Thursday, August 12, 2010

Closing note

Thank you all for reading my blog. I truly hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed living it. Growing up in a small town I have many misconceptions of the world. In my trip notes I try to point them out in a humorous way. I am sorry if I have offended any of you that have chosen to read about my trip. I love to travel because the people that I meet always make me a better person in the end. Without a doubt the people that I met on the road were the highlight of my trip. I have tried to use my silly sense of humor bring many of these encounters to life. I find it sad that many people put travel off until the end of their lives. My limited amount of traveling has had such a huge effect on so much of the way I think about everything. Traveling has revealed to me the full spectrum of color in a world that I grew up believing was in many ways simply black and white.

Things I learned while on my trip:

1. Its hard to slow down when driving fast is so much fun.
2. Good equipment means less equipment.
3. Less equipment means less stuff to pack up every morning.
4. Fuel up as often as you can.
5. Eat half as often as you can.
6. Say “hi” as often as you can.
7. Souveniers are items you collect for later yard sales
8. A trip by yourself doesn’t mean you’ll ever be lonely.
9. Whatever crazy trip you're doing, 1/3 of the people you meet are doing a crazier one.
10. Five days on a boat is two too long if you own a motorcycle.
11. Nebraska is mind numbingly long.
12. Nothing good happens after 10:00 pm on a motorcycle.
13. A good adventure once in awhile make home seem better.
14. I like to use the words great and awesome a lot. That's not too bad a habit. Its better than "right on".

God Bless.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Des Moline Aug 10

I woke up to a door slamming about six times in a row. I looked out the window and saw three guys standing around an open U-haul full of music equipment talking. Deciding this was my head banger alarm clock I figured it was time to shower and hit the road for home. Today would be my last day on the road. The weather was warm but sunny and clear. I got into the Quad-cities at round noon and figured I would stop by to see an old friend. No such luck, he was out of the office. So I took route 67 over to Monmouth. I headed up to 74 from there.

It seemed like years since I had been on this road. As I drove over the Centennial Bridge in Peoria I couldn’t help feeling a little numb. I really could believe it was almost done. I was ending a trip that seemed too big to start. I got home two days early.

Leeann shortly after seeing me got into with me because my early arrival was messing up her plans to spend the night with Grandma Lois. Home sweet home. The girls and I drove up to Prophetstown the next day. With three ladies in the house, my life is all about compromise.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Evanston Aug 9

The next morning I was up and packed by 7:30. I loaded the bike I discovered all the damage. Replaying the previous night, I thanked God that I wasn't hurt. There is a saying about making an omelet and cracking eggs. I guess the scratches on my bike were just part of the price of an incredible omelet. Realizing that's why I have insurance, I fueled up and hit the road. My goal was to get home if I could.

Stopping in the middle of Nebraska at a rest stop, I napped for 15-minutes. I was making good time but was running out of daylight again. I hope to be in Morton by 5:00 am on Wednesday. As the dark closed in I started slowing down a little. Deer are nothing to mess around with on a bike. I stayed behind cars and hung with traffic. As I drove I started to wonder if I was seeing things. A line of light kept appearing to the left on I-80 up high. I watched it appear and disappear over and over again. It was the beginning of a big thunderstorm. As I approached Des Moines the lighting lit up huge storm clouds. I was almost totally sure that I was going to slip by it. Once in Des Moines the storm seemed to suddenly be all around me. The lightning was everywhere and close. I pulled off the interstate to find a place to hide out while the storm passed. The closest thing was a Git and Go gas station. I pulled in under the pump island and put a couple of gallons in and ran into the store. I grabbed a fountain drink and watched the parking lot turn into a river.

It poured buckets for 2 hours. The lady that was running the shop told me that a lot of the rivers and creeks were at flood stage. So I had to spend two hours making small talk with a 3 time divorced mother of four that grew up in Alabama but really felt like Mississippi was her home. She was a talker let me tell you. Thank God, too. Every minute she spent explaining her life was what I like to think of as "dry time". She was a nice lady that could have kick me out but instead let me have a couple of free refills and a milk crate to sit on. Not bad for 2:00 a.m. and three hundred miles from home. So as the rain let up I told the lady thank you and good-bye and headed to the closest hotel.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Klamath Aug 8

The next morning I got up early and packed up. I wolfed down a couple of Granola bars dipped in peanut butter. Those sit kind of hard, so I felt lucky wasn’t jogging home. Anyway I dialed in Salt Lake City into the GPS and got on the road. It was going to be 660-miles so it should be a good ride. I stopped to fill up at a small town and spent an hour on the phone visiting with my brother about the trip. The next stop was Drews Reservoir for a couple of quick pictures. The neat thing about this drive was there must have been a car show in Klamath Falls cause I met a ton of classic cars on the road all day long. Sorry no pics of the cherry hot rods. I

stopped in Sunnyville for a bite to eat. Then back on the road. Here is where I exited the mountains and entered the desert. After a hour a storm blew up; the high winds of the storm front create a dust storm that blew me all over the Hwy. Next the rain rolled in. I was expecting a hard rain and was surprised by a gentle warm mist. The sun was setting at my back at this same time, which created a cool double rainbow. I pulled off the road and shot a HDR from the shoulder of the road. At dusk I was driving through the Bonnieville Salt Flats. I had no idea that this was right off of I-80. In the twilight I could see a couple of Landsailer ripping around in the desert. I really don’t like to drive at night but I decided to push my luck to see if I could shave a couple of days off my trip. This was a decision that I would rethink later that night. My goal was to get to Salt Lake City or a little farther. I got to Salt Lake and used my GPS to look for a campground. Exploring several options I discovered that all the campgrounds here were for RV camping.

I was waiting on a stoplight at an overpass for I-80. It was about 10:30 and I was realizing that I was going to have to drive another half an hour to find a place to set up camp. Setting up a tent in the dark is without a doubt one of my least favorite parts of camping, only second to weeds that make you itch. While still at the stoplight, mulling over a cheap hotel, the driver of an SUV going the opposite direction decided to turn in front of me. I am not sure what happened to cause this to be a sudden decision, but the vehicle swerved over into my lane and ran over a metal street sign that was in the median between us. At this point the front end of the SUV popped up in the air making me less than comfortable about their ability to control their vehicle. Most importantly I was realizing that I wouldn’t have to set up my tent if I ended up in the hospital. From my perspective the next thing that was going to get run over was me. Watching as the vehicle moved closer, I made a lunged off the bike. Within a foot of hitting my bike they regained control and drove down the on ramp for I-80. I lay on the pavement a couple of feet away from my bike watching them drive off.

Next a teenage boy appeared from behind me and said, “ Are you alright man?” Finishing up the last word of profanity that I knew. I replied “ I'm ok but can you help me get my bike up.” The young kid helped me lift the bike back on to its wheels. I dropped the kickstand and started to realize how that I was shaking. The boy said,” Aren’t you hurt?” “No”, I replied. “He was really close but he never hit me.” The SUV was nowhere to be seen. The boy said ” Well I have to get home, take care.” I thought about calling the police but there wasn’t anything to do and I didn’t feel like standing around while he wrote up the accident report. I needed to find a place to sleep. The bike was still running so I jumped on and turned onto I-80.

Heading East out of Salt Lake City on I-80 at night was totally insane. The interstate twisted and turned and drops a lot. I put another hour and a half ride between Salt Lake City and me. By the time I got to Evanston I had forgotten all about camping and was ready for a bed. I found a Comfort Inn and called it a night.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tillamook Aug 7

We spent the night at some mom and pop hotel. The next morning we got breakfast and headed out. As we were leaving a Hispanic Harley rider asked if he could ride with us. (There goes another one of my stereo types of them all being fat white rednecks. I am speaking of Harley riders not hispanics.) Les seemed less than excited about him riding with us, but the guy was going the same way. We hit the road at the same pace as the day before. The Harley's long stroke design didn’t give him the snap up to passing speed the way the rest of the group could.

After about two hours of running down the coast a police officer caught up with us. I couldn’t believe that we were all pulled over and the cop let us all go except for Les. When I looked back the Cop was really chewing on Les pretty good. He was waving his hands around so much that he almost knocked his own hat off. We pulled off at the next gas station up the line and waited. Les found us after about 25 minutes. He wasn’t interested in talking about it so we just gassed up and headed out. I guess a long with really being able to ride he could really get tickets. So it goes. So our speed after that was a little bit more low key. I had no problem with keeping up the rest of the time.

We stopped at several scenic pull offs that day. The coastline was very pretty. The morning fog eventually burned off revealing a nice view of the Pacific. The second stop was at a coastal bridge the spanned a large canyon. We parked our bikes and walked to the center of the bridge for the best vista. After clicking our shots and talking we looked up to see the police officer coming down the road. He passed us without incident even though there was large sign indicating that no one on foot was allowed on the bridge. I pointed this out to Les and he replied “That's just for the jumpers”. What! Les explained that the bridge was a very popular place to commit suicide from. I laughed and said, ”I guess five guys with motorcycle helmets on snapping picture don’t really fit the profile of a jumper.” Les laugh also, “ Yeah guess not.”

The road was really a great biking road. The view, surface and turns were top notch. As we entered the top of California, the straight a ways started getting longer and I spotted several huge young red woods. About that time we all pulled over. This was the end of line for all of us riding together. Les and the two sons were continuing on down Hwy 101 towards Sacramento. Brian and I were going to head east into the mountains. The road led us up into Grants Pass. I know I sound like a broken record but this was also very scenic and a blast to ride on. We stopped and check out the Redwoods up close. I knew they were not the big ones, but they were still damn impressive. I started laughing and walked over and touch one of the trees. Brian was smiling and watching me. I realized I was acting like I was meeting someone famous. Then we watch a couple in their 70s acting the same way. I guess the scale of them makes you feel like a little kid inside. It's really funny and hard to explain just how it feels.

We jumped back on our bikes and headed up Grants Pass. Brian now being the leader was hitting the turns hard and passing everything in sight. I got stuck behind a large truck and watched as Brian ripped up the twisting canyon road ahead of me. I decided to not kill myself on this vacation so I waited for a safer spot to pass. Brian was still ways ahead of me. After passing several cars and hitting the edge of the canyon rim I saw him about 3 or 4 miles ahead. I decided to close the gap. Just about this time I noticed a dark car in my rear view mirror. I think you can figure out where this is headed. It was a cop. It was my turn. I got the perfect souvenir 87 in a 55. He asked me why I was speeding and I didn’t figure he would believe that my water broke so I mentioned that I was just trying to catch up to my buddy. After scratching out my 300 dollar ticket. He said, “Well tell him to slow down too.” I laughed and figured that it was going to be the only smartass cop I would meet in the next 2000 miles so I better make the best of it.

Just as I was getting ready to put my helmet back on the cop started asking me about my trip. He said "So you have just been riding around all summer?" I said "Yeah, pretty much." He replied "Sounds cool" I smiled and replied "Well it has been till now." The cop smile but had no retort. I headed on up the line to Klamath Falls at 55. It was getting dark so I used my GPS to find a K.O.A. campground. Brian had continued on with his trip and so was I.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Off the boat Aug 6

The boat exit was pretty eventless. I spent 5 days hanging out and killing time with several really nice people. While on the boat I decided that my tires were just too thin so I better find a place to get some new one. The bike shop in Anchorage wanted 100 dollars a wheel to mount and balance the tires - that I had brought up! This just seemed wrong. 200 bucks to put tires on that I already owned. Yes, I am ranting I know. Brian gave me an address for a store called Cycle Gear which was about 2 hour south of Auburn Washington. I called the store and they said they had several different types of tires that would work on my bike. Once at the store they were super helpful and set me up with a set of tires mounted and balanced for 400 bucks. I had to put the tires on the bike myself which took about 15 minutes each. While I finished installing my wheels, Les, Brian, Kit and James from the boat pulled into the parking lot. They needed to get a rear tire for one of their bikes. I offered my torque wrench to them so that they could remove and correctly install the lug bolt that held the wheel on to the bike. I knew the wrench would come in handy. After they return the torque wrench we visited and they invited me to ride down Highway 101 with them for a couple of days. I wanted to get back home but I couldn’t say no. I had planned this as part of the trip originally but figured that the traffic and cost of places to stay would be too much. When one of the guys invited me I figured it was like motorcycle fate, so I joined their group.

From Auburn Washington we headed west. If you are into rock trivia one of the towns we passed through was Aberdeen, WA, Curt Corbains hometown. The city sign has the slogan “Come as you are” as a tribute to the hometown legend.

After we got through Aberdeen we headed south down Hwy 101, which runs right down the Pacific coastline. This was one of the cooler parts of my trip. I am definitely going back to this area in the future. The Oregon coast was very cool. Alaska and Canada were also beautiful but I guess the twisty ass roads, beautiful coastlines, and temperatures in the 80s really make the road seem a lot more biker friendly. I wish I had time to ride all the way to Death Valley but I guess that will have to wait for the next trip.

The ride was very fast. I mean these guys went through traffic like a pinball. I held my own, but I must admit I spent a lot of time thinking about increasing my life insurance. I am not kidding. It was too much fun to be safe. If I wouldn’t of been riding with all my camping gear it would have been a lot easier to throw the bike around the many of the double corners. We drove up to the next town and waited at a gas station. We end that day of riding in Tillamook, OR. This was about halfway down the coast of Oregon. We only made about 350 miles this day due to the time we spent at Cycle Gear installing new tires but I felt like I had driven a about 700. Les was the lead rider of the group and I found out after talking to Kit that he had spent 20 years doing track racing. This guy could really ride.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On the boat Aug 4-5

Wrangle was the next stop on the boat. It was a quick stop to let off and pick up passengers. I was spending a lot of time visiting with several people that I met in Haines. Jon and Jason was a father and son that had ridden their bikes up form New Mexico to Alaska. They were riding a couple of Yamaha FJ1100. I simply could not figure out how they got all of their stuff on these bikes, but they did. Jason was leaving for college at the end of the trip. This father, Jon, ran an online lingerie business. I am thinking cool job. Then he makes some reference to being a Mormon. Now I am thinking there has to be a story here. It turns out that he has developed a lingerie line for professional women. The lingerie was designed to match a woman's skin tone. This allows women to wear shear clothing with out having the color of their undergarments show through. Just when I thought there were no original thoughts left in the world, this happens.

Ray and Holly were another couple that was traveling together. They had a brand new Harley that Ray told me had cost him $42,000. The wild part was that he had driven it 300 miles to Haines on one cylinder. He believed that he had broken the connecting rod that connected the piston to the crank shaft. I was amazed that it was still running and that there was a motorcycle that cost that much. They were heading to Bellingham to get the motor replaced. In addition to being amazed by their bike, their relationship was also a source of wonder. They were divorced and Ray announced that they would be celebrating their 6 month anniversary while on the boat. How do you talk your ex into going on a bike trip to Alaska after getting divorced? Now that’s something to think about. I know I did.

Stony and Marci were another couple that I got to know. They were riding from Rochester, New York on separate bikes. Stony was a really cool easygoing guy and Marci was the life of the party. Within only a few minutes of being on the boat she would make several new friends. In fact we all got off the boat in Ketchikan and were waiting on a bus. Marci got tired of waiting so she stopped a truck and talked them into giving us a ride downtown.

A guy by the name of Roger joined our party from time to time. He was an English and Special Education teacher that was working on his PHD in Psychology. He was 46 years old and had a 23-year-old girlfriend who was Jehovah witness. His girlfriend, he explained, had mental problems and was very possessive. Over time, the topics of discussion with Roger started to make all of us in the group believe that Roger was the one with the mental problems. I think most men living with women half their age do.

Les and Brian were two other guys traveling with their sons. Their sons were Kit and James. Les was a contractor in Las Vegas and Brian was a CFO for a mining operation that made line. Both were really smart and witty guys that had done a ton of riding. While talking with them, we all agreed that, after about three days on the boat we were all getting a little board with it. The view was beautiful and the ship was very comfortable but we all wanted to get back on our bikes and ride.