Okay, so the trip didn't technically start today, but I left home so that's what counts. Bags are packed, goodbyes said, house in order, I'm outta here. It's quite dreary out, and fittingly so. Of all my motorcycle trips, they have all started in the rain. I'm headed North to Everett to stay the night with the folks, it seems safe. No late night out drinking, no hangover to start day 1. I make it all the way to 527 before the rain starts. It's really just a drizzle, but wet is wet, and this seems to be wet.
Here I am. In Everett. The day 0 ride is complete. Enough of that. I head down to Bothell for one last home cooked meal before my 15 day trek to somewhere and back. The rum was good, the food was great, the company was the best. <<I am Jason's tummy. I am happy. I am full.>> We watched Fight Club. See the movie if you don't get the reference.
My first good night's sleep in some time is about to come. I'm talking quantity, not company.
Total Miles: 22
We take off and it's foggy as hell. No precipitation though........I am oddly disappointed. I-5 bores me. Everett bores me. Monroe bores me. Steven's Pass bores me. After Leavenworth, things seem all right. No more Winnebago's (and there oddly very few out today on this fine Saturday morning). It's nice and sunny. No more clouds; the only shadows come from the mountains beside me. Highway 2 seems like a great way to cross the state. Very scenic, that is until we get to Spokane. Remind me never to live there. Shoot me if I ever think about going there other than to pass through. Smells kind of like Pullman but without the pretty coeds.
Seems a little warmer out on the East side of the Cascades. Lost the gloves 30 miles back. Time to lose the jacket now. I feel funny not wearing any leather when the only thing between me and the asphalt I'm grazing over at 65 mph is 3 feet of air.
I think the tires are finally broken in. I have a mild amount of confidence in their ability to keep me from careening my head into the ground. I know that if they pitch me in that direction, I don't have a chance of missing. Seems like no matter how many times I've been thrown at the ground, I've never missed hitting it.
We head North out of Spokane sticking to the Highway 2 plan. Man is it great to not be riding on the freeways. I somehow miss the sign that we've entered Idaho. Not sure how that happened, but I've been staring at the same tailight on the same blue motorcycle in front of me for almost 6 hours today. I know I'm in Idaho because there's no longer state run liquor stores. It's a bunch of "Idaho Liquors" now. Strangely I'm not tempted to stop in. Something must be wrong....I'll sleep on it.
Nice windy road now, wer're following Jewel Lake. Pretty impressive scenery. It's cooled down a little now that we're near water. We have a plan on where to spend the night: The mildly appealing town of Sandpoint Idaho......which when we arrive turns out to be a really cool place. It's a resort town, pretty developed (hey, any town with both a Wal Mart and a Big K-Mart has to be developed). Hotels are full. Saturday night, resort town, class reunions. AT&T 00-INFO to the rescue !! Tom Bodett left the light on for us.
Total Miles: 373
Great night's sleep. Needed it. That makes two in a row for me. I think I'm going to start counting as this may be a recurring trend (until Sturgis !!). 88 degrees this morning as we head out. No thoughts of even starting with jackets. Pleasant morning, riding off into the sunrise (okay, so it's 9:10, but the sun is still rising).
I see my first roadkill !!!! Big moment for me. I'm a fan of roadkill. It tells us a lot about life; okay, maybe just the end of life. It's a big deer. By the size it might be a buck, but I can't see the head. (S)He's belly up by the side of the road. Kind of looks like a dog that's waiting for his belly to be scratched. No blood, no missing patches of skin, no missing limbs, no decay. Serene you might say.
I see my second roadkill !!! It's some 50 miles later. Not as pretty a picture. Not serene. Could be a week old. Nice 75 foot strip of splayed blood on the road, I drive over it with my new tires. The deer's off the side of the road but the scene is obvious. I'd hate to see what the other guy looked like. Doubt he drove away from that one.
Don't know how I missed it again, but I crossed another state line. I'm in Montana now. How do I know? "Montana Liquors".....I'll have to see if this is going to be a recurring theme with me. I should have seen the sign, I saw the one for "Mountain Time Zone". It occurs at the border. Don't dwell on this too much, it's a beautiful day ahead.
We finally arrive at Glacier National Park. Spectacular scenery. But we're here for one reason and one reason only: "Going to the Sun road". 52 miles of nothing but fun and scenery as we cross through the mountains. It's slow going, 2 narrow lanes (1 in some places), tight turns, lots of traffic, sheer rock wall on one side, whole lotta nothin' on the other side. But I feel safe....I have an 18" high rock wall on the side of the road that's supposed to save me from tumbling 3000' to my bloody death. We stop several times to take in the scenery and grab a few pictures (kind of hard to see it all when you're operating a motor vehicle that people are out to hit). The lodge at the top is pretty cool, I am extremely put out that I left without seeing the "Continental Divide" sign. I was really looking forward to it. I'll dwell on this the rest of the day......Dammit.....still dwelling on it.
We leave the National Park at St. Mary's and now the real fun begins. Enough of the scenery, bring on the twisty windy roads. There are so many beautiful sights to see. "Caution 45mph" signs......."Tight turns ahead" signs......"Curves next 8 miles" signs.....it's so beautiful I think my eyes are misting. Nothing technical about the road, just 2 bikes, 3 people, and extreme lean angles. Nothing scraping the ground yet; I can only wait. It lasts a good 30 miles. Oh happiness.
Damn. Now we're into "MONTANA". Flat land, straight roads, dusty, windy, mind numbing. 100 miles to go of nothing. Moving at 110 feet per second over the open road and it seems like we're standing still becuase there's no reference points. It's 100 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. I'd love to feel some sweat but it's so dry that it evaporates immediately. Here I am contributing to the enthalpy of the world and I receive no benefits of the cooling effect of evaporation.
We've been following railroads most of the way. We catch up with a train we passed multiple hours ago. He apparently doesn't stop to eat or pee. I do for both. Cool train. 3 engines, cruising at around 50mph, must be over 150 cars in tow. We pass him again over the course of several miles. I ponder just how many miles it takes him to come to a complete stop with all that weight (what else am I going to think about when he's the only thing to look at for 50 miles in any direction). Engine number 4956; Burlington Northern, SF branch. I think the engineer's name might be Joe, but it could be Bill or Billy or Mac or Buddy. I'd like to see if he'd let me wear his hat. At least until we reach our destination of Shelby. 375 miles of flat Montana to go.
Today's Miles: 343
Today's miles: 716
It's a balmy 83 degrees this morning. Sun is out but the sky is hazy; looks promising.
I catch my second bird of the trip. The first one I clipped yesterday, but today's was a little better. Not only did I get him, I kept him. He tucked himself away nicely into my fairing. His feathers fell off a couple at a time for the next 20 miles or so until we stopped. I pulled him out with my leatherman pinchers and he didn't have a head. I was little miffed.
Hit 105 on the speedo today. Big grin. Happy camper. Lots of power left, smooth as could be.
Saw a General Mills plant by the side of the road. That would explain where all the grain is going. It inspired a Haiku:
Stalks of golden wheat,
Swaying gently in the breeze,
Soon they will be dead.
Okay, so I won't quit my day job. It worked at the time and it kept me amused for 30 or 40 miles.
Ran into some rain. Nothing serious, just precipitation. It's odd though, Montana only gets an average of 1" per month in both July and August, and somehow we found it. Not only that but we run into rain twice again later in the day. Oh well, at least it's cool and breezy. Not the 100 degrees we were expecting. In fact, it stayed in the 80's most of the day. Very happy about that.
Dinosaurs !!!!!! That's right, Dinosaurs !!!!! Some farmer got bored apparently and carved some big ol' dino's. He put one each on some hills that face Highway 2. There was a T-Rex, a brontosaurus, some Triceratops lookin' thing (without any horns) and some alligator thing. They were pretty darn cool. Mom and Dad missed them the first time by so we turned around and went back. And took some pictures. Hey, it's not much, but besides Glacier National Park, this is all Montana has to offer.
We hit 1000 miles for the trip so far. Nothing else exciting about mile 284....but wait until the next one:
Hit 120 on the speedo !! It was an absolute blast. Held it for 1/2 a mile or so. Spectacular. Bike is rock solid. More power left, just ran out of room.
Today's Miles: 542
Total Miles: 1258
Well, Minot, North Dakota was seemingly better of a stay than in Shelby, Montana the night before. It's a cool 76 degrees this morning, the sky is clear, the birds are chirping, and all 3 of us got a terrible night's sleep. The room was a funky temperature, it was extremely dry from the conditioned air, the pillows sucked, and there were people walking around all night on the floor above us. Other than that, Minot was very pleasant.
I'm bound and determined today to:
· Never become a UPS delivery person in either Montana or North Dakota
· Never become a FedEx delivery person in either Montana or North Dakota
· Never become a USPS delivery person in either Montana or North Dakota
· See a train with a caboose
· Actually see a state border when I cross it
My luck on the last two have been terribly bad. I've seen over 25 trains on this trip and not one of them had a caboose. I even saw an Amtrak passenger train, about 15 cars long, and IT didn't have a caboose. Terribly disappointed.
I also have yet to see a state border. I missed Idaho (although I remember the river). I missed Montana (but I saw the change to Mountain Time). I missed North Dakota (there was construction and a sign that said "LOOSE GRAVEL" that took precedence over seeing anything else). So I missed Central Time change as well. We're getting out a little late this morning, 9:30, and we still have to find a grocery store to get our lunch.
Rugby, North Dakota. The geographical center of North America. Pretty damned cool that I've now been there. It was a might small monument (I doubt a US president has ever visited it), but it did have a road sign that showed the furthest point you could go in any direction North, South, East, or West. If you went due West, as the crow flies, after 1,100 miles you'd end up in Neah Bay, Washington. But then you'd be a pretty tired Crow.
I saw it, I saw it !!! Minnesota state line !!! So I saw a state border........but alas, no caboose......
We're in fabulous International Falls, Minnesota this evening. If you don't recognize the name, shame on you (don't worry, I didn't). It's often reported as being the coldest place in the US. On the news when they show the hottest and coldest place, there is International Falls. If not there, then Bemidji, Minnesota (which we passed through to get here).
Tomorrow it's off to see the Canucks. We're crossing the border, getting some Cuban cigars, legalized marijuana, legal prostitutes (which I think Mom will particularly enjoy), and heading out Highway 11 to Thunder Bay, Ontario. From there it will be back down Highway 61 to Duluth, Minnesota where we will again stay at a leisure hotel.
But as much as I look forward to Canada, I like these Minnesotans. They crack me up. Several places along the roadway they would leave funny things. They have huge rolls of hay here (instead of bales) that end up being about 6' in diameter and 4 or 5' thick. Some farmer took one that was on it's side and put the lower half of a body sticking out of it. Pants, socks, shoes, the whole bit. Quite amusing. Another person had cutouts in her front yard that included one of a boy with his pants down peeing in the bushes. I'm really jealous of this one. I am thwarted that we didn't get to go through Fargo. I know that several of you wanted me to find the two guys from the movie. You know the ones: "they were funny lookin'....<<yaaaa>>......you know, just funny lookin'......<<yaaaa>>......oh ya, and circumcised.......<<yaaaa>>". If you don't understand, go see the movie.
Today's Miles: 446
Total Miles: 1704
It's a little more brisk this morning than it has been the previous few; somewhere in the low 70's. Cool enough that we're wearing long sleeve shirts and gloves. Mom's all bundled up in her leather jacket, wishing she had a scarf as well. We don't make it too far into Canada before we stop and Dad and I put our jackets on as well. But that's alright, no rain, so the world is good.
Highway 11 was a little more entertaining than we had expected. They were doing construction for the first 18 miles of it. But it was cool to see. We got to see, in progressive order, every step that's undertaken to redo a road in Canada. We saw: a muncher that ate up the existing asphalt and spit it out in chunks back on the road, a steamroller that was fitted with a special drum that looked like a pizza roller they use at Pizza Hut, a bulldozed to level stuff out, a grader to get just the right tilt for water runoff, a steamroller (running cold) to compress the dirt, a water truck to make sure it settles all down and to keep the dust down, an oil truck to prepare the dirt for asphalt, an asphalt truck to lay the new road, a steamroller to level/grade the road, a water truck to cool the new asphalt, and a paint truck to restripe it. They do it all in one shot right in a row up here. I should have taken some resumes so I could pass them on to the yahoos in charge of the 405 construction, the 522 construction, and the 2 construction. Hell, we probably could have even paid these guys in worthless Canadian dollars.
I've been looking at my bike kinda funny ever since we crossed the border too. I think something must be defective. I know I'm in a metric country, but my bike didn't convert at the border. My odometer is still reading in miles instead of kilometers. My speedometer is still reading in mph instead of kph. And the clock is funny too; instead of English hours/minutes/seconds, I expected metric hours/minutes/seconds. I'm gonna have to call the dealer and see if there was a recall on these parts. If not, maybe it's covered under warranty.
We stop at a scenic lookout to take pictures of Rainy Lake. No rain today, apparently they got that over with for the week already. There was mostly rain on Monday, and severe thunderstorms yesterday. How we missed it I'll never know. We did have a little mishap leaving the parking lot though. Dad and I bumped bikes and we all went down. Luckily this time when the bikes went down there were two guys to lift them back up instead of one. Dad's bike is tipping in at around 950 lbs fully loaded and mine's up around 800 lbs. Of course, that's without riders (we jumped off the bikes when they went down, much better than being trapped underneath). Damage to our bodies was nil; damage to the bikes was minor cosmetic; damage to our nerves lasted for a few dozen miles. Oh well, life happens.
Well, it's been 1300 miles or so since I missed the Continental Divide, and don't think for a minute that I stopped dwelling on it. Just because I haven't mentioned it in a couple of days doesn't mean I've forgotten. Anyway, I think I'm finally over it, because:
It's the "ARCTIC WATERSHED" !!!!!! Yeahhhhhh !!!!!
For those of you who don't really care, I'm going to tell you anyway: The Continental Divide is a North-South line at which every river on the West flows towards the Pacific Ocean and every river on the East flows toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Arctic Watershed is an East-West line where every river North flows towards the Arctic Ocean and every river South flows towards the Atlantic Ocean. (If this ever comes up on Jeopardy, each and every one of you will thank me, I know it).
We're headed back South on Highway 61 towards the states and I just have to stop off and see Old Fort Williams. I never would have thought to stop except that at some rest area a couple of old ladies asked us where we were headed and we said "Thunder Bay" and they said "Oh, we're headed to Old Fort Williams, it's a really old Fort". We thought "okay, crazy old coots, whatever", thinking nothing would come of it. How little did we really know. Just South of Thunder Bay, there lies Old Fort Williams, dubbed the "World's Largest Fur Trading Fort". Uh-huh. So those crazy old ladies were off their rockers.
You know, I notice something about Canada, it's full of flies. Yesterday, crossing through North Dakota and even mildly into Minnesota, there were nothing but butterflies. But Canada, just flies. USA - Butterflies. Canada - Flies. USA - butter. Canada - I can't believe it's not butter. The flies are really annoying anytime we stop, but the butterflies have their annoyances too. CENSORSHIP: ALL ANIMAL LOVERS SKIP TO THE NEXT SECTION. Butterflies are cute, soft, juicy, slow, and dumb. They're very pretty to look at, and they'll fly right up to you vehicle, but they're too slow to then get out of the way of your vehicle. And they're soft. And juicy. Everywhere we stopped for gas we cleaned the windshields, but it didn't matter, there's still butterflies everywhere. Flies can at least get the hell out of the way when you come at them at 60 mph.
We roll 2000 miles for the trip. Back in the US now. Empty handed through customs a while back. Kind of disappointed. I had intended to find a cigar shop and buy a box of Cohibas. I looked, but didn't find any. Kind of disappointed.
Something to think about: Canadian customs doesn't want you to bring any guns, ammo, pepper spray, or mace into Canada. US customs don't want you to bring any liquor into the states (but they were curious to find out if "you left anything behind while you were in Canada). Canada also wants to know my license plate number and state of registration. The US doesn't give a damn what vehicle comes back in.
If you ever need to smuggle someone across the border, do it on a motorcycle. I have on clothes that cover 100% of the skin below my neck. Pants, jacket, shoes, gloves, the works. I'm also wearing a full face helmet. And I have on sunglasses. So really, only about 0.3% of the skin on my entire body is visible. What do I get asked: "Where do you live?" (I give a state, any state, hell there's 50 of 'em)...."Are you a US Citizen?" (Yup)......"Got any liquor?" (Nope....but now that I think about it, was she trying to prevent me from getting it into the states or did she want another drink on the job?). Canadian Immigration had similar questions about state of residence, although they didn't care if I was a citizen. So what I'm getting at is they don't really know (care?) what nationality or ethnicity I am if they can't see my skin. Just something to keep in the back of your mind. Oh yeah, and one other thing, they didn't ask me about Beanie Babies or 3.6 gallons per flush toilets. Maybe it's just a Washington thing not a Minnesota thing.
Gas mileage is going quite well though. For all you people who drive a big 'ol SUV and are getting 15 miles per gallon: Yesterday, doing 65, I got 51 mpg (320 miles on one tank). Today, doing 60, I got 53 mpg. Oh yeah, and full is as cheap as $1.29 for regular and $1.35 for the next grade up.
But we made it to Duluth, Minnesota. Tomorrow it's a quick trip down Highway 35 through Wisconsin and over to the big metropolis of Minneapolis. I don't know when I'll next again write as the wedding partying begins tomorrow and doesn't end until Sunday morning. Which coincides with when we leave Minnesota on our way to Sturgis. Which by the way, is where I'm going to see STYX in concert on Wednesday night. I love my life.
Today's Miles: 407
Total Miles: 2111
It's a cool 73 degrees this morning, but the sun is shining and all is right in the world. Stayed at a mildly scary motel last night (The Chalet), but it's what was available, the price was right, and all we were doing was sleeping. Or trying to sleep......boy do I miss my waterbed. Six nights now on a mattress.
We had to travel on a freeway for 3.5 miles this morning. Quite disappointing. Hopefully won't have to do that much more this trip. We're crossing over the bridge from Duluth, Minnesota into wonderful cheesy Wisconsin. I'm awake, alert, and searching for the state line. I'm going over the bridge that separates the two states, and I know I'm crossing the state line, but there's no sign to be seen. Just another item on the list of disappointments this trip. And you know, missing the Continental Divide is the worst thing that's happened so far, so it's not like I have a lot of room to complain.
Highway 35 through Wisconsin is absolutely the best road we've been on the whole trip. Recently paved (six months ago?), fully striped, shoulders either side, 60 mph, no traffic, curvy (not windy) road through some of the most beautiful countryside. It's absolutely amazing. The forests, the occasional farm, the small towns of 600-800 people, lakes, rivers, corn fields, hills, turns.......the best. Somewhere around 150 miles of spectacular road. It's a shame that it's going to end. Even the temperature cooperated, never went above 80 and it stayed sunny all afternoon.
I wish I were more of a novelist than a technical writer so I could convey just how spectacular this stretch of road is. I didn't bother with pictures, I would be ashamed at how little they would capture of the feeling and surrounding.
"Welcome to Wisconsin".........hmmmm........if you've been following closely, you'll know that I was already in Wisconsin. Somehow we crossed back into Minnesota. My percentage of state border sightings is not looking real good. But oddly enough, didn't need to go back into Wisconsin. Somehow the road we're looking for wasn't marked. So in another 12 miles we turn around.
No sighting of "Welcome to Minnesota". I know it should be here. We're on I-94 (freeways suck), I can see the "Welcome to Wisconsin" sign on the other side of the freeway. That cheap b**tard Jesse Ventura can't even afford to put up a state line sign. What a hack.
But we make it. White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Hanging out with the family. Trip 1 is successful. We arrived without too much drama and everyone is safe and sound. Let the partying begin.
And the partying begins. Rehearsal dinner was an absolute blast. Some randoms give me a ride home at 1:30 in the morning from whatever bar I happened to be at. Nice folks, Whit and Kirsten. Pleasant couple. Friends of the groom in town for the wedding. Nice little rental car too. Had a fabulous conversation with them, have no idea if I overstayed my welcome with them.....things are a tad fuzzy at the moment.
Today's Miles: 210
Total Miles: 2321
Don't anticipate making it far today. Doubt I'll even rack up 20 miles. Feeling great this morning. No cloudy head, no cotton mouth, no dizziness, quite a successful evening last night.
Did I mention Highway 35 through Wisconsin? I'm not sure if I remembered to. I still can't get over how fabulous it was. I'm tempted to jump on the bike and head back over for a quick little 80 mile ride. Really tempted......really.
Car wash time. Remember those lovable butterflies and the friendly birds? Time to get them the hell off the bikes. Can't believe the shape the bikes are in. Seeing through the windshield is not an easy task. Many quarters later we dad and I have the first layer or two of 6 states and 1 Canadian province scrubbed off the bikes. Are they "clean"? No, but "cleaner".
Time to order the alcohol for the Saturday night post-wedding BBQ. Somehow, not quite sure how this happened, I got tasked with ordering the kegs/wine/etc. for the BBQ. I repeatedly told the host that I was the wrong person for the job, that I'd never done anything like this before, and that I wasn't sure I could perform the task. Somehow everyone had total confidence in my abilities...
The wedding was pretty damn nice. Beautiful group of people. Very nice ceremony. Great Catholic wedding. Earlier in the day I informed the bride that in case anything happened, I am ordained and prepared to step in at a moments notice. The sigh of relief was not heard, but I do believe I saw some worried skepticism on her face. I'm not sure "man of the cloth" was comforting, but, as always, amusing. As it just so happens, no hitches were forthcoming and my services were not required.
Now the reception, that was a piece of work. Holy cow. Held at the White Bear Lake Yacht Club, no expenses spared. Cocktails and appetizers by the pool, sit down dinner that started with a wonderful salad to be followed up by a plate of roast (medium), prawns (8-10 count), potatoes, carrots, and zucchini. Small portions of everything, perfect amount of food. Filling, yet not stuffed. A full dessert bar with more types of chocolate than I thought possible. I made several trips for my mother. The wedding cake was absolutely phenomenal, and then the full service bar opened back up. Amanda kept me feeling happy the whole night. No waiting in line, no need to place my order every time, generous pours, quite the lady.
At some point in time the evening did become a little hazy, but pleasantly so. Didn't count my drinks, didn't want to. DJ, I'll fill you in on the particulars because you will truly appreciate them.
Band's done, bar's closed, people leaving, time to start scouting out a ride. Jump in the backseat of a car, and what to my wondering eyes does appear? Why it's Whit and Kirsten in the front seat. Some other couple by my side in back and it's off to the rodeo. Once again, I'm home safe and sound thanks to the help of my new designated drivers. For some reason, as I crawl into bed, things seem to be moving in front of me. I check to see that I'm not on a turntable......nope, sure enough, my feet are planted firmly on the ground. The possibility that the entire room is rotating around me seems pretty remote......hmmm......must be drunk.
Today's Miles: 16
Total Miles: 2337
Hmmmmm.....something's wrong here. Oh yeah, that's right, I'm a little dehydrated. Haven't been drinking my usual 96 ounces of water each day. Tends to modify my reaction to large amounts of liquor. If I'm not mistaken, I'm hung over. But being the professional alcoholic that I am, I know how to hide this fact. I know how to be cheery, funny, sarcastic, and upbeat without letting on that I need 6 more hours of sleep and a #1 combo in my belly. Teriyaki is the best hangover food I've ever had. Ryan, eat one for me, I need it. Nope, better make that two, it's a rough one today.
Mall of America, here I come. I had no idea. This place isn't just huge, it's immense. More acreage than I know what to do with. And what's at the center of the mall? No, not a silly ice skating rink. It's a carnival. A roller coaster. A log ride (complete with downhill slide that gets people wet). A Ferris wheel. A tilt-a-whirl. A petting zoo. Face painters. Guess your age. Guess your weight. Remember, this is in the middle of a shopping mall. On the fourth floor, a new restaurant complete with a 6 lane bowling alley. I'm very impressed. But the best part? Lego land. Wow. I had no idea what people with a huge budget, 50 million legos, and lots of time on their hands could do. This place was intense. Not the legos of my childhood. Theme legos, special size legos, and get this: Robotic legos. That's right, robotic legos. There were photoeyes, proximity switches, temperature sensors, motor controllers, the works. The kit comes with software that you write on the PC and download through an IR port to a microcontroller built into the legos. This is absolutely nuts. $200. Somehow I think AT&T needs to do some development work in the field of high volume, low cost thermoplastics of odd shape and color. I have to be able to write this off somehow.
Even got in a little water skiing on the lake today. To all of you who have let me know that the weather in Seattle is fabulous and that I somehow forgot to leave a boat key with you: ha ha ha ha ha. Great day.
Indeed, my job of ordering the alcohol for the BBQ seemed to work all right. Even though I didn't know what to order or how much, everyone seemed to enjoy. Maybe I should look into making a career out of this. Nahhhhhh.....who could ever see me serving alcohol. A bartender? Keep dreaming.....
As I say goodbye to family and friends, Kirsten steps up and wonders why she's not able to take me home tonight. She and Whit have been watching me this evening, waiting for the moment when their services are requested. And truth be told, I've been watching them, waiting for the moment when they might be leaving just to ask for a ride. But alas, it just didn't happen, got a ride home with the fam'. For some odd reason, which I am yet to figure out, no alcohol entered my system on this lovely eveing. Was I not in the mood? Was I still hung? Was I still toxic? All good questions, most of you know the answer.
Today's Miles: 0
Total Miles: 2337
Been a while since I've jumped on that bike. I'm not sure my butts up to the task. It's mighty windy this morning, the smell or impending precipitation in the air. You can just feel it waiting to rain. But it was not meant to be. Traveled under some might dark and heavy clouds, but the rain gods could not find our location. An hour later, it's sunshine all the way. A comfy 80 degrees with moderate humidity. Much more humid than usual, but welcome.
Again, the roads we travel are phenomenal. Beautiful paving, spectacular scenery, trees, lakes, fields, and oh yes, corn. Lots of corn. More than you could shake a stick at? More than enough to choke a giraffe? You bet. So much damn corn I wish I could see some wheat again. Or maybe not.
Wait, wait.......is it the South Dakota state line I see? Nope, just more damn corn. Seems that the corn overtook the state line. Perhaps I'm blind. I miss the "Thanks, come again", I miss the "Welcome to South Dakota", I even miss the increase in speed limit. <<Dreamer......Nothin' but a dreamer.......>>
Just had to mention this one. I know what you're expecting, and you're right, more corn, but amidst the corn is a most unusual sight. Highway 81 is traveling through some lakes. That right, they built up a road, lined it with rocks, and we're driving right through the lakes. But what to my wandering eye should appear (not a miniature sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer), pelicans. You heard it here, pelicans. A whole flock of them. Hangin' out in the lake. Pretty cool. Take a picture? No, I'd rather have a picture of the corn.
I've been working on a haiku about corn for around 140 miles now. I'm embarrassed to write what I've written so far. As it is, 2.5 hours and I can't finish the damn thing. I mean, come on, it's corn, how tough could it be to write a haiku? After all, I could write one about wheat. Now, I know it wasn't my best work I've ever done......<<I don't want a pickle, I just want a ride on my motorcickle>> (if you don't understand, don't ask, you wouldn't find it amusing unless you already knew. At least Mike gets it.)
I-90. It's really the only way to get where we're going. Bummer, but oh well. Tomorrow will be 274 miles of I-90 so the 30+ we'll be on it today won't be so bad. I wouldn't have included this entry if it weren't for the rest stop. Here we are, zipping by at 80 mph, and I glance over at the rest stop by the side of the road. 50+ bikes are all sitting there lined up in a row. Now, 50 was an impressive sight, I can only imagine what 50,000 will look like. The adrenaline starts to flow...
Here I am, just 3 miles from the famous Corn Palace. That's right folks, right here in Mitchell, South Dakota. It's trouble. That starts with "t", that rhymes with "c", that stands for Corn. Palace that is. Tomorrow, I will have the blessed opportunity to photograph the amazing historical sight. Not only that but I will anxiously await the moment when I can share the experience with all of you. In explicit, boring detail, my trip to the Corn Palace.
We're already seeing lots of bikes. Nearing the hundreds. They're everywhere (although no Elvis sightings yet.....Beau, I have an omen). But the bikes are fabulous. The adrenaline is rushing full on now. Knowing that we're 9 days and over 2600 miles down and we're now within 300 miles of our destination. I feel giddy. I am so ready to experience everything Sturgis has to offer. But alas, I must wait........
Today's Miles: 349
Total Miles: 2686
I am ready. What more can I say.
Oh yeah baby......you've been waiting all day to hear the report on this: The Corn Palace. We drove by. I took pictures. What more can I say.
Rain. We can see it in the distance. It's quite the sight to be riding in the beautiful sunshine and to see looming blacks clouds in the distance. You can see that the area between the clouds and the ground is almost hazy, smoggy. But then you can tell it's rain. Absolutely glorious to see a rain shower happening from a distance. And the lightning strikes. I don't if it's possible to lightning without thunder, but we don't hear any. Of course, with the sound of hundreds of Harleys passing in every direction, there's not much you can hear but the thumping of 4" bores cruisin' down the road. It's not often that you get to see a lightning storm/rain storm happening so close yet still be bathed in total sun.
Man this rain sure sucks. It's nowhere near as fun when you're actually IN the rain. And this stuff hurts. Tiny droplets of water impinging on your bare flesh at over 100 feet per second again and again and again. This is mildly painful. As we pass under a bridge there must be at least 30 bikes in both directions all huddled up underneath to avoid the liquid humidity. Wussies. Must be from Wisconsin or Iowa.
It still amazes me how many people trailer their bikes in. I bet 20% of the bikes we see are on trailers or in the back of pickups. Now, they're pretty nice bikes, but come on, some of these people have Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming, and even South Dakota plates. What, you can't ride 200 miles? We've ridden almost 3000 to get here. Don't these people understand the journey or are they stuck on the destination?
If you know anything about South Dakota and I-90, you know where we are without even reading on: Wall Drug. After 376 signs, how could we not stop. Bikes everywhere. Thousands. Impressive. What more can I say.
As we head off from Mark's place (where we're staying in Rapid City), we roll 3000 miles. Not bad for a little trip to this little town for a little bike show.
Sturgis. We have arrived. What more can I say.
Okay, perhaps there is more that I can say on this one topic. This place is nuts. I love it. I'm doing this every year for the rest of my life. Mardi Gras was fun and all, but this place is outrageous. Dad and I are thinking about getting some Harleys just so we can fully participate. The best thing about riding a Harley: The clothes. There are hundreds of cool Harley shirts. When was the last time you saw a cool t-shirt for Yamaha, Kawasaki, of Suzuki? Heck, Honda doesn't have more than two or three funny shirts. And the leather. These people know how to dress. And there wasn't anything we didn't see (although there were some things we shouldn't have seen). There were beautiful women who should have worn less clothes and there were not so beautiful women who should have worn more.
Only stayed 4 or 5 hours today. The ride was pretty grueling, what with construction and all. We still have two and half more days so we don't want to push it. Tomorrow and Wednesday night should be all-nighters if I do it right. At least tomorrow I can get up refreshed, hangover free, and go enjoy some touristy stuff. After that, bring on the scantily clad Sturgis honeys !!
If anyone wants a t-shirt, let me know in short order. $10 is a really good ballpark of what you'll get. Let me know if you want Harley or just Sturgis. Color would be nice to know as well (black is pretty darned common, but red, gray, blue, and white are also available). If you even wanted to be so kind as to specify a size I might be able to accommodate that as well. Hats: $8-12 (again, color). Shotglasses? Pictures of nekkid ladies? Empty beer glasses? Tattoos?
Party on !!!! (you know I will)
Today's Miles: 399
Total Miles: 3085
It's off for a little sight seeing today. The roads aroound here are amazing. I thought Highway 35 through Wisconsin was good? Nothing compared to this. Not only do you have all the trees, lakes, nice quality roads, etc., you also are in the mountains. Well, the black hills really, but the people here think they're mountains and that's just fine with me. So the roads are nice and twisty. They'd be perfect if it weren't for the thousands of other bikes on the roads. One thing I have to say about this group, they're not a bunch of speeders. They have little to no desire to carve through canyons on their hogs.
Crazy Horse. Wow. What a sight. Not even close to completion yet, but spectacular just the same. They've removed over 180 million tons of granite from the mountain already, and they've just begun. The project's been underway for over 50 years, and certain portions have taken shape, but there's so much left to be done. Rushmore might be a disappointment after seeing this.
Rushmore. It's been 21 years since I've been here. Still quite a sight. So much has changed that I don't recognize anything but the mountain. Actually stayed and watched all the videos and read the placards. Pretty impressive place. The guy who started Crazy Horse was Borglum's assistant on Rushmore for years. And man is Rushmore rakin' in the dough. The people there said that on a normal day they get 1000 visitors. During rally week, 1000 an hour. At $5 a bike, that's some cash. Crazy horse didn't do too bad either, $4 a head. Everybody around here is collecting some coin this week (the guy we're staying with will make around $800 under the table for three nights of letting strangers sleep at his house).
Lots of the businesses around here close shop for the two weeks, remove all their whares, and lease out their space to rally vendors. Then there's some businesses that are only open for these two weeks each year. They make enough money off just the rally that they open two weeks and get the next 50 weeks off. This sounds like my kind of work schedule. The two weeks I would have to work, I'd have to sell leather thongs to scantilly clad women. Hmmmmm........
Back in Sturgis. I can't believe the number of bikes we've seen. Every town we pass through is packed with thousands of them. I had a hard time believing that there would be 500,000 people here this year, but it all seems possible now. They're not all actually in Sturgis, but in the greater area. They all pass through at some time or another though. We hit all the vendor shops today and check out all the new bikes. Boy are there some nice ones out there. Is it too early to trade in my ST? Dad and I are thinking of taking some Ducati's out for a test ride, but they're not open until tomorrow. Sign up starts at 8:00 am. The lady at the booth says that every slot for the entire day will be full by 8:30. This does not look promising.
Watching the parade down Main street is unbelievable. It's a constant stream of bikes just cruising up and down the main drag. And the people watching is just as good as the machinery. We end up watching for a couple of hours it's that good. Sturgis is like a carnival, parade, circus, trade show, bike rally, and party all wrapped up in one. It's definitely not just a nekkid drunk fest (damn!!) but an entire event surrounding motorcycles.
Well, the folks take off and it's time to hit the bars......hmmm.......wonder what I'll see tonight? Perhaps I'll show the photos when I get back.
Today's Miles: 157
Total Miles: 3242
It's WW here at the Rally. That's Wyoming Wednesday to you. It's time for the Devil's Tower run, drags at Sundance Strip, burnouts in Beulah, and hooters in Hulett. I think I'm prepared.
Wyoming state line: "Wyoming, like no place on Earth". Seems fishy to me. Like no place on Earth good or like no place on Earth bad. Could go either way. Seems mildly ambiguous to me.
See my first motorcycle accident of the entire rally. There are some 1/2 million some odd bikes rollin' around out here and it's taken this long to see any accident at all. There have been no bikes tipped, dropped, run into each other, bumped tires, rubbed bags, nothing. I am absolutely amazed, especially with the way they drive around here. People passing each other constantly, pulling into traffic whenever they want, merging without looking, turning without signals, and nobody hits anyone or gets pissed. Not one incident or hint of road rage to be seen.
Until mile 90. It appears to be a one vehicle accident. A bike went off the road on the outside of a left hand turn. Don't know how it happened. The speeds these guys ride at in groups are not high enough that the guy would miss the turn. Regardless of how it happened, somebody's down and an ambulance is on the way. Sobering, but I'm still amazed that it's the first one I've seen.
Devil's Tower. Pretty cool. Took some pictures. Hung out with 20,000 other bikers.
A totally surreal experience. Here we are, two bikes in the middle of a 5 mile parade. I'm in awe. Riding in a string of bikes thousands of bikes long. Very cool.
The rumble is spectacular. The exhaust off thousands of Harleys travelling at all speeds in all directions is comforting. It's a symphony of sorts. I'm not saying that this is Vivaldi's Four Seasons, but Beethoven's 5th? Perhaps. You suppose you could find enough unique tones at the right frequency's to make an orchestra? That would be impressive. Perhaps I'll write the Sturgis planning committee and see if they can't set something up for next year.
Back at the scene of the accident. Nothing here but a lone bike on the hill off the side of the road. Covered in dust. Looks like it could have been there for 50 years it seems so untouched. And dangling from the handlebar? A tow-tag (or is it a toe-tag, is the bike dead?).
State line? Hellooooooo, state line? We're taking a frontage road back (gets us off I-90) and I know the border is here. Any road sign? No. Dammit.
Back in Sturgis. Time to party. Grub. Observe. Head out to Buffalo Chip for the concert.
........ummmmm.....can anyone out there say boobies?
Buffalo Chip campground. $34. I'm in. As I arrive, the crowd is going wild. Why? Captain Robbie Knieval is just getting ready to do a jump from the top of the main concert stage into the crowd. As he lands.......fireworks. Awesome. Not an event that's on the list, but soooo cool. Head into the general store for film and Mt. Dew. As I head back to the stage hundreds of people are walking away. They have also just taken down the barriers where they had the Knieval landing site roped off. So, I follow suit with everyone, grab a bail of hay and grab myself a center stage seat around row 20. Fabulous timing. Styx rocks. REO Speedwagon rocks. Topless biker chicks rock. Wet t-shirt contest rocks. 'Nuff said.
One last trip through Sturgis as I say goodbye. <<Goodnight sweetheart, it's time to go...>> Must come back next year. Must.
Arrive back home at 3:02. Have to get up at 8 tomorrow. Ouch.
Today's Miles: 235
Total Miles: 3477
4.5 hours of sleep is not ideal for getting up and riding 400 miles in the hot sun. But the rally cry is heard: Autobots, transform and roll out.
"Wyoming, like no place on Earth"
"Welcome to Montana". Is it a fluke that I've now seen two border crossings in a row? Well, not when you have parents riding in front of you who are pointing out the road signs as we drive by. Yes, that's right, I would have driven by both of them and not seen a thing had it not been for the frantic arm waving on the point man.
Bank thermometer: 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, everyone understands that standard dry bulb temperature is in the shade right? Let's look at this temperature a little more in depth to get a full understanding. The temperature in the direct sunlight is always higher than that in the shade. It's called solar loading. Given that the Earth passed the apogee of it's orbit six weeks ago, that it's 2:30 in the afternoon, there are no clouds in the sky, and we're at approximately 45 degrees 36 minutes North Latitude, the solar loading is contributing 13-16 degrees of temperature rise. Did someone mention Heat Index? I thought so, but there really isn't any given the low relative humidity. I don't have a psychometric chart handy (nor a wet bulb thermometer) so I have to make a swag and say the relative humidity is around 10%. That's pretty damn dry. Any perspiration evaporates almost immediately into the surrounding air. Because of this, there is no Heat Index adjustment necessary. So where does that leave us? 118 degrees at 75 mph on 4+ hours of sleep. But I'm loving it and have absolutely no complaints whatsoever.
I've been watching the rain for 30+ miles now. Really doesn't look like we're anywhere close enough to hitting it. But we're very talented people. We can hit anything. This is the softest rain I've ever been in. I'm not sure if rain can be fluffy, but if it could this would be it. The droplets are falling from the sky unbelievably slow. They're so light they're being caught in the wind currents and they're zipping over my head and off to the side of the bike. The same sensation as when you're driving while it's snowing. Not all the flakes hit the windshield, some are caught in the slipstream and zip over the roof. I don't know, maybe I'm really hard up for entertainment, but I'm terribly amused by it all.
I've also been trying to write a haiku about the cows I see. They're just black dots on the landscape off at a distant. I'm going for the 7-3-7 style, the second line being "holy cow", but I suck at poetry. Again, like the failed corn haiku, I leave "Cows" unfinished.
I also have lots of time to ponder and reflect on the entire Sturgis experience. It definitely was not what I anticipated. Nor was it what the folks anticipated. Much to their delight (and to my dismay), this was the most tame, under control group of people gathered together that I have ever seen. Church camp gets rowdier than this. A list of things I expected to see and didn't:
· Public urination/defecation
· Public drunkenness
· Open containers in public
· Sexual harassment
· Public sex acts
· Public nudity.......whoops, never mind, I did see that
· Streets that I felt unsafe walking down
· Areas that I wouldn't go because of the "bad element"
· Bums panhandling
· Port-a-potties that were less than sanitary
But this had to be the safest, tamest group of bikers I have ever seen. Every one of them was polite, cordial, and happy to be in Sturgis. Nothing got out of control. No theft or vandalism that I was aware. Fears that people had expressed to me were totally unfounded. Even when there were topless women there wasn't the constant hounding like you see at Mardi Gras.
I believe I could do this on an annual basis.
Pop Quiz (Geographical and mathematical):
A boy leaves Rapid City South Dakota at 9:08 am MST travelling at 72 mph in a northwesterly direction. A bee leaves Seely Lake Montana at 6:32 am MST on the same day travelling at 17 mph in a southeasterly direction. After the boy travels 391 miles, said bee and said boy collide. The mass of the boy/bike combination is 461 kg. The mass of the bee is 0.3 ounces. The point of impact is full body for the bee, just to the right of the adam's apple on the neck of the boy.
a) How much does the boy hurt upon impact?
b) How long does the pain last?
c) Is the bee still alive, if so what is the life expectancy of said bee?
d) Is the stinger in the bee or in the boy?
e) Where does the bee go and what is his velocity (speed and direction) 13 seconds after impact.
I'll give everyone a few moments............
........how's it going?...............
........okay, some answers:
a) A whole damn lot. The pain isn't excruciating, but I have tears running down my cheeks.
b) 2.7 hours (even with Benadryl topical cream).
c) Yes, the bee is still alive. Life expectancy: 7 seconds after boy finds the bee (which is an interesting side story, see below).
d) The stinger is lodged in the boy's neck
e) The bee ends up taking refuge in the boy's shirt. He oh so nicely drops down to belly level. The boy's shirt is tucked in. Since the momentum of the bee is negligible (the mass is too small to be of issue), the final velocity of the bee is that of the boy (72 mph in a northwesterly direction).
I can feel something "wet" on my belly at this point but don't know if it's a whole bee, a friend of the impacting bee, or bee guts. I also don't know where the stinger is at this point in time. 9 miles later we reach our destination. Sure enough, I look in the mirror and there's something in my neck. Mother graciously pulls it out, and: it's a stinger. Now it's time to look for the bee. I untuck my shirt, flip it up at the bottom, and lo and behold it's my new friend the bee. The little b**tard is still alive, although quite disorientated. To reorient him, I flick him to the ground. Then I stomp on his little punk a**. I'm not happy.
Time for cheery thoughts: If all goes well tomorrow I will see two state borders and the Continental Divide !!!!!!!! Wish me luck.
Today's Miles: 400
Total Miles: 3877
It's going to be a long one today. We're planning on somewhere around 500 miles. Hope my butt's ready.
As we're warming up the bikes in the parking lot and putting our helmets on, a fine little bird flies overhead to give us a morning greeting. Then he sh*ts on us. Well, more precisely, on the bikes. Nice, fresh, gooey globs of bird dung. A few kleenex later (yes, brand name kleenex, not facial tissue) and we're on our way.
We roll 4000 miles for the trip. We were thinking that the total trip would be around 4k, but it looks like 4.6-4.7 is more likely. Not a major milestone but absolutely nothing else is happening. We're almost to the foothills of the Rockies so the scenery should be getting better shortly.
"Welcome to Idaho".....I catch a border crossing all on my own. No help needed. I'm pretty proud of myself. Sometimes it's the simple things in life that give me pleasure.
Unfortunately, I don't spot the Continental Divide. Come to find out at the next stop no one saw the sign. I even knew where it was supposed to be. The exact hill, the mile marker, the overhead walkway at Lookout Point. Apparently since I was last heading West on I-90 over the divide they have made some changes. No, the divide didn't move, they just took the sign down. In it's place is a nice little yellow/black traffic sign and little yellow flashing lights warning people to slow to 35 when flashing to not hit the silly pedestrians.
"Welcome to Washington".....Again, I catch this one all on my own. I'm so proud. Two in a row. And the last two of the trip at that.
Seems that traffic in Washington hasn't changed much since I left. The first 432 miles of the trip today were fabulous. Great roads, little traffic, moving at 75 mph, everything as it should be. The temperature is in our favor as well: 84 degrees. This is the type of day where you don't want to stop riding. We could easily do 600-700 miles and be just fine.
At least that's what we thought until the state line. Within the first 100' of crossing the border traffic was mucked up. On the bridge over the Spokane River, just fine. 100' later, muck. Bumper to bumper idiots who can't go the speed limit. Clueless rubberneckers looking at absolutely nothing. Maybe they're distracted by the smell of Spokane. Maybe they're just all idiots.
We call it quits in Ritzville tonight (yes, that's actually the name of the town). There isn't another hotel room available in any direction for 84 miles so we decide this is a good place to stop. Thanks AT&T corporate travel for finding us a room. And thanks for the great rate. Why don't all you readers make some AT&T long distance calls (102880 if you need the access number) to help support my abuse of the system to plan personal travel with company sponsored travel agents.
For all of you who are getting bored with the ride home (it's not quite the event that the first 13 days were) stay tuned tomorrow. I have a totally useless and nonessential treat for you at mile 5. But you'll just have to wait and see for yourself.......
Today's Miles: 513
Total Miles: 4390
Well, it's the last day of the trip today. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I really miss my waterbed. But I'm loving the whole no work, open road, don't know where I'm going to spend the night, gnats in the teeth experience. I know what drab tasks awaits at home (laundry, cleaning, bills), I know there are surprises at home (notes on the white board, things moved around, mysterious objects placed in various places around the house), and I know what fun tasks await at home (wedding, birthday party, comfy bed), so I'm at quite a crossroads.
And it's not the warmest day we've had on the trip. In fact, it's the coldest day we've had so far. Don't get me wrong, we don't need thermals and scarves, but a jacket is a definite must this morning.
Did find out why there were no hotel rooms in the area. Britney Spears is in the area. I'm hoping for a celebrity sighting.....
Ahhhh yes.......the much anticipated mile 5. I know everyone has been in suspense for much time now. It's a very big event. Odometer reading: 012345. Well, it impressed me, after all, the next time that the odometer will read sequential digits is 111,111 miles away. I'm not quite sure how many of you will still be able to read by the time it occurs so I thought I better play this one up. (Pop quiz, what was my odometer reading when I started on Day 1?)
Boy, not much going on yet. But quite the intriguing sign appeared a short few miles ago: "Crop Names on fenceline next 14 miles". Having spent a fair amount of time in Kentucky (and having just spent days upon days riding through fields of wheat and corn), I'm curious as to what crops Eastern Washington has to offer. And I'm also happy that they can have several crops in just 14 miles. Now, I understand that it's been over 4 years since I left Kentucky, and I know they've made huge advancements in the farming industry, but nothing prepare me for the crops I was about to see.
First crop: Onion Seed. Nothing spectacular. It smells like fields of Walla Walla sweets. Pretty nice smell actually. And my eyes aren't even watering.
Second crop: Tater Tots. Yup, tater tots. I'm quite surprised at this. After all, last time I checked, tater tots was a processed food, not a grown food. But okay, I'm willing to accept this.
Third crop: Bread. Well I'll be damned. Now they're growing bread. And to think of all you fools out there who bought breadmakers. Apparently you can grow bread in your own backyard garden now.
Fourth crop: Grain Corn. Hot damn. A crop I'm familiar with. Definitely different from the fields of sweet corn in North Dakota. I don't know if any of you have tried an ear of grain corn, but I don't recommend it as a tasty treat.
Fifth crop: French Fries. Nuff said.
Okay, so that was entertaining for 14 miles. Unfortunately, I believe that's the last significant event that might happen this trip......
Today's Miles: 219
Total Miles: 4609
And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes Sturgis 2000. A quick recap of the statistics:
29,456 dead bugs
1 car wash
89.742 gallons of gas
1 completed haiku
127 boobies (don't ask why there's an odd number)
1 bottle of Captain Morgan's
2 failed haikus
0 sore butts
1 bee sting
1 dead bee
47 Benadryl tablets
487,024 motorcycles seen (like snowflakes, no two Harley's are alike)
1 Canadian province
3 cases of indigestion
47 Washington State MC plates seen in Sturgis
1 damn big mall
17.8 hours of lost sleep
0 Cuban cigars
2 dead birds
1 bird that deserved to die and didn't
31 miles of passengers (9 for the bee, 21 for the second dead bird)
$1.229 lowest price paid for gas (North Dakota)
$1.689 highest price paid for gas (Washington !!)
17 people who were able to live vicariously through the experiences of one man.........
If anyone would like to purchase a bound copy of this expedition, please send me three easy payments of $39.95 each plus $19.95 s/h. OR and ID residents add sales tax where applicable.