Sunday, July 19, 2009

Riding in

Wake up, roll over, observe the lake falling from the sky amongst bangs of thunder.......screw it.....roll back over and go back to sleep. Finally get up and watch the weather maps for a bit, then find a break. Road like a bat out of hell between two storms, angry clouds in front and back. Roll into Buffalo late Friday night, and stop at Mighty Taco. So the over view: 13 states, 2737 miles, 5 days. And the big question is, Now What? After this trip I have decided that I will undoubtedly do it again, only when I have at least one other person with me and have a lot more time. So what do I do next? I've realized in a hurry that the list of crazy and seemingly impossible things to do in my life is getting rather short and I'd like to believe I still have a lot of life left. The first question I got when I came back....."its one hell of an accomplishment, how does it feel?" And honestly its not as amazing as one might think. When I pulled into the driveway I certainly laughed, thinking "I can't believe I actually just did that". And then the reality of "what next" sank in. There was a lot of time and mileage for reflection. One of those getting to know yourself experiences, and honestly I think I'm sure of less about life before I really gave myself a chance to think about it. One thing I am certain of: I took a trip in my truck down the street to use the ATM before Milt's stag party, and it just didn't feel right. Nothing about riding in an enclosed vehicle seems natural now. So now Buffalo for another week waiting for the wedding and then looking at the unknown again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 4

Up at 530am with the sun, thank you chirping bird. On the road by 630am, to goal for the day, Ohio. Eastern states are quick to go by, at least faster than the west coast. I believe someone told me that if you end up in another state on the west coast you meant to be there, while if you don't pay close enough attention on the east coast while driving you could end up in another state completely by accident. I suppose its kind of true. Today was Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, maybe a little of Ohio. Very easy riding. There was considerably more traffic that previous days, but the roads are kept up pretty well. There were a few points that the highway was closed and alternate routes were needed. Minor inconveniences, but it did allow me to spend some time riding along the Mississippi River which was a nice sight. Really nothing special about the day, other than the excitement is starting to wear off of the large trip and the new excitement is starting to settle in of "I've almost completed this". The only difficulty while driving came from a semi driver upset with the fact he was tailgating the car in front of him and they weren't speeding up, decided to merge into me. The car in front of me passed by his cab and he turned his signal on for one blink and immediately began to swerve even though I was right next to his door. I swerved to the left, over the white line but not off the road, while laying on the horn and opened up the throttle. I was able to safely speed by the engine as the car in front must have seen it and sped up as well to give me some room. When the semi driver noticed me he didn't alter speed but turned pale white with shock as I stood up and proudly awarded him the one finger gold star award for excellence in driving. He continued to stare blankly until the next rest stop where he pulled off and I lost sight of him. Afterward, it was just driving hard. It seems as though when you have a goal in mind or an area become familiar it takes, infinitely longer to get anywhere than if you just decide to go and see how far you get. But about 8pm I rolled into western Ohio and stayed with my brother Chris (TW). A nice dinner at a gourmet grilled cheese store/pub that really is pretty amazing, watching some typical punkish bands down town and then some much needed sleep and waiting for the storms that rolled in to pass over. I should eb able to make it to NY tomorrow (friday). Total today 716 miles.

Day 3

-The first state sign I have seen
-The sun setting over Adair, Iowa

Up and ready to roll about 830am in whatever time zone this is. Later than I wanted but still not bad. Within the first hour I had crossed the border into Nebraska. Hey look, clouds, haven't seen those in weeks. Everyone warned me, "Nebraska is long and flat and boring. Be careful or you'll fall asleep while riding" so I decide to do the smart thing and put my Ipod in one ear so I can still hear traffic but have some music going to entertain me. The headphones I had were borrowed and painful to have in with a helmet so I decide at the next stop I need gas, I'll pick up a cheap new set that fits me better. So I stop right at the state border, fill up the tank and wander into the store. There were two middle aged women working at the counter that eyed me up as I walked in. I greeted them asked if they had headphones and was laughed at "why would they be in this town?". Puzzled I mentioned to them that I was just passing through to which they both got excited about my first time in Nebraska and went on a 15 minute discussion between themselves about where I should stop along the way to see the sights. The ultimate conclusion was that I was incorrect when I needed headphones and instead my next stop would be in Sidney where I would go to Cabella's and check out the "really neat" wildlife display. I exit the store, paused for a moment to regain myself. After 15 minutes of smiling and nodding and sounding like a cop recording a statement of a UFO sighting, "ooooo......AHHHHH.....really?", I paused outside looked around wondering "what just happened" and then went about my way deciding I would not be making any more stops, other than for gas, that encounter was quite sufficient for me. So through Its was amazingly exciting. The process was about to repeat for a third time when something different happened, the car in front of me swerved wildly to the right. There is something laying in the crown. Red flags, warning sirens the works start going off. Alright options, swerve left....hit the car next to me; stay straight, buckle down and ramp it...potential of puncturing tires, having it pick up by the front tire get tangled destroying the bike and throwing me, losing control when the back tire hits; swerve right.....there may be enough room in the median for me to sneak by, loose gravel on one side means loss of control but it is well paved, worst case i loose control and skip into the grass, least possible damage to the bike and myself, we have a winner. So I swerve right, cross the line, cross the roll strip and just before I go off the road cut it back, Everything slows down, I see the front tire passing by the crown, and see the metal reinforcements shining out of the end of the tear watching it come close and....oh shit....THWANG. I"M HIT....the tail end of the bike hops sideways a few times, and just like from the movies text starts pouring over the inside of my visor with damage possibilities, the part of the bike that was hit flashing in red, required actions. Ok I am not in control....I'm sideways....what did Dale and Kathy (rider training instructors) say to do.....Clutch in, throttle down, downshift, gun throttle, swing hips while releasing clutch. The bike roared in disgust with the gear selection, the tire squealed as it regained the pavement, and everything went back on path as I threw my weight over. Pull over and think. Pulled over, first thing go back and pull the damn crown out of the road so no one else hits it. Next check me, boot is cut....hmmm minor at best but i need to take my helmet off, My heart is pounding so hard every time it beats I get choked by the chin strap. Now the bike....crash bars ruined....front tire and fenders fine.....all cables still connected....radiator/coolant lines protected by the crash So the crash bars did their job. To give a rough idea of the force of hitting this crown, the crashing which i talk about is a 1 and 1/4 inch chrome pipe that sits in the front of the bike to protect my legs/engine if i fall or hit anything. They were sitting about an inch in front of the foot pegs and have now been bent over 6 inches over top of my foot and shifter. Have you ever bent a chrome pipe? Its not easy. The next town thankfully had a Harley Davidson store. I had been stopping for gas but rode there to see their mechanic. He looked it over, chuckled and shared a story of when the same thing had happened to him many years prior. I wandered around the store as he did his best to beat the bars back to the shape they should have been in. When he finished it didn't' look all that bad. Frustrating to me because I can still tell the difference but the average person wouldn't notice. So now that I've calmed down, had a bite to eat, joked around with another rider, I'm back on the road and about an hour and a half later, crossing into Iowa. The rest of the ride was extremely smooth. I continued to Adair, Iowa; about 50 miles west of Des Moines. Parked at a rest stop and was impressed. The rest stop offered wi-fi connection, was beautifully built and landscaped, had interactive weather maps, and assortment of vending machines (ranging from coffee and juice to candy and sandwiches). And touch tv screens that allowed you to explore Iowa from the rest stop. The walls were covered with stories about agriculture, the loss of top soil, the creation of hybrid corn by Henry Wallace and other stories that it was very interesting to read. So as I waited I first pulled out my US map and layed it out. Within ten minutes there was a group of approximately 12 people around looking at the route I had taken listening to the stories I had so far, looking at where I was headed and how I planned to get there and taking turns to run out look at my bike and come back in and ask me questions and share their own stories. Everyone there had the same opinion, "I always wanted to do that". A few of the wives around commented about don't even think about it, and one gentleman, traveling home with his bike on a trailer went far enough to say "dammit woman, next year this is how we are traveling". So definitely a scary day overall, but with the landscape, and the people I've met, it was definitely the right decision. Nothing beats riding through and being able to tell the produce by the smell in the air. Total for the day 634 miles.

Day 2 Continued

Both are of a lake between Salt Lake City and Wyoming. Amazing blue water, red cliffs and green hills.....and amazing place to ride

After getting out of salt lake which was an adventure in itself the rest of the riding went very well. The state park north of Salt Lake City and the land into Wyoming is by far the most beautiful place I have ridden. The roads were very well paved and wide, the hills around the ski resorts were dark green with flowers in full bloom, there were red rock cliffs lining the road as I traveled farther north and breaking into Wyoming there were painted rock bluffs. I call them painted because I'm not entirely sure how to describe them, large rock cliffs and hills that were at least 5 different colors. It was certainly amazing, the only down side was the wind in Wyoming. Riding over rock bluffs and into valleys gave wind bursts that were literally like being punched. A few times I even had to push my helmet back so that it was facing forward. Looking back on it, the most interesting part of the day probably happened in the salt flats in Utah. The temperature was in the mid 80s, the wind was moderate compared to where I rode elsewhere and I have adjusted my backpack so that I could lean back on it and put my legs up on the crashbars for a little lounging while I drove. While doing this, pondering the ground looking like it was covered in snow from the salt; wondering if it could be ridden on, since there were tire tracks doing donuts in some places and tracks leading to pits where the vehicle undoubtedly got stuck in others; I was startled by a semi cruising by. When I say cruised by I had enough time to look over and see the back end of the trailer fly by. I regained my position because I was clearly doing too much day dreaming and not enough riding, so I looked at the trailer pulling ahead, leaned forward and checked my own spedometer........85mph? Hmmm.....tap spedometer, slow down, speed back up.....nope its responding, it must be right. At this point the semi trailer has gotten far enough ahead its just a spec on the horizon. I grinned slightly thinking "wow, he had to of been doing at least a semi.....hauling....wait a minute....." Recapping what I had a chance to see as it passed: Trailer construction means its a non-pressurized liquid; plackard on the back was bright orange = explosive; oh come on memory what where the numbers 3. 1? 3.2? eh doesn't matter its explosive either way and the code 033_ ugh, I didn't get all of that number either. What to I remember from class.......number starting with 033.......blasting agents. Now proud of my identifying skills and sad at the realization that I really am a nerd, the reality set in that I was just passed by a vehicle carrying several tons of blasting agents at over 100mph. Of course at that point I slowly let off the throttle, hit a cruising speed of between 75 and 80mph even though the "recommended maximum speed limit 85mph, minimum 60mph", sat back and waited for the mushroom could in the distance. Thankfully it never came but I was a lot more attentive to the cargo loads on the road with me after that. Other than that excitement, it was an uneventful ride into Laramie, Wyoming. As I didn't have a cowboy hat, the right kind of boots, a horse, or a wad of tobacco in my lip on my way to that there casino, I made a lot of friends in a hurry with people wondering who the new guy was. Despite being a college town, the locals seem rather surprised when someone new shows up. Total for the day 578miles.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 2

I left Wells, NV about 8am PDT. And am currently held up in Salt Lake City, UT. It been a very nice ride so far minus i've only gone about 200miles and its already 3pm GMT. Thank you construction and the highway being closed so me needing to find an alternate route. Nothing really special to report yet. Went through the Utah salt flats where they do all the racing to break the speed of sound and various other things of that nature. 50miles of the straightest flatest most boring rode you can imagine. The have a sign at the entrance giving how many have died there each year and have signs all along addressed to "drowsy drivers". So now I'll continue on and push as far into Wyoming as possible

Day One ends

-The one place I forgot to put sun block
-The desert hills outside Reno, Nevada
-The wooded Hills near Donner Lake, CA

Alright, I got caught in one of those "dead zones" from all the tv commercials. No phone service, no internet, some place called Nevada. Day one went well, it was certainly and interesting trip. I've gone approximately 560miles and spent the night at a Super 8 motel in Wells, NV. The ride was absolutely beautiful. Passing from rolling hills of California in the the wooded mountins on the CA/NV border then down into the desert around Reno and back into the mountins on the eastern half of NV. It shaping up to be the type of trip where you learn on the fly and fast. So that being said, lets recap on some of the lessons I learned. First, people are crazy. Nothing will make you more nervous than cruizing along and watching all the kids with parents fighting with the kids or people looking at maps while driving. I'll admit to doing a little more rubbernecking going through the mountains than I should have but at least I kept speed and stayed in my lane. Next, the will always be at least one great big "I TOLD YOU SO"......stupid sun screen. About half way through the desert I opened the throttle a little more to pass some tourists and realized my hand really hurts. Ah yes, the little half moon on the back of my hands where the glove latches and doesn't cover the bright purple with slight blistors. 2nd degree sun burns on the frist day.....I know I'm going to hear about this one......should have listened to the Claifornia Kid--->haha thats alliteration, because my grammar is sooooo gooder. Sorry everyone else inside joke. And I'll also apologize now for the constant change in tense. This is really a combination of what I think as I look back at it and what I was thinking at the time. So Aside from the sun screen, everything else was set for the trip, I just can't explain that lump in my stomach......wait yup its that nervous almost afraid feeling. Been a while since that was around, but the excited side and logical sides of my brain are going back and forth about the ride to Buffalo, and honestly leaving California is anything but easy after the past 10 days. After fighting with crazy CA drivers I broke into open construction. And honestly I don't care how much character cobblestone gives to the mountain trails, it is not ok for a highway. Coming from the hills into a complete wasteland of desert is rather misleading. You can see mountains in every direction and towns off in the distance but you don't realize those towns are probably 15miles away and the mountains are over 200 miles off. Really makes you feel like you aren't getting anywhere. Two hours of lonely driving in the desert, not even a semi around. Then civilization just doesn't seem so bad, even if it is the oh so welcoming townsfolk of a rundown albeit forgot place in the middle of Nevada with no phone service and no internet. Roll the motorcycle in the room, lock the door, and wait for the horror movie to start. The only other really fun thing of the day, was hitting a bird. Some small insect eating bird lives all along the highway in NV and one of them thought it wanted the bug right in front of my bike. Had about the same affect as a water balloon trying to go through a brick wall and looked about the same. I thought I was hallucinating because there was no thump or any noise but when I pulled over there was blood splattered from the front tire all the way up my pant leg. Bike 1 Bird 0. So sitting in the hotel I pull out the map to mark my progress. Talk about discouraging. Sounds great when you say a number but put it on a map so you can see how much is left and it certainly is humbling. Thats all for now, sleep and then repeat in the morning.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 1

On the road @ 10am PDT. North to Sacramento then east on I-80 until I stop.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My normal life

Alright the Internet has been down so I've been a little delayed. Things finally got back to exactly what I would expect for my life. The new gear I was planning on having for the ride back......nope. Wednesday I learned that the helmet was lost somewhere in Northern CA, the crash bars and windshield were sent to buffalo, and the chaps/leather/rain gear is on back order. This of course lead to a significant number of angry phone calls and an unbelievable headache from the easy to use customer support centers of various companies. This all lead to Wednesday being a complete bust. Little was accomplished, so we wandered on down to the Ale House. The small pub/eatery has an excellent location down town and a rather cozy atmosphere. They specialize in IPAs and other microbrews from the west coast, unfortunately the menu provides enough variety that the waitresses have a difficult time serving the right drink to the right person. Thursday was decided to be a touristy day in Monterey Bay. On the list was Cannery Row (from the book?), the Monerey Bay Aquarium, and then back to Livermore for more riding. The aquarium was impressive. Three full size tanks (probably the size of my house), two recreating habitats and a third for the sharks, several places to walk under or through displays(pictured), and even some demonstrations on the research being done there. Cannery Row......probably more interesting if I had read the book first.....or even known there was a book for that matter. There was however a Hello Kitty store next to an Alcohol/weapons/novelty store.....rather touristy connection I suppose? And then I'm drawing some blanks. That covers the main highlights of that day. Tuesday was also touristy, sorry for jumping around, the Internet has been out. Went back to San Francisco and viewed some other parts. Pier 39 and the Coit Tower (pictured) and getting a little lost down town were pretty much the accomplishments. Ran into someone that had actually been to Clarkson to watch hockey and met up with the former roommates younger sister for lunch. Spent some time watching the waves and the Art Arts (sea lions). We found the Coit Tower wandering down a small alley and then up what seemed like a few thousand stairs. There were some very nice apartments along the way though, in the neighborhood of a million dollars for a flat. The tower was breathtaking. Originally built as a Firemans memorial, it overlooks both the bay and the city, well worth the hike. Pretty sure that covers most of the past few days, so now its back to maintenance on the motorcycle.

2 days till rolling

Monday, July 6, 2009

Maiden Voyage

So yesterday (again I'm trying to catch up) was the first time I had a chance to sit down with the new motorcycle and get familiar with it. Changed the plates over, read through the manual to familiarize myself the with recommended transmission speeds and all the new buttons that weren't on the last motorcycle and then did the walk around. Lights....check.....horn....check....shocks....good.....fluids....good......breaks.....squeaky but, helmet, gloves, goggles, pants.....need pants.....pants...check.....lets roll. Started out in the street just playing with the clutch learning the catches, then around the block, then a few more side streets, then....where the hell am I? station, I'll stop there. Nice guys, so I sat around with them for a while and realized I was on the street I needed to be on for a longer ride outside the city. Hopped back on the bike and cruised through the vineyards and the golden hills to a place called Del Valle Lake. Absolutely amazing ride. Roughly 80 miles round trip. Met a nice gentleman that let me play with one of the gliders they were throwing off the mountain top. Then continued back towards the city. Very easy ride, no more than 60mph, but I'll be stopping by a service stop in the next few days for another lookover and a few additions. All's good so far.


A day or two late but an update none the less. I spent The fourth mostly traveling San Fran. It was quite the trip, though not quite what I would expect. Certainly a large city, but traffic and crowd was minimal to moderate at worst. It was certainly colder than I would have expected, I even had to resort to putting on a hoodie to protect myself from the wind and fog of the bay. I found the best view of the bay to be from "construction 129" which is an old gun fort that was built to house large cannons to protect the coast from the Soviets. From the top of this fort, there is hazy view of San Fran on one side (pictured) and mountains and the Marine Mammal Recovery center to the other (pictured). Went from there down the back roads, past the NIKE Missle sites and to the Recovery center. Then there was a picnic next to a the Exploratorium, a hands on science museum, and honestly who is shocked that I went there ;) This "city getaway" although right down town was absolutely gorgeous in layout and architecture (pictured). The museum was entertaining, more physics than chemistry but still entertaining. When it closed we ventrued back to Livermore, enjoyed a genuine 4th of July American meal of Chinese food, and wandered down to a park to watch the fireworks. All in all it was an excellent day. Certainly a change from the 4ths of the past (chalk up one point to the east in the east coast vs. west coast rivalry), but good company and good times so still a good decision.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Traveling/the first dayish

AH Flying. Arrived at the airport shortly after 6am and then went from Buffalo to to Vegas, Vegas to LA(outside) and then LA to Oakland. The flight only reaffirmed that I was meant to be on the ground. Minor flashbacks to Buffalo and then some "normal" turbulance followed by a pilot appology of "sorry forgot break after I hit the runway not before" lead to a nervous twitch from a white knuckle death grip that ripped the tray table off the table in front of me. At that point the stewardess, Candy, giggled and said, "how bout I get you a drink to help you relax", but we were on the ground so i calmly waled into the terminal with my bag and newly obtained tray table (that they didn't let me keep) and marveled over the trouism of Las Vegas. The trip from there was rather uneventful aside from the actors I met from LA, which was just a joy. I am currently held up in Livermore which is a nice area, structure wise similar to Tonawanda, NY, weather wise comparable to Hell. Spent the night on a minor tour of the area and then introducing myself to the new motorcycle and doing a few touristy things (I don't recommend the mago ice cream). The night was a nice quiet stroll back from the farmers market while the Livermore police pepper sprayed some guy on the ground, stopping only long enough to smile and give a casual greeting "good evening folks" Supposedly a rarity but I was the only one surprised by it. My first full day in the area was spent doing some touring and learning that the Livermore labs are the only government labs in the country that don't test on living things yet have their own morgue. Also learned some history of the area and did a little mountainbiking while discussing current research topics. Definately an interesting start. No motorcycle rides yet but I am waiting on the rest of the equipment to arrive so no real concerns there. All I've got for now.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Go West Young Man

Motorcycle has been delivered in Livermore, CA
New equipment: helmet, chaps, boots, vest, rain suit,.......sleeping bag
Navigation: 2 USA maps and a protractor

The plane leaves at 7:40am EST and should touch down in Oakland, CA @ 4pm EST, granted that I don't get distracted by the shiny lights on the lay-over in Las Vegas. The updated plan is to leave CA around the 12th of July and arrive in Buffalo approximately the 18th. I have purchased a map and will be deciding the ride back based on that and the weather. Each morning I will be marking how far I need to travel that day to stay on deadline and then try to find something between the start and end of the day that may be interesting. If anyone has suggestions you are more than welcome to send them to me.

Leave for CA in ~7hours