Day 5. I had gone to bed reasonably early and woke up early having slept fairly well. Being dry is a good thing. Most of my gear was dry by the morning, with the exception of the sleeping bag. I proceeded to pack everything on the bike. Menacing clouds were still present on the horizon. 20% chance of rain my ass. I headed over to a diner next to the Motel 6 for some breakfast. The waitress was very nice and gave me a booth where I could see the bike. She noticed how everyone who passed it seemed to stop and look at it. "Oh, now I see why you want to keep an eye on it". I told her the story of Duncan's bike. All the pretty women stop to gawk at Duncan's bike. My bike only gets the attention of old men. :)
When I went to start my bike after leaving the diner, nothing happened. It wouldn't turn over. On the second attempt the bike fired right up. I speculate that the starter motor or solenoid might be developing a problem due maybe in part to all this rain. Foreshadowing again?
I was intent on snapping a few required tourist photos in front of the Aerostich warehouse.
The actual entrance to the place is quite non-descript.
Having done my touristly duty I had did what any self respecting hard core long distance bmw rider would do .. I headed to Starbucks and wasted most of the morning idly staring into space.
I sat there a good while thinking about the stories the hardcore guy, Tom, had told me. 1000 mile easy days. Trips up the Dalton. I remembered how focused Dave from Chicago seemed to be on mileage. I used to be like that. I used to value numbers. I saw meaning in them. But right now, I really just want to sit and contemplate the sun poking through the clouds as if to tease me. "Sucker hole", I thought.
I sat at Starbucks musing about how hardcore I was, got myself a second cup when a bunch of silly white people walked in and sang/played an African funeral song. Apparently they had just finished some class on this.
It wasn't bad, but lacked any of the heart moving emotion that comes through when Africans, ones who have known true suffering and loss, sing. "Silly middle class fortunate white people, you just don't get it. This is not something that can be learned.", thinks the BMW rider to himself as he sips his $2 cup of coffee while checking text messages on his $300 droid. Close minded, short sighted and hypocritical of me? Maybe.
I decided that I would check out the waterfront. I saw on the GPS that there was a place called Canal Park. I had imagined a green grass covered "park" but it was more like Baltimore Inner Harbor. As the name implies, there's a canal leading off Lake Superior that flows under a really cool bridge.
I hung out for a few moments and then followed the GPS instructions to get out of dodge.
I have to admit Duluth, MN intrigues me. It seems like a very interesting town and is a place I would like to visit again. The waitress last night was telling me that it was the largest fresh water port town in the US and possibly the world. I could believe it. There's so much interesting architecture. The people are also very different from what I'm used to in DC. I don't know how to capture it in words. Somehow more open. More curious. Friendlier. A bit more rugged as if the too used to cold weather.
On the way out there were so many photos that I wanted to take but the highway prevented it. There was this one street that headed up a hill at an incredible angle. From the angle I viewed it it looked like something out of San Francisco.
On the way out of town I ran into construction and it began to rain. Strangely, I had no emotional reaction to this at all. I saw the drops on my faceshield and thought to myself "hmmm. I have seen this before. It is called rain". I pulled over to put the tank bag rain cover on and proceeded through the cold downpour completely undisturbed. The Aerostich Transit suit is completely water proof. I can't believe it.
I went through intervals of heavy rain for some miles. Passing tractor trailers was as challenging as it had been before. The road surface soaks up the water and then as the tractor trailers pass over it, the water gets pulled up into a fog like mist blocking any view of what's coming ahead. You pass them with blind faith. On a motorcycle, you also experience how aerodynamically challenged these beasts are. The air is so confused and disturbed around them that it shakes you to you core ... and then you pass them and you're back in smooth air being able to see in front of you.
Eventually the rain stopped. The highways in Minnesota are beautiful. It feels so remote.
Miles and miles and miles of green woods lined the highway. No billboards. No stops. Nothing. Just forest. As I rode down this stretch I found myself considering what effect the road on a motorcycle has on me. There's something about being a motorcycle that lets me think more clearly, more sharply, than I can ever muster when I'm in my daily grind.
It's not just about being away.
When you're on a motorcycle, racing over land through the wind, there's the effect it has on you. As so many people have said, you're out in it. You feel every bump, every breeze, every change in temperature. You're not isolated from your environment at all. But there's more to it than that.
There's an aspect of being trapped, which is, counterintuitively, very liberating. You're alone. Your route is set, and you know what you have to do. You've done it for so long that you know to be hyper-vigilant. For the next so many hours you know exactly where you'll be, on this motorcycle. The scenery will change. You'll adjust for traffic and hazards. You'll constantly scan the sides of the road for the deer that will eventually ruin your day. But all these things that you do happen autonomously. Because you're moving and there's so much going on, you never get bored. You're trapped by the circumstances of your decisions to be in this place, but as a consequence your mind if free to wander where it may. Freedom through imprisonment.
I found myself wondering about how time seems to speed up once you're "in the zone". There's something about being on a motorcycle hurtling down a stretch of superslab that puts me into a meditative state. This is what I've come out here to experience. The places I go, the history behind them, the state I happen to be in, are largely irrelevant to me. This is journey of the mind and soul, and strangely the motorcycle gets me there. I have heard it said that watching fish swim will lower blood pressure and heart rate. There's some speculation that this is because our primeval ancestors sat at the waters edge with a sharpened stick for hours on end waiting to spear a fish. It's an adaptation. I wonder if being on a motorcycle somehow invokes a similar vestige of our primeval past, maybe of riding on horse back for hours and hours on end. Time accelerates. Hours seem like minutes. You're acutely aware of the present but strangely free to let your mind wander.
I rode through seemingly endless forest and, because I had had so much coffee, I stopped at a rest stop.
This rest stop looked like something out of Germany. It was immaculate, very tasteful and clearly put there by people who cared. Off in a forested section they even put a picnic table, which I thought rocked.
If I were put in charge of designing a rest stop it would be this one. So I'm standing there admiring the stop when an elderly couple walks up noticing that I was taking pictures and offered to take a photo of me.
I'm looking all bad-ass in my Transit Suit. They were very nice. It's strange and I don't understand it. In the first 5 days of this trip I've had more people approach me than in both previous cross country trips combined. Actually, in both of those trips no one approached me at all. I wonder if attitudes towards motorcyclists have changed. I've also noticed that many more people are aware that BMW makes motorcycles. Maybe it's just that I'm older now and perceived as less of a threat, or maybe being separated from my life long problems has made me more open. I don't know, but I think I like it.
I contined southward for some hours when the rolling hills of forest opened up into expanses of plains.
Just beautiful. I eventually came up on the Iowa border.
The view back across the highway I had traveled captures what it all looked like.
I was making good time. It was warm. Visibility was excellent. Traffic was light. At one point I started tailing this Audi A8 who was going at a good clip. The driver was pleasantly disciplined. Passing happened when I thought it should. Caution was exercised when needed. We were going at a good 90mph indicated. When I passed her I noticed she was a rather attractive brunette. There's something about a woman that can drive ...
Shortly thereafter I started tailing a Ford F250 doing 100mph! Now there's a case of excess hydrocarbons being combusted to propel excess mass forward against too much wind resistance. He kicked up alot of turbulence.
I have to admit people out here can drive.
I continued on southward stopping only to snap the occasional photo. I happened across a field of wind turbines.
This scene repeated itself a number of times. On a few occasions I stopped to shoot photos.
At the end of the day I hopped off the interstate and made my way down one of the state roads heading towards Dancing Rabbit. I thought this shot came out pretty well.
I wanted to try to capture the flowers along the road.
I checked into a hotel. The woman behind the counter asked me a bit about my trip. "You're not exactly normal, are you?" she asked, "I mean that in a good way" she said. "I want to keep track of your trip". I've been getting a bit of that on this trip. It's always so flattering.
I've gotten a few comments encouraging me to continue to write these entries. I'm trying. Thank you for all the feedback and words of encouragement. I'll try to keep it up. As always, if you're not a YML.COM member, you can post comments on the links over at facebook. If you want to be a YML.COM member, just contact me.
Tomorrow I head to Dancing Rabbit to see Ted and Sarah. Then it's off to Kansas city to see Angela and possibly Mike who I met at Deal's Gap. From there it's on to go camping in the Rockies with Bruce and Ha.
As I mentioned, I camped last night.It had been such a nice day filled with cool breezes and alot of sunshine. All good things must come to an end, abruptly.
At 2AM I was woken up to the sound of rain.This turned out to be convenient since I needed to take a leak. I crawled out of tent tentatively (pardon the pun) and was surprised to find that none of the rain was reaching the forest floor. "This won't last". And it didn't.
I was woken up again around 4 when the rain started coming down in earnest. The sound of water hitting the tent got progressively louder until it all became a single din. I fell back asleep.
Some hours later I thought to myself, "now isn't that strange, my shoulder is cold, my hands get cold, but never my shoulder". Foreshadowing. Hmmm. Why is my shoulder wet? Because there's a steady stream of water flowing into the tent.
You know I'm pretty smart. As a matter of fact, I am a fucking genius. This genuis, after applying the full weight of his massive intellect to pick out the exact correct spot to pitch a tent, pitched it in a depression that was fed, once the rains came, not by one but by two hills. A small pond had formed around the perimeter of the tent and was flooding it from underneath.
The photo just doesn't do it justice.
I laid there for a while pondering what to do as sheets of rain could be heard pouring down outside. This was the scenario I had dreaded, breaking camp in a cold rain and being wet for the rest of the day. I devised a plan. Man up. Put on my leathers. Run to the bike. Put on the rainsuit top. Break camp. It all went pretty much according to plan ... including the prediction that I would get completely soaked in the process. At this point it had been raining steadily for 7 hours.
I grabbed a shower to try to make myself feel a bit human. The rain continued.
With all this rain I've become somewhat concerned about the bike. After spending all night outside in the deluge, the first time I tried to start it the starter motor wouldn't turn over. Press the starter button, nothing. The second time it worked fine. More foreshadowing? It is an 18 year old bike with a considerable number of electrical connections that are now fairly aged.
I rode to a Perkins restaurant, had some breakfast and then decided to try to make my way north. This rain had to let up eventually, no? I rode for 168 miles in one sitting through a combination of driving soaking rain and wind. From what I could make out through gaps in the fog and mist, the countryside was probably beautiful. Wisconsin is a strange place. Fantastic pristine forest punctuated by tourist trap billboards.
I should have put on the electric vest. Did I mention it was 46degF? Thank you, Duncan, for the heated handlebar grips. They are a lifesaver.
I naively searched for a starbucks for hours. No joy. So eventually I stopped at a gas station and the attendant took pity on me. I sat inside for a while sipping brown colored water (what they call "coffee") and warmed up for a while.
Seeing the error of my ways I put on the Aerostich electric vest at which point I noticed that my nifty tank bag power distribution box had failed. My cellphone was dead and the gps was running on battery. Oh this sucks.
Basking in the glory that is electric heat, I pushed on to Duluth. I didn't realize that Duluth is a port town and that it's big. I was used to towns up here being very small. The rain was coming in at an angle and the wind was still that angry buffeting kind that beats you senseless. Then I noticed the bridge. There's this huge bridge that climbs a few hundred feet up over a body of water. The wind was intense and coming from all sides. Did I mention it was raining as well? At one point a gust damn near pushed me into the next lane.
I found my way down into Duluth and arrived at the Aerostich Warehouse. I had wanted to take pictures of the outside but it was just raining too heavily. So in I went.
Aerostich (www.aerostich.com) sells hardcore motorcycle touring gear and apparel. They produce a highly regarded catalog. I've been buying from them for years. Last year they came out with a leather riding suit that they claim is waterproof and yet breathable. Yea, right. Then motorcyclist magazine did a review of the Aerostich Leather Transit Suit and gave it a 5 out of 5. So this is the reason I'm here.
The Aerostich warehouse and manufacturing facility is located in a 100 year old candy factory. It's actually really cool. The outside is that old brick with a very small Aerostich sign on it. The inside is a bustling mail order business that seems more improvisational than I would have expected given the quality of their gear. It may not be pretty, but it works.
I spent the next few hours trying on various sizes of Transit Suits. My first impression wasn't all that positive. They just don't fit me all that well. I guess I don't have a typical American body. Not enough gut I guess.
But I'm done with rainsuits. Putting on a plastic rainsuit on top of a set of a bulky leathers SUCKS. Especially if you have to perform this operation in the middle of traffic in Chicago when the police are watching. The Aerostich folks swear up and down these suits are water proof but also able to withstand both cold and hot. ("Too good to be true"). So after far more deliberation and trying on various sizes, I finally picked one up.
The Aerostich folks were very nice and are going to ship my Tourmaster leathers back home for me for free. On top of that, since I showed up in person they gave me a 10% discount. Cool.
A guy walked in while I was agonizing over my purchase decision. His name was Tom, I think. He had an old Roadcrafter suit on (the suit that made the Aerostich name way back in the day). The suit was old and faded and his hands were colored purple, the telltale sign of having worn black leather gloves in far too much rain. We got to talking. He had ridden from the West and had gotten rained on every day. Ouch. We talked for a bit, he asked me where I was going and I mentioned that I was going to try to make it to Deadhorse, Alaska. He had done that trip twice. As a matter of fact he had toured all the way down to Tierra Del Fuego from the US! In addition to that, he had ridden Eastern Europe, all through Canada and even done New Zealand. From talking to the guy, I got the impression that he may be the hardest core distance rider I had ever met. I asked a bunch of questions about the Dalton highway to Deadhorse. At first he made it sound doable, but then he mentioned that if it rains the Dalton highway can turn into five inches of soup. He described how the calcium carbonate they use to bind the gravel turned to cement under his front wheel causing it to stop spinning. He had to pull over when he noticed it was cutting groves into his tire. He ended up removing the front fender to free it up. Ouch. He cautioned that I should make reservations in advance if I want to stay at the hotel up there since tour buses go up there now. Yea, a real hard core destination. I'm competing with tour buses.
I asked if I could take his picture. He said, "I'm nobody". I said, "You're someone I've met on my journey".
After I bought my Transit Suit and got everything taken care of I walked out into the pouring rain. Yup, the Transit Suit is waterproof. Tom asked how far I would be riding this evening. I thought to myself, "HELL NO". "I'm staying in Duluth", I said. Yea, hardcore.
I made my way to a Motel 6 not far from the warehouse and dragged all my gear into the room and opened it up to let it dry out. What a mess!
The tent and sleeping back were soaked.
I turned the heat up on full and proceeded to fall asleep to the sound of continuing rain outside. I woke up a few hours later feeling really cold. You know that kind of cold that gets inside you and makes you think you're about to get really sick. I filled the tub with a bunch of hot water and sat in it for a while to raise my body temperature. "Yea, hard core", I thought to myself. I came in the rain. I ride in the cold and wet but I have the option to stay in some powered, heated hotel whenever I want. Imagine if I didn't have this at my disposal. Imagine not being able to afford to pay for a hotel, having instead to camp in the cold and wet using wet gear when your core temperature is dropping? Even with camping, and riding in the rain, and the discomfort, this is the lap of luxury. I might as well be in an RV.
Around 21:30 I noticed the rain had stopped, so on a recommendation from Todd (from the yml.com forum), I headed over to Fitger's, a great brewpub with good burgers and fine scotches. Strangely, Duluth seems to like it's alcohol. There are a ton of bars here. The waitress asked me where I was from and where I was heading. She mentioned some hot springs I should check out in British Columbia but I have already forgotten the name. Bummer. I should have taken the camera. There are so many instances where I should be taking photos to share ...
Tomorrow I start the trip down to Dancing Rabbit. It's only 550 miles away, but I haven't been doing that much mileage. Also, I'd like to look around Duluth a bit. I may have to ride later into the evening tomorrow. There's no way I'm camping tomorrow night.
If you're not a YML.COM member and would like to comment on this, just post over at facebook. I put a link there to each one of these. I really need to build the anonymous commenting code but haven't had a chance ...
It's about 10:30 central time in Northern Wisconsin at the Black River Falls State campground. I'm sitting at a campsite on a picnic table with my laptop plugged into the bike for power. It's pitch black. No moon. No stars. There's a slight breeze in the trees and the sounds of far away trains. The light from the laptop screen is attracting all manner of flying insects. Right now it looks like a scene out of Survivorman. There are bugs crawling all over the display. It's very disconcerting.
The day started out in Chicago. As I mentioned, I met a fellow net entrepreneur on facebook who suggested I give him a visit. We went out to dinner and talked about business, India and other topics. Like me, Dave has had some bad experiences with venture capitalists. Today thinking about what he and I talked about, I find myself wondering if maybe I might be ready to walk back into that world. I guess I tend to discount the experience I have, but I kept coming back to the realization that I know how to do this ... I know how to build a business. Maybe I'll write more on that subject later. There's so much more to building a business than just coming up with a cool techology or putting together a good team to "do stuff". It's late and I think I'll keep it simple for the moment.
Today was simply beautiful. Sunlight but cloud filled skies. Gentle breezes. I have to admit Chicago made a better impression on me than I had thought it would. There were countless bicyclists and joggers. All the streets I saw were tree lined. It reminded me a bit of of Europe in a way. Being so close to Lake Michigan also added it's own character. Yesterday, when the it started pouring I saw countless people getting drenched completely unfazed by the deluge. Cool.
Instead of heading straight out of Chicago I stopped to see the Lake, just for a moment.
I had wanted to walk around on the beach for a bit, but there was some kind of elementary school to the left and I noticed the adults giving me dirty looks, so I turned around and left.
(the bugs crawling all over the screen are pretty disconcerting. There's the moth that refuses to leave.)
The weather was just perfect today. Mid 70's. Light breeze. Sunny. Just wonderful.Something to note if you're on the interstate in Illinois. They have these strangely marked toll boths. 4 lanes go through and if you don't notice you won't realize that the through lanes are an "electronic" toll booth. If you don't have a transmitter, you'll get photographed. I figured this out the hard way. The idea is if you don't have a transmitter, you have to know to pull off to pay the toll in cash. If you miss a toll you have to ask a subsequent toll operator for a form that allows you to send in the toll or pay it online (which I'll do as soon as I finish writing this).
There are these really cool service centers on the Illinois toll road. They span the highway. I stopped at a starbucks and sat and watched the road.
In the parking lot I ran into a GS rider who clearly had done some miles. He was describing a 5000 mile ride he was doing based on the music he liked. He had just been to someplace out of the Blues Brothers movie and was off to find where Buddy Holly wrecked. For a moment I thought "Hmmm. 5000 miles, that's alot of miles" ... then I reminded myself that I'm doing 15.
(not that it matters at all)
Northern Illinios into Wisconsin is just beautiful. Rolling tree covered hills. Carefully groomed farm country in between. Incredible vistas.
Northern Wisconsin is an area I would like to spend some time riding. Here's a photo of the highway close to the campground where I'm currently being attacked my increasing numbers of bugs. (If you've seen the Amazon Rainforest episode of Survivorman you know what I'm going through right now.)
It was a really easy day. The camera battery died at one point so there were alot of shots that I wasn't able to get. I stopped alot mostly to get coffee or snacks.I only did 270 miles today. Because the weather is so gorgeous I decided to camp. First I checked out a commercial RV part (think "horrible KOA"). To hell with that. There was a state park not far away which is far more my style, but it was expensive. $21 for one night. Damn. I had camp set up in about 20 minutes.
(now the bigger bugs are attacking).
On my way into camp, a couple of guys waved to me saying "Free Beer for BMW riders". Cool. I met Mark and Scott who were up here from Madison Wisconsin and, if memory serves, Missouri to canoe down the Black River. They were incredibly open and friendly. Offered me a bratwurst and we talked about riding and canoeing. It turns out Mark has a '99 R1100R which he has done some traveling on. Cool
Trying to reciprocate the hospitality I offered them some scotch to which Mark said "I don't touch the stuff. The last time I did I ended up married." :) Hmm. Scotch doesn't seem to have the effect on me. ;)
I hope to run into those guys again. They seemed like really good people.
I committed a bit of "grand theft stump" and rolled a large cut log back to my campsite so I'd have something to sit and and built myself a fire. All the wood is wet and getting something going was becoming annoying, so I cheated and used a bit of white gas. The solved it.
I'm 200 miles from the Aerostich Warehouse. I hope to get an early start. My credit card is going to be screaming tomorrow.
One thing that bummed me a bit today was that I passed right by Madison Wisconsin and didn't realize it. I could have stopped to visit Pei-Pei if I had had my act together.
It's late and I'm once again probably too tired too capture even a fraction of the thoughts I've had today.
Last night kind of sucked. There was just this relentless loud rain interrupted by thunderclaps that conspired to wake me up at random intervals. I looked out the Days Inn door to see my bike just being inundated by rain.
It was still raining at 7AM. By 9 the rain had stopped and hints of sunshine attempted to pierce their way through the clouds.I finally managed to fall asleep then overslept until almost 10AM. I scrambled to get everything out of the room in time for the 11AM checkout. I thought to myself I need to take more photos as I forgot to snap a picture of the nice romanian graduate who worked at the Inn.
I was hurting for coffee so I went off in search of starbucks. No joy. Both Google Maps and Garmin lied to me. So I relented and headed back to I80W towards Chicago. I clicked off something like 50 miles under cloudy but mostly rain free skies until I found a starbucks.
I've always hated interstates. They've always proven to be painful boring rides, but for some reason that I cannot explain I haven't been bothered by these roads. Even I80, with it's seemingly endless expanses of flat superslab has been almost enjoyable. I found myself thinking that rides like this are less about even the physical journey. There's something about being out in the wind, moving, that centers me. Focuses me. Removed from my life I can think more clearly. If only I could keep the calm and openness the road brings out in me during my day to day grind I would be a better man.
(Ohio Turnpike, epic superslab).
As the day progressed I started making good time. The wind eventually picked up marked by threatening clouds and the occasional drizzle, but rarely any serious rain, but the sky turned angry.
At one point I when the drizzle turned into soaking rain I stopped under a bridge and waited no more than a few minutes for it to pass. I had been fortunate. Have I mentioned how much I hate rainsuits?
Once it cleared a bit undaunted I continued on tempting fate. The skies turned darker and then suddenly cleared and I was riding largely in sunshine.
Then the wind kicked up. This wasn't your normal calm wind. This was confused, beat you upside the heat violently in every random direction for hours wind. The kind of wind that rattles your mind senseless preventing you from thinking and just wearing you out. After a few hours of this I had enough and stopped, conveniently, at another starbucks.
There were a number of harley riders, some gang. I found myself pondering how different the experience must be riding in a large group versus riding alone as I am. They were really loud. Loud stereos. Loud pipes. I imagined it as an exercise in hearing loss.
I had thought this trip would feel very lonely. I was somewhat apprehensive about traveling this far on my own, not because I fear being alone but because I spend so much time alone as it is. Strangely, I think maybe because of all the facebook posts and comments I get about what I write here, not to mention texts from a few very close friends, I feel less alone being all these miles away on this open road than I do on a typical day working out of my house. Contrary to what I would have thought it feels less oppresive.
Normally the first few days of riding just suck. Everything hurts. You fumble. You drop things. Nothing flows as it should. Simple tasks like zipping the jacket, putting on gloves, and attaching the tank bag all take much longer than they should. Strangely, I seem to be getting into the swing of things much quicker. I'm hardly hurting at all, but maybe it's because I'm not doing that many miles. Only 378 miles today.
The bike is running great. I have a few times where for less than a second the engine would sputter and the rpms would drop. This has been an intermittent ignition problem with the bike for years. It happens very rarely. Maybe once every few years, but it happened twice today. More foreshadowing?
The wind was just brutal. I kept on and continued to make good time. Relatively late in the day it was pretty clear I was going to be able to make it to Chicago to meet up with Dave. The fact that I had, unbeknownst to me, crossed a timezone worked in my favor. I crossed into Indiana and, since the speed limit there is 70, upped my speed as well.
I was intent on making it into Chicago. It turns out Dave lives two blocks from Lake Michigan farther into the city than I expected. Oh well.
As I approached Chicago the sky turned angry again:
Naively I thought that maybe the route would take me away from the clouds. No joy. After waiting out a few short showers under some overpasses I eventually got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic right next to the lake. The backup was caused by two cops ruining someone's day. Right as I passed them, the skies opened up and rain started pouring down. There was no shoulder, but luckily, because the cops were occupying the left lane, I slipped in behind them and in the middle of traffic did the time honored hopping monkey dance to try to get my rainsuit on as quickly as possible. There was much cursing involved.
I AM SO GETTING A TRANSIT SUIT!!!! And if I can find a suitable replacement I am so ditching my tankbag. This rain cover, rain suit BS is getting old. The rain up here never lasts long. It's just long enough to get you wet, then it stops and the sun comes out. You take off the suit in an effort to dry out again and it dumps on you.
Once I got close to Daves place the sun came out again. I called him and he helped me carry my bags into his place. It's very cool of him to let me stay here, especially since he wasn't going to be here.
Dave's a project manager for web development projects and specializes in Drupal installations for non profits. He also rides. Had been in a nasty motorcycle accident in DC some years back and had just finished the court case. So he's looking to get back into riding and is going to pick up a BMW R1150RT in Oregon later this month. He may be out that way when Ian and I get together in Yellowstone. I guess there's a chance we might be able to meet up.
We had dinner at a place called Jury, which has excellent burgers.
I listened to him tell stories of motorcycle trips out of Calcutta and the changing socio-economic landscape there.
(yea, I know, horrible photo of me. Caught me in mid sentence)
The bar rocked.
Fida, a friend of mine from the German meetup, is a TV graphic designer and suggested that I try to shoot video. So I've been trying "Survivorman" style talking to the camera. Just like writing this blog, it's horribly awkward, but I'll try it nevertheless.
So here I sit at 1:30AM thinking about this trip and all the thoughts and insights I haven't been able to capture in words. I keep thinking I need some way to capture my thoughts as I ride because by the end of the day I've forgotten most of what I wanted to write.
I find that usually the first day of a ride is always the worst. You're out of practice. Little things that you could do in your sleep, like putting on your gloves, or packing away the camera, seem to take extra effort. You remember where everything goes and how it all works, but nothing is fluid. It all takes thought and consideration. Everything is forced.
And so it was. Kyrin who I know from Piratz Tavern came by to see me off.
I hit the road around 11:45. It was hot.
I headed to Bob's BMW to pick up a quart of oil to take as a spare. It wasn't more than 5 minutes into the trip that a tractor trailer cut off an SUV which then swerved into my lane ... foreshadowing? I swung by Bob's, told the parts guy whose name I forget about the trip and then hit the road again.
I headed out route 32 to 70 and took that west. I decided for forego stops in the east and make some time. Lot's of superslab. Contrary to what I would have thought the miles seemed to go by pretty easily. It took me a while to suspect it might be the laminar lip I installed, which has significantly decreased the amount of buffeting I experience. I have to admit I'm impressed by the difference.
On the way on 70 I saw a dead dear on the side of the road along with a bunch of retread. More foreshadowing?
It was overcast with occasional drizzle but for the first part of the day all went well. I clicked off 112 miles before I even noticed. As I made my way west I was reminded of how beautiful the around around route 70 can be, especially once you get further up into the hills.
Unfortunately, once I got to the other side of a tunnel in Western PA, my luck ran out. At first it was a light rain. Then a steady rain. Then a torrential downpour where most cars just pulled off to the side of the road.
I hate rain suits.
I stopped under a bridge, donned the rainsuit, and went on my way. Aside from some soggy boots, me and my gear made it through.
All told I rode 370 miles today. Made it across the Ohio border and am staying at a Days Inn.
I had dinner at an Applebees. This area of the country seems to be a case study in obesity. It's really quite frightening.
Tomorrow I continue to make my way North West towards Duluth where I hope to visit the Aerostich warehouse and possibly buy an alternate set of leathers. I don't think the ones that I have are going to cut it for this trip. We'll see.
Writing these things is surprisingly not easy ...
Last night, I finally got around to washing the bike, changing the oil and filter and installing the laminar lip.
I very much dislike using unproven equipment on a trip. Even the smallest things that you haven't tested out can end up being problems, but I've run out of time. The laminar lip is supposed to help with the incredible turbulence the front of this bike generates. That's been my biggest complaint with the K100RS. So Duncan suggested this gadget and I installed it by eye but haven't had the chance to test it. I may end up having to adjust it while out on the road, which would not be ideal.
According to the installation instructions there's no hard and fast location where you're supposed to install it. It's a trial and error kind of thing. In the worst case, if it's unbearable I guess I can just remove it and continue to deal with the turbulence as I have been for nearly two decades.
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There's so much to do, so many people to see I'm not sure I can get it all done. Then again, given that this is the 21st century, as long as I get my connectivity issues taken care of, I should be able to do some of it from the road.
If I'm going to ride the Dalton Highway I should probably get evacuation insurance. A helicopter ride up in that area can end up being very expensive.
So I'm finally getting the replacement laptop set up. I picked up the biggest drive I could find at Microcenter and am now configuring a workstation environment. As luck would have it, about 15 minutes ago, a small reseller contract for Personal Stock Monitor got signed and will require me or Anatoly to do some code. Figures. Maybe I should go away more often.
I went down to REI and picked up some bear repellant. I keep having visions of being on the Dalton Highway broken down waiting to become bear food. I don't have any real expectation that the repellent will work all that well, but at least it's something if "bad things happen".
At this point I'm pretty set on the northernly detour through Pennsylvania. There's a town with a persistent coal mine fire that might be interesting to see. It's a bit of a detour on top of a detour up to the Aerostich warehouse. Since these will be my first targets, I don't know what kind of mileage I'm going to be able to do. I'm guessing that I'll start out doing 300 per day or so and build from there.
It seems that for at least the first part of the trip I'll have plenty of places to stop, almost too many. For the latter really lonely part of the trip I'll have far less. I find myself wondering how far will I get? Will my body give out on me? I don't have that extreme sense of confidence that I normally have doing things like this. I'm not sure why.
It's been pretty hot lately. The car thermometer today read as high as 97. Ouch.
The next couple of days will consist of more running around and scrambling trying to get everything ready combined with visiting friends, my business partner and paying a visit to my mom. Time is very tight and there's so much prep work that I wanted to have finished which just isn't.
Cross posted from the forum here:
"So everyone keeps telling me to "do what I want" on this trip. That's been challenging 'cause I really don't know "what I want".
But then I read an article in Motorcyclist Magazine about the Transit Suit and thought to myself "I wonder if I can make a detour and check it out?".
Check out the photos. They are very detailed. The more I read about this thing the more intrigued I become. To tell you the truth, with this set I'd be more concerned about cold weather riding than warm.
So I think I'm gonna go check it out. That'll be my first target. Dancing Rabbit my second. Then on to Kansas City to meet that couple we met in Deal's Gap. Then it's on to Colorado to go camping with Bruce, Ha and family for a few days. From there it's north to Yellowstone. From there I'll head to Victoria and hang out with Ian for a few days.
At that point I the bike will need oil and fresh tires.
Then I have a decision to make. Head North, chill someplace or head back? It's going to depend on how I feel. If my body hurts too much I may bail, but if by that point I'm feeling ok and am not too injured or tired, I may very well push up North."
At this point I feel like I'm falling behind. I intend to take alot of photos and shoot some video. I've received my Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5 to replace the one that heinously gave up the ghost on the Deal's Gap trip. It truly is an excellent, albeit somewhat fragile camera. I also have the GoPro Hero Cam which I can mount on the helmet or the bike. As a backup, I have my old indestructible Olympus Stylus 770W which is water proof, temperature proof, dust proof and drop proof, all of which I have tested, but it takes simply awful photos.
The files that these cameras create are proving too large for my old Thinkpad, so I ordered a very small Lenovo ThinkPad X100E with a dual core chip, 4 gigs of ram and a 320gig drive. The form factor is perfect. The keyboard is great. I could easily see doing real work on this laptop. It's fast enough to play HD video at the full frame rate. Unfortunately, the one that I got has some kind of hardware fault that is causing the box to lock up. Bummer. I did some diagnosis and on recommendation from the IBM/Lenovo support tech I reseated the ram and succeeded in scratching the case. I'll explore returning it on Monday. There's no way to get a replacement in time before next Saturday so I'm now looking around for an inexpensive used replacement that'll at least work.
While traveling I need to have the option of working. Things always come up and I expect there to be bugs that will need fixing, systems that will need some attention, not to mention the ecommerce development project that I'm making some progress on.
I still have to do a final pack for the trip, see if I can get the Laminar Lip wind gadget attached to the bike to reduce some of the buffeting, wash the bike and change the oil and filter.
I'm still contemplating routes. Lately I've been thinking, I might want to head north to Duluth, MN to visit the Aerostich warehouse. I read a review of their Transit suit in Motorcyclist magazine and it has me very intrigued. Waterproof breathable leathers is an interesting concept. If I do that I'm thinking about heading to the Eastern Grand Canyon in Pennsylvania. I hear it's beautiful.