Monday, November 3, 2008

A Royal Enfield adventure in America

Brian Wittling's heavily loaded Royal Enfield Bullet with Enfield artillery pieces at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Missouri, near the beginning of his cross-country adventure.
Part One

"My Ass Hurts Just Thinking About This." That was the title of the post Brian Wittling wrote introducing members of the Royal Enfield Yahoo message board to his intention to ride his Royal Enfield Bullet through 10 states in only 10 days. It was Sept. 15, 2003.

Brian wrote: "I will have 10 days to complete a 5,000-mile, 10-state round trip to California and back. Yes, you read that right. That means I must average about 500 miles per day, for 10 days straight.

"My route out will consist of old Route 66 paralleling I-44 to Santa Monica, Calif. and the road back will take me through Death Valley, Las Vegas, and across Utah before hooking up with US 50, which sort of parallels I-70.

"Along the way, I'll experience temperatures ranging from the 20s (Colorado) to over 100! (Death Valley). Which means I'll be going from wearing nothing but my skivvies and the 'stich to probably every article of clothing I bring with me. Luckily, most of the trip will be spent in glorious high 60s to mid-70s.

"The Bullet plods along nicely at about 60 mph, but even so, with the side roads and the planned stops, it still means I will have to spend approximately 10-12 hours a day actually riding. Ouch. I guess we'll see just how comfortable that springer seat REALLY is, eh? I'm thinking I should count on spending a night or two at the 'Iron Butt Motel' (helmet and gear still on, slumped over the bike on the side of the road or rest stop)."

He signed himself "Crazy Brian."

Wittling received lots of encouragement from members of the board, but not everyone agreed it was a good idea. One member named Jan wrote:


"With all due respect and all that, it's a cool thing you're doing and all -- but what's the point really??? You will only wear yourself and the bike out and press the envelope of your butt (and mind) to the brink. There will be very little enjoyment if you travel a vast distance like that under a time pressure like that. I know, I was there once myself -- before I had a few close calls and lost a dozen of my friends in wrecks, got bored and grew up.

"Mr. Murphy will be calling ALL the shots. If you HAVE to do a certain distance every day, be very sure you'll only do it on ONE of the 10 days. The first one..."

Wittling was undeterred. Lack of vacation time kept him from taking longer, he wrote. It was his life, after all. He was just challenging himself, not daring anyone else to try it.

But he also was challenging the standard notion of what a rider and a Royal Enfield could do, or even attempt. Others around the world have crossed wider deserts or climbed higher mountains on a Royal Enfield. But Wittling's plan was to attempt a peculiarly American adventure.

List members learned what happened less than a month later.

Next: "I Left My Arse in Tucumcari."

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