Rush more?

Today was a riding day. Not a race-the-sun riding day, but a feel-that-belly-rush-like-a-kid riding day. Before everyone driving an RV got out on the roads, it was a blast! The road out of Sturgis south is amazing. Those yellow arrow signs that were laughable in Kansas, were serious today. This was some of the most challenging riding of my life. Not because of the technical turns, but because I had to discipline myself from looking at things other than the road. I mean could you think about turn angles, speed, and hitting a late corner apex when you are looking at this?

I think I’ve uncovered a running theme to this ride. I NEED MORE TIME! Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, Deadwood, Crazy Horse Memorial, … Any single one of these places could have easily taken a day or more to experience. Then if you factor in the riding – Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road, Wildlife loop …I NEED MORE TIME! Riding across country means you are passing by things quickly. That sounds very easy on paper, but when you see all that cool stuff…man, I’d love to climb those rocks, and swim in that lake, and learn more history, and, and, and…I NEED MORE TIME!

That might be a mantra for life. But life keeps moving, and tomorrow so do I. I have to leave town before the circus get’s here.  Bye Sturgis, it was fun.  IMG_4715Really fun.

Sturgis! Wait, …what?

It was 6:30 before I hit the road, but I did manage to escape Nebraska!

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Each hour of riding brought an entirely new landscape. From corn, to sand hills, to rolling prairie, … and for a while I was thinking, “How will I know when I ride up on the badlands?” It turns out it wasn’t hard to identify them.

Outside of Badlands National Park is the town of Wall. Wall Drug started giving free ice water to tourists in 1931. Since 1931 there hasn’t been a single documented case of a tourist traveling through South Dakota without stopping at Wall Drug. It has the most intensely measured tourist-ational field on the planet, attracting people by sheer power of the billboard alone. The tourist-ational pull has been measured at 5 times the strength of “See Rock City” and 27 times the strength of “Stuckey’s.”  I too fell prey to the insidious tug on my tires, but I left quickly.

Fortunately, I had broken free of the Nebraska cornfields, so the force was still strong with me, besides, the 80 mph speed limit on the interstate beckoned. Way to go South Dakota!

Tonight I landed in Sturgis. The rally doesn’t start until August 8th, so I’m here just as vendors are beginning to set up. It’s a little bit creepy. Lots of empty storefronts, and “for rent” signs, tents awaiting their occupants, and gigantic bars that barely have enough people to turn the lights on and off. It’s kind of like I’m at the county fair when people are getting paid to set up the tilt-a-whirl. I’m watching what goes on behind the scenes before anyone throws up.

Tomorrow there will be no westward progress. Instead I’m going to explore the area a bit. On the menu is the Crazy Horse Memorial, Needles Highway, and Mount Rushmore.

Burnt and Dirty

Today was the leg of the trip that has been making me grit my teeth for months. Any way I mapped it, I still had to get across some square states, and the best way to do that seemed fast. No offense to the fine people who populate the great states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, but there’s only so much farmland this hillbilly can take. You’re fine people, I’m sure, but flatland makes as much sense to me as a pop-tart with no icing. (And if you still think I have something against farmers you’ll have to take it up with my Southern Illinois wife – the finest crop her daddy ever raised!)

Anyway, after yesterday’s ride through the flames of Hades, I landed in a half-star hotel, and arranged to meet my cousin and his wife for dinner in downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The tight valley filled with historic stone buildings provided a great setting for us to all to get to know each other. Thanks Terry and Lynn! You guys helped me recover and have a new start this morning.

A pre-dawn roll through the darkness of the Ozark valleys kept fogging my windshield as I dipped down, then clearing it as I climbed the next hilltop.  The first bit was exactly what I had hoped to find in Arkansas.

And, even though after I left the hills I could steer by compass points, the day was a fun ride. Apparently, people in the straight road states have a very liberal attitude about posted speed limits. I followed some trucks, some Harley riders, and even thought about falling in with a pack of 12 motorcycle police riding in formation (I didn’t, but I thought about it …Oooh, I thought about it).

But, other than the zippy progress of 600 miles rolling by today, the highlight was a stop at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. Thank you Pat for suggesting this stop! I got there early for lunch, and that was a good thing.

The next good thing was the lunch special of burnt ends with a side of dirty rice, or as the guy at the counter yelled it, “One burnt and dirty!” I thought for a second he was talking about me.

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I left feeling full, and slightly envious of the experience these people were about to have.IMG_4582

Today wasn’t nearly the challenge I thought it would be. The straight-line miles gave me a lot of time to think about how grateful I am for this opportunity, how grateful I am for my family, and how grateful I am to God for giving me a life with purpose and meaning I could never have imagined.

Westward!

I’m not kidding, crossing the Mississippi on my motorcycle felt like a milestone. For a split second as I was riding beside the rusting bridges spanning that long expanse of water, I almost thought there should be fireworks, or pigeons, or a fanfare of some sort. Then I decide to just try to not be flattened by the four tractor trailers crossing the same bridge inches away from me. I did not get a picture.

I got a bit further today than I planned. I’m hoping that gives me more time to explore Northern Arkansas tomorrow. My cousin is meeting me in Eureka Springs tomorrow night, so there is a definite end point for tomorrows ride.

There’s a temptation to find a single story line to expand on in this entry, but I can’t. There were too many experiences in this first day, and I’m too excited to FINALLY begin that I am not ready to boil them all down and risk losing the real moments of the ride.

Today was more about mileage than touring. Georgia and Alabama were familiar turf for me. Mississippi was mostly new, but the route I took wasn’t the best that state had to offer. It also didn’t help that it was 90 degrees.

There was one brief tourist stop. Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Artsist who have recorded there include, but are not limited to; ‘Retha, Allman Brothers, Wicked Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, Waylon, Etta James, Clarence Carter, The Osmonds, Lynyrd Skynrd… Let’s just say if you don’t have a recording from this studio among your favorites you are probably sitting in your study listening to your amazing Baroque collection.

Anyway, while I didn’t get there at the right time to take the tour of the studio, honestly I wasn’t disappointed. The “stuff” doesn’t impress me. Yes, that’s Duane Allman’s guitar, and that’s the keyboard that you hear on “Do Right Woman”, … but it’s the stories that fascinate me. And, I juuuust maybe got to witness a story in the making right there in the lobby.

I walk in the front door that opens into the tiny lobby filled with pictures and records. A young lady asks me if she can help me, and after finding out I can’t take the tour, she offers me free reign of the gift shop. We chat for a bit about how she saw the documentary about the studios and then moved nearby to try and be a part of things. She plays guitar, but is still learning and loves being around the musicians that parade daily through the door. As she talked I found myself drawn to a corner with overpriced FAME stickers. Being a sticker collector I immerse myself in the evaluation. About that time a relaxed and friendly gentleman comes out of the studio. I eavesdrop (something I’m getting pretty good at as I travel solo) as he explains something to the effect of “I’m expecting an album today that I want you to listen to. I think if you start learning some of the style we may be able to get you in as a studio musician some day.” As the young lady tries to look non-challant while simultaneously not fainting, I introduce myself to the gentleman. He’s John Gifford, sound engineer. He seemed like a great guy, and as he exited for a smoke break, I paid for my sticker and congratulated the girl at the counter. The young lady could hardly swipe the credit card. Her voice shook as she told me “He has never said that before! I mean, I know it’s like seven or eight years down the road, but he just doesn’t say that!”

I don’t know. Maybe more magic from Muscle Shoals?

 

The Journey Ahead

It’s Tuesday evening. I’m nearly all packed. I leave Thursday morning.

I’m quite sure I’ve packed some things I will not need.

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I’m equally sure that I have not packed some things that I will desperately be looking for down the road.

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Speaking of things I will miss, I have never been away from my family for this amount of time. That is one part of the trip I am not looking forward to. Even on short rides, when I see a great sunset, or find a unique store, it never fails that my next thought is about the thrill of sharing it as soon as possible with my wife or my daughters. I love riding two up with them around North Georgia.

A few years ago my oldest daughter and I escaped on an overnight ride to Cherokee North Carolina. I think the highlight for her was receiving permission to be escorted as an underage guest across the floor of a casino so we could get to a restaurant. I will miss her when I see any interesting animal big or small. She is, and has always been, in tune with the natural world in a way few will ever experience.

I will miss my youngest daughter when I meet interesting people and when I see things I can’t fully comprehend. She’s an incredible impressionist, and a dedicated student of humanity. She also is fully in awe of the soaring joy of a mountain rising up beyond a glacier lake.

I will miss my wife constantly. She helps me in everything I do, think, and feel.

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Even though I know how much I will want to turn and around and ask, “Did you see that?!”, hundreds of times along the way, I also have to admit that I’m looking forward to the time alone. There’s a huge aspect of this adventure that is about me taking time just for me. I’ve spent 51 years orbiting the sun. During those trips there have been a lot of different roles that have defined my responsibilities, my perceptions, and my relationships. Moving through them has been it’s own adventure; confusing and thrilling at the same time. It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to stop my everyday life and try to get some distance so I can examine the bigger picture. I need to unwind the big giant hairball a bit and make sure I’m still in the right orbit.

Someone joked the other day that I’m going on a vision quest. Maybe I am. I don’t think I’m going to come back with knowledge of my spirit animal, but I do believe I’m going to seek God with an intensity and focus that is embarrassingly distant most of my days.

On your mark, get set, get set…

I have created some confusion about my cross-country trip. I am not a stranger to confusion, in fact, usually all it takes is something shiny at the corner of my eye and I’m already there.

This post is an effort to clear up what I have muddied.

Yes I have begun my cross country ride. (see start your engines and a tale of two rides)

No, I haven’t really started the solo ride from my house to the west coast. Since I live north of Atlanta and only about 250 miles from the Atlantic coast I did a quick trip down to Tybee Island and back.

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Hey, it wouldn’t be a legitimate coast to coast trip without actually seeing the ocean. I’m even taking some Atlantic ocean water with me on the ride to deliver to the pacific.

I will leave my home and begin my trek west on July 21. The first day is going to be going over territory that I’ve hit before, so mileage is going to be prioritized over sightseeing. I hope to arrive somewhere close to Memphis by the first night.

Route Leg 2

It’s a ride of about 350 miles. I have one landmark I’d like to see on the way and I’ll tell you more about that later.

So – to my friend Rufus – it’s not too late to join me, and you have a clean bike!

To my friend Mark – let’s ride again!

To my friend Don – put down the pencil and hammer and get a bike!

To my cousin Fred – Leave the trailer at home and ride with me.

A Tale of Two Rides (at least two)

The cross-country ride began Sunday morning with a soft hazy sunrise peeking up over the Tybee Island surf. I took this empty bottle that I found in my hand and filled it with Atlantic Ocean water.

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I plan to empty it into the Pacific when I arrive in August. Just doing my bit for Thermohaline circulation and biodiversity for the planet.

The breeze was enough to dissipate the humidity and make riding in full gear bearable.

No traffic. Just a ride past the light house, then Fort Pulaski, into Savannah, and up toward Statesboro. Easy sleepy back roads, rising and falling gently through tall pines. Stopping for gas was the only brief pause in my engine, then back on the bike to ride up to Waynesboro, bird dog capital of the world, for a Sunday brunch.

The Lakeview Restaurant lived up to it’s name. I sat by the window and watched birds flying over the lake, and flying up to the windowsill to see what I was eating.IMG_4491

Of course I chose the Bird Dog breakfast; eggs, grits, sausage, and a biscuit with jelly. There were only a few locals inside. Sitting at tables by the front door chatting with each other. I was at the back enjoying the view. The waitress was too busy to really converse, but she was quick with coffee and made sure the eggs were to my liking.

After paying the check, I noticed my phone’s battery was at less than half. Perfect time to test my new charging adapter. I expected it to allow me to listen to GPS instructions in my helmet without worrying about my phone running out of juice. I had to juggle a bit of luggage around to make a safe place to run the wire into a pocket to hold my phone safely. Then I mounted up to continue the roll through the highways of central Georgia. The soft voiced google girl politely guided my turns.

Ahhhh, heading away from the coastal climate seems to bring the humidity down a bit. Clouds building darkening towers on the horizon never really threaten my path. The overcast sky was a comfort as I crossed and re-crossed railroad tracks, passed a spotted fawn dining on leaves, and dodged a snake warming on the highway. Occasionally passing some amazing antebellum homes that featured wrap-around porches that were shaded by old trees slowly swaying in the light breeze.  It was a treat for my sense of history. The light on my instrument panel signaled that it was time to find a gas station. A tiny corner station appeared and I pulled in and called my wife as I filled the tank and wiped bugs off the windshield.

Yes, the trip was going well.

Yes, it was a safe Sunday ride.

Yes, it was good to finally start this trip.

Yes, I will see you and the girls when you get home in a couple of …

SHADES OF GENERAL WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN! WHERE’S MY COMPUTER!???!!!!! 

Some carpetbagger took my machine! I will burn and pillage until I find that… Wait, did I actually secure it after I moved the luggage around? I wouldn’t … Nah, I couldn’t have …

Those locals in Waynesboro seemed nice. Maybe too nice. They were setting me up. Bird dog capital? Hah! Apple dog capital. Some dog fetched my computer while I was eating a biscuit. That’s what happened!

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The ride changed. It was hot. Traffic slowed, and clogged up the highways. I hated humanity.

Wait, could I have forgotten to slide my computer back into the bag …?  How could that have possibly happened?  I would have noticed.

Close to home, I was more than ready to end the 300 mile ride. I didn’t need the stupid google girl voice grating, and harping at me for the last 40 miles! I live here! I know how to get to my own home! Shut up already.

Hot. Sweaty. Tired. And computerless. Because some crazy person took my bag.

Empty house. Throw my boots. Check my email. Who is that one from? Some lady says … her husband…found…my…computer in the road. She wants me to call and arrange pick up.

I didn’t tie it down to the bike.

I dropped it in the road.

I’m the idiot.

But IT’S ALIVE! I love humanity. There are good people in Waynesboro, bird dog capital of the world!

I don’t know how the computer survived with all data intact, but it did. I have transferred my files to a slower, but unscarred computer and can continue on. Hopefully, lesson learned.

Thank you Tybee Island. IMG_4480Thank you kind lady and her husband. Thank you Bird dogs. Thank you Lakeview Restaurant and I’m sorry for the disparaging thoughts about your clientele. IMG_4494Thank you google girl for getting me home. Thank you God for suspending the laws of physics and allowing my computer to survive a Frisbee slide across a road without being run over. And thank you for a great ride today.

Start the engines!

Since I live about 5 hours from the coast, I’m doing the first leg separate from the rest of the ride across the United States. I broke all my riding rules today.

-Got a late start (for a great reason, but still …)

-Rode through morning rush hour in Atlanta

-Stopped at a chain for lunch

-4 hours on the interstate

-didn’t even stop for pictures

-Yuck!

But my bike likes eating up the miles at (cough)ish mph.

The only excitement is going to be avoiding people who have mysteriously been lawfully licensed by the state of Georgia to operate a motor vehicle. There are some interesting folk out there.

So, I have arrived at Tybee Island. My girls are on their way to meet me. Okay, the more honest way to say that is my girls are on the way to be at the beach for the weekend and I just happen to be here. We will have fun.

Maybe I can convince them to take a couple of pictures of my “official” start at the east coast.

My cross-country trip officially begins on Sunday. The route I’m following on this first leg is actually Sherman’s march to the sea in reverse.   I hope that’s a good omen for my trip. I’m thinking the reverse route is a way to ward off the occurrence of any burning and pillaging. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a little bit of both included in my trip. But I’d prefer that the burning be a cigar, and pillaging be in a wild blackberry patch.

After this little jaunt to the Atlantic Ocean to make my coast to coast route legit, I’m going to keep the bike on a tight leash for about a month. My official start date going west will begin on July 21st. Stay tuned.

THE bike

It occurred to me that I’ve begun a blog to chronicle my upcoming motorcycle trip across the United States, give voice to some motorcycle inspired thoughts, and to share some experiences I’ve had on my motorcycle.   But the thing that I haven’t really done here is introduce … THE MOTORCYCLE.Headlight

I purchased her from a Nissan car dealership who had taken it in for trade. It had 3,000 miles on the odometer when I brought her home. Now it has …Odometer6-2016

Not bad for a 2009 C109RT Boulevard. Suzuki decided to stop production on these bikes. Why? I have no idea. This is the bike I researched, shopped for, and found. The burgundy color wasn’t my first choice, but it has grown on me over the last 6 years. I don’t know, maybe after this trip I’ll have to think about a paint job.

She’s picky about a few things.

First, she doesn’t like corn in her fuel. If I fill her up ethanol free she runs better and gets about 4 additional mpg. If I put corn gas in her tank I always to try to put in some additive to alleviate the effects. (Liquid from Corn should be consumed by men, not machines!)

Second, NEVER, EVER, EVER, put as much oil in her as the dealer recommends. If you do, you’ll be cleaning nearly half a quart off the left side as it burps out through the air filter. (Do not ask me how I know)

Third, and I found this out on my way home from purchasing the bike at the dealership, I remember…

dissolve into flashback story-

My wife was following me on the 45 minute ride back to our home. We had a long jaunt right from the dealership along a four lane divided highway. As we cruised along an interstate I let it wind up just a bit. Just a tiny bit. My wife was right behind me. Sooo, just a bit. It felt good. It felt REALLY good. Smooth. Very torquey. Every gear shift made her want to pick up the front wheel, and on a bike that weighs nearly 800 pounds, it feels like you’re riding the back of a jaguar (the animal not the car). It felt REAALLLY good.

Then I rode up the exit ramp and started to make the right turn. The first tight turn I had approached at speed. Counter-steering the front tire left, I leaned it to the right. Um, … not turning. I leaned more. Bike … won’t … lean. I quickly scooted my butt over the right side and growled and LEAAAAANED. I kept it inside the lane, barely. The euphoric testosterone high slammed deeply into a series of related, horrible doubts. Did I just buy a motorcycle that can’t turn? Is that back tire so big that this thing is useless in the mountains? Did I try to buy a jungle cat, but instead leave riding a cow?!!!!

I’m not kidding. That was a scary ride for the rest of the way home. The great news is, and you may want to write this down, if you have a back tire this size …BackTire

Then being a couple of pounds of pressure too low can make a lot of difference. A LOT. I was very relieved to air up the tires correctly and repeat my test ride only to find that yes, the jaguar was healthy and happy in her new home.

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LED’s for fun in the dark

1783 cc 54 degree liquid cooled v-twin

Tank

Fuel injected with a Bully controller            Aftermarket G-man 2 into 1 exhaust

Pipes

Custom air covers

Cover

Dual disc front brakes linked rear single

0-60 – before you can say, “Hey, look, was that a Harley Davidson?”

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She currently has no name. Nothing has seemed to fit, but if you have any suggestions I’m willing to try. Some of the miles between here that pacific may be lonely enough to cause me to talk to my bike. I may sound a bit less crazy if she has a name.   Or at least confuse people long enough to let me pass through town.  Put any great ideas for a name, or even not-so-great ideas because it’s better than nothing, in the comments below.