By Amy Holland
To celebrate my birthday I went on a solo trip from my home in southern California to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. The weather was fantastic throughout the entire trip, except for the last day. And by then, I was in a hurry-up mode. Anxious to get home, I left Ogden, Utah at five a.m.The air was frosty--I shivered all the way to Provo, about 78 miles south. Once the air warmed up however, I was wishing for the cold of the morning.
The further south I traveled on Interstate 15, the hotter the day became. The rocky scenery in the southwest can be beautiful, but all I felt that day was the heat emanating from the ground. Hot, dry air made it impossible to raise my faceshield while riding -- it was as if I had opened the door of a blast furnace. I stopped for lunch in St. George; where I must have drunk about a gallon of iced tea. That was mistake number one.
Mistake number two happened when I tried riding without my leather jacket and gloves. I could stand the heat on my arms, but my knuckles burned as the air -- which felt like flames -- rushed past them. I finally stopped long enough to put my gloves back on.
My next stop wasn't until I reached Primm, Nevada, which is about 140 miles from St. George. There I gassed up the bike, and then headed into a Burger King where I made mistake number three: I drank more iced tea. Once I got back on my bike, it took me six hours to get from Primm to Baker, California. Why did it take me so long to travel about 50 miles? Because I almost died from heatstroke.
After getting back on my bike in Primm, I must have made it about a mile before I had to stop under an overpass and rest. I felt extremely weak, too weak to control my motorcycle for much longer. Since I didn't have a watch with me, I have no idea how long I was sitting there in the shade. The only thing I knew was that I could not continue at all, and I couldn't go back to Primm because the nearest off-ramp did not have a northbound on-ramp. I was stuck, and it was my own fault. My body's moisture had been sucked out of me by the dry, hot air flowing over my bare skin at 70 miles an hour. And instead of drinking something that replenished me, I drank something that had an ingredient that dehydrated me even more: caffeine. I was slowly killing myself and didn't even know it.
For what seemed an eternity, I sat in the shade and waited. When I finally felt well enough to get back on my bike and continue I was by no means back to my old self, but I thought I could make it. In Baker I drank nothing but water -- I wasn't feeling well enough to eat. Another 60 miles passed before I stopped in Barstow. This time I ate, but it was very difficult --I didn't think the food would stay down. At least it was evening by now, and the hottest part of the day had passed. I later learned that it had been the hottest day of the year - temperatures topped 120 degrees in the Mojave Desert. Eventually I made it home in one piece.
That trip made me realize how important wearing the correct riding gear is. Not only does it provide protection if I crash, it also protects me from the elements. We're pretty lucky here in southern California - we have great riding weather almost all the time. But don't let the great weather fool you into wearing less -- the sun and air can be brutal on your skin if not protected, and you'll get dehydrated faster than you think. And anytime you ride, be sure to drink plenty of liquids but stay away from anything that has caffeine.
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