'You meet the nicest people'

Knowing it'll be months before she sees them again, Kristen Kurth of Medford left her two dogs with a friend Tuesday afternoon.

"It was hard driving home just now," Kurth said. "I feel bad about not being able to take them with us, but it's not safe (for them)."

Kurth and her husband, Adam, have not only parted with their dogs but also their bed, their apartment, their cars and their jobs in preparation for a two-month adventure riding 1960s-vintage Honda CT90 motorcycles across the United States.

"That's a little surreal," she said, reflecting on how much they have simplified their material existence. "We have our motorcycles right now."

The Kurths, along with their close friend Bobby Simmons of Talent, will depart from the Medford YMCA — where Kristen had worked as a preschool teacher — at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

"I've got some co-workers who wanted to say their goodbyes," Kristen said. "It might just be my parents; I don't know."

The idea for the journey surfaced two years ago when Simmons and Adam Kurth received two spare-parts bikes destined for the scrap heap. The bikes complemented a Honda Kristen will be riding that had long been in Adam's family.

"It was one of those things that kept coming up in conversation, and the idea didn't go away," Kristen said.

While the Kurths and Simmons researched routes and backroads that would safely accommodate the 45-mph top speed of a Honda Trail 90, restoration work began on the bikes.

"My husband sews for a living, so he has made the saddlebags," Kristen said. "They're crazy cool."

Adam Kurth's work sewing prototype combat equipment for the military also came in handy with the reupholstering of the bikes' seats.

From Simmons' Ashland repair shop, the three were able to replace the bikes' engines with new 90cc units and prepare their machines for the journey.

"They went from destined to the junkyard, and now we think they're ready for the task — as ready as they can be," Adam said.

Each member of the group will fill different roles on the journey. Kristen will carry a tablet in her backpack to serve as the primary blogger and social networker. Simmons will pack his laptop and hard drive to serve as mechanic and chief videographer for a documentary they're planning to make.

"I'm kind of the cheerleader of the group," Adam said only half-jokingly — acknowledging it will be important to maintain morale.

The three will camp part of the time, and they'll also stay at people's houses arranged through www.couchsurfing.org.

"We're on a very limited budget," Adam said. "That's one of the main points we want to come across in the documentary, that adventure doesn't have to be expensive."

Although they're looking forward to the freedom of setting their own schedules, the friends are managing expectations of the challenges they'll face.

"The Southwest is known for being sparsely populated," Kristen said. "We're trying to prepare ourselves for the lack of amenities."

"I'm thinking long, hot days without scenery changes are going to start to wear on me," Adam said. "I mean, doing 40 miles an hour through a cornfield is going to be tough."

"It's a very uncertain feeling when you don't have much money and a huge monster to slay," Simmons said.

One of the themes they expect to capture with the documentary is "You meet the nicest people," which plays off the bikes' 1960s advertising tagline, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda."

They have already experienced some of that niceness, raising $540 toward their trip from the crowdfunding site indiegogo.com, most of it from strangers.

"Our mission is to create a feel-good documentary. To show the world that travel can be done on a shoestring micro budget," said the intro on their indiegogo campaign page.

"I'm really interested in meeting folks from different communities and seeing how cultures change as you travel," Simmons said.

Progress on the journey will be posted at www.mytrail90crew.blogspot.com and at www.facebook.com/mytrail90crew.

Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com.

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