1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (2024)

My fascination with V4 power started back in 1999. I was still new to riding back then. Having been influenced by an older co-worker as well as a good friend, I purchased my first bike, a 91 CBR600F2. I was having fun, gaining some experience and trying to stay out of trouble. Soon after, that same buddy of mine imported two bikes via the grey market: an NSR250 and an RVF400, the latter resembling a miniature RC45. He let me ride both before he sold them. The RVF with it’s tiny V4 had this unique sound and power band. I was immediately hooked. About a year later I sold the F2 and bought a 2001 VFR800 new off the showroom floor. I quickly added a Staintune high mount exhaust and a Sargent seat, and then proceeded to ride about 26,000 miles over the next 5 years. I was living in Northern California at the time. Weekends comprised of trips to the coast, mountains, commuting, etc. I loved that bike with the power delivery and the sound it made. I went on some great rides and made some great memories. When my first child was born I thought I’d better slow down and be more responsible so I sold the VFR and settled into the idea that I’d probably never own a bike again. Too much risk I thought. Over the years I built a few cars, dabbled in some other hobbies, told my kids stories of riding and how much fun it was. About that time I did a track day at Laguna Seca, and the time I topped it out in Death Valley, only to get pulled over 20 miles outside of Las Vegas for doing 15 over. Thought it would be great to get another bike, if only to have that V4 sound in my garage again.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (1)

Fast forward some twenty years to 2020. My older brother gets a VTX1300.

“Hey man why don’t you take it for a spin?”

“Nah, too big for me, besides I’ll never ride again. Too many distracted drivers, people texting not paying attention, etc.”

He nods silently

“How bad is it?” I inquired with some curiosity but still trying to justify my position, “Do you feel like people are gonna run you over every day or anything?”

“Nope, not really”


Something to know about me is I have the unique ability to talk myself in or out of anything. If I spend enough time thinking about a certain venture, stuff just materializes. I decided it was time to recreate a memory. I went to the VFR forums and online classifieds looking for another bike, just like mine. Had to be a 2001 due to a few changes that were made when compared to the 98/99 models. Last year of the gear driven cams. Not interested in the VTEC models. 2000 would have been fine but the US only got yellow that year and my eyes just can’t handle that much yellow. Besides, everyone knows that red is faster. That’s been proven. Just ask the Ducati guys.

Sent my brother a text with a picture of a potential candidate for sale:

“You’re a bad influence. Just sayin’”

“lol” His simple yet affirming reply

I looked for several months, spoke with a few sellers. Surprisingly the 2001 models were a little hard to come by but a few popped up. Some had higher miles, some had accident damage, some were a little overpriced, some were too far away on the East coast. But then I got tipped off about a bike listed on a different forum. Looked really clean, only 21k miles, some nice mods, priced really well and only two states away.

I scrambled to create a user profile on the forum.

“I’ll take it!” I posted. “Cash in hand and PM inbound.” That was a Sunday.

I spoke with the seller the next day. Hung up the phone and bought a plane ticket for a place called Manhattan, Kansas. I had to look that one up. “The little apple”, the seller joked.

I spent the next few days getting things in order. New helmet, gloves, jacket, ear plugs, Ibuprofen, etc. I mapped out the journey. 999.2 miles per Google maps. I would travel due West from Manhattan, KS through the Colorado Rockies into Southern Utah and then North-West toward my home in Utah County. I wondered about the weather, particularly in the mountains of Colorado as they had been pummeled with snow about two weeks prior. The weather report called for 70s in Denver and 50s in the mountains. Road cameras showed clear highways. What luck! Let’s do this!

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (2)

Friday found me on a plane bound for my first stop in DFW, TX. I sat next to a young lady who was travelling to Puerto Rico with her boyfriend.

“I’m flying to Kansas to pick up a motorcycle and ride it home” I told her. “I bought one just like it brand new 20 years ago.”

“Well I’m 21.” she replied with a slightly perplexed millennial’s smile.

I laughed to myself and thought about how I was “in my prime” at that age. Young, single, confident, I still had hair on my head. (Remember those days?) I’m only 45 but part of me still longs for the good old days, until I remember that I’m actually in the good old days right now, just a different version. I have a house, a stable job, and fantastic kids. One day I will miss these days my dad reminds me. And I know he’s right.

She told me how they had purchased a bike about a year earlier. Totaled it 3 hours after purchase when a driver turned left in front of them. She showed me the pics on her phone. Both came away with only minor injuries. “It could have been a lot worse” she said. A sober reminder to always be vigilant on a bike.

I had a few hours at DFW before my flight. Got some lunch and then found my gate. Settled in to check the news, people watch, and wait for the flight to board. I saw an older woman close by sitting in a chair with small wheels, not anything she could push by herself. She was missing her left leg, right at the knee. She looked miserable. Stranded. Left alone and forgotten. I put my phone away, mustered up a little courage, cleared my throat and walked over.

“Can I give you a hand with anything?”

“I’m really hungry” she said, glancing over at the vending machine.

“Let’s get you something.” I released the brakes on her chair and pushed her over to the machine.

She started to look for some change in her pocket.

“I’ll take care of it. Anything you want.” I said. She wasn’t fussy. Just a co*ke, a pastry and some chips. She seemed genuinely grateful.

We spent the next hour talking. Victoria was 50 years old and from Houston. Truth be told, she looked much older. She had short brown hair and she was missing several teeth. He clothes looked like they had just been pulled from a pile at Goodwill. Something someone else had thrown away. She’d never been out of Texas, hadn’t done much. Had a rough childhood and most of her adult life was spent in the clutches of drugs and alcohol.

Never one for subtlety I inquired about her missing limb, “What happened, you kick the dog too many times?”

“I’ve been in the hospital the past 3 months. They took my leg. I’m diabetic and too much drugs.” she explained. “My dad’s gone, well my step-dad.” She paused and took a long look out the window. “He was my best friend. But my momma’s still alive. I’ll go and stay with her a while.”

I asked about her life, and mostly just listened.

“I used to be good at art” her eyebrows raised slightly from a rare, good memory then settled back down into her reality, “but it is what it is. I can’t remember much these days.”

“Everyone has struggles,” I said hoping to offer some reassurance. “I think everyone could write a book about their life and experiences. And look on the bright side, you’ll save money on shoes!” I said with a wink. She eeked out a laugh while eating her Ruffles.

I left her in the hands of a caring airline employee who assured me that she would get her on the plane ok. And that she did. I left thankful to have met her, and more thankful for what I had waiting at home for me.

Soon it was time for me to board. I hopped on a small plane headed for Kansas. I overheard another passenger say they had to remove the pesticide sprayers to convert our crop duster into a commercial airliner. He wasn’t far off. It was cozy but got the job done. I was tempted to poke my head into the co*ckpit and say “I just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you,” in tribute to the late Leslie Nielsen but I chickened out. In hindsight I should have went for it.

Instead I proceeded back and found my seat next to a retired Kindergarten teacher from South Carolina who was flying in to see her grandkids. Her name was Kathy, like my mom.

“Easy to remember that one,” I said.

“My son-in-law is stationed at the base there. Hopefully he doesn’t have to go overseas again. He spent 9 months in Afghanistan on one tour. The baby was born while he was away” she said pensively.

“What’s the best thing about being a Kindergarten teacher?” I asked.

She didn’t hesitate at all, “Showing up to work every day and feeling loved.”

Now I was the pensive one. I like what I do but it’s not like that. Hmmm…

Upon landing she wished me a safe ride and I wished her a happy Easter with her grandkids.

At the airport I shot a text to the seller’s son who lived close by and had offered to pick me up. “Give me 5 minutes. Red Chevy truck with a KTM front plate” he replied.

I could tell right away that Tyler was a good kid. He had sunglasses and a slightly sunburned face from time spent outside. He was polite and well-spoken, like his dad. Gave me the impression that he’d been raised right. Said he worked a lot of hours driving truck, local not over the road. Had bought a Yamaha Tenere 700 recently to do some adventure riding with his brother and their dad. Said it was time to sell the VFR after having owned it for 7 or 8 years. In a few minutes time we arrived at the house and there she was propped up on the center stand.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (3)

By now it was about 5pm on Friday. My goal was to make it home by late Saturday night so as not to miss Easter morning with my kids. We got right to business.

“I installed the rear cowl for you and lubed the chain. Oil level is good and looks amber through the glass,” Tyler said, his riding experience evident. Like I said, a good kid. He threw in the tank bag and a Ram mount for my phone at no extra charge, knowing I would use both on the ride home, which I did.

“Oh yeah, the front headlight blinks during the day with a sensor and it’s got a train horn on it,” he says. He gave the horn button a quick blip and I immediately realized he wasn’t joking. Two tones and what had to be more than 120 decibels. Too funny. But I could see how it would be useful. Got the title and bill of sale, gave the bike a quick once over, donned my new gear as the engine warmed up. Gave Tyler a handshake and hopped on the VFR, for the first time in 15 years. Put my hands on the grips and took a quick moment to question my decision and the journey ahead.

“Just take it easy, you got this,” I thought.

Tyler looked like he was uncertain if I’d really make it all the way home as I had planned. I was a little unsure myself. I double checked my helmet, pulled in the clutch lever, clicked down one for first and eased down the steep driveway and onto the street. First impressions: This thing sounds great. And how did I ever live without Helibars?! Oddly enough getting back on was “just like riding a bike” as they say. Go figure. I acclimated quickly. Two tenths of a mile down, only 999 miles to go.

Now, I had brought a throttle lock I harvested off my brother’s VTX in a rush the night before. The Vista cruise I ordered from Amazon wouldn’t arrive on time. My brother’s throttle lock turned out to be too big and wasn’t going to work and I dreaded making this trip without something to hold the throttle in place. Luckily there was a bike shop near the seller’s house and they were still open for a few minutes. They sold me a throttle lock, set my tire pressure at 36 and 42, and even gave me a tire pressure gauge for the trip.

“How far you headed?”

“Trying to be in Salt Lake City by tomorrow night.”

“We did a ride to Toronto last year” he said. “That guy made the trip on an RC51!” pointing to one of the mechanics who gave an awkward smile back confirming the accusation. Suddenly my VFR was a Goldwing by comparison.

“Thanks gentlemen! Really appreciate it!”

“Ride safe!” they said as they resumed closing up shop. That was 6pm on Friday.

I stopped to top off the bike with fuel and get bearings on how to get to the freeway a few miles away. Gently got it up to speed and settled into 6th gear at around 60mph.

Then this happened: Holy cow this helmet is loud!! I had forgotten to put in my ear plugs and the wind noise was extreme. Pulled over just before the freeway on ramp to rectify the situation. An older gentleman in a farm truck stopped and asked if everything was ok and if I needed any help. “No I’m good, thanks though.” He waved and drove off. With ear plugs in place I rolled onto the freeway thinking, so far, every person I’ve met in this state has been absolutely stellar. Very cool.

On the freeway once again I settled in at 6th gear, 70 mph or so. Love the Helibars, not sure about the double bubble windscreen. It seems the wind hits right at my helmet. At 5 foot 8 I can’t really get above the buffeting. And with the tank bag I couldn’t really get below it. No worries, I can dial that in later. Right now I have several hours of Kansas freeway to tackle. A decent side wind made things interesting but subsided as it got closer to dark. I chased the sunset, pulling over for fuel and to change into my cold weather gear when the temps dropped.

For those of you who have never experienced Kansas, let me tell you something. This place is flat, like really flat. Like I looked across the horizon and I could see the back of my head flat. And straight. Hardly a curve or a hill to spice things up. Nothing against the land or it’s people, just not what I’m used to having grown up in NorCal and Utah surrounded by 11,000 foot snow covered peaks. I had driven through West Texas once and that was flat too, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Lots of corn fields though. But I trudged on.

With my old VFR I could get more than 200 miles on a tank if I recall correctly. Something like 42-45 mpg typically. So I thought I would see how far I could go before filling up. The seller had installed a new front sprocket but couldn’t remember if it was down one tooth or what. The rear sprocket was stamped 43 so we were good there. Couldn’t see the front as it is blocked. The seller had also installed a device to correct the speedometer reading which matched my GPS so that looked good. I kept an eye on the fuel gauge. Around mile 168 on the odometer the reserve started flashing. Hmmmmm…not too many gas stations around here amidst the corn fields. At about 180 miles on the odo I finally found a gas station and filled up. It took 4.7 gallons which worked out to 38 mpg. Interesting. To be safe I figured I would just fill up at around 140-150 miles. Throughout the trip the MPG was a bit of a mystery. Across the trip I saw 38, 36, 44, 49 (downhill stretch), and 43, oddly enough averaging out to 42 overall. I don’t know. The thing ran great though. Smooth and powerful and flawless. Stopping at 140-150 miles had another benefit. I could stop and stretch. After so many miles I noticed a few things: my wrists were fine. Lower back was fine. Ankles were fine. It was the shoulders and the lower glutes that were in pain. I googled up the top 10 shoulder stretches and did some variant of that at each stop. It made a big difference. Would have killed to have my Sargent seat again. But I do have a new one coming in the mail.

Here’s something I forgot about, the digital coolant temp reading was generally about 100* F higher than the air temp. I remember my old VFR was like that. Cool that you can toggle between the two on the gauge cluster. I rode into the dark until it was too cold. Stopped and got some IHOP for dinner and booked a room at a nearby hotel that had good reviews. Called the wife to check in and give a report of the trip so far, plugged in my phone and helmet Bluetooth to charge and went to sleep just after midnight. I woke up at around 7am, took a shower and had some of the hotel’s continental breakfast and headed out.

The morning temps were cool at first but with the rising sun came warmer temperatures. And eventually the Colorado border. For future travelers it’s worth noting here that Eastern Colorado is just an extension of Kansas. There’s even a small town near the border called Kanorado. It’s the same landscape! But the road is smoother on the Kansas side. Just as straight and flat though. I caught my first glimpse of the rocky mountains about 100 miles off in the distance. Remember this: if you’re doing this trip, the rockies of Colorado are the reward for enduring the flatness of Kansas. Just hang in there, it gets better! I laughed to myself as I quoted a few lines in my helmet from the movie Dumb and Dumber, where there is some debate about the Colorado mountains and the rockiness therein. As I recall, John Denver’s integrity is questioned at one point.

I continued on I-70 and rode past downtown Denver. Pulled in for fuel and lunch at Subway, and to do my stretches. Filled up at a grocery store gas station called King Soopers that had a large banner that read #boulderstrong. Took a moment to think of the Boulder situation that happened recently. Just regular shoppers like the people around me, stopping in for hotdogs or milk or bread, who never went home that day. I guess I need to carry everywhere now. Thankful I still have the right and ability to protect myself and my family. Many people in the world don’t. I ate my lunch outside but went in the Subway to clean my helmet shield real quick. Got mildly harangued by a thirty-something Subway employee for sitting at a table that was marked as closed due to Covid and social distancing. Hmmm… Didn’t she notice that all of the tables were marked that way? And that there was virtually no one else in the restaurant? “I won’t be long.” I said. She seemed satisfied with my response and let me be. I quickly cleaned up my helmet and set off again. I had made it halfway, only 499 miles left to go.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (4)

Now things were about to get fun. Several hours and miles of elevation and gentle curves through some amazing landscape. Can I make it to Grand Junction? Will I make it home tonight? Wow look at those mountains!! Hey there are a lot of Audis on this stretch. And tunnels!! Buckle up Todo we’re not in Kansas anymore!

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (5)

For those of us who appreciate appropriate exhaust scavenging, there is a specific process or tradition if you will, that happens when approaching a tunnel. In my foxbody Mustang for example: windows down, slow slightly, downshift into 3rd and hit it til redline, all in a safe and prudent manner of course. Repeat as necessary. The bike is equally fun but you have to watch the speed as redline in virtually any gear is exceeding posted limits. The Eisenhower Tunnel is 1.6 miles long. Ooh I’m gonna like this (activate stupid grin). Assess traffic, slow down slightly, click down a few gears and hit it. VrrrRRRRRRROWW!! Now in the interest of safety didn’t take it all the way to the VFR’s near 12,000 rpm redline but I did ring it out a bit. Just enough to hear that V4 song resonate out the Vance & Hines pipe and reverberate through the tunnel walls. I quickly let off the throttle, regained composure and washed that down with a couple of hits from my train horn and I was good for the next several miles until another opportunity (that is to say, tunnel) came my way. I could say with some certainty that the young couple in the Kia next to me appeared to be glad that their windows had remained up in the Eisenhower. He didn’t appear to have down shifted either. And it was a Kia. Poor girl.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (6)

It was all downhill from there. Literally. Things warmed up as I descended in elevation like a pilot coming in for a landing. Almost made it to Glenwood Springs when I just had to pull over for a break. My right shoulder wasn’t having it anymore and the numbness in the Southern quarters indicated a need for some blood flow. I pulled over, put the kickstand down in the dirt and sat on a concrete block for a bit. Stretched out and popped a couple of Ibuprofen. Counted a group of 5 riders on kitted up BMW GS’s cruising by on the freeway in front of me. That looked like fun as well. A local kid on a quad came by to investigate. Not much to see, he turned and left without a word. I pressed on and stopped in at Glenwood Springs for fuel. An older gentleman approached me.

“Is that one of the new VFRs?” he said with a slight accent that I couldn’t immediately place.

“Nope, it’s a 2001. She’s 20 years old” I smiled.

“I have a VFR1200” he returned, “Great bike. Ride safe!”

“Will do, thank you Sir.”

I was taught in my youth to be respectful of older people. Many of them served in past war efforts and helped preserve the freedoms I now have. They have great experiences and stories.

That was another thing I was getting used to again, biker comradery. Lots of waves on the highway and instant conversation at the gas station. Hey I remember this. This is cool.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (7)

On this next bit I made a slight mistake. I had packed an old Go Pro thinking I might do a little filming at some point. I wondered about the stretch from here to Grand Junction but decided to forego in the interest of time. Well, that proved to be some of the most spectacular riding of the entire trip. Sorry guys. You’re just gonna have to experience it for yourselves. It was amazing though. Great cliffs and rocky ledges, and the road following the Colorado river for miles. It was beautiful all the way into Utah.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (8)

I stopped in at Grand Junction for fuel and more stretches. Sat on some concrete with my back against a brick wall and was more physically comfortable that I’d been for the past several miles. Orange Fanta and beef jerky never tasted so good. Took a few minutes to rest and then saddled up again. Nightfall would be coming before too long and I had 279 miles to go.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (9)

Before I left home I purchased a Bluetooth unit to go with my helmet. I hadn’t used it much of the trip but decided to have some tunes for the final stretch. It works fine but I need to do a little fine tuning I guess. I have to have earplugs because of the wind noise, so that means I have to be at or near full volume on the unit to hear the music. I think if I can get the wind buffeting dialed in it will be better. I was able to talk on the phone for a bit on the highway and it worked fine. So that was cool. Never did that before on a bike. May never do it again but it was cool to see that it worked as intended.

I am a lifelong guitarist of sorts so my playlist is varied. Tool, followed by Johnny Cash with some Depeche Mode, Daft Punk and Bon Jovi mixed in got me through Southern Utah and pointed toward home. Two good things about Southern Utah: 80 degrees and 80mph speed limit. I set my throttle lock on 85 and went for it. The bike ran flawlessly, gobbling up mile after mile and begging for more. I had no plate on the bike so I didn’t want to risk getting pulled over (nor did I want to increase the risk of dying in a crash or scratching up my new bike) so I kept things pretty reasonable. Cruised past the turn off for Moab and Arches National Park and I was now in my back yard so to speak. Last fill up in Green River and a quick text to the wife: “Should be home by 10pm”. I hung a right onto Hwy 6 and headed North toward home. I watched the sunset on my left as I climbed through Price and into Spanish Fork Canyon, praying the whole time that a deer didn’t run out in the dark, which thankfully one didn’t. Pulled over in Spanish Fork for one final stretch and some water. Just 45 minutes from home now, somewhat surprised I had made it this far without incident. Pulled down my face shield, set the playlist again and hopped on the freeway. Bounced over the concrete slabs for the next 30 miles to my exit. Left over the overpass, cruise for a few miles, then left again toward my neighborhood and my family. I pulled in at about 9:46pm local time. Pulled up to the garage and gave a rev followed by a quick tap of the horn to let my kids know the Amtrak had arrived. It must have worked because the garage door opened and I was greeted by smiling kids and a confused wife. I had made it. 1,000 miles in two days, through prairie and mountains and high desert. Home safe with little more than a sore shoulder to show for it. The old Honda did her part and God kept the roads clear for me so I could get home to my little ones. It was nice to be back on a bike again. Nice to have an adventure with some stories to tell. And it was nice to be home in once piece to enjoy Easter morning with my kids the next day, which we did.

I shot a quick text to Tyler to let him know that I’d made it all the way home and show off a pic of the bike next to my Mustang. “Awesome, enjoy it!” he replied.

I intend to.

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (10)

1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (11)

Ride safe,


1,000 miles in two days, my VFR story starts again after 15 years (long read) (2024)
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