RIDING TO CHICAGO ON MY NINJA 300 IN THE WINTER
Updated: Apr 16
Oct 5, 2021
I solo rode 5,300 miles to Chicago, IL on my Ninja 300 to visit my friend Elyza.
Love knows no distance or boundaries. I could have taken a flight, driven a car or ridden Amtrak. Those modes of transportation, however, are extremely boring to me. Instead, I chose to ride 5,300 grueling miles/ 8,500 kilometers on my sportbike. They say, "Go big or go home." This was my first solo mototouring trip and I went big. I rode big, and rode home a different person. Here are 5 things I learned on my solo trip.
1. Do a test ride with all your gear before your trip. My trip was a total of 3 weeks. The first week I rode from California to Illinois, rested for 5 days in Chicago to spend quality time with my friend, and the third week to ride from Illinois back to California. I rode 300-500 miles/ 480-800 kilometers for about 6 to 9 hours a day. After this experience, I don't recommend this to anyone. It doesn't allow time to explore or enjoy the ride. I rode to the Midwest in October, the cusp of when temperatures drop. As I left home, I was getting speed wobbles whenever I decelerated so I stopped at a friend's house and tried to troubleshoot packing different ways for an hour to better balance the weight to remediate this problem. I couldn't figure this out and instead, rode home, abandoned my tent and opted for a mosquito net as a tent instead. I would later regret this. This lack of preparation caused me to leave hours later than I wanted. And this leads me to Lesson #2.
2. Even though a tent is only a thin sheet of nylon and polyester that would not prevent a wild animal attack, it provides a sense of protection and safety. I look happy in this photo and I am. But I could not describe to you how physically and mentally exhausted I was. It sprinkled at night and since I abandoned my tent, I thought I would need to frantically pack my belongings in the middle of the night, ride down the mountain in the mud and get a hotel. Luckily, the sprinkling stopped. Later in the middle of night after I fell asleep again, a man and his dog were looking for a spot to camp, and his dog came right up to my sleeping bag and sniffed me. This was a scary situation to wake up to in the middle of the night especially since I did not know if the dog was friendly, nor did I know the man's intentions. Luckily nothing happened. Lesson learned, bring a tent, even if it won't stop a coyote from attacking me. It at least provides some sense of shelter and safety.
3. I will never ride on the 80E in Wyoming ever again. Seeing freeway signs saying "Warning: high winds over 65mph" is the one of the most terrifying things you could see while riding, especially on a 300cc sportbike that gets tossed around in the wind. The 80E is big rig territory for thousands of miles. And the worst thing is, you have no choice. There is no other road that will take you across the state so quickly, no backroads, no local streets. I never tuck when I ride, but in this instance, I tucked as low as I could. My anxiety was flaring as the wind tossed me across my lane. Luckily the few times it tossed me closer to the next lane, there were no vehicles next to me. I'm thankful I'm alive. I have a saying that you can only cheat death so many times doing the same thing. I cheated death that day and I am not pushing my luck again. If I have to ride an extra 4 hours and take the 90 or the 70, I'll do it.
4. Human kindness is everywhere. There were so many kind people across every state that offered me help and kindness along the way. One gas station attendant warned me there were mountain lions in the mountains near the Bonneville Salt Flats and offered me the keys to his hotel while he was at work. He pulled his keys out and held them out for me. He trusted me, a complete stranger with all his belongings. Of course stubborn me didn't lug all this camping gear not to camp, so I rode off into the mountains, but his gesture of kindness remains in my heart. Another man who owned a small convenience store let me eat behind the counter so I wouldn't have to eat on the sidewalk in the cold. He also said I didn't have to pay for my meal. This store owner actually thought I didn't have money because I looked so disheveled from my ride. Of course I paid him, but I am thankful for his gesture. There is kindness out there, just keep sending your good energy out into the world.
5. This trip changed me. I would not recommend to anyone to do this trip the way I did it. I was rushing everyday, some nights I could not fall asleep because the wind was so cold, and some mornings it took me two hours to get ready because it was 28 degrees out and I could not get my hands warm. It was so cold, my water would not boil so I couldn't make my oatmeal. There was one morning I ate my oatmeal under cooked and crunchy. The lesson I learned is just because I can endure, doesn't mean I need to. I will never do such a high mileage trip this rushed again. I honestly didn't enjoy it. But I can apply these lessons for my next trip.