I rolled into Flagstaff, Arizona in mid-ish spring of last year (2019). I have a dear friend who lives there so when we tour out that way Flagstaff is always a mainstay stop. He is either waiting for us there to join the tour or he's busy with work contracts and instead opens his home to us so we can relax, get our heads back on straight and catch up on each others life and happenings.
( It's irrelevant-ish to the story I'm about to sling out but I'm always keen to mention it when the opportunity arises. That is this: Friendships are perhaps the most precious diamonds out there in all that rough. Identifying the real ones and treating them as such is arguably one of the only ways a person could ever hope to be truly wealthy. Now back to the story at hand...)
I was coming from the south up 89A. If you know the run you know that it's quite the ride and also that it ends abruptly at Flagstaff's gates. And so into the fray of horns, commerce and college kids I went--only just a couple miles from the days destination. I know Flag pretty well because of these visits but also because I had lived there for several years, many moons ago. Hold that thought for a sec...
You might be asking yourself why the hell am I telling you all this?
To answer that I'd first have to make some requests of you and also offer a suggestion regarding what you are about to read. Suffice it to say that, beyond these concerns (itemized 1- 3 down below) , the story itself requires an intimate context for you to decide YOUR position as the reader. The options would be to sympathize with my days ride and forthcoming humiliation OR perhaps take the more scenic route and go full 'fly-on-the-wall' and have a laugh at my expense. Either / or works. My requests and suggestion:
1. Don't judge me.
2. Try not to laugh directly in my face ( especially if you are a spitty laugher.)
and the suggestion...
3. You are about to experience a whole no level of dumb-assery at my expense so you might want to go ahead and make some popcorn. This gets good fast....
So there I was, rolling into Flag on my KTM 690 R. Zane had gotten in earlier. And Bonnie and crew had headed back to Florida to tend to some family business. The sun was going down and the San Fran peaks were singin' in the changing light. I was stoked, nearly giddy. in fact. You know how it is when you hit a destination after a grinder day-- It's just plain ol delicious to get where you are going when you are tired and hungry.
As mentioned I had been to Flag MANY times and each time I am more and more stunned by the traffic. Something was screwy though this time. I couldn't put my finger on it. I guess i had other interests for my fingers at the time, like wrapping them around a steaming hamburger and shoving it down my throat as though loading a ground mortar grenade launcher.
I decided to EAT before I did anything else. You know how that goes... You rendezvous with others...you are 3 clicks from a 'hunger-death's door' and invariably there is some super sensible reason that you should wait to eat until everyone get a shower; wait's until their clothes are out of the dryer; finishes painting the foyer; the list of potential delays is infinite.... not to mention lethal. I'm talking about I was HUNGRY, hungry.
I dipped and dodged through the mayhem and found myself on San Francisco Street in the middle of town. Parking was non-existent and the joint was jumping for a Saturday night... and it was Thursday. There just had to be some sort of event going on or something. Like a car show was in town or something. Again I had no finger for it.
I spotted a few rigged out Dual sport / ADV bikes parked right in the heart of it, in a coned off area. I was like ... "PERFECT!!! Flag is looking out for their homies these days!" I eased up to the cones and asked if I could enter. These fellas could most likely smell where and what I had been up to so they let me in with open arms.
I flipped my kickstand, snatched my helmet off and gave them a big thank you. They asked where I was coming from and the bike talks commenced. As we chatted I noticed people were gathering around my bike. A couple of them seemed to be trying to get my attention. One asked if his wife could get a shot of he and I and the bike. I obliged but for the life of me couldn't get that damn finger to work right still. The chatting with the riders turned into war stories and belly laughs. We were all over each other bikes just 'ADV-yucking it up'--so much so that I had forgotten about the abyss in my belly for a bit.
About an hour, 20 photos and 100 motorcycle questions from passers-by later... I get a tap on the shoulder...
I turn around to see a lady standing there with a clipboard. She kindly says to me,
"Would you mind pulling your bike forward so I can get my rig in?" She motions to an epic beast of a 4x4 / vanlife-ish / truck-imajiggy idling about 2 feet from rear wheel. I'm thinking to myself... sheez I don't think thats supposed to be here and i dont understand how she thinks parking in the Flagstaff municipal motorcycle parking area is going to bode for her if the police come by. But nonetheless, I was more than happy to share the fortune that was given me by my new rider friends. I said, "Sure thing. We make er fit!"
I turned towards my bike and took a couple steps. The woman spoke again and said ." What's your name?" I answered then she continued, "You know... I don't see your name on the list." She was being very kind but definitely had a point and purpose to her inquiry. One of my new ADV buddies piped in, ( he had a little buzz ) " Screw that list! The KTM guy stays! We are having a blast over here and he ain't hurtin' a damn thing!" Note... this is just how he talked. It wasnt aggressive so much as it was just... refreshingly honest... in a drunk ass pirate kind of way.
By this time I was reeling a bit. I had ZERO idea what they might be talking about. Well not zero. I had ONE. It was... ' umm...ya... Billy... something tells me she doesnt always carry a clipboard around town at night." As the woman and the rider sorted out their difference my stomach sank. I guess I got a little bit of my finger on the screwy matter from earlier. You see as I looked around It dawned on me, the street was now filled with these super-vans. I was just about to ask the lady if there some event or something going on. She beat me to the punch asking with a very nice demeanor... ( that i noted in that moment, looked like pity more than anything else) .... "You don't know where you are do you?" I replied and got a giggle out of here saying " Well... I can think of way more flattering ways to put it but.... no, apparently i do not... but I have a funny feeling you do." She let out a laugh and said....
"Well.... you are parked in, what is effectively, the winners circle of the 2019 OVERLAND EXPO WEST. This is the pre-Expo event."
You wouldn't think that amidst all that chaos you could hear a cricket chirp. I did however. It was a long moment.
I sat in disbelief and then said these words...
"Whats is OVERLAND EXPO?"
She again let out a little giggle as though i were joking.
The drunk pirate piped in... " Well shibbity shabbity, schoobidy boo big deal. I'm half tempted to go where he goes if you guys are gonna make him leave." He looked over at me, winked and said, "Hold your ground man. You want to hit this?" Extending a lil vape pen to me.
I told him I suck at smoking pot but I will buy us a ll a shot of whiskey. The lady by this point realized that I in fact wasnt causing any harm and decided to let me be. She offered to show my her rig and the next half an hour or so went swimmingly with the exception of my succumbing to hunger and dying.
Nah, I lived. I not only lived I got invited by Jack Sparrow to go down into Mexico for 3 months. I couldnt go but it was an honor no less. It was actually funny. I said, " Man I appeciate it but I can't right now." He being of clearly a 'less responsibility laiden life' replied, "What... you can't wing the 15 bucks a day?! We'll make that shit work man. Ya gotta ride down with me!" I told him of my kids, wife etc. He laughed facetiously, "Sucks for you!" Then patted me on the back to say he was just poking fun. He asked about my family and I told him our story, that we were touring as a family. He said, " Wait, your wife rides too? You lucky bastard!" To which i replied, "Yup sucks for you." We had a laugh and all said our goodbyes. I set out to get me some grub.
The next day I stopped over to the fair grounds where the expo was taking shape. What an amazing event. The admission fee was not in the budget for my son Zane and I but I was able to get a good luck around inside prior to the gates and fences going up. I was bummed about not being able to attend because Sam Manicom was there speaking and I think also was to be signing books.If you've not seen his works on the topic of adventure travel do your self a big favor and check it out. Sam is a masterful story teller that has just about done it all. Thats a great combo of skill and experience when paired!
In the following days I saw Sam comment on a post in Facebook. I piped in and told him the story you just read. He had a belly laugh. In our conversation I found that he was traveling from the west to the eastern US for another event. As the U.S. has been my moto stomping ground for many decades I shared some cool roads with him. Since that time I have made it a point to keep up with Sam because I discovered that he is exactly as he presents himself and is exactly what you hear of him-- a genuine soul with a burning passion for adventure and the brotherhood surrounding adventure travel in general.
He is one hell of a kind and caring person that has offered me incredible wisdom and insights a nd resources on the matters I have asked for his help on. I say that to say that the depth of character that shines so bright in his writing is who he really is in my experience and that somehow makes the reading all that much more perfect.
Check Sam Manicom's stuff out if you burn with a similar passion. You'll be happy you did.
Sub-Moral of the Story: If you ever find yourself in a situation completely off guard... find a drunk pirate.
Story Moto Out
Be sure not to miss out on the astounding deals in our report shared in a recent blog post:
( minus only helmet, boots and motorcycle )
Not even kidding a little bit. You can get the gear all or in part at these links:
JOIN THE FIGHT
LEARN WHAT STORY MOTO ADV IS ACTUALLY
UP TO... INSIDE SCOOP ON PATREON
Our purpose on social media is to be a positive, helpful, inspirational and effective voice in adventure riding by connecting people, ideas and values within the sport-- in order to honor and sustain the character and integrity of it's past and insure they are instilled into the next generation of riders.