Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Cross Country Trip Epilog

This trip was not without incident. My little things of having my foot peg slip and my chain coming off do not compare to D. who had crashed into the side of a mountain because he got distracted by the scenery in Yosemite. He had spent a three week re-building his bike and healing before meeting up with me.
Originally D. and I had planned to ride north up to St. James Bay in Canada. That along with riding around Lake Superior and only riding around 200 miles a day would have made out trip a week longer. I guess the planning of someone with experience of riding across the country is something we didn't have. The St. James Bay part got cut because neither of us trusted his bike without a overhaul. We ended up riding much longer than planned for no real reason other then being in the riding mindset. If I had estimated the timeline better I would have gone to my sisters wedding. As it was, I had made the decision not to go because I thought it would have forced me to ride to many miles a day on my motorcycle which I considered dangerous.
D. was used to riding in New York City so going across the country he was speeding and cutting through traffic every chance he could. I had a lot less experience riding and was used to a much more laid back style of riding. I think our riding style got on each other's nerves quite a few times, but he never could answer my question: Why are you speeding when you are on vacation?
We both got burned out pretty easy. D. had been traveling for two months and after the crash no wonder he just wanted to be home. I had been going non-stop for months and a cross country trip is not the relaxing kind of vacation.
In reality though I think our trip went great. Out of what I stated above I enjoyed every bit of the trip. I was amazed at everything we saw and how many people thought we were doing something beyond anything they could do. I guess this was one of those things someone is supposed to do to have a "full life".

Friday, June 29, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - End of the Line: Hartford, CT.?

197 miles + 88 miles
After a late night we both enjoyed being able to sleep in. As we drove south it became very lush forest. All very pretty but that means it also contains something very dangerous to any motorcyclist, deer. It might total a car to hit one but a motorcyclist will be decapitated because of where their body is, and the sound of a motorcycle will startle them into their random jumping dance. We had seen a few the last night while looking for a hotel, but it was nothing compared to what we were seeing now. Deer off the freeway, dead deer on the side of the road. They were everywhere. As we were riding through in a blind corner I saw what I thought was a dead deer on the side of the freeway. Right at the apex of the turn it popped its head up and started right at me. It freaked me straight out. At the next stop I asked D. and no I hadn't been seeing things it freaked him out too.
The further rode the more I had the feeling sick symptoms building inside me. I just knew I had ate some bad french food at the Canadian border. When we stopped to get gas I couldn't take it anymore I needed a brake. We took a nice long lunch and I drank lots of water until I was feeling a little better.
We got back on the road and I was trying to keep up again with D. when suddenly when I twisted the accelerator it didn't do anything. I twisted the throttle again and the engine revved but no power. There is nothing like engine problems to snap you out the sick haze feeling. Great, I was stuck in between the car-pool lane on one side and 4 lanes of traffic on the other. Luckily, I had about the width of one lane with orange barrel cones every 100 feet. I looked down and saw the chain had come off the sprocket, crap. I didn't have enough space to get off and really work on the motorcycle so I pulled my cell phone out, stuffed it under my helmet and called AAA. The 800 number routed me through to New York AAA. They referred me to Connecticut AAA. They transfered me to the local AAA, who put me on hold while checking if my policy covered motorcycle towing. Finally after what felt like hours but was probably closer to 10 minutes of me yelling over the din of traffic a tow truck was on its way. I backed up my bike to a group of 4 barrels that were covering a drain to give me a little more protection from the cars flying by on both sides of me. A little while later an construction/emergency freeway truck pulled up and he lowered his crash barrier in the back for more protection. D. still wasn't answering his phone but soon showed up after he had noticed I was no longer following him.
The tow truck showed up and I had the choice to be towed off the freeway and put my chain back on or just be towed the 88 miles home. Either way it would be the same cost as one tow. Since I didn't know what caused the chain to come off I figured it best to get towed all the way, with D. following on his motorcycle.
I had set up getting the new apartment through my new job. I had never seen the place and didn't officially live there for a few days on July 1st. But I had no choice so when he unloaded the motorcycle we pushed it into one of the out of the way parking spots. Then I hopped on the back of D.'s motorcycle and he dropped me off at the train station to make it the rest of the way into NYC to his apartment. (His bike was pretty unstable with a passenger and all his gear.)
What a way to end the trip.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Ride to Vermont

347 miles
As we approached Ottawa we entered more and more urban areas until we were in the city. It was a very different kind of riding. We both wanted to go sight seeing so we found a parking garage near the capital. We walked around what I am guessing was the parliament building. It reminded me of Notre-Dame in Paris more than any buildings in the USA.
We had lunch at Mc Donalds since their food tastes better when out of the USA and I find it funny. From there we walked down the river to the library. On the way there was a Jazz concert going on in a tunnel. The echoing off the tunnel with the river right there made for a perfect lazy afternoon. As we continued down all of a sudden a row of police cars and a limo sped by with the Prime Minister. I guess this little river makes for an easy get away road from the parliament building. We wanted to go to the library to check email (I had no phone service in Canada and needed to make sure my thesis had passed the final check.) We had to get a library card. It seems odd that it was so easy for people out of the country to get library cards but I guess many people don't plan on stealing books.
We had planned to visit Montreal also but all the signs were in English and French on top of an unfamiliar city and the first real traffic we had hit in the trip we missed where we were supposed to exit off the freeway. We were both to tired to head back through more traffic so we would just have to visit later. D. is much more experienced on a motorcycle and there were many times on the trip I had a hard time keeping up. I had explained that I didn't like splitting lanes, especially when it is illegal such as in Canada. At one point in the traffic I guess D. got fed up and swung around a bunch of cars on the right for a merging lane and there was no way I could catch up. Since my phone did not work in Canada I guessed that I would be making the rest of the trip by myself. Surprisingly my experience with traffic in Los Angeles and specifically lane choice I saw and caught up with him.
We crossed back into Vermont on a little side road since we had got so turned around in Montreal. It was literally a guard shack next to the road. Again no problems, and no passports needed. The border guard was surprised that I had ridden my motorcycle across the country but was more worried about what a tank bag was and that I didn't have any fruit in it. Most importantly, I had now been in Vermont the last of the 48 contiguous states. (So I still have Hawaii and Alaska to go.)
Now back in the USA we just wanted to find a hotel. The problem was there was a Austin Healy car show and road rally that filled up every hotel we went to.I was using the GPS to pull up hotels in the area and call them now that my phone worked again, all full, and all parking lots full of Austin Healys. We repeated this for each town we drove through with the same results. We ended up riding until 1AM where we found a hotel with a room. There were other people checking in that had the same problem as us so it really was a problem.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Ride to Pembroke

404 miles
Riding along the 14 was beautiful. It followed along the top of the great lakes for a while then a river for most of the day's ride. It always seemed like water was around the corner. This was defiantly a less used highway and we had the road to ourselves a lot of the time. People here were defiantly friendly. Every stop we made people were more then happy to talk.
We were rural enough that we started to have to watch how far it was to the next gas stop. In the vein of saving space my motorcycle did not come with a gas gauge, only a gas warning light. So I paid close attention to my odometer. In Canada I relied more on my tripometer. It was digital so easy to switch over to kilometers so that helped line it up with the signs to the next town. The problem came when the only gas station in town was closed down. In driving to the next town I was charting new territory on how far I could ride on a tank of gas but we made it without incident.
We had originally wanted to stop in Petawawa. If you have not heard of the town, neither had we. It was just in the right place to stop. However all the hotels in this small out of the way town were super expensive. My new job was paying for the move which meant that they would be paying for a few of these hotel stays. They did have a cap on the price though. So that means we decided to keep going, after another hour of riding we arrived in Pembroke. All the hotels ended up being pretty far off the main road. We found a hotel and went next door to a fast food joint for dinner. My friend, ever the writer starts up a conversation with the waitress and soon is taking pictures for reference for a book he is writing. We found some stuff on the menu that we didn't recognize and ordered it. It ended up being french fries covered with gravy and a corn dog. Greasy food does not go well with riding a motorcycle all day so we both fell asleep with nauseous stomachs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Ride to Sault Ste Marie

416 miles
After putting so many miles behind us a pattern had emerged for riding. I was on a street bike. It was not made for long trips. There was really only two positions on the motorcycle, butt forward, and butt rearward. About every hour I would need to stop for about 5 minutes and stretch. Since I had a small gas tank every other stretching was done while fueling. Of course D. had more of a touring motorcycle so it was more comfortable and was able to go 250 miles (to my 160-180 miles) per tank so the frequent stops were aggravating for him. But it did allow for more comfort since we could switch from cold weather gloves and jackets in the morning to warm gear easier. It also forced us to take it a little easier since we were covering so many miles without meaning to.
We didn't feel like riding up and around Lake Superior would add to much to the experience so we decided to ride through Michigan as a shortcut. (Not to mention that it crossed off another state that I had not been to.) Again there were many small towns and everything was green and no real problems came up. The landscape was flat with short stubby pine trees. It reminded me of pine barrens. We had a small scare when we arrived in a town and all the gas stations we closed for the night. we finally found one open and got to ask about the signs we saw everywhere for selling "pasties". Apparently they are meat pies with the ketchup already baked right in. We would have bought some to taste the local fare but they were out.
We hit the Canadian border at sunset. Everyone had warned us to bring our passports with us with all the new laws about leaving the country. In reality they took one look at our drivers license and waved us through. They were more interested in us paying the toll for crossing the bridge.
Sault Ste Marie was a nice town to walk around after a long days ride but everything was closed at 8pm so we had a hard time finding somewhere for dinner. Our hotel room looked back over the river with only a view of the US. It made for a weird sensation. I was still able to pick up signal from across the river for my cell phone so it was nice to be able to call my wife still.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Ride to Duluth

374 miles
For our next stop we rode to Duluth to visit D.'s friend. It would not have been that interesting to take the freeway so it was highways the whole way. Green everywhere, and lots of small towns. Everyone at the gas stops seemed really excited for what we were doing though.
It just so happened that's D.'s friend was the owner of Aerostich, a major motorcycle company. I figure between visiting the Aerostich factory and Sturgis we were down pat for required things to do for a cross country-motorcycle trip.
D.'s friend showed us around Duluth. He was very proud of his city. D. had met him when he was writing an article about the company and they were both very much into classic BMW motorcycles so I felt very much to be the odd man out in a weird sort of way. Both of them really ganged up on me for mentioning that I wanted to sell my motorcycle.
We rested here for a day. Being able to wash clothes is nice when you only have one set of clothes to change into. (I have really small saddle bags with a lot of space taken with camping supplies.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Ride to Sioux Falls

378 miles
We paid for the parking for the whole year so we were going to use it! ($8 for a motorcycle seems a little overboard since they always stuff them in the unused corners anyway.) So they have a deal called "Breakfast with the presidents". A nice breakfast on the patio looking out onto Mt. Rushmore. It was one of those surreal moments since I couldn't turn my head without feeling like I was looking at a giant TV.
We could not resist, we rode the extra 10 miles and saw the statue of Crazy Horse. Of course this meant we pulled over onto the side of the rode, took some pictures, and rode on. Neither one of us saw any real reason to pay for more parking.
From there we headed through "Bad Lands National Park". D. tried to get me to take a shortcut down a dirt road. There was no way I was taking a street bike on a dirt road so we took the long way through. It ended up being a really interesting ride. The badlands are basically mountains that are 100 feet tall. Depth perception gets really messed up since it feels like you are screaming through the countryside when only driving 30mph.
Riding out of the Badlands and there was the sign for Wall drug. I couldn't resist, we went. It is a drug store that is famous because there is nothing else around, so they put up billboards for 100's of miles. It was every bit as cheesy as you can imagine, a complete tourist trap in every way.
This part of the ride was hot and dry. we had a small scare when an expected gas station was under construction. Luckily there was another station at the far side of town in the direction that we were going. However when we stopped I realized I was burning up, the first stage of heat stroke. I quickly drake a Gatorade and sat in the shade for a while. With the helmet, jacket, and gloves you get used to sweating constantly and the breeze while riding keeps you from getting to hot. I really had to get used to listening to my body.
We next stopped at the "Corn Palace". Yep a stadium that is decorated with dried corn. They spend $100,000 a year to re-decorate it. Surprising how many different colors there are in dried corn.
We hit a big stretch of nothing and then it got dark. We finally stopped in Sioux Falls. The problem, there was a little league baseball championship. All the hotels were booked. We finally found a hotel (on the 5th try.) and got the last room. While filling out the paperwork we got to smirk as they told 3 people they were full.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Ride to Custer State Park

557 miles
So North Dakota was both on D.'s and my list as one of the few states that neither of us had been to. There really didn't seem to be that much in North Dakota and we didn't feel like visiting Fargo so we rode the extra little bit and then cut south on the first rode. It was the highway but it felt like we were riding back roads with all the deserted buildings and towns. We stopped for lunch by a lake in a small town. There were so many cottonwoods in bloom that it felt like snow. I felt like I had escaped Oregon to get away from the allergies and all the fuzzies were freaking my out.
Riding through South Dakota on motorcycles and not stopping in Sturgis seemed like a sin so we stopped for dinner. Of course we were a month early for the week long bike party but a lot of local rode motorcycles year round. Everyone seemed interested in D.'s motorcycle, a 1972 BMW.
We rode on to Mt. Rushmore and got there right at sunset. So parking was $8 but it was for the year so we decided to come back in the morning. We found a campground that was right around the corner and realized that we had rode another long day.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Meeting Up in Billings Montana

184 miles
In the morning I could not resist stopping at some of the geysers and mudpots and taking more pictures. I wasn't in to much a hurry since the ride to meet up with my friend was pretty short since he was just in Billings staying with his friend.
D.'s friend was from the Navajo tribe, worked for Indian Affairs and was helping out a friend that was living with her that was from the Crow tribe. In the next 24 hours D. and I learned what must have been the complete history of both the tribes and a lot of US history from a different point of view. We got the grand tour of Billings, learned the history of Bull riding at the rodeo stadium, and overlooked the whole city from the bluff. Apparently to try to avert a small-pox epidemic some indian warriors rode their horses off the local cliff to appease the gods.
The next morning it had rained very heavy and everything was wet. I took the lambskin seat off my motorcycle and we were on our way. Since this was really what I consider the real start of the trip the rain gave everything a that new feeling as we drove away.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Anniversary in Yellowstone

Oh finally, I can relax. L. had taken a more direct route to Yellowstone since she was not visiting friends. She had brought her Mom and my friend that was riding cross country with me showed up. We all piled into the car and drove all over seeing the sights there. The thing about Yellowstone s that everything is so far apart you have to drive. There is also a lot of wildlife. Everyone stops for for the animals. I understand elk, moose, and buffalo. But why were people stopping for rabbits, raccoons, and prairie dogs. People were stopping for rocks thinking they are Buffalo. So we started referring to them as Rockalos.
In the evenings I was able to permanently fix the foot peg and really check my bike over top to bottom. and out cabin was right next to the hot springs so it allowed for evening walks.
So after two nights in a cabin at Mammoth Springs my friend headed north on his motorcycle to visit with friends and L. took her Mom to her sisters house that was close by, why? L. and I wanted to have out anniversary with only us.
I had booked the night at the Grand Lodge and it just so happened that our room looked out though some trees right to old faithful. It could not have been better. The funny thing about old faithful was it didn't seem like that big of a deal for the number of tourists there were. It was nicer and without all the tourists. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was weird eating Buffalo after seeing so many of them.
In the morning I said goodbye to L. and I drove north to meet up with my friend and L. drove south to visit with family, not to see each other for a month.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Riding to Yellowstone

685 miles
I knew that this day's ride would be a long one but I got off to a late start (10:30) talking to my friend in the morning. I hadn't really measured how long it would be but L. had said I should be able to make it in a day no problem.
After a few hours I was riding down the freeway at about 70mph and was stiff so I shifted my weight and suddenly felt the foot peg under my right foot give way and my foot hit the asphalt. I quickly steadied the motorcycle and pulled off the freeway. After my hands stopped jittering I looked over the bike. My right foot peg had rotated backward but all the parts were still there. It appears that the replacement brake pedal I had put on after my last slide didn't quite fit right and could turn suddenly loose. This was luckily the only problem I ran into for going non-stop and not being able to test all the stuff I had done to the motorcycle.
I was following the GPS and it had routed me north through Washington, Idaho and then Montana. I had lunch in Idaho and called L. that things were going well then I hit Montana. So the GPS said 3, then 4, then back to 3 hours left to drive. I realized it was giving me the time as the bird flies so the 4 hours I told L. would not be accurate. So each stop I was making I tried calling her, no signal. Cities in Montana are few and far between so pay phones calls to her cellphone were not working either. My cell phone in the cities was getting a signal but it was a recorded message that it was a different service and would cost extra. When I tried to OK the extra charge the phone would lock up.
So this repeated, over, and over. Stop after stop, and I just kept riding. I could not figure out a way to get the GPS to tell me miles instead of time left. It got dark, and I kept riding. It got cold, and I kept riding. I finally arrived at 2AM. After 15 1/2 hours riding and 8 hours later then what I had told L. I arrived at Yellowstone. I tried hard to ride through all the cabins quietly on my motorcycle. I found out L. had called the cops and did quite a good job describing what I was wearing. Apparently describing someone thinking they were in an accident is not a good thing to do a couple of days before your anniversary.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cross Country 2007 - Riding to East Oregon

321 miles.
So Saturday was my graduation and Sunday I was hitting the road for a cross country trip on a motorcycle. My first stop was my friends house in eastern Oregon. As it turns out after packing up and leaving I didn't get there until 10:30. It really sucked because I really wanted to visit with my friend since sixth grade but honestly I was still going non-stop for the last 3 months and I really wanted to sleep.
This meant that I had to visit in the morning. We talked and then his mom called. The first things she wanted to say was to ask me when I was going to have kids, and how I could be so dangerous riding a motorcycle. I really didn't want to talk and get in a fight so I handed the phone back to G. without saying anything. She flew off the handle since I didn't answer her but I feel like I had lost the need to explain myself to anyone but my wife.