By Justin Mackie-
6000 miles behind bars, 7 Western States, 8 National Parks, but most importantly for this tale, with 25+ riders.. Thats my ride stats year to date for 2020. When the Covid closures hit in March, a good friend suggested we invite EVERYONE, and go ride and camp off of our adventure bikes in Utah. He made the astute observation that with the Covid closures the national parks, normally packed with people, would be empty. Yes, some of the main hikes and attractions would be closed, but we don’t do those anyway, we just want to ride through and take in the sights without the tour buses and rental motorhomes to battle. We formulated a plan and sent the invite to ALL of our cronies, extended cronies and their cronies, with zero regard for proven ability or readiness. It was anxiety inducing, I mentally confided in myself to find an excuse to not go a few times. When it gained traction and grew a life of its own, frankly I was scared. You see, I am a rider who dreads riding with others beyond a very select few that I am extremely comfortable with, riders that are Uber prepared and skilled at the craft of living on the edge on two wheels among a remote backdrop. In my experience most riders who have ridden for any amount of time, have the same hangup. I don't want my trip ruined, delayed or derailed because a liability or three showed up to tag along. ill prepared, ill equipped and likely lacking the physical and/or mental ability to safely or willingly maintain pace or endurance. I am an embrace the suck subscriber and if its not hard and at least a little scary, I’m out. For most folks thats not their idea of fun. So, agreeing to organize, plan and open invite anyone buying the wanderlust along for an adventure ride, was panic attack status. Then 20+ riders committed to go.
Route logistics were laid and the date arrives. We set off to meet in Mexican Hat, UT. A flight of 10 out of Vegas, who converged to roll together from their origins in central and southern California as well as Las Vegas locals, me included. A flight of 12 out of Phoenix together and a lone soldier headed south to meet us out of the Salt Lake basin. 23 in all, no chase vehicle, no backup bikes.. Oh boy.. What could go wrong??
We converge in Mexican Hat and setup camp in Gooseneck State Park, a gorgeous backdrop for our first evenings lodging. This kicks off 5 days of incredibly scenic routes that includes the national parks of Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion. As anticipated, ghost towns of natural beauty, just as we had hoped for. We were 23 riders attempting to ride together as one. Bikes ranged from a DRZ400 to GS1200’s, Riders ranged from seasoned pro’s to newbs still trying to sort out why they agreed to come. The spread of machines and riders couldn’t have been greater. There were riders who wanted to ride slow and riders who wanted to ride fast. Riders who wanted to leave early in the morning and those that wanted to sleep in. Riders who wanted to explore side roads and those who desired to only stay the published course. Simply put the riders in the back always felt pressure to go faster or further between breaks than they wanted. The riders in the front stopped all day and sat in the sun letting riders behind catch up, feeling like they were spending as much of their time waiting on others as riding. Luckily everyone was understanding and in the end had a fantastic time. Aside from the logistical challenge posed by hosting a ride for 20+ riders, when you yourself just want to ride with your buddies, it was a smashing success.
Something happened at camp though each night on that ride. The camaraderie grew with the size of the group, the campfire conversations more robust and more intriguing. The diversity of the group was shining through, brighter than the challenges presented by its size. My days frustrations, of feeling responsible to keep everyone together, which was fruitless were lifted with new connections with amazing individuals. A balancing act was occurring as we rode, I was self examining my actions and attitude about it all
The ride wrapped up without any major incidents. We all disperse to our respective home towns. The long droning ride home to Vegas south on the I-15 was a couple solid hours to debrief personally. Would I do it again, was it worth it? I came to an easy yes to those questions but it clearly needed improvement. The push, pull pressures felt by those at either end of the group needed a solve for this to be a sustainable idea, riding with more than the typical 6-8 people most of us adventure ride with