Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

05 June 2011

Florida to Washington By Motorcycle: The First Three Days

I took this summer job in a tiny town called Brewster, Washington. Google Maps said it was 2,660 miles from my house in Pensacola, Florida. I could've taken the car and done a 2.5 day banzai run like Mikey did a couple of weeks prior, but I decided instead to take the Sportster. No guts, no glory, right? I sent most of my clothes up UPS and only took "the necessities" on the bike. Still managed to overload it.

Frankly, I was concerned that the Sporty wouldn't make the trip. It only had 15,000 miles on it, but still...I’m kinda paranoid. It is a Harley, and they sometimes do strange things – like die for no reason at all. Mine’s already done that once; one day it stranded me by the side of the road. I tried everything I knew- cranked until the battery was almost flat. Eventually it decided to just run again with no explanation as to why it quit in the first place. I never did figure it out.

Other guys report similar instances on the Sportster internet discussion group I subscribe to. I changed the oil and gave the thing as good a lookover/tuneup as I knew how. It's been running fine lately. Would it make it all the way without a breakdown? We'd see. You might think this odd, but it is part of the adventure we Harley riders "enjoy." We could ride totally dependable, trouble-free bikes. These are called Hondas. But we don't. Don't ask me why.

I departed on a beautiful Saturday morning, May 21st. The first three days of the trip were lovely (if a bit windy at times): Great weather, little traffic, awesome scenery, and fairly good roads, although every damn road in the country is Under Construction thanks to President Obama's Put-People-To-Work-So-I-Can-Get-Reelected-In-2012 program. It seems a little silly. Are all of our Interstate highways that bad? Mikey had reported long backups and lengthy slowdowns, but I cruised right through the construction zones with no trouble.

I went north first, stopping in Birmingham, Alabama to have lunch with my friend Jacob, who's living there now. Then it was smooth sailing through Mississippi, cutting the corner of Tennessee and then up into Arkansas. Got to love farm country. It looked like the pictures in the grammer school geography books I used to read as a kid growing up in New York City.

Made it to Hardy, AR the first night. 590 miles- not as far as I would've liked. Made it to Sioux City, Iowa the second night. Again, only 600 miles- what am I, a wussy? I have no excuse, and honestly thought I'd do better than that. But I wasn't starting out as early as planned, and my stock seat just wasn't bearable past 600 miles. Plus, I simply did not have the stamina. The joints in this old body get stiff, and I'd get to a point where I realized that I had nothing to prove by doing the trip in the least amount of time.

At Sioux Falls, Iowa I turned west on I-90, straight across South Dakota. I had been particularly looking forward to this part of the trip, since I’d never been that far north. But South Dakota just turned out to be…I don’t want to say “boring” but there really is a whole lotta nada out there, as my blogger friend David says. To early settlers, the country must’ve seemed to go on forever. That song kept rattling through my head. "Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam…” It was only when I passed through Rapid City and got into some hills that the scenery changed for the better.

I have been chastised by my friends for not taking pictures of the first legs of the trip. But I was more interested in making time than stopping and taking photographs. “Take pictures of your gas stops!” one friend asked. I said, “Trust me, a truck stop in Arkansas looks like a truck stop everywhere else in the country."

All the way so far I was blessed with beautiful weather. I skirted east of Joplin, Missouri just ahead of that really bad weather system that spawned the tornado that tore through there. Timing, as they say, is everything. From Kansas City north, I was battered by hellacious, fatiguing crosswinds. South Dakota was fairly chilly- temps in the 50's. I don't like riding when it's below 60, but if you have the right clothes (and I do) it's not a problem.

In fact, the good weather lasted all the way to Gillette, Wyoming, a paltry 566 miles from where I started in Sioux City that morning. My total daily mileage was getting worse!

With 900 miles still to go, I discarded any hope of making the trip in even four days. I had to accept the fact that it might take as many as five.

I also knew that the weather was about to change for the worse. I just didn’t know how bad “worse” was going to be. But I was about to find out.


Greybeard said...

"but it is part of the adventure we Harley riders "enjoy." We could ride totally dependable, trouble-free bikes. These are called Hondas. But we don't. Don't ask me why."

...Because those of who love looking at and hearing Harleys need someone like you to buy and ride them, while we put gas in the top and oil in the side and ride worry-free.

I'm reminded of the trip West my family made when I was 16. I had the same impression as you about South Dakota. Montana lived up to the "Big Sky" country name.
Looking foward to your next installment.
(Nice to know you're already there and safe.)

Bob said...

What a great trip, my friend.

Bob Barbanes: said...

GB, Harleys have become reliable and trouble-free...kinda/sorta. You really can jump on them now and ride coast-to-coast with the full expectation of getting there. But I am an old Harley rider, and I am a helicopter pilot. This makes me a doubly paranoid worrywart.

In fact, the bike ran flawlessly, and continues to run better now than it ever has in its life. I have use of a couple of company cars/trucks; I also have a housemate I can carpool with. But I choose to ride the 5-mile trip to "work" simply because it is so much fun.

And Bob? The story of the trip is about to take a bad turn. Stay tuned!