"Maybe you should try to sleep in a bit tomorrow. Getting up at 6AM is too much all at once cold turkey like you're doing." Yun said trying to emulate some compassion for his road weary companion who against all odds had managed to arise unprodded promptly at 6AM after having gotten up at 5AM the previous day. He was not looking all that good.
"No, I'm really going to try to get up at 6AM every day on this trip and do it Yun style, full frontal assault, no complaining." I replied stating my intention firmly that I was going to experience morning with a resolve not unlike a vampire who has finally decided end it all by walking out to see the sunrise.
"Yun style?" he asked, "well then, it'll need to include constant complaining!" he replied with a wry smile. "You'll have to complain about everything!"
He has a point. There's never mistaking a moment where Yun is uncomfortable due to one or another thing. And since he is constantly slightly uncomfortable I hear a constant stream of reminders about this over the intercom.
"So this is how it's going to be?" I would ask more often than not. The answer each time is always the same.
"Yes, of course!"
And the stream of "information" (It's too hot. I don't like the road this bumpy. It's raining! Look squirrel!) continues unabated throughout the day.
"I try not to complain." I said with a smile.
We had gone to bed reasonably early. I tried to write but pretty much passed out during the effort. Yesterday had been a hard day. For today we had the best intentions of getting up early, which we did, to go ride the Dragon a few times before needing to check out, which we didn't. We walked to breakfast promptly at 6:30, figuring we could be out by 7, as Yun filled me in on yet another thing that was causing him some discomfort, "My hair is too long so it sticks out from under the helmet when I ride and it's so annoying."
"So this is how it's gonna be?"
We walked to the restaurant and after all that effort to get up, we all have our petty challenges after all, we saw that it was closed. The front desk told us that it wouldn't open until 7:30. We spent the interim planning our route for the day and thought that maybe we could make it out to Russellville, Arkanas until we saw that it was over 600 miles away and, since we were going to spend a good part of the day on the Dragon working on Yun's cornering, there was little chance of making it.
The restaurant eventually opened and we had ourselves a rather excellent breakfast. Fontana Village Resort really is rather nice. Once we had our fill and were ready to go we began to move with a purpose. Sunday morning's, we thought, would prove a good time to run the Gap. But then we noticed to our dismay.
It was raining. It was a steady soacking rain that clearly was not going to stop. It was decided to give up on our goal of running the Dragon and just pack up the bike. Yuns' tires were low so I went out and in the steady rain pumped them up. I was good and wet by the time I was finished. We gathered the rest of our gear, put on our rainsuits and just as we were getting ready to leave, the rain stopped and the sun came out.
"I don't think it's going to rain anymore." Yun said optimistically. I just laughed and said, "It's definitely going to rain again." We kepts the suits on.
I really do hate rain suits, but it's simply too hot in the middle of the summer for my Transit Suit.
Unfortunately, I was feeling nigh on terrible. Something I ate the previous day really disagreed with me and I was truly miserable. So things went slowly.
We made our way to the Gap but there was a long line of very slow moving Harleys so we pulled off. The mist hanging over the water looked like fog yearning to be cloud.
And in some places, it seemed the mist, with the help of the mountain side, might just make it.
Once we arrived at the gap, I got coffee and sat around uselessly for a time while I tried to wait for whatever was ailing me to finally pass. I guess it wasn't too long, maybe 45 minutes, and we were finally able to get underway.
As we started our departure through the Gap to head towards Knoxville, the sun came out and it turned into simply a beautiful day. Because it had been raining all morning we pretty much had the entire road to ourselves. It would have been fantastic to stay longer but our sights were set on points West. I try to hold on to my wants loosely. I have not always been like this.
"It's close now." Yun said meaning riding 550 miles to come down here is not longer as far as it previously seemed. He's right. We can come back any time we want. There are other places to see that neither one of us has seen. "West it is."
The clouds initially looked like they were going to unleash on us but then it cleared. "I guess you were right after all." I told Yun over the intercom. It was starting to get rather hot.
This is the nature of rain suits. It rains. You do the roadside monkey dance to put them on. Then it stops raining, the sun comes out and you cook yourself alive. So you take them off, Then it rains. The process repeats itself.
We eventually made our way to I40 west and had lunch at a Waffle House. The next 550 miles would be nothing other than this superslab but once we got of Knoxville Yun said, "Despite being superslab, this is really nice." And it was. Lush green forest covered rolling hills so dense you could hardly see any man made structures. The sky also continued to be harshly dramatic. We could clearly see storms to our left, our right and ahead of us but where we were was nice and dry.
Eventually we passed a rider on a BMW F650GS. I waved as I passed him and, as is customary, he waved back. Shortly thereafter I noticed that he had formed up in our line staggered the way he should be. Over the intercom I told Yun, "If he follows us for a few hundred miles, don't let it freak you out. This is tradition. Riding alone often sucks and if you can find like minded riders, you'll often ride with them for quite a while never exchanging words." I've had it hapen that I've ridden a few hundred miles with others this way.
And that is exactl how it happened. the GS rider stayed back offset from Yun and just rode with us. At one point we got stuck behind a slow moving tractor trailer and a long line of fast moving cars we zipping by us on the left. I don't pass unless there is a large enough gap to accomodate me and who ever is following me. With this line of cars, there just wasn't space. The GS rider saw a small gap in traffic and pulled into the passing lane, but instead of passing us he slowed down and opened a gap for Yun and I.
Very cool. Duncan, Bruce and I do this kind of thing all the time but we've been riding together for decades. "You can tell a lot about a person by the way they ride." I mentioned to Yun.
We eventually pulled off to stop for a break. I pointed to the gas station sign hoping our folllower might join us and as fate would have it he did. His name is Danny and he's led quite the interesting life.
Danny is a former Special Force Medic, former Marine, former Motorcycle Officer. He's also very big into motorcycle training. Riding with him is a pleasure.
"How many miles have you ridden?" he asked me. "I really don't know, somewhere between 250K and 350K, maybe more. I'm not sure." "You're very smooth and controlled in your riding. I was paying attention" he said.
He had on this interesting neck brace that he showed us. He had apparently been in a very nasty accident 24 after he bought the thing and he attributes his surviving the crash to the gadget.
He did sustain some nasty injuries and he told us his short term memory is affected, but from what I can tell he remembers things a bit better than I do. This probably does not bode well for me. We took an extended break and talked. Chance meetings like this don't often happen. I found it interesting that he's military. All the guys I've enjoyed riding with the most have been military guys. There's something about the ethic, or maybe it's the philosophy, but military guys seem to focus on team. They make it easier to ride with them. They form up and fall in line. They work for the good of the teams. Gross overgeneralization based on too few a sample set? Yea, probably. But this is what I've seen.
Danny was heading to Missouri through the Ozarks. He asked us where we were going and when we mentioned the general area he suggested that we must see Eureka Springs. That's the fourth person that's suggested that. So we are now headed in direction Eureka Springs. We decided to ride together and so we did. We continued our 70 to 80 mile stops. I was still not feeling too great. At one stop, Yun pointed out a giant moth.
Interesting, there were columns of rain to our left and right but rarely where we were. At one point it did start raining pretty hard. I stopped under a bridge to put the tank bag cover on so my electronics wouldn't get wet. "Should be put on the rain suits?" Yun asked. "Nope. It'll stop soon and then we'd cook."
We rode off and it started to rain in earnest for about 10 minutes. "I should've put on the rainsuit!" I hear Yun exclaim over the intercom.
10 minutes later it stopped and we were riding under cool sunshine with impressive clouds.
Danny found a local place to have dinner on his GPS so we headed to a Mom and Pop style family restaurant. He talked about his military career and the things he had done. "They keep trying to profile the special forces guys. We are so expensive to train and the drop out rate is so high it's just an incredible waste of money. If they can figure out what makes us tick, they'd be able to narrow the search and lessen the drop out rate." He explained.
"What they've found makes guys successful in the Special Forces is being extremely goal driven. I always have a goal and I have to achieve it." he went on. "Once I was taking my wife for a ride down to Georgia. I like to arrive, set up camp, get everything in order and then I relax. I meet my goals. But on the way down we got caught behind this slow moving logging truck and there I was stuck doing 45mph for a long time. It was starting to really irk me but I wasn't about to pass. Too dangerous. So I decided to calm myself down and accept it."
"What's surprising is my wife said that was her favorite ride ever. If I had known that I would have been able to better capitalize on it and make it a better time. We could have stopped."
We talked for some time about goals and how we let achieving self imposed goals have an effect on our identy. "Sometimes I'll decide to ride 300 miles but when i get home I notice I'm a bit under so I'll pass the house just so that I achieve my goal. Now isn't that crazy?"
"When I travel on a motorcycle I try not to have goals. I have 'intentions'. I intend to go to Seattle but if I don't get there for whatever reason, it's not a big deal. I can turn around. I can be open to whatever happens on the road, like meeting you and having this ride together."
You never know who you are going to meet, when or where.
He's decided to join us all the way to Eureka Springs. My two travel companions are out cold and I'm obsessively achieving my goal of getting a post written.
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