Thursday, July 22, 2010

Favorite Moments

It is funny, that while on my 29 day journey, at no point did it feel like it was racing by. In fact, it felt as though time had stopped... I think because I was working so hard each day, I literally felt each hour of it and truly lived it, good and bad. Retrospectively, there are things I could have done differently so that maybe I would not have gotten so sick, but that is simply speculation. I do know that my next trip will have more supplies in my medical kit to help me if this happens again.

I will also pack differently so that my foul weather gear is easier to access...for when I encounter unexpected scenes like this... I was about to get very very wet!

I had the gear inside its own stuff sack, thinking that I would know at the start of the day whether or not I would need it. But this is one of my surprises on the ride and one of my mistakes. There were often drastic differences in temperatures and conditions that would come up quickly. I had my rain gear at the ready, but the cold weather gear was more difficult to access once the bike was loaded. It would have been really difficult to access the gear and repack the bag while out on the road. So... my packing was partially successful. In the saddlebags were items I would not need daily. The cold weather jackets were too large to fit inside, so they were in their own waterproof stuff sack. Next big trip, I will redistribute this stuff so that the jackets are inside the saddlebags. what to put inside the stuff sack, balancing on the top of the bike daily, I am not sure. But I'll figure it out for the next ride.

My customers are coming into my store this week, with the surprised look on their face while exclaiming, "OH, you are back!" A common question I get is, "What was your favorite part?" This question dumfounds me every time.... I have no quick answer and start looking up at the ceiling as I say, "ummmmmm".
Goodness, was I even ON the trip? Is it that difficult to choose one particular moment as the best? This can't be!

So... here they are, some of my favorite moments....

#1. Opening the door to my room at the Silver Surf Motel in Yachats OR, to see the Pacific Ocean through the sliding doors at the end of the room... and then opening the sliders to hear the waves and smell the air. This indeed, might be THE moment of the trip that sticks most in my mind. Not very much bang for the story buck when I am telling someone though. So I will have to think of some of the spectacular moments for that.

#2. Mckenzie Pass, OR. This was where the amazing, jaw dropping lava fields suddenly appeared as I ascended to over 5000 feet.

My head was whipping in all directions to take it all in. This moment was probably the most intense surprise of the whole month! If you are ever near it, I highly recommend driving through. And then take in Sisters OR for some fun and relaxing. It is an adorable town, lots of shops and restaurants.

#3. I have a handful of little moments that at each moment truly was the best thing ever...

That first moment when I felt really really really small, and simply stopped the bike by the side of the road in the Badlands of SD, took a photo and not another car for miles in either direction.

The Grizzly Bear!

The Buttah Lobstah Roll!

Riding into Colville WA, feeling really under the weather, and having my friend Ranger be there with an awesome welcome!

So, there they are, some of my favorite moments, which of course will change as I remember the small but magical times of the rest of the trip. But I have a feeling that the number one moment will most likely remain in the top spot. It is all about the ocean for me, after all!

I pondered all this while I gave my sweet little bike a really good bath this afternoon... she worked hard for me and deserved it...

Now my own wheels are turning for next year's tour...
where to go? :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Last 3 days.... Can't BEElieve it's over!

West Virginia dawned dark and stormy. I know it dawned because the clock said it did... but it was really dark! It didn't look like it was going to clear, and in every biker's life a little rain will fall. I have been wet before, I'll be wet again. It was warm and wet, sultry would be a good word for it, so I chose to just wear my mesh gear and not my official rain gear which is like one of those 'As seen on TV sauna suits to lose unsightly inches in minutes' when worn on a hot day.

The rain was heavy, not cold though. My big mistake was in wearing my half helmet to start. The rain was somehow whipping up under the face shield, and making visibility next to nothing between the smoke shield and the water droplets. I rode slowly, using the solid white line on the side of the road to guide me off an exit, where I switched to my bright yellow full face. Much better!

My boots were full of water.. I mean, not just wet, but gooshing sloshing full! I just found out that a strong rain storm while wearing mesh pants serves as a conduit for water to run down my leg and fill my boots. I stopped at a rest area later on and it was funny, every step I walked, I left a little puddle. Kind of like a wet Pigpen from Charlie Brown.

I mentioned in the last entry about the familiar landscape and how good it felt. There is a remarkable difference in how I feel when riding through the huge mountains of the west and the not so huge mountains of the east.

In these mountains, I feel a part of them, not simply a spectator clinging to the side of one. When you first see them on the horizon, you know it is not going to take hours to reach them...they are 'right there'. It is difficult to really articulate it... I felt "OH WOW" when riding the Rockies, but I feel safe and secure in these mountains, with the low hanging puffs of that instant recognition to the name "Smoky Mountains."

When I rode over Beartooth Pass in WY, there was a strong thunderstorm above me, and I felt as though I could simply be plucked off the mountain by a bolt of lightning. The stormy day in the Appalachian Range did not give me this sense of insecurity. I got good and wet, but my biggest fear was the fog and rain on my visor.

The weather cleared, my boots dried out for the most part, and I made my way to Waynesboro, Virginia to make my final connection for this journey. A local to New England group of riders was on their own ride through Ohio and Virginia, and invited me to ride the way back north with them. It seemed like the perfect way to cut that stressful intensity that waves over me at the end of a ride. I find that my homing device turns on and I get racing for home. To ride the last few hundred miles with friends would take this edge off.

Connection was made, a nice dinner and conversation at the restaurant across the street. I enjoy the occasional 'real' restaurant meal with other people on this ride, I don't often treat myself to it when alone. I had pecan encrusted trout on a salad, with sweet potato fries... it was delicious :)

The next day dawned brightly and we headed for the morning fuel stop.... I was chuckling to myself as I watched Gary pull into the wrong parking lot, next door to the gas station. I was thinking he will laugh when he realizes that those are vacuum cleaners and not gas pumps. But I was the one who was wrong. Dirty Girl got a big treat as I realized that she was going to get a bath at at self serve car wash! Yay!!
We set out for the Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National park, and I happily used my National Park Pass, it is very satisfying to use it!
The park is not disappointing for beautiful views, the mountains layer out into the horizon, getting more softly colored as they fade out.

The speed limit through the park is torturously slow for a motorcycle, only 35 mph, twisty roads like that at such slow speeds... argh! I don't understand exactly why it is so slow, even 5 mph would add to the enjoyment and ease of riding the park.

The daisies were in bloom along the parkway, one of my favorite flowers, so simple and so happy! I had such an urge to get my bike embedded into the flowers for a photo.

We stopped for more photo ops, and got chatting with a father and daughter who were riding through on the way home to Maryland. As soon as Maryland was mentioned, the subject of how good the crab cakes are in Maryland began. We had ridden a bunch of the Skyline and the lure of crab cakes was strong, I could see wheels turning....being the enabler I am, I said "Let's go for it", and we were off.
Before I knew it, we were on our way in search of crab cakes in Maryland!

There is another form of food that every biker loves. Ice cream.... on the way to crab cakes (which I cannot say without thinking of SpongeBob SquarePants and Crabbie Patties), we stopped for ice cream. Aside from the two little ice cream sandwiches I had at gas stops, I realized that I had not had an ice cream cone on the whole trip. That sealed the decision... we stopped at this bright place, the glowing pink roof called out to us...
We were in line, waiting to order and I saw this sign...

How could we NOT try one? I am happy to report that a deep fried Twinkie is positively delectable. I think they could be dangerously addicting however.

I got to fantasizing about opening an ice cream place in my town, big enough for a bike night of course. :) :)

So, the sweet tooth satiated, it was onward to Crabbie Patties. :) I was hoping that they were not 10 minutes down the road and *phew* thankfully, it took a while to get there, so I had time to work up a hunger again.

I have never had a crab cake. All my life I have an aversion to eating things that look like bugs. Crabs... lobster... crayfish.. clams. I had crab for the first time in Washington, at Patrick's house. It is amazing when I traveled, how hungry I was sometimes. It was at Patrick's that I was recuperating and had not eaten much....there it was, a bowl of Alaskan crab and in the next moment, I was putting a spoonful onto my salad, thinking that it was probably pretty good. I will admit, it was delicious. So, crab cakes did not sound so scary, in fact, they sounded quite yummy. Off Gary and I went to Maryland!

Success was a little bit of work, traffic was heavy, temps were hot...the first attempt was in Bethesda MD. OMG... this city is insanely congested! 3 times around the block to find a place to park for The Crab Shack and we threw in the towel on it to go in search of another eatery. No place was worth this kind of aggravation. But the satisfaction level was high, we found a good place.
The crab cakes were DELISH. :)

Back on track, we found our way to our next stop in PA. We had taken more of a detour than we realized, so it was a bit later than expected, but ok. We rode through crazy commuter traffic to get out of the urbanity of it all. Soon, we were in bucolic Lancaster county,

The farms were right off post cards, and as we got onto the rural road, the Amish horse and buggies were everywhere.
I felt a little self conscious about my loud motorcycle and let off the throttle as I passed the horses. Fixing this issue is the first on my list!

The last hotel of the trip was such a treat! The Fulton Steamboat Inn.... it would have been one of those that I would have not even attempted to look at, assuming that it would be too expensive. But I have learned from this trip that sometimes for a mere $20 difference, you can get personality, service, excitement and a little feeling of being special. That is really what it came down to, the difference between a basic Quality Inn and a resort... only a few dollars. From now on, I will promise myself to at least look at the resorts that look special. Every once in a while, a little pampering is a good thing.

The hotel looks like a steamboat on the outside and the decor I imagine is as if it was the interior of the steamship. Ornate trimmings and gilt were everywhere.

I was just tickled by it all. Ducks waddled all over the grounds outdoors, mamas and babies, walking in lines across the lot, then scattering into the gardens to look for bugs. I adore ducks :)

Like many mornings, the next morning dawned wet. It was my last day of traveling and there were still adventures to be had, so my vote was to take our time and see if the rain lifted. The breakfast was leisurely, the rain lifted, and we got the bikes packed and set off north, the idea of this being my last day had not really sunk in yet, but I was seeing glimpses of it. How monumental it was to load my bike for the last time! I tried not to feel a little melancholy. 29 days on the road!

Right in keeping with my adventures, today had the obligatory road paving. We sat in stop and go traffic on a highway for probably an hour, I think it was still Pennsylvania. Thank goodness for music on the bikes! I am convinced that these colossal highway traffic jams are because drivers do not know how to merge. They ignore ALL the merge signs, racing in the soon to be closed lane right up to the road block and expect to smoothly merge into the travel lane. If all these people just merged while still moving, a mile or two back, the line would never stop. grrr...okay, rant over.

My take on horrible traffic, is that there is usually something really special to step into it's spot in my brain afterward and it is soon forgotten. Today, it was equally wonderful... The Delaware Water Gap. My first reaction to the little woodsy rest area where we stopped for a few minutes was that it was an Appalachian Trail stop. My mom had walked through here! Some of you might know that she has walked the whole AT. I get my sense of adventure from her :)

The Delaware Water Gap was cool, and dark and refreshing... a small road, along a river nearly the whole way, and tree tunneled as well. I smiled over and over on this road.

I love riding these tiny windy roads, with the dappled light coming through the trees. This passage was enough miles to make it wipe the slate clean of the crazy highway just before.

The next fuel stop was cool too... the most adorable gas station, if that is a term that can possibly be used for a gas station. This tiny tiny tiny building was buried under overgrown trees and brush not too long ago, I was told by a smiling old local fellow. He said that the station was reopened, the gas pumps updated, but the building is on the town's historic register and must remain intact. I loved it, a really nice change from all the carbon copy gas stations.

My only request for the ride home was a detour to find the Atlantic so that I could dip my foot into it, and have both oceans in the month. The highway through Connecticut at times is not too far from the water, so the task was not extraordinary one would think. Traffic was nasty, but we found it, in New Haven. I dashed to the water, took off a boot and put my foot into the salt bay.

Not the crashing waves of the open ocean, but it worked in a pinch. :)

There was just one more stop to make... since we were essentially there already, a stop at Lenny and Joe's Fish Tale for lobster rolls. Hmmm... lobster rolls... I was more dubious about trying one of these. I had tried lobster many years ago and remember not liking the texture of it. But 25+ years is a long time! Gary rides all over New England in search of the perfect "lobstah" roll. So, he ordered one hot lobstah roll with butter and one cold lobstah salad roll, cut them both in half and traded halves so that I could try both.

I still was a little unsure, all that chewy lobster... but I took a bite of the butter roll and could not hide the smile. It was yummy, I will admit that I have denied something delicious for a lot of years. I would have even bought a Lenny and Joe's tee shirt if they had a woman's cut, but alas... only men's beefy tees. I don't wear men's tee shirts. :)

Lobstah finished....It was time to go home. Fueled up for the last time on this trip and pointed north. I am truly grateful for the invitation to ride along with Gary on the last leg, it made a huge difference in the transition from my weeks on the road toward home. I know that if I had been riding solo on the last day, I would have been pounding the miles, not taking needed breaks and taking unnecessary risks. Having the up to the last minute adventures made all the difference in the world!

I waved goodbye to Gary at route 16 and rode the last 20 miles in the waning daylight. I pulled into the garage, took one more photo of the trip meter, and then collected hugs from my family who appeared behind me.

I did it... 9343.7 miles in 29 days.

Right at the feels like a dream.

Please if you will, stay tuned to this blog over the next days...
I will be writing more thoughts, reviews, and thanks to everyone!

And who knows when, more trips!
much love,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 26.... Almost Done

I rode through 5 states today! I thought the only way I would accomplish that was to stay in New England. But, I started in Missouri, then to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia!

It was promising to be a hot one again, as Ranger and I set out very early in search for a photo before I left St Louis.

The last time I rode through, a few years ago on the way to Eureka Springs Arkansas, I think it was pouring rain. I can't remember seeing the famous arch, so it was a must see this ride through.

(you can see it in the distance I hope)

The traffic into the city was heavy already, but it moved right along. I would not have attempted this without a resident of the area. City streets, even with a gps can be confusing. Soon, Ranger pointed to a beautiful building and told me the name, I think he said Union Square.

Gorgeous stonework on this giant building, I think it is a hotel now. And then as I looked up and around, I could see that many of the buildings had this stately stone work. St Louis is very pretty! I would love to have seen more.

(This is the standard tilted picture taken while riding photo)

In order to get a photo of the bike and the arch, there had to be distance, so we parked and got a couple of cool shots...

..then it was time for me to go.

Ranger rode the highway with me for a bit before peeling off for home. I pointed my bike eastward on 64, locked the throttle and took off. It was nice to have company on the highway for a while...breaks up the monotony of the pounding slab.

(check out my tassel whipping up on the side!)

I have an after market throttle lock on my bike, a part that cost all of $30 including shipping. This nifty little invention allows me to reach the speed I want, push a lever and lock the throttle in place. There is room for adjustments up or down in speed as I go. This is the best $30 I have ever spent on my bike! My right hand has gotten much needed rest on those long long long flat highways. If anyone rides distances, I highly recommend one.

Through a few (okay, a lot) flat corn planted miles, the land started gently rolling up and down in Kentucky, I realized that I was starting to lean my bike a bit :)

(I saw lots of these shiny metal silos... does anyone know what they hold?)

Hills began appearing, with quaint looking farms on them. Toward Lexington, I noticed an estate or two or three and that the horses in the pastures looked very different from the horses in the pastures out west. I am not a horse person, but even I could notice a huge difference, these horses were slender and tall and super shiny. Horses out west were beautiful as well, but they were built more like their workin' cousins. I kind of liked the approachable feel of the western painted horses, hanging out behind the hand hewn fences over the bright white manufactured fencing of the estates I saw this afternoon.

I set my sights on the border of Kentucky and West Virginia as a stop point today. I have gotten much better at starting the day with no set stopping point and finding a motel once I get there. The first time was a bit stressed, but a few weeks later, and I am old hat. haha :)

I stayed on route 64 all day long... and as I got into the eastern part of the state, it started to feel familiar... the hills were more compact, the highway wound its way through. The trees are different here too, pines mixed with deciduous trees, thickly growing on the hills made me think of broccoli tops, dense and dark green and rounded.

It feels good to feel the familiar landscape again. I am looking forward to being home with my family. This trip has been the most wonderful adventure, with all of its ups and downs, laughter and coughing, I am really thankful for the chance to have done it. To have taken a ride of a lifetime, totally lost track of the days has been a gift. I am excited about seeing my husband, daughter and parents again, telling stories and hearing theirs... I wonder how mad my birds are going to be with me? And after a couple of days of reentry, using the time I had off to re-energize my daily life. There are things I want to do creatively... my sewing machine will probably come out of mothballs. I need to see if it still runs, because I feel like creating with fabric again.
Out on the road... and I find my way back to my creative roots.
How these are related, I don't know!

As I entered into Huntington WV, there appeared on my right the most unbelievable industrial complex I have ever seen... I was told that it is a foundry, but it had me stumped when I saw it. It is fantastic looking, like something out of an industrial sci-fi movie. I clicked a whole bunch of pictures as I rode by, camera held high in the air, hoping to capture the wild metallic city.

Tomorrow, I head north through the eastern mountains... much smaller than the western cousins, but none less beautiful. One thing I need to do tonight, is to figure out how to wiggle my way to the eastern seacoast before parking the bike and calling this trip done in 3 days. It occurred to me yesterday, that it would be the perfect finishing touch, to put my feet into the Atlantic Ocean. Coast to coast in 30 days. :)

I'll let you know if I figure it out!

Three more days.... what a journey! It seems like just a few days ago when I was only three days into this ride. But then seems like eons ago! Funny how time works, and how quickly we get fuzzy about it. Or maybe that is just me.

I had a gourmet road food dinner of a stuffed baked potato and salad from Wendy's... simple,, it hit the spot. As you all know, once I park, I don't like to go out again on the bike. So Wendy's, being at the entrance to the motel road, won. I walked the crow flies, it is only about 500 yards. However, this motel is perched WAAAAY at the top of a high hill, it would be a quick, but painful roll down. By the time I got there and back up and around the little switchback driveway, I think I walked almost a mile!
Walking...what's that? :)

Oh and my trip meter passed 8000 miles this afternoon!
Thanks for reading, xo