these roads looked nothing like they did on the computer. Remote, no signs or landmarks, and all kinds of random unmarked side roads everywhere. Pretty soon I’d made multiple turns and had zero idea where I was.

Not an issue except that every time the navigation cut out I’d have to stop the motorcycle, dig out my phone from the tank bag and wiggle the cord until the display came back. Stopping on a motorcycle is not the same as a car. You need a reasonably flat surface and many of these country roads have no shoulder, just a steep ditch on either side. By the time I’d stopped a half dozen times I was getting frustrated. I’d pull out the phone, try and memorize the next few turns, wiggle the cord, put everything back in the tank bag, put my gloves back on, then take off. Two minutes later the navigation would cut out, I’d forget the name of the next road and have stop and start the process all over. Multiple times I’d find myself on a dead end road and have to backtrack. My carefree ride was quickly losing the enjoyment factor.

After several hours of this I finally found my destination. I pulled into the gravel parking lot, found a shady spot and shut the bike down. I was tired and dripping with sweat. Fully armored riding gear is great when there’s airflow. The last several hours of stopping/starting in the increasing spring heat left me soaking wet. No matter, I was here and it was time to capture some fun video and pictures of my destination! Discovery number three – a motorcycle is not like a car. You can’t just take off your jacket and lock it in the vehicle. I have an expensive helmet and jacket I can’t just leave sitting on the bike. So even though it was getting ridiculously hot I kept the jacket on and lugged the helmet, a GoPro camera and my regular camera with me as I set off to explore the museum.

Turns out, the museum wasn’t really a museum and there weren’t any ferries to see. It was a mile and a half “nature” walk with some old buildings and an eclectic and bizarre collection of hundreds of lawn gnomes, sculptures, and wandering peacocks. I’m sure someone like Mike Rowe could have made an interesting video segment about this place, but I was hot and tired. I was fumbling with the GoPro, the heavy helmet, and my regular camera was hanging on its strap around my neck and bouncing around. Somehow in that jostling a button got pushed and the camera’s display turned off. Standing in the hot sun in a heavy motorcycle jacket, sweat running down my back, I couldn’t figure out how to get the camera display back on so I had to abandon taking any pictures. At this point I’d had enough of Cleo’s Ferry Museum and trudged back to the bike.

The batteries on the GoPro were all dead, so at this point I was ready to just get back home. I packed everything up, mounted the bike and headed out on the most direct route back. I hadn’t eaten anything since early morning and had no water. The prudent thing to do would have been to find a café or something and grab a bite to eat and some water. I didn’t want to deal with the navigation again and rationalized it was only an hour ride going the direct route home. I am not the sharpest crayon in the box sometimes and should have known that this trip was destined to not go well.

I hit construction zones that detoured me in circles. I got stuck in traffic that had the bike nearly overheating. I got briefly lost again navigating a downtown I’d only been in once before. I pulled into my garage just before dinner, tired, hot, hungry, and with an aching back and dull headache from dehydration. My several hour adventure turned had turned into an all day affair without food or water. Virtually nothing had gone as planned.

Clearly my path to YouTube stardom will be harder than I thought. On the bright side, I know what I need to address before my next adventure. Better to find out now I suppose. All in all, I still love the idea of what I’m doing. And I have to laugh at my level of ineptness sometimes. I’m sure this won’t be my last epic failure. But I’m looking forward to whatever ridiculousness comes my way on these future travels. Life is too short not to have these experiences.

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