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Deena Mastracci goes coast to coast the Hard Way! (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 5.02.43 PM Behind the scenes look at the World Record 11,236 miles journey.  Deena sets a record to bring awareness to Motorcycle Relief Project a 501.3C charity that helps Combat Veterans.

 


 

It started out as a typical Saturday morning for us. We started our day in the kitchen; standing by the coffee pot and blankly staring at the wall.  Little did we know one phone call in the spring of 2016 would have a domino effect on our lives.

Carl Reese : {hangs up the phone}

Deena Mastracci: Who was it?

Carl Reese: Ken Engleman. He is riding cross country this summer to the 2016 MOA Rally on his BMW1200GS.  He inquired if we want to ride along.  What do you think?

Deena Mastracci:  Sure! That sounds great… but i want to ride my own bike!

My mouth dropped to the floor and nearly spit my coffee into the sink.  First off, when I bought the K1600GT it wasn’t just to set the LA to NYC Motorcycle Cannonball Record.  I thought Deena and I would spend our golden years touring around “2-up”.   Trying to process what just happened did require some sort of re-wiring inside my brain.   If you follow my blog you can read about her preparation here

If it’s one thing my grandpa taught me is the road will take you anywhere you want to go. This was about to be an “Adventure of Lifetime”.

First things first, a coast to coast ride is going to require some training.  She enrolled in the  Motorcycle safety course at the local college.  Teaching her the basics in a parking lot and class room setting.  Once she graduated we went shopping for a bike which took us to West Valley Cycle Sales (oldest BMW Motorrad Dealer in the USA).  Where she sat on a few bike and ultimately picked out a used F800GT still under warranty.

I drove the bike home and she was itching to drive it.  Little did I know how badly she had the “bug”.  For those that don’t ride the “bug” is the urge to spend every waking moment on your motorcycle.   Many years have passed since I got my first motorcycle. I fondly remember when I had the “bug”… At the age of 12 I got my first bike and I did anything to be on it, including siphoning gas from our lawn mower or family car just to ride.

Deena urged me to stop at the College on the way home so she could practice.  I watched her drive around the parking lot.  She dropped the bike when she came up to stop in front of me.   I  assessed the damage, it wasn’t too bad.  The bike had a broken turn signal.  She was upset, but I told her this happens and we’ll just order a new one.

 

Over the period of several days she had plenty of questions and I did my best to answer her based on my experience.  She didn’t get a permit so we would spend the evening after work driving  up and down the street in front of the house.  She did quite well and picked things up quickly.  Tight turns were still a problem and her bike got tired and laid down on the pavement a few more times.

Deena and I have multiple cross country records together in the Tesla, including a Guinness Book of world record.

We started discussing the trip and said ” Hey if we are going to take the time off work to make a trip coast to coast why don’t we include Alaska?”  We pulled out a map and as you know Alaska’s not exactly “along the way” when driving from Los Angeles to New York.

We both have been told we might be slightly deranged.  I wanted to know who was going to be the first to be committed to a rubber room. I think I made my decision when Deena said, ” If we are going that far we might as well just hit Prudhoe Bay (AKA Dead Horse)” which is the furthest North you can drive in North America.   I said, “Sure why not?, but are you sure?”  It’s clear that the men in white suits and straight jacket were going to be coming for her first.

“Keep in mind… we live in Los Angeles, so  Deadhorse, Alaska isn’t exactly on the way to the east coast.  As a mater of fact is about 7520 miles out of our way!”

We looked up Prudhoe Bay on Youtube and started our research. Even though I have never been up to Alaska on motorcycle, it has been something that I always wanted to do. In my heart I new this was going to be a monumental task. Veteran riders go to Alaska but very few travel up the Dalton Highway.

It was about this time that Nancy and Walt from StreetMasters Motorcycle Workshops had heard about Deena’s attempt to go “Coast to Coast” and told us about the class they hold at Willow Springs.   We both agreed that she would benefit from having some extra “tools” in her toolbox.  So I drove her bike up to Willow Springs one morning and she followed me up in the car.  The class taught her precision cornering, delayed apex and other things.  The one day class was so worth it.

Street Masters

 

Deena came into the Streetmasters Motorcycle Workshop class with out any of the bad habits that many self taught motorcycle riders have.  She soaked up the knowledge from all the staff.  By the end of the day she was picking good lines, and looking thru her corners.

 

Deena Mastracci after one day class at StreetMasters.
Deena Mastracci after one day class at StreetMasters.~  Photo credit Reg Kittrelle

 

I started to outfit Deena and the bike with some essentials:

  • ClearWater Lights (the Darla and Sevina models)
  • Protective Gear (First Gear boots, Jacket, Pants, gloves and heated clothing)
  • EarthX Battery (lighten the bike by 8 lbs)
  • Larger windshield from ZTechnik (protect her from flying rocks)
  • GPS Insight tracking unit (so friends and family could track us)
  • Paint job by Creations n Chrome in Santa Clarita CA
  • Beemer Buddies (hand grips)
  • Dillon Optics (Sunglasses)

 

We set the date for June first to leave and worked every night packing and prepping.  Here is a tip if your going to Alaska on motorcycle…….Pack everything then take 3/4 of it back off the bike and leave it at home.  Otherwise you’ll be shipping stuff home when you realize that you don’t need it.  Extra weight is cumbersome traveling up to Prudhoe Bay.

Short list of what I found useful on the Alaska portion of the trip :

  • Duct tape
  • Extra bungee cords
  •  The H.A.R.D. System V  (only get this if you don’t want speeding tickets)
  • Dry bag from First Gear-USA
  • Sleeping bag
  • Small Tent
  • BMW MOA Anonymous book
  • Valentine one Radar detector (only get this if you don’t want speeding tickets)
  • A good camera or GoPro
  • Heated Gear from First Gear-USA

 

In our preparation we called Dan Anderson and had him preorder some knobbies for our bikes to be swapped out in Fairbanks.  We knew we would need some traction on the Dalton.  Dan is a wealth of information regarding the Dalton Hwy. Dan will tell you “the only thing that will stop a Grizzly is marshmallows.”

Getting Started

Deena drove the car to the DMV on the morning of June 1st 2016.  I followed her down on the packed F800GT, then drove the car home and picked up my bike.  News camera waited outside until she emerged victorious after taking 3 tests to get her motorcycle endorsement (no pressure).  With her license in hand she threw her leg over the bike and we hit the road.

Live Map from GPS Insight was provided on carlreese.net showing our detailed route.  Out of the DMV Parking lot down to the 14 freeway south to the 5 north.  We drove thru Bakersfield in a scorching 115ºF heat.   The freeway traffic was terrifying to Deena but she didn’t complain.  We downed water and apple juice at nearly every gas stop.

Deena communicated that the heat coming from the engine area around her inner thigh was getting hot.  When she told me this I just assumed it was the heat that about ever bike I’ve ever ridden had.  Little did I know that it was really intense heat.  Something was wrong.  We stopped at the next gas station and I bought some tin foil.  I used some duct tape and wrapped up her left thigh.

Near the Sacramento Airport we encountered a huge traffic jam.  With the bikes starting to overheat we decided to ride the shoulder; slowly splitting the lane.  This is legal in CA but not always the advisable.  Since the cars were not moving, it was clear us traveling at 5mph up the shoulder wasn’t a risk.

As the sun fell and we drove into the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, we layered up with some warmer clothing.  Around midnight we decided to bed down and we stopped in Medford OR at a hotel for the night.

The next morning June 2nd we ran around to a few stores in Medford, Oregon to pick up a few last minute items.  As we drove north for  Canada on that second day, I could see Deena’s confidence start to build.  Her speed was coming up to that of the surrounding traffic.

We had communication between helmets and I would relay pot holes and other dangers back to her so she could just focus on driving. Before dusk a car carrying two kayaks came loose!  At the time we passed them, they were sliding down the freeway.  Deena did a good job of swerving around them.

We managed to get up to the boarder crossing at Sumas at 1 am.  Pushing up to Chilliwack , BC our second night in a hotel.

On Friday June 3rd we woke up to mild temps and snow capped mountains south of the hotel.  The roads in lower British Columbia were outstanding!

Deena led for a portion of the morning and the skills she learned from the Streetmaster class were starting to pay off as we departed from the straight “slab riding” on the freeway the previous two days.

These roads meandered and flowed along side the river as we passed thru Hope, BC .   This is a motorcyclist dream!  Fresh Mountain air, green snowcapped mountains and 70-80 F day light temps.  We pushed up to Williams Lake where we stayed at Wildwood Campground.  We pitched our hammock tent and ordered a pizza at just about 10 pm.   The campground hosts were awesome and invited us up to their place to eat, afterwards shared some of their homemade pastries.  The campground had perfect water pressure and perhaps the last commercial shower that doesn’t have water saving shower head.  Nothing like good water pressure to shower off the day.

https://www.dropbox.com/sc/3wzhtizjw8gh0sj/AADj6ENljmLq5kg5I0ujRonha

Saturday morning June 4th we packed up the tent and rolled out about 8:30 am stopping in Quesnel for breakfast.  As we got north of Prince George the roads became less busy and on some stretches we felt we were alone.   When we hit Chetwynd we had a cup of coffee at Tom Hortons and made a plan to get off the beaten path.

We elected to go up the 29 bordering Moberly Lake instead of driving thru Dawsons Creek.   Trips like this on a motorcyle you tend to follow your gut and not just the shortest distance between two points.   The decision proved to be a stroke of good luck.  We enjoyed a winding country side road along the shores of Moberly Lake. We climbed elevations until reaching a pull out with sweeping vistas.  Pulling into Fort Saint John around 10 pm we got a room for the night and slept like babies.

June 5th, Sunday morning we rolled out of the hotel about 9am.  Turned our bikes towards the north to Watson’s Lake just across the Canadian Yukon Providence border.

Road construction up here is like nowhere else in the lower 48 states.  They simply remove the entire road and rebuild the “crown” by laying gravel down then wetting it down to slush.  Afterwards everyone on the crew goes home.  As a motorcycle rider you go from paved surface at 55 mph to gravel soup.  Plowing golfball sized gravel with your front tire.   Deena had her first “dismount” on this day.

Deena never once quit or thought of turning back.  Her resolve was an incredible thing to witness.  Watching someone learn something new and overcoming fear and self doubt is inspiring.

The landscape changes around every corner and serene lakes are everywhere in this epic wilderness.   We stopped to assess the damage and fuel up once again.

The further north we drove the days grew longer. The wildlife lined both sides of the road.  We saw so many bears at dusk eating along the road we named it “Bear Alley”.  It seemed we saw one every 10 miles.

We found ourselves driving later and later into the evening hours.   We saw plenty of bison along this stretch of road as well.

When we arrived at Watson Lake  700 miles away and 13 hours later we were greeted at the edge of town by a “forest” of roadsigns.  People from all over the world carry their signs up here.

Unfortunately we missed the last restaurant/gas station  in town closing by 14 minutes.  We learned 24 hours service is hard to come by and we went to bed looking forward to breakfast the next day.

Monday June 6th breakfast was the first order of business.  Over breakfast we talked about our plan to stay in campgrounds every other night; to keep the cost down.  We looked over our map and thought we don’t want to skip another dinner.  We formulated a plan to get started earlier , stop earlier and set up camp.  Our next stop would be a short 272 miles away Whitehorse, YT.   We stopped at 7:30 pm and stayed at Robinson Service Campground and enjoyed a nice walk along the river before heading to bed.

Tuesday June 7th.  Was an exciting morning, we started to get our gear packed on the bike fairly early and set out for Fairbanks.  However that didn’t happen and I was to blame.  In my desire not to give AT&T my last dollar… I refused their cut throat rates of roaming while in Canada.  I didn’t have data service on my phone giving me turn by turn directions.  I ended up missing the turn at Haines Junction and drove all the way to the town of Haines. That turned out to be a 300 mile round trip mistake.  This was the best wrong turn of my life!  The drive was incredible. We drove up to the snow line. The snow melt in the sun was filling the creeks that ran next to the road.  A moose trotted across the road about 1/4   ahead of me.  When we got to the boarder crossing the Agent asked where we were heading, I said, “Fairbanks”.  He looked at me sideways.  I was still unaware that I took a wrong turn.  Apparently he wasn’t going to give me the bad news. We coasted into the gas station at Haines when a passerby walked up to us and asked us where we were headed.

 

He laughed and said we missed that turn 150 miles back.  OMG!  Really!  Okay no big deal. I surrender myself to the adventure and we make our way back across the boarder into Canada.  On the return to Haines Junction a black bear about 350-400 lbs walked directly in front of our bikes. He meandered towards us at a distance of 5′ feet.  The big black bear made his way to tour side of the road and proceeded to munch on grass and flowers.

 

Leaving Haines Junction for the second time today, we drove around Destruction Bay; the scenery is just breath taking.

Along the drive up to Beaver Creek I couldn’t help but to be annoyed at both myself and AT&T. AT&T are vultures and I’ve had my share of dealing with them.  However, AT&T’s total lack of customer service and high rates had nothing to do with ME missing the turn. I am the one that was to be navigating…and this wouldn’t be my last wrong turn of the trip.  I had to own this.   I suspect Deena wonders how I find my way around sometimes.   Even armed with a paper map on this trip I still managed to miss that turn.

We try to find the bright side and since Deena is setting a distance record we figured it was to her advantage to lay down a few extra miles.

The road surfaces changed more frequently as we pushed north. We dodged rains squalls as we drove closer to the Alaskan boarder.

We welcomed the small rain storms. The rain cut down the amount of dust chewing we had to do prior to breathing the air.   Big Rigs and an occasional RV would pass us in a cloud of dust.

In Beaver Creek we stopped at Buckshot Betty’s for dinner.  We met another couple riding motorcycles and enjoyed a fantastic meal.  Buckshot Betty’s meals are homemade so don’t pass this place up.  At at 8pm when most are finding a hotel for the night we left the warm comfort of Betty’s and raced toward Tok, AK.

Leaving BuckShot Betty's
Leaving BuckShot Betty’s

Crossing the boarder and getting into Tok around 12:30 am. Having traveled  nearly 700 miles with the unexpected detour of 300 miles, we found a place to lay down.

When I opened the door to the room I entered a time machine and was transported back to 1965.  The decor was okay, but between the mattress from 1965 and the mold growing on the walls we asked to be moved before disturbing any of the retirement aged bedbugs.

On the 8th we rolled into Fairbanks and met up with Dan Anderson whom changes out tires at his house 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

While at Dan’s we bumped into Paul who was headed up the Dalton too.  We invited Paul to join us as nobody should ride the Dalton alone.

The 9th of June all three of us departed for the Arctic Circle.   After breakfast in Fairbanks we stepped into the unknown…the Dalton Highway.  Now we watched a ton of Youtube video and thought it was 95% hype.  Well not exactly, as you enter the “haul road” your greater by an erie sight of two demolished vehicles.  In my mind I figured they leave them there to to scare tourist from driving up it.  Soon we learned it wasn’t all hype.  The Dalton is like no road I’ve driven on before.  It’s a it’s mix of dirt, gravel, mud, ice and calcium chloride that honestly without any BS was the worst road surface i’ve ever driven.

 

The scenery made every inch of that road worth it.  Argubly you could say BC is just as lovely around Bannff.  I suspect the appeal for me is seeing a road few dare to travel.  The desolance is only breifly interupted by MadMAx style driving by the truckers hauling goods up to Prudhoe Bay.   Just to give you an idea the 478 mile stretch of road took us two full days to drive up and 2 days to return.

Fifteen miles into the ride Paul hit a pot hole so hard it demolished his rear fender.  We made repairs roadside #TurningBackIsNotAnOption.  Getting a tow truck up the Dalton is 1600.00 minimum.   Cellphone coverage??  Don’t make me laugh.   We took a satellite InReach unit “on sale” for$ 250.00 from Sport Chalet. This Delorme unit allows you to text or email even when no cell service is available .  Which in the Yukon, Alaska and British Columbia you will find plenty of areas of no cell phone service. The InReach units main purpose is to be able to send an SOS message 24/7 to rescue services; no matter where you are on the planet. Think chopper coming to fly you out after you broke your femur on a high side crash while driving on a golf ball sized gravel road with street tires.  A wreck that was unavoidable as you were trying to avoid a grizzly bear and two cubs that would otherwise feast on you, if you didn’t have on of these units. Or at least that was going thru my mind as was trying to justify the purchase.

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A friend of mine Chuck Platt  lives in Anchorage and told me “Don’t even come up here without satellite communication.”   Rates are as low as $11 bucks a month with simple 30 day plans. With no long term commitment, I figured what the heck.  I have a strong desire to live.   I ordered 2 months of service, I found the form factor to be perfect for slipping in my riding jacket. Sending and receiving is somewhat slow compared to an iPhone.  That might be harsh criticism since the latency can be blamed on the message bouncing off a satellite in space. It did get my messages out and i received messages daily.  Just don’t expect to be sending images this is text only.

Another deciding factor is that I had lunch with Glenn Dupont before leaving and he shared the story of riding up the Angeles,Crest one morning here in Los Angeles. He came around a corner hit loose gravel and went out over the cliff.  When he came to, he had several injuries including a broken leg. Having no cell reception in the canyon he reached for his  satellite device, he summoned rescue units whom found him in minutes.   I recommend keeping it in your jacket rather than mounted on the bike.  I suspect if it goes bad you’ll dismount the bike and possibly unable to crawl back to the bike.

There are only 3 fuel stops on the Dalton and you must stop at everyone if your riding a motorcycle.

  1. Yukon River Camp
  2. Cold Foot Camp
  3. Prudhoe Bay

I recommend you top off at Fairbanks before even setting out for Yukon River Camp.

The conditions of the road and our speed of travel required us to bunk down in Cold Foot for the night.

 

 

Reaching this “oasis” is a welcomed sight; as there nothing else on the road.

Cold Foot Camp
Deena parked at Cold Foot Camp. ~ Photo Carl Reese

Arriving at Cold Foot like cowboys we knock off the dust from pants, and kicked the mud from our boots before going inside for bite to eat.

Dusty Boots
Dusty Boots at Cold Foot Camp. ~ photo Carl Reese

After filling our stomaches, we filled the bikes and crashed out.  Just so you know their are no hotels in the classic sense. There is one choice at Cold Foot and it is a modular that set ontop of the permafrost.

 

The Dalton is no joke it can be 70 degrees in Fairbanks in the middle of the day, but snowing as you cross the Brooks Range at the Anigun Pass.  If Anigun Pass sounds familiar it’s because often mentioned on “IceRoad Truckers” on Discovery® channel.  It’s known as one of the worlds most dangerous roads.

Before leaving Cold Foot, we asked truckers about the road conditions at the pass.  They told us bikers were stuck north of the Atigun pass; waiting for the the snow to melt.  The recent storm had brought snow to the North Slope even in summer!

On June 10th we set out from Cold Foot Camp under sunny skies.  A few miles out we had a HUGE Grizzly run out in front of our motorcycles.  We traveled about two more miles down the road and came upon a man walking with his dog.  This is a sight in such a vast wilderness area.  The mans eyes widened as I warned him about the bear. He told me the area where we saw the bear was the exact area where he had lunch about 40 mins ago.  I asked him if he had any protection and he showed me a can of bear spray.  He said he was walking from Texas to Prudhoe and back to Texas.  We wished each other luck and carried on.

 

At the base of the Atigun the sky turned grey and clouds closed in on us. A sign warned travelers to contact the southbound traffic with a CB.  I assume this is because the pass is narrow on some turns.  This must be difficult for trucker to pull long trailer with opposing traffic on slick roads.

The avalanche signs warned us not to stop along the pass.  The car sized boulders and bent guard rails were an erie reminder of the dangerous road we were on.    As we drove into the clouds we yielded to an on coming 18 wheeler.

Pulling to the side of the road we noticed the flurries starting to come down.   The last thing I want is getting trapped up here in a snow storm.  Thoughts of the bikers that were trapped the day before weighed on my mind.   Even though we had shelter and the ability to stay warm, you must respect mother nature.  A good friend said “Discretion is the better part of valor”.

Riding a motorcycle cycle is dangerous enough. Adding dicey mud rutted roads on a mountain in a snow storm with MadMax style 18 wheelers throwing rocks from their tires, in an avalanche area with no cell reception in below freezing temps bring it to an ALL NEW LEVEL.

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Carl Reese and Deena Mastracci on the Atigun Pass ~ Photo Credit Paul Souza

As we drove thru the pass with towering snow covered peaks on either side.  With precariously rock faced cliffs looming on either side of us I struggle to keep the K1600Gt upright in the mud.  At this moment I was questioning my own sanity for bringing a street bike up this “road”.

I asked Deena with our communication system what she was thinking right now?  She stated it the pass was “the most terrifyingly beautiful thing she has ever seen”.    

Once over the pass the clouds broke into sunshine.  The land flattened out to what is know as the “North Slope”.  Permafrost on either side of the elevated roadway.  We saw a few small herds of Caribou, muskox and two more grizzle cubs.  We all were on the look out for the mother bear.

We stopped along a wide spot in the road to have lunch.  Items we had brought with us from ColdFoot.

 

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Deena Mastracci with Alaska Pipeline in the background. ~ Photo Credit Carl Reese

Afterwards we made few repairs on Pauls bike.  When his fender broke it tore some wiring loose that shorted his fuses for ignition.  We used some tinfoil to fashion a homemade fuse and I jumped the bike with some 10 gauge wire Paul had brought along.  It was about this time I was thinking glad I was to have installed the EarthX battery before leaving the house.   In such a remote place I almost took for granted how many times we started and stopped the bikes. Each time the bike would roar to life as if it was chomping at the bit to get moving again.

Meanwhile, Deena was staying warm with her heated gear while we sorted out Pauls bike.   In my hast for the trip I installed her system directly to the battery.  I neglected to tell her that her heated gear should only be used when the ignition is on.  In hindsight I should have used a PDM60 fused unit that turns on aftermarket accessories after the bike is started. I use one of these units on my K1600GT and it works great.   With so much to do before the trip, this is one thing that got overlooked on Deena’s bike.  With no fault on her part or the battery; this depleted her ability to start her vehicle.   It was at this point I thought how important it is to travel in a group when making these treks.  Lady Luck was on our side as because the EarthX battery has a built in save guard against “phantom loads” taking the battery to zero state of charge.   I simply jump started her bike with my EarthX battery; and she was on her way.

North Slope
Deena Mastracci driving towards Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope. ~ Photo Credit Paul Souza

Just south of Deadhorse we encountered some of the worst road conditions yet.  Construction was taking place and the mud was deep and was like driving on grease.  As our front tires pushed thru 4-6″ of mud we struggled to keep the bikes upright.  Rolling into Prudhoe Bay late that evening. With nearly 24 hours of sunlight we arrived under blue skies. Trying not to think of the return journey that laid ahead tomorrow.  Instead being grateful for making it this far.

 

Deena a brand new motorcycle rider had successfully driven from the DVM parking lot in Los Angeles County  to the furthest navigable road in North America in just 1o days!  This is no small task for a new rider.  She still had many more miles to cover before claiming the record. Navigating some of these roads was no picnic.  At this point she had already broken the glass ceiling for all new riders.  The larger picture here is the human spirit to accomplish what others say can’t be done.  If you have a dream, don’t let anything stand it your way of accomplishing it.  #TurningBackIsNotAnOption

 

Part Two 

Deena’s Record Setting Motorcycle Odyssey Continues

Coming Soon…..

 

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Woman Attempts Motorcycle Endurance Record on Maiden Trip

This is the story of a woman that wants to get her motorcycle license and wants to set a world record too. Deena Mastracci is attempting to set the “Longest distance by a new motorcycle licensee.”   She will take her motorcycle license test on June 1, 2016 at the DMV in the Los Angeles area.  Then immediately leave the DMV parking lot for an epic journey coast to coast…the hard-way!    A west coast to east coast journey with a  short pit stop at the Arctic Circle (furthest most regions of Alaska) in-between .   The goal is to log over 9000 miles on her first continuous motorcycle journey.  #AlaskaExpedition2016  Hopefully breaking the glass ceiling for all new motorcycle riders male or female.

World Record Holder Deena Mastracci
Multiple Transcontinental & Guinness Book of World Record Holder Deena Mastracci Photo Credit Ryan Sorensen
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Carl Reese and Deena Mastracci Fox News® Interview. Courtesy of Fox Business News ®

 

Deena is no stranger to setting records, she has FIVE transcontinental records to her name. All of them in a Tesla P85D electric car.  When she told me that she wanted to start setting some motorcycle records, I thought I could magically download my motorcycle experience into her brain.  I would soon learn this wasn’t the best way of going about it.

Myself on the other hand, I’ve been riding all types of motorcycles since the early 80’s.   In three decades of riding I’ve learned nearly every lesson the HARD aka the WRONG way.

I have more than a few memorable lessons; ones I will not bore you with here. With some serious amount of luck I managed to stay alive. With plenty of time the saddle, I developed what I thought to be a good riding skills. However they were basically a series of self preservation lessons; either self taught observations or tips from friends. To be honest just a mixed bag of bad habits, that I thought was the right way of riding. I was about to have a serious personal growth experience.

It was apparent from the start, that if she is to complete this trip in one piece, we would need at least four things: A motorcycle, a motorcycle license, attend a skills class, and get some gear.

Step one:  Was the easiest… We went down to West Valley Cycle Sales BMW Motorrad dealer here in Los Angeles.  Where Deena found a used 2013 BMW F800GT.  It fit her well, and we knew its previous owner Ellen whom had taken great care of it.   Knowing the bikes history and West Valley Cycle’s reputation made the process a painless decision for us.

Deena BMW F800GT
Deena’s used BMW F800GT     Photo Credit Carl Reese

Step two:  In preparation for her license Deena enrolled in the Motorcycle Safety Class.  Though she passed the driving skill test she wasn’t scheduled to take the written DMV test for several weeks later. She left that safety class feeling unprepared for the open road.  To help ease her concerns ,  I spent the next few weekends and evenings doing parking lot drills and driving up and down a private road.  I did my best to pass down my 30 years of motorcycle experience.  She picked up things quickly, but like many new riders she was struggling in the corners.

 Step three: About this time we learned about Street Masters Workshops riding school.  As luck would have it the next class was before our trip.  This is a one day class on a road course at Willow Springs International Raceway.  This isn’t a track day for guys that like to drag knees and going in circles.  No, this is a simulated road course that is used for training motorcycles riders for the real world.

StreetMasters

Saturday morning I drove Deena’s bike up to Willow Springs (as she doesn’t even have a permit yet).  I figured I would just sit through the class with her, and this would just be a refresher for me.  In the first 15 minutes of the class, I came to an epiphany…This is NO basic motorcycle safety class..they are not teaching you how to tie your shoes here.  This is a college level instruction being taught in a way you will not forget. I realized I was surrounded by seven very experienced instructors. This was going to be an eye opener, not a refresher.  You can set all the world records you want, but there is always room for learning new skills.  This day would be full of lessons for both of us.

The morning class room session was informative and brief. It consisted of a fast moving slide presentation before getting out on the road course.  Each instructor keep the training moving along with a well thought out curriculum.

 

Street Masters

As I watched Deena progress throughout the day. It was obvious that the instructors take great pride in helping each student, giving them one on one feedback after each exercise.  No big egos here….just straight talk.  Often times I think people let their egos get in the way of learning. Ever heard of the Darwin Awards?   If you don’t think you need this class…well you just might be the person i’m talking about.  Yeah, yeah heard all the stories…So you’ve been ridden for years and know how to ride….really?  I get it, you’re a seasoned rider…and know everything…. Okay.   Well I thought so too, until I participated in this class.

This particular class was made up of 53% women and 47 percent men.  A mix of new, intermediate and seasoned riders. Bikes of every shape and size were represented from Harley’s to Honda’s and everything in-between.

Deena Mastracci after one day class at StreetMasters.
Deena after one day class at Streetmasters. Seen with Clearwater Lights #BrightLightsSaveLives Photo credit Reg Kittrelle

The class was well organized and before we knew it 4pm rolled around quickly.  Class wrapped up and they presented a Sena Bluetooth Headset to one lucky person in the class.   It was clear that everyone including myself walked away more skilled to deal with the challenges on the road.   I challenge you to spend one day with Streetmaster, I’m confident you’ll come away with a new appreciation for riding.

Streetmasters opened my eyes up to some fundamental information that I wouldn’t have though to even mention to Deena.  She came into the class a complete novice with ZERO street experience.  After one day in the  Streetmasters class she rides better than some people that have been riding for years.  The “tools” she picked up may save her butt one day.  For that I’m grateful.

You can find more about these classes at Streetmaster.info 

 

Step Four: We need to purchase quality gear, on a working-man’s budget. Both for the bike and our bodies.   One thing I have learned over the years is their isn’t any substitute for quality. When I shop for apparel I normally touch the material and try to attempt to ascertain two things: One….will this hold up and two will it be comfortable? PrintMy first impressions were the quality of the material. A perfect mix of quaintly thickness without sacrificing comfort.  I was blown away at the details in the design that most causal purchasers may not notice. For instance the notched material on the side of the pant leg that doesn’t bind the material when the knee is bent.  Thank you First Gear for not pinching my leg when I sit on my bike!

Notched Knee Material on Kilimanjaro pants.
Notched knee trim material on Kilimanjaro pants.

Or an adjustable neck collar for those brisk mornings.  The truth is neck sizes vary.  Why did we have to wait so long for this feature?  Or better yet why haven’t other manufactures caught up to First Gear innovations?

 

Adjustable First Gear USA Kilimanjaro Motorcycle Jacket
       Adjustable collar on a First Gear USA motorcycle jacket

 

Another thing I noticed was the adjustable knee armored in the pants, something my prior pants didn’t have.   The list goes on and on.  If your shopping for quality motorcycle gear do your self a huge favor, Get your hands on some First Gear products.  In my research for this cross country trip First Gear USA is our choice for comfort, cost and quality.

Bright Lights Save Lives

We not only needed gear for Deena, but her bike too.  We trucked the bike up to Northern California last weekend to have ClearWater Lights install lights on Deena’s Bike. We chose the Sevina‘s and the Darla’s. The Darla’s have a yellow removable lens cover seen seen in the photograph above.   I believe #BrightLightsSaveLives. I believe all stock motorcycle headlights are inadequate for night time illumination.  I used these same Sevina’s from Clearwater lights (seen in this video) when setting the motorcycle cannonball record run from Los Angeles to New York.  I got to give credit to my good friend Ryan Sorensen whom recommend the ClearWater Lights to me.  I fell in love with them right away. The best part ClearWater Lights are made in the USA.

New Windshield

We installed a new taller windshield on Deena’s bike.  The stock one on the F800GT is much to low for touring distances of this length. We turned to ZTechnik the same company I purchased my from when I set the Los Angeles to New York City Motorcycle Record.  These are made by National Cycle the same people that manufacture windscreens for BMW Motorrad.  She will experience less fatigue with the added wind protection.

Eye Protection

Since our first leg of the journey takes us into the Arctic Circle with constant daylight when we reach DeadHorse.  To protect our eyes we will be wearing Dillon Optic Sunglasses. Dillon uses an NIR Lens Technology. If your wondering what is that?  It is a polarized diffuse reflector that reduces internal reflections within the lens allowing for noticeably sharper clarity.

 

Pack Light

We removed both stock batteries in the motorcycles and replaced them with EarthX batteries.  This drops nearly 16 pounds of weight verses the stock lead acid batteries.  Lead acid is over 100 year old technology that is outdated to day the least. We are traveling to the remote wilderness of Alaska and Yukon, I’m not going to risk it we are running with Earth X!  EarthX Batteries are designed to be a replacement of a standard 12 volt lead-acid battery, but their nominal voltage is 13.3V so it will spin your engine faster than you would ever believe possible at an 80% weight reduction! EarthX has exclusive features that include a microprocessor Battery Management System (BMS) that monitors the charge level of each cell and balances the charge when needed, protecting the cells from overcharge or over-discharge, short circuit protection and excessive cranking protection (heat). What this means for you is more starting power, longer battery life, and the safest lithium motorsport battery on the market.

 

Watch Deena’s Epic Journey

Deena’s trip will be available to track LIVE courtesy of GPSInsight a vehicle tracking company.  The Live map can be viewed starting 6/1/2016 at www.carlreese.net .   Show your support and share comments on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.

#AlaskaExpedition2016 #CoastToCoastTheHardWay #GirlPower #BecauseTurningBackIsNotAnOption #BrightLightsSaveLives

GPSInsight follows World Record Holder
                  GPS Insight equipment will track Deena’s World Record attempt
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