Saturday, May 10, 2014

Heat Stroke on a Motorcycle, Day 19

i-8 arizona
Rolling down the I-8 through Arizona
Heat can be a bitch. When you're riding a motorcycle in it for prolong periods, it can wear down your emotional state, suck your energy, cause cramping, and leave you in a daze.

We made an attempt to ride back to San Diego from the Phoenix area but just couldn't make it. We got as far as Yuma and had to call it a day.

While the Arizona desert can be colorful and beautiful, it can also be huge. The road runs straight for dozens of miles without a single degree of turn, lulling you into a trance. You have to use your creativity to keep yourself entertained, or you have to shut off your emotions and not let external variables bother you.

The heat wasn't really that hot, the hottest I saw on the air temperature gauge on my Honda ST1300, was 93 degrees F (33.9 C), but was still hot enough after a few hours through the Arizona desert. We probably had another 60-75 minutes of riding in the heat until we climbed up the grade into San Diego County.

But it wasn't just the heat. It was the long miles down from Denver, through cold temperatures and fierce winds through New Mexico, and the rainfall inside the Gila National Forest. For someone with only a year and a half of long range motorcycle riding under her belt, Sash's body just couldn't take too much more.

The lifestyle of riding a motorcycle across the country, through all the weather elements, the geography, the backroads and twisties, and then stopping to see people, and trying to get some work done at the same time, takes its toll day after day.

But we're not complaining by any means. Sash and I would still rather do this than a "real" job.

The day started out with breakfast at the house of Arizona Harley Dude. Paul made us a combination of scrambled eggs and chorizo while his puppy dog Dexter licked the residue from our faces. After we took a group photo, we packed up our stuff and thanked him for his hospitality. Then we headed off to Whole Foods Market in Scottsdale to meet Genevieve Schmitt, founder of Women Riders Now, who happened to be in the area. Sash met Genevieve at the Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit earlier last weekend.

We finally got back on the road around 2:00pm, close to the hottest point of the day. At first I led at a pace of 75 MPH, but increased it to 80 MPH. Sash finally passed me by and led between 90-95 MPH (144-152 KPH) until we got into Yuma. By that time, she was worn out. The heat was sucking the life out of her.

One would think that sitting on a motorcycle wouldn't require much energy. But it does. Riding a motorcycle seems to burn calories, more calories that sitting in a Lazy Boy recliner. It also wears down the brain. There's an intellectual aspect of watching the road, the traffic, and your speed. It's also calculating your distance to the next gas station and how far you think you can go. You count down the exit numbers and the mile markers and run a series of math equations to determine your distance and the estimated time you'll get there. You don't think about this inside a car because you're too busy surfing channels on your satellite radio.

Add the heat and the sun shining down on you, and somehow it wears down the body.

Tonight we rest in Yuma, and tomorrow we leave early for San Diego.  We actually meet with clients at 11:00am that day.

arizona harley dude
Arizona Harley Dude (left), Sash (middle), and me (right)
motorcycle rider
Me with a bag of cracklins in my jacket, I can reach in for a crunchy snack every mile or so.
genevieve schmitt
We met with Genevieve Schmitt in Scottsdale, the publisher of Women Riders Now
dinosaurs gila bend az
These sculptures sit outside of a gas station in Gila Bend, AZ
motorcycle riding couple
Sash and I ride down I-8 in Arizona
Me on my Honda ST1300


  1. In Moab in the summer of 2012, I met a rider who had a water misting system mounted on his Ultra Classic. It consisted of a water bottle with a plunger handle lashed to the bike. A hose ran from the bottle along the frame to a spray head mounted on the console, right below the speedo, pointed right at him. Whenever he got hot he took a cooling misty spray and kept on going. He also had a dog in the passenger seat which rode sitting on a bag of ice.

    Here's a picture of it:

    I have found that on long rides, a stop every hundred miles or so helps. Along with an ice cold RedBull and a Snickers. Earplugs help too, because the wind noise can be very fatiguing. If the heat is severe and you have no choice but to carry on, wring your shirt or t-shirt out in water, then put your jacket back on. Open the zippers and let the air get in- as the moisture in your shirt evaporates it will have a cooling effect. And drink! If you don't have to 'go', you're already dehydrated.
    Cheers from Colorado.

  2. Y'all are welcome any time to stop in.

  3. OMG I run the math equations in my head all the time. Funny.

  4. Yeah Steve heat SUCKS I couldn't agree more. On our trip to Yellowstone a few years back, going through Las Vegas to Mesquite we hit temps of 117 degs. The heat started building around Baker and just kept climbing, we had a group of about 12 bikes on the trip and found ourselves stopping about every 30 - 40 miles or at just about every gas station that we could cool down and get water, Di was ride on the back then and we'd buy 2 extra large bottles of water and she would pour them on our shoulders as we road. Some people on the trip had cool vests with them and they seemed to work well (yes I know something else to carry) But at that time I made a decision if I was going to ride the desert 1) I was getting us cool vests for what they offer they don't take up that much room, 2) get up and leave before the sun comes up and call it a day by noon, if you make arrangements to check in early you can end up at the pool at the worst part of the day, also I found it's a lot nicer to watch the sun come up over the horizon then beat down on you mid day, 30 minutes before sunrise is always the coolest time of day, there is also a dampness in the air at sunrise that really makes the desert smell great, plus very little traffic. I've had a lot of friends complain about getting up that early, but, I've never had anyone regret doing it. Glad you guys made it safe.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)