Friday, January 15, 2010

Been almost 2 years...

It's been almost two years since the cross country trip. Parts of it seem like just yesterday, other parts seem like a lifetime ago.

Read all the wackiness from the beginning...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

West Virginia trip

Ok, this wasn't an ARCPosse trip, but it seems a good place to post a ride report, anyway. My brother Mike and I joined the ESTN (Eastern meet) in Marlinton, West Virginia for some "Road kill and twisty thrills". Every year, the folks gather around this time in the Southeast for their Eastern rally, and this year in Marlinton, the date lined up with the local "Roadkill cookoff". Great times!

( )

We rode the Interstate down to Rt. 220 off I-80 (95->495->66->80) then stayed off any real highways the rest of the way into Marlinton. We hit a couple hours of light rain through Virginia - as predicted - but nothing nearly worth all the worry. Friday wasn't about enjoying the ride so much as getting there in a timely fashion, in plenty of time for dinner, drink and friends. SUCCESS! We pulled in to town at just about 5pm, topped off the tanks, then trudged to the motel to check in and get situated. We ran into Garry at the conference room, then we unpacked and started looking for friends and rustling up some dinner plans. Had a great evening catching up and meeting people and telling war stories. I asked Doug if Mike and I could tag along on his Saturday loop - all set to go! Headbanger

Saturday we got up, put down a breakfast and joined up Doug's group. This consisted of Doug (R Doug on ST.N), Erik (FizDog74 on ST.N), Vince (I'm sorry to say I don't know his screen name on ST.N) and my brother Mike (not on the forums) and me. Doug has posted the particulars of his route and I can tell you, what a route it was. An excellent mix of some technical twisties, some sweepers, some open road with great vistas and the occasional HOLY CRAP hairpin or downhill surprise. What a great day of riding. (pictures below)

We made several stops throughout the day, including a snack stop at Paint Creek or Paint Bank, where the general store's rocking chairs and old time porch made it especially difficult to get back on the bike. It was so peaceful and nice that Vince fell right over trying to get situated on his bike. Or maybe it was all the discussion about corn and miles. I'm not sure. You kinda had to be there. I heard a big bang and turned around to see Vince lying on the ground under his bike. He was lying there with his head back (helmet on) and his arms splayed out and my first reaction was, "OH SHIT - HE DIED!". Fortunately he just lost his footing on the gravel and was lying there just feeling sheepish. We got his machine righted and verified no damage or injury and got under way. Headbanger

Doug hamming it up at a nice pace (he is f'ing FAST, in any weather!)

Erik hot on his heels

Getting back on the road after the photo stop

I asked the guys to let me buzz on a head and find a place to take some action shots.





Then I had to take a picture of my own bike, of course...

We stopped in Lexington, VA for lunch at the Subway, then headed over the Goshen Pass. Very nice road, a nice mix of scenic surroundings and mild twisties. We stopped at the overlook to take a breather and take some more photos, including some clowning around.

"I see you seeing me seeing you..." (or something like that)

Say what you will about Harleys... they sure are photogenic.

I'm not sure what was going on here, but I think Mike was trying to hypnotize Doug into giving him his bike, old Vampire-style.

The crew...

More action shots...

We returned to Marlinton by about 5:30pm and sat at the coffee shop in town enjoying some warm drinks and discussion about a little bit of everything... including the fact that we missed out on the Road Kill Cookoff. The town was packing up as we rolled in. Bummer. :( But hey... we had a kickass day of riding. So it's all good. yippie

Again... photogenic. I think I'm going to do something a bit stylistic with this picture. Maybe water-color it, or or blur the background a bit or something.

Oh, hey... more Harleys joined the group. Oh, never mind... they're not ST.Ners. They're travelers who just happened to show up.

Dead Men Walking! (to dinner)

We went and had dinner, enjoyed the buffet and talked a bit more. We definitely had the rowdiest table and the most fun. Really...

Yes, Sara... that's chicken. Honest. The Roadkill Cookoff was down the street.

Wait... are you sure???

Doug... let's talk about corn.

The group as a whole was milling, drinking, laughing and talking 'til after midnight and everyone seemed to have a great time. I know I did - great turn out, great riding, great comradery... camaraderie... Why the hell are there so many spellings of this word??? Anyway, it was great meeting folks again, and others for the first time. It was great putting faces and real-life personalities to names (and online personalities). An awesome time!

Sunday, Mike and I got on the road fairly early with the intention of taking an easy, slow ride home. The weather mostly cooperated and we only hit a few small, quickly-passed storms all the way home. We took 39 -> 42 all the way to I-81 (in Harrisonburg) and wow... what a wonderful, pretty ride. Absolutely beautiful, and we were able to wick it up a little and enjoy some nice sweepers thru' the valley thanks to the rather shy appearance of the sun and some drying roads. Headbanger

I stopped at Mike's place to unwind and BS for a bit, before heading home, and pulled in to my driveway around dinner time with 968 miles on the clock, one desperately shot front tire (YIKES!), and being all the right kind of tired and sore. Great times, indeed.

Just some of the very, very many memorable quotes from Saturday...

"And then she said, 'here, hold my nutsack'!" -- Mike (MK96xj)

"Oh, I am completely shitfaced!" -- Sara (HappyRiding)

"pffffft. Pirates!" -- Sara (HappyRiding)

"Now you can strap the parts back on your Harley when they fall off!" -- Stefanie (stefrrr)

"I'd eat the corn..." Ya know what... I can't even finish that quote and I won't tell you who said it, even tho' he was quoting someone else. LOL LOL LOL

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wrap Up - Everything else

Wow, so where to start on this? I guess most of my write-up here will be comparing this trip to what I imagined doing this trip solo would have been. That's something I've been wanting to do forever, and have been planning in the back of my mind for the last decade at least. I do frequent solo trips locally, weekend, etc., and my solo traveling is quite different from this group dynamic of traveling.

Wayne kind of chastised me a bit during my write-ups because, in his words, they were great "this is what I did last summer" kind of posts without any really deep look at any behind the scenes shenanigans. I figured most of the people reading this would be more interested in the riding, the scenery and the bikes. Maybe yeah, maybe not. Normally I'm happy to peel the curtain back a bit and give everyone a look at the inner workings of... well, whatever. The sterility of some of the posts in the blog surprises even me, in hindsight. That's not usually like me.

Why is that?

I guess because, first and foremost, I was only one of six people in this and I was one of the invited members. Even though I'd been planning on doing a trip like this for the last decade or so, this wasn't my trip, so I guess I thought it would be best to do everything I could to help out, and to not rock any boats. I like to think I did my share of helping, planning and what-not during the year and a half leading up to this trip in which I was involved.

I took point on getting the bike-shipping stuff squared away, and even though Keith became the contact and payment coordinator, that part of the project was mine, or became mine, or I took it over... not sure and don't care. I was happy to do it. I contacted near on to two dozen shipping companies, freight forwarders, vehicle-specialists, large and small. Estimates, dates, details, etc., were all digested, collated, sorted and filtered, and eventually I narrowed it down to a few choices and presented them to the group, with my suggestions on which one to use. Surprisingly, most in the group were happy to go along with whatever decision was made, provided the costs could be contained. Turns out with HOG, AMA or AAA discounts, we got each bike shipped for around $570 per, a good solid hundred bucks or more less than I was expecting.

Keith definitely did the lion's share of the planning with regards to dates, logistics, route ideas, stopping points, people to meet along the way, daily mileage suggestions, keeping us all sane and focused, etc. He's a project manager at his day job, and keeping us all so organized was something he made look easy. Herding cats truly would have been easier, but he did a great job of making it look easy. Go, you, Keith! He also fronted a lot of the costs and, friends or not, that's always a risky chance to take. We all owe Keith more thanks than is easy to express. Maybe as a 'thank you' gift, we'll all stop talking about how hot his sister is.


Thank you, Keith. From all of us.

(and some day the whole "Keith's sister is really hot" story will be told - it's kind of funny)

Wayne, Adrian and Keith were the three guys originally who decided this trip would happen. They were all sitting in a bar one evening after taking the Lee Parks' Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic (a class that all of us on the trip has taken). I think it was Wayne who first voiced the idea and the three of them began the earliest planning.

I was invited by Keith and got to know the rest of the guys better over the next few months during rides, weekends, evenings out, etc. Turns out I gel pretty well with most of them. That really helped ease me in to being a more active participant in the planning and, most importantly, voicing my opinions on things that probably weren't great ideas or might be beyond the scope of the trip.

My original intent was to do a trip very much like this but doing it solo. I had always figured that, given the way I ride, the things I choose to stop and see and the fact that I get into "machine mode" and just ride, ride, ride when there's a destination and fleeting hours, I could do a trip like this in two work weeks, plus the three weekends around them. My plan was to beeline to Seattle - a 2-1/2 to 3-day ride - then head south along the coast to San Fran, then across the dessert, and into Utah, down in to Texas then across the South and back up through the Eastern mountains. At the time I knew people in Seattle, San Fran and Texas and they seemed like good places to put in for a day off of riding.

Had I done my original plan, I would have ridden, I guess, the 1, 101 and PCH mostly, and would have missed out on some of the in-country mountain-riding goodness that I experienced on this trip. The mix we did was better by far than what I was planning. But hey... there's something to be said for riding 4 or 5 days down the Pacific Coast. I envy those who live there and can ride that area when they please.

I also would have ended up being more within budget had I done this trip solo. I can definitely appreciate the nicer motels and hotels for their accommodations, but frankly, for dropping luggage in a room for 7-9 hours, grabbing a shower and getting back on the road, I'd have been perfectly happy with lower-end motels most of the time. Yes, I would have sprung for nicer places some times, especially on the days-off. I had even planned on camping some times; I bought a small simple 0ne-man tent (the family tent that sleeps 10 probably won't work well on a bike, ya think?) and would have been perfectly happy making room on the bike for that stuff. Turns out, everyone on the trip agreed that two-plus weeks on the road, everyone deserves a real bed and things like heat and air conditioning. Still... the challenge of "roughing it" a bit would have added to the character of the trip, I think.

Which brings to question the next thing.... what *was* the character of this trip? If you had asked me any time prior to the trip, what the plans were, my answer would have been something like, "Ride some great roads, see America, enjoy some Americana." I have since learned that riding across the country for two weeks with six very different people, you have three choices.
  • You can go places (which icnludes visiting people or being a tourist).
  • You can see things (which includes some of that 'Americana' I mentioned).
  • You can ride great roads.
The very best you can do, with six different people on the road for two weeks across this great and large country of ours, on any given day, is pick two of those.

Six people make everything... every meal stop, every fuel stop, every motel selection, every photo-op stop, every rest stop... you get the picture... longer, more complicated and more of a group-choice vote. Most of the time I was happy to roll with what the group decided, but there were a few times when I wanted to stop more and lots of times I wanted to stop less or for shorter periods of time. I would have been very happy to stop more frequently for pictures and meeting people, and very happy to make the fuel and food stops more in-n-out in nature. When I travel solo, my fuel stops are typically long enough to fuel up, walk a lap around the parking lot, make a quick pee stop and re-stock my water or Gatorade, maybe eat a banana. 10 minutes is a long fuel stop for me. 30 minutes was the average on the trip. Granted, some of the guys needed more of a break. I was definitely on one of the more comfortable bikes on the trip... on the planet... and I would have never rushed anyone along during those stops.

Oddly enough, early in the trip, I was one of the last to get ready to roll at most of the stops. Once I figured out the pacing of the stops, then I was able to get into the flow. But early on, I would fuel up, do whatever I needed, then be ready to roll. When I saw that everyone was taking a break, I'd peel off the gear, go and sit, make a phone call, get to talking, whatever, and would take my time getting geared back up to leave.

One day during the trip was pretty interesting. We stopped in Moab, Utah to Wayne and Adrian could get new tires on their bikes. Sport bike tires are softer for better grip, and some times that end up meaning less overall mileage per tire. It's the trade off we all live with. Everything I'd heard about riding in Utah, riding to the canyons, seeing the landscapes... and we were just passing through. Well, screw that. I peeled off from the group for the day to do my own thing, with the intent of meeting up in Durango, Colorado at the end of the day.

Adrian and Wayne both figured I was done with the group, and in the back of my mind, I probably did, too. But... everyone agreed to stick (mostly) together and everyone also agreed that people are going to want to do their own thing from time to time. This was a chance to put that to the test, for myself and for the group. I simply did NOT want to miss the opportunity to ride the Moab area. You know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare...? I'm a fast turtle when I ride alone. I plod along, doing my own thing, seeing and experiencing those things I choose to. I peeled off from the group at maybe 9am and went to ride CanyonLands National Park and The Arches National Park. I was back in Moab central in time for a quick lunch at the McDonalds's and a quick fuel stop, then on my way to Durango by way of Mesa Verde National Park.

The guys had all taken a wildly different route and had ridden some interesting roads elsewhere, but I was able to spend nearly three hours in Mesa Verde and enjoy everything the park offered (minus the walking tours of the ruins - By this point I was aware of how close to the edge my budget was), including walking with a coyote and sitting with the wild horses for about a half-hour. As I was leaving the park, the guys came rolling in. We talked for a few minutes and I agreed to meet then at the Best Western they had picked out in Durango. This was maybe 6pm or so and they did a cursory tour of the park for maybe an hour. I rolled on into Durango, found the motel they chose, and Wayne, Adrian and I eventually hooked up for pizza and beer at the Pizza Hut. I know they rode some intense roads that day, but me... I'm sticking by my story that I actually had the more enjoyable day. My second-favorite single day of the whole trip.

Later that evening, some of the guys were planning ahead on how to get home quickly. This is where I start to get a little irked and my general apathy for all things sets in. For most of us, this trip is something that may never happen again. For all of us, we had the support of our families, we had squirreled money away, we had planned, we had fine-tooth-combed over so much of what we could and would do... the idea of blasting home from Colorado just to get home fundamentally sickened and disappointed me. It was the evening in Durango when the switch in my head flipped and I officially quit caring about anyone else's wants or needs on this trip. I had grudgingly agreed to skip Tombstone. Likewise Roswell. I didn't do San Fran, including the Wharf and Alcatraz. I chose to stay with the group and I agreed to skip things.

Not any more. As Wayne told me several times, "This is your trip too, man." This was my trip, too.

Brian and Bob were the most vocal about wanting to bee-line home and they're big boys. I was happy to wish them good luck and send them along, but I was most definitely not interested in letting their home-sickness interrupt my trip. I would have been happy to split from the group on my own, rather than be the cranky voice of the group had everyone agreed to cut short and buzz home. Failing emergencies at home or completely running out of money or the bike dying, I was firm in my choice to see this out to the end. I thought everyone along on the trip had a pretty clear understanding of just how far away we were, how long we were taking and just how FAR we'd already come. Apparently not. I'm sorry some of the guys didn't enjoy this trip as much as I did, or specifically, didn't enjoy the time spent, the time it was taking and how far we'd come, but that to me seemed more of a choice than anything. Of course I missed home. Of course I wanted to be back in my own bed, saying goodnight to my kids and knowing my life was safe and simple at home. But seriously... fuck that, at least for a little while.

I was riding MY motorcycle across this BIG country and I was bound and determined to make the very best of every moment I could. That includes riding 100 miles of dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. That includes some of the most desolate, out of the way places I've ever seen. That includes riding through the snow to see THE Grand Canyon. That includes stretching my fuel reserves farther than I thought possible finding the third closed-down town in Oklahoma and trying again another 20 miles up the road. That includes meeting people at diners and restaurants who were interested in our trip. That includes standing on the side of road with my broken-down bike wondering what to do next. That includes laughing a little at the guys getting all worked up over the time it was taking to get home. That includes the looks on the faces of people trying to figure out what Yuengling is. That includes riding in 110-degree heat and 30-degree cold. It includes photographing wildlife and the wild antics of my traveling buddies.

And that includes reaching that state where I just couldn't spend one more bit of energy caring about others' ability to have a good time. This was my trip, too. From then on, I was riding a solo trip, and if it happened to be with 1, 2, 3 or 5 other guys... so be it. But from then on, I was "riding my own ride" and taking whatever came my way and handling it my own way. Once I got myself into that mindset, I let everyone know that if anyone wanted to go on ahead, have fun, I'm riding from here to there, no route, no plan and I'll see you at the end. I begged off all Interstates from that point on and even though Northern Oklahoma was the most boring and desolate place I'd been, I was enjoying the experience for what it was, not as just another way to get to Point B.

On this trip, I spent 16 days just living in the moment. More so in the last 5 or 6 days than before, mostly because I'd just given up on worrying so much about my place in the group and others' enjoyment of the experiences. I stopped to take the pictures I wanted, I didn't stop or didn't take pictures when I didn't want to. And I had a great time for it.

So... I've been asked a lot, what would I change, or what will I do different next time? This group I went with, we're all friends and have all taken numerous day-trips and weekend trips to and fro', ranging from two people to these six and more. Knowing now what I know, and having experienced what I have, I would be far, far more vocal - perhaps to the point of being annoyingly insistent - that we all understand, when someone feels like peeling off for the day, or the rest of the trip - we're all big boys and can take care of ourselves. No guilt, no worries. In addition, I would have stuck by my guns about going to see the things *I* wanted to see and the places *I* wanted to go. Others come along, great. But don't bitch to me if you don't have a good time. Others don't want to come, great... see ya'll at the next meet point in a day, two, or more.

The ideal trip would be solo. The logistics and risk-management of a solo trip of this size and magnitude are pretty intimidating. Wayne had a nice idea suggesting three people could be nearly optimal for a trip like this. Two would be good, but in the case of there being real trouble, a third could run on ahead and get help. That makes a lot of sense. If the guys all planned this trip for next year, I would agree to go with all my points being made very vocally and very clearly, or I would join in to get the group rate on shipping, then meet them all at some central point every few days and go solo. Or I would suggest that the various sub-groups consider doing things that they like in common. Or... Or... Or...

I had a great time on this trip, I could have had a better time. But I have no *real* regrets. Just typical "hindsight is 20/20" stuff. And yes... I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wrap up - Gear and clothing

Turns out, gee, I over packed. Go figure.

The clothing

For regular clothes, I took several t-shirts of the normal cotton variety, two pairs of jeans, several pairs of regular sweat socks for use under my boots, a couple of polo shirts (for those rare occasions when I might have wanted to dress a little nicer), sneakers, one sweat shirt and a ball cap.

Turns out, what I actually needed from all of that was one pair of jeans, maybe half the t-shirts and one polo shirt. That's all I really used and even the t-shirts would have been optional. I used the same polo shirt for a couple of evenings out to dinner and that was it. Wearing it for an hour at a time, not like it needed frequent laundering. The sweat socks were tossed after each wearing - I took old ones on purpose - and when they were gone, my wash-n-wear Tilley travel socks were perfect!

The clothing that really impressed me was the dry-tech quick-dry, moisture wicking stuff that I wore under the riding gear, and often the non-riding times too. It was just so comfortable. Read all you want, understand it all you want, until you've worn it, you may not really don't get it. The brand name most people would be familiar with is Under Armor. I, being the frugal sort on occasion, selected house brand stuff and bought the non-compression style of long-sleeve shirts, a couple of pairs of underwear and gym or running shorts. I also took two pairs of running pants of the same material. I was surprised at how comfortable it was even just during non-riding, sitting around.

I was always cool and comfortable - as much as you can be in 110-degree heat - and the fact that I could wash stuff in the sink and it would be dry and wearable in a few hours - a few minutes in some cases - was a huge bonus. I never had to do an official load of laundry, tho' I did add my jeans and polo shirt to one guy's laundry in Vegas. Just 'cause I could. I only wore the jeans under the riding pants on the very cold days - once up to the Grand Canyon and the day we went to Crater Lake.

The dry-tech stuff rolled up and packed tight, and since it was used under my riding gear, or during riding days, wrinkling just wasn't something I cared about at all. However... it didn't really wrinkle anyway, so, no worries. I had two pairs of socks, 4 or 5 shorts, 2 running shorts, 2 running pants and that was perfect. Wash one, wear one, in most cases. All of my clothing fit in one saddle bag, and now that I understand how much and where I over-packed, even that could have been reduced to 2/3 - maybe even 1/2 of the saddle bag.

Dry-tech clothing ROCKS. 'nuff said.

The riding gear

The actual daily-use riding gear consisted of:
  • Joe Rocket Alter Ego jacket and pants, sans rain liners. Mostly without the outer panels on.
  • Sidi On-Road boots.
  • Several do-rags for under the helmet.
  • Shoeii Multitec helmet.
  • Various gloves, including mesh, full leather. I used mesh most days.
Optional/part-time gear included:
  • Gerbing heated vest
  • Gerbing heated gloves
  • Dry-tech sweat shirt (best $6 I've ever spent!!!)
  • Tourmaster over-gear rain suit.
The gear all did its job, as expected. No surprises, no problems, no "wardrobe failures" causing me to expose my nipples on national TV. When it was hot out, I didn't even bother with the rain gear on the few times it rained - with the lack of humidity in most places, I was dry within moments of the rain ending. I did use the rain gear when it was cold & wet, and when we were further East. But then it was so hot and humid, I should have just gone without. Not like I was riding to work or some social event.

Bottom line is this, if it's hot and raining, you have your choice. You can be wet from rain, you can be wet from sweat. I've found little evidence to suggest any other options. A fully naked bike might present other options, but it's been my experience that hot + rain = yucky. Accept it and move on.

I thought I'd miss having my one-piece suit along - and for quick in-n-out, yeah. But the gear selected for the trip held up fine, never left me too cold or too hot and just plain worked. I admire the guys who wore their Aerostich Roadcrafter suits in some of that heat. Knowing myself, I'd have wrapped it up on the rear seat with a bungee-net and gone without gear on those crazy-hot days.

I don't do heat well.

So yeah... no surprises. I think I've got my gear selections pretty well dialed in at this point. We'll see how my Fieldsheer Highland one-piece suit does in the cooler weather this Winter. But for general use, the Alter Ego stuff is definitely holding up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The wrap up - The Bike

I'll break this wrap-up down into several posts, eaching being topical. Let's get the simple stuff out of the way on this first one: the bike.

Note: Any posts I make are solely and wholly from my perspective, based on my experiences and should not be considered the opinions of the group as a whole. I'm still hoping the other guys post up soon.

The bike I took on this trip was my 2008 Harley-Davidson FLHX Street Glide. I've already explained ad-nauseum why I bought the bike in the first place, so honestly... I'm getting sick and tired of hearing "you sold your FJR for a Harley? Are you nuts?" Piss right off, ok? Thanks.

The FLHX is a variant of the touring-frame Electraglide model. It's got less chrome and fewer appointments than the full on touring models and doesn't come with a tour-trunk stock. It's meant to be the more stripped-down, "hot rod" version of the Electraglide. From the factory it's really meant to be a 1-up "sporty" touring bike (but Harley's idea of 'sporty' doesn't exactly match a lot of peoples' idea of sporty). While it's got floorboards up front, the FLHX has pretty chrome pegs for the passengers rather than floorboards, and the passenger seat is less than optimal for anyone who will ride more than 1/2 hour at a pop.

The Street Glide is powered by the same air-cooled, 96" 'Big Twin' engine as is in the other Harleys and remains to this day, completely stock in that regard. I'm not one for loud pipes, performance engine mods and trying to eke out another 4 horse power for THOUSANDS of dollars on a touring bike. That's just plain stupid. There are way faster bikes that do things way better if that's your thing. Often for far less money, too. Ya know... like an FJR for instance.

The features I added or changed on the bike include are completely for comfort and features, including:

  • Full 2-up touring seat
  • Passenger floorboards
  • Full tour-pack (vs. the "chopped" tour pack which looks nicer but holds less)
  • GPS & Autocom communications system
  • Better fork internals
  • Better-than-stock tires

My goal was to make the bike a full-on 1-up or 2-up distance tourer with all the available storage space, while improving the ride and handling. The bike had close to 5,000 miles on it before the trip (all my miles), and now sits just shy of 11,000 miles total. The trip was just under 6,000 miles from Portland to my driveway via the routes we chose.

Ride Quality & performance

I did not weigh everything I had strapped on the bike, but I'll run through a list of what I was carrying, more or less, in the Wrap Up - The Gear post. If I had to guess, I'm going to guess I was carrying just over 100 lbs of tools, luggage, provisions, spare riding gear, optional riding gear, etc.

Both saddle bags were full, one with a carry-out bag containing my clothes and daily-use items, the other containing rain gear, heated gear, extra gloves, first-aid kit, tire kit, spare batteries (Autocom & SPOT). The tour-pack held the stuff I used every day, or mostly every day, including bottles of water, my jacket shell (Joe Rocket Alter Ego), crash-bar lowers, sweat shirt, camera bag, sneakers, GMRS radio & charger, Autocom, clear/spare visor, misc. paper work, etc.

A back seat bag held the main tool kit, my Camelbak and a spare set of rain gear in case anyone needed it (these belonged to Keith).

From a power-delivery perspective, the bike had no idea that extra weight was back there. But without air in the rear shocks, the front end was wallowy and wandered quite a bit. Once I arrived in Portland, the first order of (bike) business was to find a gas station and top off the shocks with 35 PSI of air. Once that was done, the bike leveled out and handled and rode fine. It tracked true and felt confident in the turns. I really couldn't feel the weight in turns and such, but the bike felt pretty harsh on severe road bumps.

The bike made for some rough going on the dirt, wash-rutted roads on the Day-4 Off Road Excursion. I bottomed out both ends of the bike several times and once or twice I thought I might have actually compressed the tire and banged the rim. But, I saw nothing on the rims, so perhaps not.

But on the road, "it's all good". The bias-ply tires seemed a bit more sensitive to road conditions with the extra weight, but nothing bad. Just a bit more feedback and hunting in the grooves.

Comfort - heat, cold, buffeting & body position

The seating position on this bike is ridiculously neutral and inert. If it wasn't getting a little sore from sitting stationary for so long - which would happen on any bike, chair, car or plane seat - I have NO issues with the seating on the 'Glide. Super comfy for chewing up the miles. I did find it helpful to put my feet up on the passenger boards, or up on the crash bars, when we were going across the large, open, flat, boring states, to help stretch my legs a little.

We rode in temperatures ranging from the low 30s in the high mountains, to roughly 110 in the plains - in Oregon, of all places! On the very few occasions I actually felt cold, most of that was taken care of by putting on a sweat shirt under my gear and putting on non-mesh gloves. I only had to use my heated gear on two occasions, one of which was the snow-storm up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

As far as the heat goes, riding this bike in severe heat is absolute torture if you're below, say, 25 MPH or worse (worst?), sitting in traffic. The 07s and up run VERY hot due to having to be leaned out so much for the newer CARB emissions standards. And wow, will it cook you. The secret is to keep moving, or pull over and dismount until traffic is flowing again. Idling the bike in traffic above 90-degrees... you deserve everything you get.


Many people find that adding a Power Commander, TFI or SERT module to richen the mixture, then changing the pipes for better air flow, work to help cool the bike down. Considerably, apparently. I might spring for a module, but I am *not* doing pipes. Nope. Not an option.

Buffeting - my favorite subject. I seem to be in that segment of people that falls just outside the bell-curve for body-size normalcy. I'm a little short and I guess I'm short in the torso. Most bikes have me either hiding behind the windshield, or sitting right in the buffeting zone just below the flow of clean air over the helmet. This bike is no exception, but this time, it's not the fault of the windshield. I don't have this problem on sport bikes - they're made for smaller-framed people. Of course, they're also made for people that are about 2/3 my weight, and in much better shape in general. That lean-over seating just kills me these days.

Airflow on the 'Glide is very interesting. Air enters the front of the bike around and between the forks, and flows over the front engine cylinder. From here you might think it would continue back, over the rear cylinder, then down and out the bike to the lower rear area. Ah, wouldn't that be nice? Instead, the air washes around the rear cylinder and the now super-heated air flows up around the sides of the tank and almost straight up. When that air meets what's going up over the fairing and windshield, the buffeting zone is exactly where my helmet sits. I have tried several windshields, including a spare I took on this trip, all to no avail. Unless I put on a 17-inch SAIL on the front of the bike, I seem to only be able to move the buffeting zone about 2 inches on a vertical plane. I always have buffeting. If I were 2-3 inches taller in the torso, or had a longer neck, I'd probably be fine. But, alas... my gargoyle-like proportions fail me again.

If I had to do over again, I'd simply buy the Road King (non-faired version of the same bike) and ditch the windshield altogether. Live and learn. It's a common problem with me. I hate buffeting!

Anyway, I had opportunity to really explore the aerodynamics of this bike, and I think I can make a little farkle to put under the tank to help mitigate, if not elminate, the buffeting. I think some air deflectors and an air channel to force the air to continue past the rear cylinder, rather than flaring out around the tank and upward, will do wonders for me. We'll see.

In conclusion

I dare say I was among the most comfortable on this trip and certainly among the least-fatigued at the end of each day of riding. While you can ride this bike pretty fast and pretty hard, it's a good deal of work to do so and that extra work might have balanced out the fatigue the others were feeling to a degree. Most nights I was dead tired, but on those nights I got a good night's sleep, I was able to get right back in the saddle again and do it all over again the next day, with no lasting affects. It wasn't until day 14 or so that my back started giving me some grief, but it was minor and it did not last. Another week on the trip might have brought more, but as it was, this was a fine-duration trip with the right amount of riding and non-bike time.

I was able to carry everything I needed - and then some - right on the bike and didn't need to rely on anyone else for extra storage space. In fact, a few times I ferried some things for other people because I had a little extra room. I was able to always have extra water, Gatorade, juice, etc., with me for myself or others if they needed it. Awesome!

I was able to stow enough gear for all the weather we were expecting (and hit!) and never worried over stuff I couldn't bring. It all worked out well.

This bike might just be the perfect legal-speed distance tourer. No, it's not a sport-tourer and no, it's not going to win any races, but getting there (where ever "there" is) feeling fit, refreshed and ready to go... this bike EXCELS where others may simply do "well enough". And yeah... you can rock the occasional twisty if you're a good rider and keep your head on straight.

There were times when I'd wished I was on something more sporty, but at the end of the trip, I really have no regrets on my choice to bring the Street Glide. It did its job well.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Day 16 - Home

I'm on my way
Well, i'm on my way
Home sweet home
Tonight tonight
I'm on my way
I'm on my way
Home sweet home
-- Motley Crue

I woke up and packed up the bike, trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake Doug and Sheri up. They insisted I make myself at home, but I didn't want that to include waking them up from all my clomping around. I snuck out to the garage and got the bike all loaded up, but Sheri was awake feeding the dogs when I came back in. I truly hope I didn't wake them.

Doug decided he was going to take his Super Duke out to scrub in the new tires in preparation for his trip next week to the ST.N national, and to escort me on my way. Very cool. Oh, and don't let Doug's nice-guy exterior fool you. When he gets that Duke on a twisty road, he's GONE. Again, I was riding pretty conservatively on the rain-covered morning roads, but Doug... GONE. ZOOM!

Hooligan! Razz

We split off at the Maryland border and I continued on my way, heading East towards home. I decided that once I got into Northern MD and into PA, I would bag any further highways and stick to the country roads I know in the area. Turned out to be a great day of riding, one thunderstorm not withstanding. Around Hanover, PA, the skies dumped on me for a few minutes. It was a small but very intense storm. I blasted the rest of the way home trying to beat the storm. I pulled into my driveway at about 2:20pm, and the storm hit here at about 3pm. Just made it ahead of the storm the whole way. Awesome! Thumbsup

Tons of bikes were on the road, and I was following a woman riding a Ninja 650R for a while on MD-77. There were also about a dozen women all riding Harleys coming the other way in the same general area, then another woman got behind me on some kind of smaller Japanese cruiser. I'd like to see more women riding. It's cool.

So, I'm home. At last. But I still feel like that part's kind of a dream. Part of me is still back on some of those roads. I've seen some intense sights. I've done some cool stuff. I've ridden MY motorcycle 5900 miles across this great country, met some interesting people and heard and told some amazing stories. I've climbed mountains on my bike and I've ridden through landscapes that will take your breath away. I've had my perspectives and perceptions turned completely upside-down. I have felt true fear, true loneliness and near-absolute desperation. I have screamed "waaaahooooo" in my helmet while pushing myself and my bike to limits I never dreamed I would, I have ridden roads only imagined and I have felt true serenity while viewing mountains and gorges and animals.

Part of me wants to remove the pictures from online and even to completely trash them, knowing that they can never truly do justice to the memories and experiences I will savor for the rest of my life. Part of me wants to tell everyone that I can't show them the pictures because they just have no context unless you've been there and done that. Until you've ridden down these roads, seen the colors and contrasts, felt the temperatures, experienced the vastness of it all, smelled the scents, heard the sounds... none of it really comes across on the screen or even in the printed pictures like you would hope.

If you can ever do a trip like this... on a bike, in a car, whatever... get out on the road and see the world. I've only barely scratched the surface; there are countless more roads, people, experiences and sights out there. But then, how much is enough...? I don't ever want to be jaded and not savor things like this. But there is just so much more out there. People who fly to a destination and spend their entire time locked away in a resort or theme park are missing some great times.

Well, that's it for now. Look for a post-trip follow up in a few days. I'll talk about the bike, the gear, the problems, everything that doesn't fit into the "here's what we did today" kind of stuff. Thanks for taking the time to read it all and look for posts from the other guys on the trip, too. I'm anxious to read others' perspectives on things I saw.

In a word... AWESOME!

Day 15 - Sleepless in... where the hell am I, again?

So the day before we pressed on through Missouri and made it into Kentuky. We agreed to push as close to Bowling Green as possible. Turns out we made it the whole way. It was a long day and everyone was pretty bushed when we packed in for the night. But it was a good - even fun - day of riding.

Day 15 would prove to be largely the same. We were on more of these non-stop twistie-turny roads that... Did you see the Terminator movie? "It can't be reasoned with, or bargained with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely, positively, will not stop." Yeah, Days 14 and 15 were like that. As relentlessly boring as Oklahoma was, Missouri and Kentucky were as relentlessly active. Again, we're not talking 200 miles of Tail of the Dragon, but the turns never stopped. Ever. By the end of day 15 we were all dragging ass and tired and worn out. It was the good kind of worn out, though.

At one point, Adrian pulled over on the side of the road, rested his helmet on his tank bag and said into the radio... "stick a fork in me. I'm done!" I was following him at this point and his turn entries were getting sloppy. I happily concurred. I was flat-out exhausted. We rode up to Rts. 80 & 23, then into Prestonsburg and grabbed some rooms at the Super-8 motel.

We all wound down for a little bit, then walked over to the restaurant next door to have dinner. Reno's I believe was the name. By this point Bob and Brian were well into their high-mile Interstate run home. We opted up to this point to avoid as many Interstates as possible, but over dinner, most everyone agreed to hop on the big roads and blast home in time for a Saturday evening arrival. For myself, I was a little bummed. I still had a few more days of vacation and as I'm sure you're sick of my saying... this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip. I didn't want it to end yet, even though I was only a day-ride from home.

We talked more over dinner and the decision was made... everyone would get up in the morning and depart. Saturday was supposed to be nice in the entire region and Sunday would bring crappy weather everywhere. I chimed in saying that if I wasn't up that early, go on ahead. I wanted... NEEDED... to sleep in. By this point my back was starting to bother me and I'd been having only sporadic good nights of sleep up to this point.

The guys were all cool with everyone leaving at their own times and we said our g'byes and crashed.

And crash I did. I don't think I woke up until well after 8am and I didn't roll out of the parking lot until almost 10am.

But there was a snag... I checked the weather and looked out the window. Some nasty storms were rolling through and the day was promising to bring a blitz of storms all day. Crap! I'm sure you're equally sick of hearing me say that since crashing the Harley in January, I'm a big sissy when riding in the rain. The bike just doesn't feel planted to me when the roads are wet. So I ride slow and very conservatively when it's wet out.

I shot a quick message off to my friend Doug (RDoug from and told him I was planning on heading North from here and was wondering if he'd like to grab a meal later. He's in Morgantown, WV and taking a circuitous route, I could be in town by dinner time. Well, the skies opened up on me as soon as I left and even with all the water, wind and lightning, I still made an attempt to take the back roads.

For about a mile.

Maybe two.

The roads I was on were slick and messy with dust or mud and weren't fun at all. I got back out onto the Interstate and made a casual ride up the highways to Morgantown. Doug called my cell and said that he'd meet up, and we'd talk when I got into town. I had rain gear on so wasn't rain-soaked, but it was HOT and humid and raining and trucks and traffic and wind and... yeah, I rolled in to Morgantown feeling absolutely beat up.

Doug met me at the Sheetz station and escorted me back to his house where I was introduced to his lovely wife Sheri and his three dogs. Doug insisted I bag the motels and stay there at the house with them. I agreed, but only under the conditions that he let me buy dinner. They took me out to Archie's, a local on-water pub and I had the biggest burger ever (well, Denny's Pub in Clearfield makes them slightly bigger, but it was still a pretty good sized sandwich).

Back to the house for some banter, some TV and some discussions of a route home the next day, then off to bed.

I have to say, Doug and Sheri - THANK YOU. Opening your home to me like that was very generous and I'm honored that the offer was even made. It's great to know that there are still people out there who are so caring and generous. Thumbsup

Day 14 - Hidden gems in Misery

Again, miles and miles to cover...

People who ride motorcycles jokingly(?) call Missouri "Misery". I'm guessing that's because the more Northerly part of the state is more like the Kansas East Annex. Have you ever looked at Kansas on a map? Take Manhanttan and stretch it WAY out. It's a big grid with 90-degree turns every 50 miles or something. Looks silly. There may be some good smaller roads that don't show up at the resolution we were viewing, but... it's Kansas. So, whatever. (no offense)

Missouri, however, has some nice stuff in the Southern end of it. Hills and turns and twisties and everything! Two hidden gems in this case are Routes 14 and 160. We exited Joplin and rode enough highway to get us away from the city and out into the more spread-out stuff and found Rt. 14, which piggy-backs a few other roads in stretches, then connect up with 160 further East.

Let's put it all in perspective... after riding California and Oregon roads, I've not been on anything since that really compare - nothing excessively beautiful, twisty or technical in nature. Call me jaded. But these two Missouri roads provide more than enough entertainment to let you blast across the state at a good clip, and still have fun and keep from getting bored. Both roads have a few technical sections and pack up pretty tight, but for the most part they are the higher-speed twistie roads; think Cherohala (for you Easties) or... well, I can't really name a single road in California that is just that type of stuff.

Point being, you don't have to ride straight lines and 90-degree city-like grid roads if you know where to look. (I won't make such assertions about Kansas Wink )

The only pictures I have from the day are when we discovered that Wayne couldn't wait for the guy in the men's room and decided to use the ladies' room. I caught him as he was coming out (hehehe, I said 'coming out'). I wonder what he'll pay me to keep these off the Interne... oh, wait.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Day 13 - Billions and Billions of Miles! (in your best Carl Sagan voice)

Sorry to report, another non-picture day today. Today was about covering miles again. We broke into two groups, Brian, Keith and Bob doing mostly Interstates to get to Joplin, Missouri, the rest of us taking secondary highways and such to hopefully meet at the same destination. Turns out that if we didn't hit a few hiccups along the way, we would have likely arrived with in minutes of each other. Oklahoma Rt. 64 did some crazy 50-mile southerly job and put us almost an hour off course, then OK Rt. 20 was closed in sections with no apparent signage for detours. We probably wasted close on to two and a half hours with those two bits of silliness.

Beaver, Oklahoma is now my favorite town. No... that's not why. We were 50 miles into reserve, thru' two towns and several gas stations that no longer sell gas when we found Beaver. They had a gas station and that means I didn't have to walk 30 or more miles, or be eaten by some of Wayne's mutant killer cows like in some bad ripoff of a Steven King novel. My Harley has a 6-gallon tank. No exaggeration - I pumped in 5.97 gallons of fuel. Wayne's 5.5 gallon tank took 5.45 gallons.

Oklahoma is freaking big and there is NOTHING in the pan handle. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.

Oh, for Christmas the family bought me cruise control for the Harley. I know, it seems silly, and I'll admit to having doubts as to whether it would really be all that helpful a feature to have. But as it turns out, I've discovered - thanks to the ridiculously EMPTY vastness of outer space (read as: Northern Texas and Oklahoma), I have many things to do with my hands since they're no longer needed to maintain throttle control for three-hour stretches (no, not that!).

You can...

* learn to mimic the secret hoof language of the deadly killer cows
* air-drum every Def Leppard song in your music library
* figure out all the intricacies of the aerodynamics of the Harley fairing, and the crappy aerodynamics from up under the gas tank, causing my buffeting. I have a fix designed in my head and just need to build a prototype. WOOT!
* become ridiculously proficient at programming your GPS to play Mary Had a Killer Cow in three different keys
* decide if/where to move or adjust your handle bars when you return from the trip
* find 37 different ways to use your camelbak hydration system while it's bungee-netted to the back seat
* practice your Miss America beauty pageant wave
* give your riding buddies the finger over and over again, smiling with satisfaction that your bike will hold a steady speed while they try to lock their silly little throttle locks to give you the finger right back
* wave to farmers
* wave to cowboys
* wave to road-construction workers
* wave to the old guy cutting the three blades of grass he calls a front lawn
* rinse, repeat

Oh. My. God. I've never ridden more boring roads in my life.

But hey... we rode a 600+ mile day and found a motel for $54/night. SCORE!!! Tomorrow we head East, Keith, Adrian, Wayne and I. Bob and Brian are splitting off to bee-line home. Good luck guys, be safe.

And that, as they say, is that for today. It's late. I'm tired. Morning comes early. 'night night.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 12 - Miles, money and mistakes

Today was just about covering miles. No pictures from me on this one. We left Durango and headed out 160 to 64 to 87 and on to Clayton, NM. Parts of 64 completely rocked. We went thru' some mountains and had a grand old time running some fast twisties through the Carson forest. Awesome!

We got in to Clayton and I started making plans for some riding in Texas, catch up with some people... I've been promised *real* Texas BBQ! Then I checked my bank account. Yikes! Crazy I thought I was keeping better track of things. I might have to dig in to household money to get home and that's worrisome to me. Gas has been consistently more expensive then I'd planned, as has food. I splurged and got my own room a few more nights than I should have, and some of the places we've stayed have been a bit more expensive than planned.


I really wanted to get down in to Texas. I gotta log on to the bank and credit card sites again and see if I can do this.