I bought a broken down ’79 GS750 at an auction a few years ago. My arm disengaged from my brain and the next thing you know: ‘Sold! for $220’
I knew nothing about motorcycles. Nothing about carbs. Nothing about … just about everything. And over the next couple of years, I worked on it and fixed … just about everything about it, and now it’s finally running great.
So what do you do when you’ve got a 40 year old motorcycle that taught you everything you know about motorcycles, and it’s running great?
What do you do when you’ve finally got all the gear you need to go for a long ride?
(And you’ve always wanted to go on a long road trip.)
You either go.
Or you shut TF up.
So I went.
There are those who will tell you that this is a stupid thing to do. And there is certainly a case to be made, but since when has that stopped me?
Dad, for example, thinks I’m nuts, but I can remember when he bought a canvas-covered, carbureted tail-dragger and flew it all over the USA. Upside down!! The nut didn’t fall far from the tree.
For posterity, just so we can chuckle about how differently it actually turned out, …
Here’s the plan:
Get up at the crack ass of dawn and ride 300 miles before lunch. Every day. Eat and take a walk. Goof off or keep riding. Buy one meal a day. Sleep in seedy motels. Stay hydrated and out of trouble.
Draw a straight line from Vermont to New Mexico. Take local roads so I’m never more than 50 miles from the diagonal.
Silver City. Socorro. San Diego. North. The continental divide. Crazy horse. NYC, and home.
And here’s how it turned out:
D-day minus 4
I waterproofed my shoes and my duffel bag, while a thunderstorm drenched the driveway.
D-day minus 3
We went looking for a water bottle, and Mary and I had two different ideas about what features to look for. I think she’s right about the water bottle, but I really don’t think my first aid kit needs a tourniquet.
I cranked the carbs’ fuel pilot jet screws back to 1 1/4 turns, hoping to buy myself an extra mpg.
D-day minus 2
Neither Mary nor I could figure out how to get my Contacts onto my new iPad, so I rode over to the AT&T store, and a very young clerk figured it right out.
Young people think they’re so damned smart!
D-day minus 1
I packed. Therefore I’m ready.
Between boxes, bags, and gas cans, I’ve got 113 pounds of gear. Plus me. I am ready for the apocalypse.
At the last minute, I went to the dump and installed a toilet next door.
Departure day. 339 miles, 49.6 mpg Sydney, NY
I knew gas was going to be a problem, since I only have a 3.5 gallon tank. My first stop was going to be for gas in Stowe, but I only made it as far as my dentist’s office before the tank ran dry, and I’m thinking to myself: “well this is embarrassing “. I flipped the lever to ‘reserve’ and gave it 30 seconds, and it was fine. Took the Charlotte ferry and had a bagel at the Dogwood Bread Co. Missed a turn and didn’t realize it till I was way off base, but it was scenic.
D-day plus 1 364 miles. 48.2 mpg Clarion, PA
Last night’s hotel saves money, I suppose, by not worrying about whether the clocks are right, and I got up when it said 6:10, but it was actually about 5. I tried to snooze a little until the continental breakfast was ready and I got an early, but bleary-eyed start. Since I didn’t use the interstate yesterday, I thought I would try it again today, but getting across the river without getting on the freeway forced a long detour and several stops to refer to my map. We’ll see how far I can get on back roads.
My “draw a diagonal” plan was foiled by Lake Erie, which is smack dab in the way, so I headed south, where there are a bunch of state and national forests, and I sought out a couple of windy, remote roads, at the expense of forward progress. This is the “Pennsylvania wilds”, and there are a lot of trees leaning against utility lines, and the guard rails are full of dents from fallen logs. Three times, I had to slam on my brakes. Once for a deer, and twice when jackasses decided to do U-turns right in front of me.
The bike is running great, but I had to add about 4 oz of oil, and I blew a fuse from recharging too many USB devices at once. Ended up in Clarion, PA, where my room at Motel 6 doesn’t even have a clock.
D-day plus 2 355 miles. 44.0 mpg Washington Court House, OH
I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but I was on the road by 7, and the fog kept gumming up my visor. The plan was to focus on putting some miles behind me. Rte 19S looked good on paper, but it turned out to be a busy business district, with stop lights as far as the eye could see. I got disgusted and ditched onto a side road that had an unmarked construction detour, and I didn’t really get back on track till 10. I finally got onto rte 22, which had yet another (very scenic) construction detour, but it wanted me to get on the interstate. Couldn’t find an alternative, so now I have 1.5 miles of interstate under my belt. Pissed me off! Rolling hills gave way to farm country, and it was 60 mph till quitting time. I used to blow off the notion that motorcycles are hard to see, but after another jackass tried to kill me, I’m a believer.
Well that’s just sad.
Last night, I stayed up late and added not one, not two, but 3 funny, clever and insightful stories from D+2, and now it looks like either The Internet, My iPad, or I managed to lose them. That just sucks.
After dinner, I took a walk.
D-day plus 3 352 miles 43.1 mpg. Central City, KY
I did some thinking last night about how to manage my time. You can see that I still haven’t cracked the 400 mile barrier. I’ve been mentally doing the math, and there are a couple of problems: For one, I’m going slow. I don’t like going over 60mph, and most of the roads I’ve been on aren’t safe even at that speed. Plus, I spend a lot of time not driving.
Today, for example, I stopped at 2 stores, got gas 4 times, had 2 snacks, and got lost twice.
It adds up, but I’d rather go slow than not get there.
Celia was right. She and I were brainstorming my ‘bring’ list about a month ago, and her first question was: “Do you chafe?” I laughed, but she insisted that I needed baby powder. TMI: I chafe. My saddle gets sore after lunch, and I … um … shift my weight a lot. So this morning, I went to the store and bought some baby powder.
Now I have never powdered a baby before, much less myself, and I wasn’t really sure how to go about it. So the next time I got gas, I concealed the can of BP in my pocket and nonchalantly went into the convenience store rest room, where I gave myself a thick case of powdery mildew. I got it all over my pants (over and under, inside and out), all over my butt, and all over my junk. The place looked like I sneezed in my cocaine. It provided temporary relief.
I’ve been having trouble with my charging system. I had wired up the Suzuki so that it has USB chargers in both luggage boxes and on the handlebars. Day 1, I blew a fuse, and nothing charged. Day 2, nothing in the luggage box charged. Day 3, my phone didn’t charge overnight. WTF?? As it turns out: …
I bought a “multi port power pack” (also Celia’s idea) that I wanted to use to charge my other devices, and it’s one of those minimalist, rugged modern designs that come without directions or English markings on the case, and it turns out that it’s not enough to just plug your phone into it. You have to turn it on.
Who’d a thunk it?
Once I got all that sorted out, I got onto rte 62W at the Walmart near Aberdeen, and the first 45 miles were fabulous. Two thin lanes with no stop signs, no traffic, and no straightaways. After that, I stayed on 62 all day long, which worked out good, because you don’t have to worry about missing a turnoff.
I asked the hotel clerk if there was a place to eat that was – you know – chef-owned, family-run, with local beer and creative food, and he just kind of looked at me, puzzled. I ended up eating Mexican, but since it’s Sunday, I couldn’t get a beer here.
After dinner, I took a walk.
D-day plus 4 345 miles 45.3 mpg Mountaiun View, Missouri
Today, I wanted to eat some breakfast. Lou’s diner, 20 miles to the North, was closed, so I went to Tootsie’s. There were 4 old guys (my age, but looking a lot older) shooting the bull at the middle table, and they didn’t seem too happy to see me when I walked in, so I sat down and shut TF up. Tootsie herself served me, but never cracked a smile. I suppose it didn’t help when I asked her to hold the gravy on the biscuits.
I knew that sometime today, I’d be crossing the river into Illinois, so I rode 50 miles North, to where there’s a ferry. The road just ended, with no building of any kind on either shore, and a boat going back and forth. Free.
Southern Illinois was a dud. Nothing interesting comes to mind except that the last leg had recently been flooded, and an amphitheater-sized XXX lounge was now abandoned. Sad.
Across the river, I tracked down an AT&T store for help syncing my iPhone and my iPad. I gotta say it is nice that you can get free in-person help in almost any city.
So I plunged into Missouri. Misery. Most of the riding was focused on putting in some miles, and it wasn’t hard to find back roads heading West.
The routine I’ve settled into is to take stock at around 5:00 and google hotels 50-100 miles west of wherever I am, call the best-looking place, and then get back on the bike one last time. Today, the Malone Motel, in Mountain View, Missouri won the jackpot.
First of all, I thought the Ozarks were in an entirely different part of the country.
Secondly, I really wasn’t planning to eat Mexican again, but Mexican is the only show in town, so Mexican it is. I walked in and finally got noticed and seated. I’m a tall guy, and the benches were waaay too low for the tables. A short person could sit on that bench and slide food off the table, directly into his mouth. The table rocked by a full 3/4”. And when I showed it to the waitress, she basically agreed with me: Yup, It rocks.
So you gotta basically ask yourself: You can get up and leave, but where are you going to go? So I stayed, ate, paid, and left. $13 for 4 enchiladas and a beer. The enchiladas were hot and the beer was wet. Usually, hot and wet is good.
After dinner, I took a walk.
D-day plus 5 323 miles 45.4 mpg Longton, KS
I got up groggy and sore. I figured this trip would be physically hard, and it is. There are 2 spots on my backside that hurt (nope. A little farther apart than that) and my throttle hand is callousing. My wrists and neck are sunburned and – 9 hours a day – I smell. It doesn’t get any better than that.
You know that ‘Apple Ecosystem’ they talk about? The one where everything ‘just works?’ Well I can’t seem to get my iPhone photos to show up on my iPad. And since You, dear reader, probably prefer pictures to words, that’s a problem for blogging. So for the first leg of today’s trip, I set out for the AT&T store in Springfield, MO, 100 miles to the West. The guy was helpful and friendly, and he told me I have to do backups on both iThings while they’re 1) plugged in 2) locked and 3) connected to WiFi. Therefore, he said, I have to stay in motels with WiFi that works. Which tells you something about the places I stay. I gave him my iPad, and he backed it up for me while I prowled the neighborhood for lunch and found a food truck in the hospital parking lot serving pulled pork and roasted vegetables for $10 bucks. So until I get both my iThings unFucked … no photos for you!
I had expected that, on a trip on a 40 year old motorcycle, using brand new iThings, the motorcycle would have broken first. Not complaining, mind you.
After that, it took me a whole hour to get out of Springfield without using the interstate, followed by 3 solid hours on straight and narrow roads, while the sun set right in front of me. I finally got to the Silver Bell Motel in Longton and the dog came barking up to me, followed by a very old, very deaf, and very businesslike lady with natural grey hair. She gave me an actual metal key and told me where to eat and I better hurry, because they close at 8. I hadn’t even asked. I think she’s done this before.
Three blocks up and three blocks over sounded like a long way, so I took the bike and had a burger and a salad, while the owner told me the sad story of the town and her life. It was great.
After dinner, I took a walk.
About three blocks up and three blocks over, and back.
After my walk, I got back on the bike and drove back to the hotel, three blocks over and three blocks down. My headlight doesn’t work. I think I might have blown a fuse again.
There is exactly no service here. I’ve got internet, but no email or text. I don’t understand it either.
D-day plus 6 421 miles 49.8 mpg. Springfield, CO
I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more, Toto.
And thank God for that. I’ve got nothing against Kansas, (of course), but it is a two-dimensional, orthogonal state. Flat and straight ahead.
And hot – it was 103 degrees at 5:00. And humid. Take it from the locals: A lady at the gas station, in full foundation and mascara and wearing a wig, told me “It’s hot even for here.” And I said I sure hoped so.
On the weather report, they talk about the “heat index,” which goes up with humidity and down with wind. Way down, when you’ve got a 60 mile an hour wind, so temperature-wise, I was pretty comfortable. You can park in the shade, but you can’t ride in the shade. And when you ride in the sun, you heat up, dry out, change color, and crust over.
You take on a patina. SPF or no.
In Kansas, you can see the whole sky. There is nothing blocking your view unless you are inside. And this morning, I could see that I was driving right toward a thunderstorm. This is my first ever rain on a ride, so I was doing a mental calculation: Should I put on rain gear? Should I just get wet? How long would wet pants take to dry out at 60 mph? I could see the entire storm cloud in front of me. How fast it’s moving. How big is the wet spot. Where and when is it going to hit the road? I crunched the numbers, and they said “Keep riding. It’s going to miss you.”
So I kept riding, and I only got a few sprinkles.
There are two schools of thought on driving the speed limit.
In the gospel according to Mary, driving the speed limit is the safe thing to do.
I disagree. I contend that when you drive the speed limit, traffic backs up behind you, and this is where accidents happen.
I know that if I have to, I can go 75 mph on that bike, but I’d rather not. So that makes me the bad guy, holding up traffic. So when someone gets behind me, I drive on the shoulder and wave at them to pass me, and they’re happy to do it.
So I rode and rode and rode, and it got to be time to pick a place to stop. I parked myself in the shade, in the middle of nowhere, and … uh oh … google maps is telling me that there are motels right under my feet, and there are motels 4 hours away, but nothing in between.
Oh come on.
I ‘let my fingers do the walking’, and finally snagged the last room in the Starlight Motel, 75 miles away. The last 2 nights, I was the only guest in the place and suddenly I’m the last guest? Oil field crews.
So again, I show up at the motel, and the front desk has a very deaf, very old, very gray lady who knew exactly what she was doing. She gave me the Restaurant Rundown without being asked. She let me know that this was a 4-restaurant town, but I better hurry, because it’s late, and only the Longhorn is gonna be open.
Shit, I thought. I don’t want to eat at the Longhorn. It’s a Chain, for gods sake. But I was hungry. And thirsty. And what are you going to do, go to McDonalds?
So I went to the Longhorn, and it turned out to be a local place where I had 2 glasses of water, a local beer (Coors) and the best hamburger I’ve ever had.
Plus, there was a giant TV going and, instead of a baseball game, they had Sean Hannity and Bill deBlasio. Mano a mano. Whoa!
After dinner, I took a walk.
In summary: Today was pretty gruesome. I just wanted to get the hell out of Kansas, and I did, and now I’m in the Promised Land.
So far, Colorado looks a lot like Kansas.
D-day plus 7 497 miles 46.04 mpg. Socorro, NM
Part of my morning routine is to check my oil and add some, because it’s always a little low. This morning, it was a little low, so I added some. It still looked a little low, so I added some more. And again. Eventually, I got suspicious, and I rubbed on the little viewport and, sure enough, it was covered with crud and you couldn’t see through it. So I’ve probably got an extra half-quart of oil in it. Shit. Based on no data whatsoever, I decided it’s not a problem, and if it is, I’ll know it before long. 500 miles down the road, I can tell you that it didn’t seem to be a problem.
I headed for Trinidad, CO. 120 miles due west, and there are exactly no gas stations in between. I think this is going to be a typical interval when I cross west, so I wanted to see what happened. It took me 2.72 gallons out of a 3.5 gallon tank. I think it’s a good thing I have extra gas on the back. It turns out that Trinidad is a hotbed of Colorado’s marijuana industry – who knew? – so I bought some pot and headed south.
This is the part that kills me.
Up to now, I’d crossed all the way from Vermont to Colorado without driving on the interstate. But when I sat down to plan today’s route, there was simply no way to avoid I-25 without dipping into Oklahoma. Fuck that.
Even at freeway speeds, the fastest route is supposed to take 6.5 hours, and I need to be in Socorro tonight, so I took the interstate.
I gotta tell you that, when I crested the hill and the sign said Welcome to New Mexico, and the scenery changed to rocks and scrub and scuddy clouds, a feeling of warmth and well-being came over me.
I’d forgotten how big New Mexico is, and it took until 7:15 to get there. Three times, the storm clouds I saw in the distance suddenly weren’t so distant any more, and twice, I just got sprinkled. The other time, I got drenched. My torso, head, and feet stayed dry, but my pants got wet. The legs dried out fine, but the water that collected around my balls never got enough wind to dry out. I guess I got used to it, because when I got up after dinner, there was a little puddle on my chair.
This morning, I put on my last pair of clean underwear and yesterday’s socks.
Tomorrow, I either do laundry, go to Walmart, or go Commando.
D-day plus 8 zero miles. Okay, maybe 5. Still in Socorro.
I shaved last night. I wanted to look good.
I slept in, because I wanted to be rested.
I dropped off a big stinky bag of laundry across the street. Washee. Foldee. $7.50
I went to Walmart to get an extension cord and some USB adapters, because none of mine seem to work, and these goddam cheap motels always have exactly one outlet, and it’s always behind the furniture..
I rode in to campus, parked in the shade, walked into Brown Hall and took the stairs to the corner office. I told the guy at the desk “I’m Reid. I’m here to see Van.” And a head popped out of a door behind him and she said “Ooh! He’s here!” And she pops her head into Van’s office and waves me in. So far, so good.
Van was at Tech when I was at Tech. That’s about as close as we got. But I recognized his name in the faculty, so I emailed him about C3PR and told him I was coming through town. Can we talk? This guy is Director of Research. Large telescopes. Ballistics. Cool stuff.
So I walked in and we looked at one another, and not a flicker of recognition crossed either face, and we both kind of grinned. But we had a good talk. He asked excellent questions, and seemed intrigued. The entire faculty is gone this time of year, but, we agreed, he’s going to be my point man. We shook hands and I walked out into the blazing heat.
I walked around campus for a little while, but everything looked so different. So clean and modern. It just wasn’t the same. I ate at the place next to the laundromat, and it was The Best ‘flat chicken green Chile enchilada’ EVER.
Julie, an old friend, is a ‘townie’ now and a trustee of the library, so I went there to use their WiFi and wait for her. We had a cold beer and a real nice chat. She programmed radio telescopes, teaches belly dance, and has 50 varieties of Iris in her garden, each cordoned off in its own little trapezoid. Sounds like something I would do.
Julie gave me the name of a restaurant, but I’m tired of eating out, so I went to Walmart and looked for some artisan cheese, sausage and olives that I could cut up with my Boy Scout knife and eat in my room. In the cookie aisle, I selected the only package they had that I could comfortably eat whole.
After dinner, I went for a walk.
D-day plus 9 181 miles. 43.03 mpg. Silver City, NM
I felt better after my day off. My butt is still sore, and I’m thinking about buying a sheep’s pelt and making a cushion. Not today, though.
I woke up early, but stayed in bed, thinking.
It took me awhile to pack because, in 2 nights, it seems I unpacked twice as much as I normally do. I went to the bookstore to buy a tee shirt, but it was closed, so …
No Socorro tee shirt.
Or a Springfield, CO tee shirt.
Or a Longton, KS tee shirt.
Or a MountainView, MO tee shirt. No new tee shirts at all!
I’ve only got to ride 180 miles today, so I decided to make it interesting.
I rode up to the firing range, took a right, scooted past the gate, and under the overpass. Supposedly, this road is going to dump me out in a town 10 miles South. That’s 10 miles less interstate I gotta take.
It was pavement, then gravel, then dirt, then sand, then mud. My bike is a cruiser, with slick tires and a lot of weight on the back. And this road, I realized, was a bad idea, so I turned back.
Ha ha! Fooled you! Of course I kept going. I sailed through the mud, got stuck in the sand, killed it about 10 times, and held on tight, but not once did I dump the bike. Eventually, it turned to dirt, then gravel, then pavement, and I came out near the Owl bar.
I’d heard of the owl bar, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been there, so this would have been a good time to drop in and have a cold one. Instead, I got right on the interstate and drove south, with trucks and traffic passing me at 80 miles an hour. I didn’t like that one bit.
152 west is 2 lanes through a mountain pass. Really pretty. Really fun.
It made taking the interstate worth it.
And in Silver City, there were Gary and Heidi and Forest. (BZ the cat was named for them)
We talked, we ate and, yes, after dinner we took a walk.
D-day plus 10 zero miles.
It’s my day off. I slept in, and then they made me breakfast and I chowed it down.
Gary took me to a museum of local pottery going back 1200 years. Very impressive.
I changed the oil in the motorcycle. It took me two tries, because I did a lousy job of cleaning the cover before I put it back on. I made a puddle on their driveway.
We plotted a good route west from here thru Arizona.
And we took a walk.
D-day plus 11 zero miles
Another quiet day today.
Blueberry waffles for breakfast, tostadas for lunch. Pie and ice cream for a snack, and cold cuts for dinner. I am well fed here.
A cover plate was coming loose on the motorcycle, and I gave it a thorough once-over, but didn’t find anything alarming. We made a trip to town for a ‘butt donut’ pillow, because my butt bones hurt. Not the hole, mind you. The bones.
After pie, we took a walk.
The natives gave me a long talk about heat exhaustion, and we carefully mapped out the safest way to cross the desert. The plan is to take 3 days to get to San Diego and get there Thursday night.
D-day plus 12 Casa Grande, AZ 300 miles. 45.8mpg
Last night, I didn’t sleep for shit. I tossed and turned, with visions of being stranded in the desert, without water or shade. We’d decided that, to avoid heat exhaustion, I should be traveling in the morning, before it gets hot, so I needed to get up at the crack of dawn. And since I couldn’t sleep, that’s when I got up. So far so good.
I packed the bike, had breakfast, hugged everybody goodbye, and roared off.
First stop: gas and water. I always have 2 water bottles with me and, this leg, I’m wearing a 3 liter camelback. Plus, I dumped some cargo to make some room, and I filled it with more water bottles. Thirst is not going to happen.
Then I got moving and, because it was morning, I got cold. Great. Just fucking great.
It didn’t last.
I’m riding west, and the sun was behind me all morning. Heidi gave me a scarf (white with pastel hearts) and showed me how to fold it and wet it down and tie it on to protect my neck. My neck got pretty hot, but not hot enough to hurt. You could say she saved my neck.
My new butt donut works pretty good. My butt feels fine. But … the bike is pretty hard to get on and off of. It takes a well-timed hop-and-a-skip to get astride it and settle your junk into a safe place. At the end of the day, my timing was off and my shoe caught on the donut and ripped it off the seat. Fortunately, Heidi gave me some safety pins in case the donut needed adjustment. So you could say she saved my butt, too.
For dinner, I had Mexican again. I got to thinking about it: In the past, I’ve spoken wistfully about going on a ‘grilled cheese tour,’ on which I’d get a grilled cheese sandwich everywhere I eat. And it turns out that, so far, every time I’ve eaten Mexican, I’ve had enchiladas. So welcome to “The Enchilada Tour”.
After dinner, I took a walk.
D-day plus 13 264 miles. 47.2 mpg. Yuma, AZ
I slept really well. Got up at quarter of 7 and hit the breakfast bar hard: yogurt, an English muffin, and a variety of fluids. I got a late start, because I couldn’t get the bike started.
Once I got that figured out, I headed west into the desert.
After yesterday’s ride, I made sure to start with cold water in the camelback, but it didn’t help much because the tube that I suck on is in the sun, so the first 3 mouthfuls are not refreshing. If, every time you get gas, you get a Gatorade and … Three times a day, you SPF-fy up. You park in the shade and you sit in the shade. You wear gloves and you suck on warm water. If you do all that, and if the bike doesn’t break down, then you won’t have any problems.
So I did all that, and I had no problems, and I got to Yuma early. I googled Yuma tourist attractions and came up with the Castle Dome mining museum. Forty miles up the road. Past the dam and the artillery range, at the end of a dead end road. At 3 in the afternoon, at 113 degrees. “Out of the question!”, said the little guy on my right shoulder. “Onward!”, said the little guy on my left. So I headed north, and came to a locked gate at the end of the dirt road. “Closed for the season,” the sign said. Call this number if you want to get in. So I called it, and ….
I signed the log book on August 14. The last entry was July 18.
I rode back to civilization, sucking on warm water, and booked a $43 room. I parked in the long shade of a tree, changed my clothes, got some ice, sat on the back porch, and watched the birds playing on the lawn. The top half of my half-full glass of ice water was warm to the touch, and I retired to the air conditioned room.
A little girl wanted to sell me a ticket to a car wash 10 days from now. $6 bucks, but I only had 5 $ones. So I made a deal with her that she’d sell me a ticket cheap, and I promised not to get my car washed.
After dinner, I took a walk, and when I got back, my fly was open.
D-day plus 14 198 mles 42.88 mpg San Diego, CA
I sure took my time getting going this morning.
First, I slept in.
Next, I went out for breakfast.
Then, I bought supplies.
I took my time packing, and by the time I got going, it was 10:30, and 103 degrees.
For breakfast, I went to Brownie’s diner, winner of Yuma’s Best Diner award 5 years running. Overrated. When I want soggy hash browns, I’ll let you know.
I needed batteries, because my keyboard is dead. (Yesterday’s post was poked out letter by letter on a touch screen)
And I needed a bungee, so my butt donut would stay put.
Today the road was way too straight and way too fast. ‘Interstate,’ they call it.
West across the desert during a hot spell. Suicide. I was stopped twice by the border patrol, who did nothing but look at me and wave me on. (Good thing, too!)
I took 98 to Calexico and it all looked peaceful and calm and prosperous to me. What, exactly, did you say all the fuss was about?
I got gas and a Gatorade in El Cajon. I parked in the shade, and the attendant came out and told me I can’t park there, so I moved.
I almost got killed on the freeway!
I finally got to Wendy’s place and we rearranged the garage, removed the luggage boxes, and tucked the bike inside so it wouldn’t be towed for being parked in violation of neighborhood rules.
We had a good talk and a good dinner.
After dinner, we did not take a walk. Sad.
D-day plus 15 zero miles
Wendy is an early riser, and I got up second. There was coffee, but I didn’t know it.
Last night, I let Toby the cat check me out on his own terms, and this morning, while I read, he was on a mission to learn more. I let him sniff me, and he let me brush him. “I’ll have him in my lap in no time,” I thought.
To celebrate my safe arrival, we’re going to go Out for breakfast. To McDonald’s. I’d like to say I held my tongue, but I might have said something like “What?!?” In the end, we went to IHOP, and I had the ‘Over 55 combo plate, over hard.’
They have a camper-trailer, and there was … something wrong with it. We drove to the storage lot where he keeps it, hoping to figure it out and fix it. Their camper is supposed to unfold, at the push of a button, like an origami flower, and inside is a pretty nice room. But nothing happens when you push the button, so we traced it down to the actuator and took it out. It turns out to work better without it. Problem solved!
Dad and Jackie came to dinner, and it was a pretty sombre affair. It sounds terrible, but I think we all need a stiff drink or pick-me-up before these occasional family get-togethers. Maybe it would make us less grumpy.
After dinner, I looked down on the street from 4 stories up, and thought about taking a walk, but didn’t.
D-day plus 16 zero miles
I like it when there’s fresh coffee in the coffee pot when I get up.
I poured myself a cup and then settled in with my kindle and started reading where I left off 2 weeks ago. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I went back and re-read the last chapter. Now I remember!
Toby helped me read, and was leaning against me while I worked him over. I predict that, tomorrow morning, Toby’s going to be in my lap.
I borrowed a car and drove to Escondido for an inspection tour, and I must say, Redwood Terrace, where Dad lives, is a pretty ritzy place. White tablecloths and polite staff. Clean walkways, pleasant surroundings, and covered parking. Not exactly my cup of tea, but pretty nice.
Dad wants his sewing machine to go slow when he floors the pedal.
He’s got the instruction book.
He’s got the page titled ‘How to slow the machine down’ folded over and bookmarked.
And he says he can’t get it to work.
OK, well I’m here to help, so I followed the instructions, and it worked fine, and Dad brightened up and told me “write down how you did it”.
After dinner, we went for a walk, and I learned how urban growth can run amok in the nicest possible way, right in your neighborhood.
D-day plus 17 151 miles about 42 mpg
First, I forgot my helmet.
Then my headlight was out, and I had to promise I wouldn’t ride in the dark before Gary would let me leave. Twenty minutes later, I was driving on I-5 at breakneck speeds, surrounded by weaving cars and trucks. I opted out at the first opportunity. I got on Rte 1 and, at first, it was 3 or 4 stop lights. Then it was 4 or 5 more. Stop and go, the whole way. I rode thru the business district of every town from San Juan Capistrano to Santa Monica, and then I googled the cheapest Motel that’s near the place that’s going to change my tires tomorrow. They put me on hold and never picked up again, but I headed over there anyway because … it’s really cheap. Plus, the route over there was Sunset Boulevard. Who doesn’t want to ride on Sunset Boulevard?
So I snagged a room right on the corner of Hollywood and laBrea, moved in, and took a walk. I scoped out the approach for tomorrow’s visit to Thunder Road Motorcycles, and I was sweating when I got back.
I was cooling down in my room and my window was like a one-way mirror onto the Hollywood Blvd sidewalk. Tons and tons of people were walking by and, I thought to myself, maybe I ought to take another walk.
I googled where I was and – Holy shit! – I’m two blocks away from the epicenter of Hollywood. The Chinese theatre. The wax museum. The street performers. The whole 9 yards. I had no idea.
So I took a walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
I was starving, and I bought some street food, and I held it in my hand for a few blocks before realizing there’s no place to eat it. So I backed in between 2 pillars in front of Ripley’s Believe it or Not and ate my sausage and onions and watched the people walk by.
I’m sure I looked homeless.
D-day plus 18 92 miles 38.7 mpg
I woke up sore. I took a lot of walks yesterday, so I should take it easy today, right?
I didn’t have a choice. Thunder Road doesn’t open till 11, so I had to kill some time, and I took a walk. I went to the Herbarium and then to Starbucks, where I had a healthy breakfast. I took my food and drink to an empty table, sat down, and started enjoying it, when an old lady walked up in a huff, pointed at me and said “I was sitting there.”
”What? Huh? Whoa!” I said. (What does this mean in the native dialect?)
I smiled and pointed at the other chair, on the other side of the table and said “Well by all means, have a seat.”
She left in a huff.
By then, it was late, so I dropped the bike off and … took a walk.
Santa Monica Boulevard has something for everyone and everything for someone. Diversity does not begin to describe it. There are rules. Eye contact is strictly verboten. Speaking is prohibited, though grunting is allowed. Scooters do whatever they want.
It was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
I kept walking and picked up my bike. The new tires look awesome. Now to get them to Vermont.
I was putting the luggage back on, and the mechanic comes out, wiping his hands on a rag. “Nice bike,” he says.
“Yup” I says. “I’m a long way from home.”
”You were three quarts low on oil, you know.”
”What? Huh? Whoa!” This thing only holds 4 quarts, and it’s been running really good. I changed the oil in New Mexico 900 miles ago, and if I’m losing that much oil, then I’ve got a problem. But I think the mechanic over-shot the viewport with a little too much oil, and then kept pouring it in, just like I did in Colorado. Three quarts is a lot of oil, and maybe that’s why today’s mileage sucked.
My business was done.
I backtracked on Sunset Boulevard, took a right on US-1 and left LA.
It was already 2:00, so I just want to get to Santa Barbara. I stopped on a beach that was lined with RVs instead of cars. It was a beautiful day, so most of the RV people were hiding inside their RVs. I sat on a rock and watched the wind and the waves for awhile.
Holy crap! Have you seen the price of a motel room in Santa Barbara? I was in Carpinteria, googling, and I decided to just stay In Carpinteria. Even here, the cheapest room is not cheap. It just seems cheap when the WiFi gets hung up.
I went to dinner at the local Mexican joint. It was chuck full.
After dinner, I took a walk, and I was worried that the headlight wouldn’t work, because it was dark, and I had to drive home. It worked.
D-day plus 19 284 miles 31.2 mpg Marina, CA
The first thing I did was go to the nearest garage and borrow an oil pan and drain some oil to make sure there wasn’t too much of it. There wasn’t. In fact, it was low.
OK! So finally, I have a real, live, serious problem. One that could derail the whole trip. How am I going to dig myself out of this one?
I went to a coffee shop and bought some breakfast, took it to an empty table, sat down, and started enjoying it. Nobody bothered me.
I went to an auto parts store and bought 3 quarts of oil.
I couldn’t bring myself to get on 101, so I took a route that took me over the mountain. Lots of twisty curves, construction detours, vistas, mountain passes, fields, main streets and wrong turns. I figure if the engine is going to die, then it should die in a happy place.
It didn’t die, but my mileage took a dive and sometimes, it’s slow to start.
It is definitely sick.
I’m guessing it’s the rings, which would not be good.
I think the desert didn’t help, but I’m the problem. Highway speeds in record heat made them leak just a little, and when I failed to check it for 3 days, a little added up to a lot. That was dumb.
Bottom line is that I’m getting about 32 mpg instead of 44, but the bike seems to run fine.
I know what you’re thinking.
I made it to Lompoc, and San Luis Obispo and the elephant seal beach. There were no bathrooms at the gas stations, and no seals on the beach. I gassed up at the very last minute, and then headed up the coast. I made it to Big Sur with gas to spare (not much) and then found not one, but two houses named 4072 Broadway. One of them had fresh cookies waiting for me. Kirsten and Eric and I had dinner, conversation and a tour.
I did not take a walk.
D-day plus 20 250 miles 39.9 mpg Ukiah, CA
I did enough chores in the morning that, if we had had a chores-for-shelter arrangement, it would have been win-win all around.
I packed and I checked my oil. It was good.
What??! How can it be ‘good’ when it was down 3 quarts 2 days ago? I’ve been trying to re-construct how this oil fiasco happened, and it’s looking more and more like someone didn’t add enough oil when he changed it in Silver City. But that’s impossible. Who could be that stupid?
Anyway, the bike seems to be repairing itself. The mpg is back up, and it’s not burning much oil. It runs good. Fingers crossed.
Kirsten likes to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. No surprises. She suggests I get on 280 by the shortest route, and then stay on 280. Booooo-ring!
My plan was to get gas in Santa Cruz and then head up route 9. Over the mountain and through the woods.
So I took the rte9 turnoff and looked for gas. No gas to the right. No gas to the left. No gas anywhere! I rode in circles, looking for gas. No gas. I finally pulled out google maps and got gas. Sad.
Once I got gas, 9 took me to the top, and 35 took me along the ridge, where you can see down both sides of the mountain at once. I spent 2 years at Stanford, and never biked up to the top. Sad.
Half-Moon Bay. Pacifica. San Francisco. City traffic. Golden Gate. Freeway traffic.
Get me outta here.
I went North, but took a detour for ice cream. I ate it in the shade in a park. I googled hotels a little ways north and decided to just drive and figure it out later.
It’s after dinner, and I haven’t taken a walk yet.
D-day plus 21 118 miles 36.3 mpg 4844 miles to date. Willits, CA
I had chores to do.
Chore #1 was to change my oil. The sixth store I went to had the oil filter I needed, so I bought 2 of them. I bought a big cake pan to catch the oil, set it all up in the parking lot, and pulled the plug. The plan was to draw off a little oil, put the plug back in, and dispose of the oil. The oil and the plug were hotter than they should have been, and I couldn’t get the plug in the hole, and I fumbled it into the rising pool of hot oil in the cake pan and watched helplessly, and in slow motion, as the oil filled the pan and overflowed onto the hotel parking lot. Nobody spoke much English, but the maid gave me rags to clean up with. I totally fucked that up, and I wrote them an apologetic card this evening.
Chore #2 was to do my laundry. I put a $five in the machine and it was like hitting the jackpot in slots when all the quarters came out the bottom.
By then it was afternoon, and I rode over the mountain, had some ice cream, and came back by a different route. I was googling at a gas station and the town hobo walked his bike over and started asking me questions and giving advice. When the town hobo tells you the Pine Cone Motel is the cheapest one, then that’s where you go. And when the proprietor tells you to go to the Lumberjack for dinner, then that’s where you go. And that’s why, instead of enchiladas, I had a salad with grilled chicken for dinner.
And after dinner, I took a walk.
D-day plus 22 161 miles 41.9 mpg 5005 miles to date. Arcata, CA
Big day. I went to the post office and mailed my abject apology card. I went to a hip coffee bar for coffee and a bagel. Too many man-buns.
I took the skunk train up the hill and back. I remember I did this when I was about 5 years old and Mark brought home a stuffed skunk that he called Unkie and slept with. It seemed more exciting back then. It was slow, smooth, choreographed, and it wasn’t steam. But hey! Who doesn’t like a train ride?
Next stop: big trees. Avenue of the Giants.
Yup, they’re big, all right. I dare say they are the biggest trees I ever saw. It was nice to drive slow and in the shade.
I tried to walk the 0.52 mile Founders Trail, but my ankle was hurting from Carpinteria, so I turned back. And this was a handicap-accessible trail, mind you.
By now, it was waaay after noon. I headed north as fast as I could go. It’s cold up here! I got to Arcata and parked myself in the cheapest motel money can buy. I can tell you this about this motel: It sets a new record. It appears to be 2 blocks from the epicenter of Humboldt State’s drop-off weekend and there are lots of moms and dads eating out with big boys and girls. I scoped out the neighborhood and there are 3 Mexican places within 4 blocks, but I couldn’t face another plate of enchiladas and went to the Stars burger joint instead.
After dinner, I took a walk. I went a couple random blocks and my sidewalk turned into a road, and a guy in a car called out to me “Hey, you know where J street is?” I told him I really don’t, sorry. So he kept driving in the direction I just came from and by the time he figured out it was a dead end, u-turned, and drove back up, I’d walked to the same corner and I was waiting for him with google maps in my hand. “The cannon,” he says. “I’m looking for the cannon on J street.” That way,” I said. “One block.” So he drove that way and it was another dead end! WTF? By the time he drove back up, I’d figured out the problem, and I pointed in the last remaining direction. “That way. One block” The third time’s the charm.
D-day plus 23 344 miles 45.7 mpg 5349 miles total. Roseburg, OR
It was a travel day. A lot of hours on the bike. I thought today was finally going to be the day when I ran out of gas. I took rte 96, which runs 155 miles without a gas station. At 40 mpg, my tank should get me 140 miles, so there’s a sporting chance that I’ll make it. Or not. (This is why I carry extra gas) I made it just fine, though.
I took I5 and 99 into Grant’s Pass, where it was 96 degrees out, yet the ice cream place was deserted. What is wrong with these people?
When you get gas in California, it’s Man vs Machine. Me. Card. Pump. Simple.
When you get gas in Oregon, there’s an attendant. You tell the attendant everything you would normally tell the machine, and the attendant taps it all into the machine for you. And pumps the gas for you too.
After a little more I5, I ended up in Roseburg, in a cheap hotel. I was hungry, but my eatery was chuck full, so I took a walk before dinner, thinking the crowd would thin out by the time I got back. The plan was to walk thru the park and then circle back on main roads, but I found out you can’t do it without walking on the freeway. I retraced my steps and by the time I got back, my eatery was closed. My choices were down to a national chain or Ernie’s Diner, and Ernie made me the worst Reuben on the face of the earth.
D-day plus 24 212 miles 40.9 mpg 5561 miles total. Portland OR
Sure, I could take the interstate and make it quick. Naturally, I took an alternate route, and it took me all day to get here.
Ella & Co were just getting back from their own outdoor adventure, and wouldn’t get much of a chance to sort themselves out before I was supposed to show up, so I killed time in a bookstore before showing up fashionably late. I haven’t been in a bookstore since I got a kindle. Powell’s is a good book store.
Ella and Dan and Eileen gave me a warm welcome, ice water, a quick tour, really good food, a place to sleep, hot water, a couple of strong drinks, and a piece of their minds. What a nice hotel!
D-day plus 25 415 miles 44.3 mpg 5976 miles total. Ontario OR
I didn’t get checked out until 10 o’clock, but who’s counting? The route to the freeway is said to be tricky, so I followed E&E to the turnoff and, in no time flat, I was lost. I’d written down ‘Turn right after crossing the river’, when I meant the second river. I un-lost myself and carried on.
I took 14 all the way to 82. The Columbia river gorge. A really nice ride, with an 82 mile stretch between gas stations. when I got to the ‘last chance to top off’ point, I had a full tank minus 35 miles, and I figured “I can do it” and I kept driving. Well mileage is a funny thing. Some days it’s good, some days it’s not, and today it was not. The gauge bottomed out with 10 miles to go, and I could see that the last thousand yards to the gas station was a bridge, where there’s no shoulder where I could pull over if the gas finally gave out within sight of the gas station. So I panicked, turned the gas lever to ‘reserve’, drove over the bridge, and gassed up. Like a duck on a pond, making it look easy.
By around 5, I was getting drowsy at the wheel, and I needed to either quit or have a Starbucks iced double-shot espresso and drive one last leg. 78 miles later, even though I‘m still in Oregon, I’m on mountain time, so instead of 7:45, it’s 8:45, and there’s only one eatery that’s open. Finally, 26 days into the program, I had a locally made craft beer. It was good.
And after dinner, I took a walk.
D-day plus 26 456 miles. 46.4 mpg Evanston, WY 6432
What kind of a coffee house serves terrible pastries? I’ll never go to that coffee shop again!
The oil was a little low. Not too bad, but I’ll keep an eye on it.
Today’s plan was to put some miles behind me, and today, it was all interstate. It doesn’t scare me like it used to, but I still don’t like it. Quite by accident, I grazed into Utah, So now I’ve been in every western state but Nevada and Montana. It was a long day.
After dinner, I took a walk, and I think I walked right thru the middle of a crime scene.
I just kept walking.
D-day plus 27 471 miles 51.2 mpg Lusk, WY 6903
I did my laundry while I enjoyed my complimentary coffee, and I walked around a little. The building is all bricks and steel, and would be really easy to turn into a prison. Lock him up!
There is nothing good about southern Wyoming. It is a desert, and it is huge. Okay, OK! I got it! Huge. Desert. I think we’ve covered that. Now let’s move on, shall we?
I just rode all day long. Four tanks, and 100 miles/tank. Then I decided to do one more leg that would bring me into the town of Lusk, at dusk. My timing was perfect, but my headlight, which has worked fine all this time, decided not to shine, and I really shouldn’t have been on the road toward the end.
I went to a truck stop for dinner because it was late, it was nearby, and it was open. It was bad. The food was fine, but the vibe … the vibe hits you the moment you walk in and nobody looks up. You seat yourself and nothing happens. And then you finally order a burger, medium rare, and the waitress goes into a spiel about bacteria in undercooked beef. Maybe they know something I don’t know, but we’re never going to find out, because they cooked my burger right straight through.
After dinner, I did not take a walk. But there’s still time …
D-day plus 28 250 miles 41.5 mpg Wall, SD. 7153 mi
So I took last night’s walk this morning instead. I walked into town and bought 5 quarts of oil at the auto parts store, and then walked to the supermarket and bought a turkey roasting pan. ‘Are you going to deep fry a turkey?’ you ask? Nope. I’m going to change my oil.
The first 2 times I changed my oil, I made a mess of it. The third time, I decided, would be the charm. First, I made sure the roasting pan was plenty big. Next, I made sure the oil wasn’t hot. Make sure you get rid of all the grit before you put the cover back on. And be sure to do the work in a remote part of the parking lot. If you do all that, then surely nothing can go wrong. Right?
Before I answer that question, let me just say: I have made all 5 of those mistakes already in the first 2 oil changes.
The Crazy Horse monument is the only “place” I really wanted to visit on this trip, and it’s only a hundred miles up the road. I was there in 1980, when I drove east, and I wanted to see what’s changed in 40 years. Back then, the road was dirt and the gift shop was part of the house. Now, it’s 4 lanes with toll booths and a museum complex.
Mt Rushmore was right down the road, so even if you don’t care to see it, you can’t avoid it. Five covered parking garages!! I ditched and headed for the nearest twisty road. As near as I can tell, they built rte 16A just to prove that they could do it. It doesn’t go anywhere that other roads don’t go, there is nothing on it but nature, and the terrain is so rough, it’s easier to build a corkscrew than a switchback. It was fun.
I got behind some traffic, and the trailer in front of me was smoking rubber on the right hand side. Really bad. So I pulled out into oncoming traffic, matched his speed, pulled close, tapped on his window, and yelled “your tire’s on fire!”
I’m kidding. I tailed him to the next stop sign, tapped on his window and …
I got to rte 79 and mapped out a route. In Hermosa, the roads start with first avenue and peter out after second avenue. I wanted to ride on 160th avenue, which exists all by itself out in the middle of nowhere. It turned out to be a dirt road that starts and ends far from pavement. In a place called “The Badlands.” This didn’t sound like a good idea to me either, but how else am I going to get to civilization? So I rode slow and took it easy, and lived to tell about it.
I wouldn’t exactly call Wall, SD ‘civilization.’ Home to Wall Drug, and a popular pit stop on the I90 corridor, it is Wall to Wall kitsch – so to speak – but a good place to get gas and some rest. The ‘saloon’ where I ate had a Local IPA on draft, but it tasted funny. So did the water. And don’t get me started about the food and the waitress.
I give Wall, South Dakota a big fat zero. But I’m glad I came.
D-day plus 29 357 miles 32.8 mpg Worthington, MN 7510 mi
I’m done with South Dakota, but South Dakota is not done with me.
I woke up at 8, and then pretended I hadn’t. Where am I? I worked through a few flashbacks and decided that, when I opened my eyes, I should be in Wall, SD.
I opened my eyes. Wall, SD. Good. No. Bad. Get me out of here.
Main Street was already packed, and rain clouds filled the sky. Last time it rained was a thunderstorm in New Mexico, and I got wet. This time, I fixed those mistakes and I still got wet. My jacket is only waterproof if you fasten all the fasteners, so a tiny bit of water got in and soaked my shirts and made me cold. So I put on my spare shirt – over the wet one. Bad idea. I ended up twice as bulky and just as wet.
Then my socks got wet. No matter what Zappos tells you, my shoes are not waterproof.
Then I ran out of gas. I wasn’t paying much attention, because I only had 80 miles on the tank, and when I noticed the \E on the gauge I took the next right. It sputtered up the ramp and died at the stop sign. I put it on Reserve and limped to a gas station. 28.3 mpg! What just happened? Does rain do that to mileage? Or is there something wrong with the bike? I have no idea, but I’m proceeding cautiously.
The rest of the day, the mileage went from 28 to 27 to 31 to 44, while the rain went from wet to dry. I hope it’s as simple as that.
So I was cold, wet, worried, and unhappy all day long. I took the cheapest room in town, and the only eatery in walking distance is a Mexican bar/restaurant/grocery/liquor business, all rolled into one. I had enchiladas, of course.
After dinner, I walked back from the restaurant, and I called it a walk.
D-day plus 30 424 miles 37.6 mpg Janesville, WI. 7934 mi
Get up. Get going. It’s raining, so get dressed.
I googled bakeries, and headed for 10th and fifth, where there’s a Mexican bakery/restaurant/grocery, all rolled into one, and ate 2 cookies and glumly watched it rain. The weather report calls for a 50% chance for most of the day. Who you gonna believe, weather professionals or your own lyin’ eyes?
So I gassed up and hit the road. My shirts were dry. My fasteners were fastened. My pants were up, and my gloves were layered over my sleeves. I was ready for rain.
The rain stopped. The road started out wet, but got better. If it hadn’t been so dreary, it would have been a nice day, but no day is a nice day on the interstate.
My mileage sucked again, but I have a new theory about what could be the problem. It seems to be a first-tank-of-the-day problem, and it started happening when I went North. I think I’m getting condensation in the gas tank overnight, and it takes a tank to burn it off.
I stayed on I90 all day long. Allll. Daaaay. Loonng.
I cashed in on $67 in ‘points’ from hotels.com. I crashed in one of the nicer economy hotels. Generally speaking, Motel6 beats Super8.
D-day plus 31 155 miles 40.1 mpg Ludington, MI 8089 mi
I’m late. I was supposed to be home by now. What was I thinking?
As long as I’m here, I might as well take the ferry, which is the biggest steam powered piece of equipment in daily use in the world. So wouldn’t you think that, for a fee, they’d let you watch the pistons rise and fall? Nope. There was beer and bingo, though.
The ferry ride took all day, and I was suddenly transported to the land of milk and honey. A new time zone. Many motels on Main St. Gas. Several ice cream joints, and it was quitting time anyway. This seemed like a good place to stop.
I checked in and then stepped out for food. My first choice was closed. My second choice was closed. Eateries were closing up right and left. If I want to eat, I better get ‘er done. Well this place I picked could have been good, but wasn’t. There were no anchovies, they were out of chicken, and the shrimp worked out to $2 apiece. Plus, the server was a piece of shit. They had really good beer, though.
Before and after dinner, I walked.
D-day plus 32 336 miles 45.7 mpg Fremont, OH 8455 mi
For all the effort I put into it, I didn’t get very far today. Better route planning would help, but the real problem is that I get started late. I know how to fix that, but I’m not sure I want to.
And traffic. There is nothing worse than gritting out a backed up lane reduction, only to see zero human construction workers in the work zone.
I ended up in Fremont, and there is the usual cluster of hotels near the exit, plus a few others. Going by reviews, I picked the Great Lakes Motel, which looked pleasantly seedy from the road. The parking lot is empty. The owner is away. There’s a kid with a key who doesn’t know how much it costs, can’t do credit cards, and can’t give me a room key until the owner gets back. Perfect.
There are two eateries within walking distance. One is a Dairy Queen, so I went to the other one, which was a bar that had food. A bar with zero beers on tap. And when I asked “Well then, are any of your bottled beers made in Ohio?”, She said “I don’t fucking know.” So I had “what he’s having” instead.
D-day plus 33 344 miles 46.76 mpg Buffalo, NY 8799 mi
I got up early and didn’t fart around much, so I was on the road early, and I was doing fine until I got too close to Cleveland. Cleveland has its own gravity, and once you get too close, it sucks you in, you get disoriented, and it’s hard to get out of. It took me until 2 o’clock to get out of Cleveland.
Once I got going, I managed to get to the other end of Lake Erie. These lakes are big!
This next part, I debated whether I should even write this down, because it paints me rather poorly. Consider:
I needed to decide where to quit, so I made a reservation and then rode straight toward it. It was getting darker sooner than I thought and traffic was worse than I thought, so pretty soon, it’s getting dark and my headlight still doesn’t work and I’ve got another mile to go and I’m nervous and frustrated and I get to the motel and it’s an abandoned building, with the super8 sign papered over and nobody inside! God damn it! Stop the sunset!! So I whipped out my iThing, pulled up plan B, gunned the motor, and made a straight run 1/2 mile up rte-5 in the dark, and timed so no other traffic was behind me. I snagged a room at an economy motor court and I’m safely off the road. Whew! So now I’m hungry, and I’m walking to an eatery and I see, across the road, a lit sign for the super8, and it’s on the other side of the same building as I was swearing at 30 minutes ago! Apparently, I panicked, went into fixit mode, and didn’t do a diligent job of sizing up the situation. Bad. Very bad.
So finally, we can say: “Neither rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this courier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds.”
After dinner, I just walked back to my room. I took my time.
D-day plus 34 271 miles 48.6 mpg Old Forge, NY 9070 mi
According to Google maps, it takes 3 hours and 46 minutes to get from where I was to where I am. According to my watch, it took about 8 hours. I went to Walmart and bought socks, because I’ve already worn this pair twice, and I’m only a day from home. I’m out of underwear too, but I’m going to go commando. “Try it, you’ll like it.” I hope.
I detoured into town looking for a bakery and ate one goodie on a bench on Main St and another goodie on a beach on a lake. Too sweet.
I stopped for gas and directions and breaks, over and over. Pretty soon, you’re talking 8 hours!
There were dark clouds in the sky when I got started, and they were moving east. At one point, I was staying warm by staying in the sun by riding behind a cloud’s moving shadow. The sky looked really bad by 4:00, and I needed to get a little farther so I can get home tomorrow. Should I put on rain gear? What if there’s no gas or motel where I think they are? What if it gets dark and I’ve still got no headlight? Am I finally going to camp out for the night?
Nope. Everything went exactly according to plan. I didn’t get wet. It didn’t get dark. I got a cheap motel with a back door on a lake, and I had wings and a salad at the only open eatery in town.
After dinner, I took a walk. The deer here fear nothing.
D-day plus 35 201 miles 40.1 mpg Morrisville, VT 9271 mi
I make it a point to avail myself of the free continental breakfast when there is one. It’s usually pretty bad, and I always google bakeries in the morning. Today, there was one just around the corner, and I scored myself a fresh donut, which I enjoyed very much.
Last night, the town was totally dead. Totally! This morning, I asked the hotel about it and they said they are totally booked for tonight. Totally! So if I had come through one day later, I might have been camping after all. Some times, my luck seems to be just a little too good.
It was a beautiful day to ride and I crested a hill on NY185 and Vermont was spread out in front of me. It felt good.
106 gas refills
27 nights in 26 motels.
8 visits with real live people
Some 30-odd walks in 30 towns.
Zero French fries.
When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
The bike did not break down.
I kind of wish it had, just to spice it up a little. “How’s he going to wriggle out of this one?”
It got me where I wanted to go, and the mechanic in me feels really good about it.
I did a lousy job at maintenance. There’s no good excuse for letting the oil get low. And someone ought to give that man a ticket for riding with a broken headlight.
I was lucky.
I brought waaay too much stuff. I never touched:
My extra gas
My sleeping bag
My first aid kit
Half my clothes
Skin cream, spare visor, lantern, food stash, … you name it.
I never touched about half of my stuff.
When I look back, my walk in Mountain View, Missouri stands out. Walking around this crumbling, abandoned town, reading the signage, peering into storefronts, I couldn’t help but wonder if there isn’t some way to make America great again.
Would I do it again?
Next time, I’ll make sure to have a comfortable seat and some kind of cruise control.
Next time, I’ll come up with a better list of ‘places’ to visit.
Next time, I’ll take someone with me.
Next time, I’ll know what I’m doing.
Next time, it’s Commando all the way.