Introducing #Olympiarides Motorcycle Rider: Dan Zinn

Teamed up with Olympia Gloves and will be guest blogging, tweeting, instagraming — all that good stuff — for them.  Just posted my first blog post, a profile about myself and how I got into riding.

I’ve copied it below, but the original page can be found here: http://www.olympiagloves.com/blog/introducing-motorcycle-rider-dan-zinn

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Introducing #Olympiarides Motorcycle Rider: Dan Zinn

Dan Zinn and Lucky ride a motorcycle cross country #olympiarides

We’re excited to introduce Dan Zinn today. Dan is our first #Olympiarides rider!

Dan is pending Guinness World Record approval for his motorcycle trip last year, a 14,000 mile, 58 day epic ride on a 2004 Harley through 38 states. Read about his ride on Dan’s trip blog.

Dan will be road testing some of our gloves, and posting pictures and video, along with the hashtag #Olympiarides, if you want to follow along on Twitter.

Read the story below, meet Dan and find out how he first became a rider.  (Spoiler alert: the girl’s long gone, Dan still rides!)

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The Day I Became a Rider
by Dan Zinn

Just as the snow began hitting the ground in New York in early 2007, I packed up my things, hopped on a plane, and moved out to San Jose, California.

It was the second semester of my junior year of college. I was starting an internship with a tech company in the Bay Area. Getting paid, getting credit, in California. Winter doesn’t get much better for a guy from NY.

There was a downside, though. Shortly before moving out, I found myself falling into a serious relationship with a girl named Dalia. Go figure. I hadn’t been in a relationship since high school, and now that I’m moving 3,000 miles across the country I finally start one. Murphy’s Law, I guess.

With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, I sent her a ticket to visit.

******

As her flight arrived, I was waiting for her at the baggage claim with a bouquet of her favorite flowers (bright pink Dahlias, of course).  I wanted to make sure we had a magical few days together before she went back east. There was no time to waste.

I threw her luggage in the trunk of my 5 year old, rainy-day gray Enterprise-Rent-A-Car Dodge Neon, and we began the drive south.

Our first stop was to be Santa Barbara. We had two options:

(a) A 5 hour, 320 mile drive down the boring, straight, and car-cluttered US-101; or
(b) An 8 hour, nearly 400 mile trek down US-1: the Pacific Coast Highway.

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, you can guess which route I decided to take.

As we passed Carmel on a majestic stretch of the PCH, the sun started to peak its way over the mountains to the east. The scenery was breathtaking. Unfortunately, my plan of wooing the girl of my dreams above the crashing waves of the Pacific was thwarted by a slight oversight on my part. Dalia had just taken the red eye from New York. Within 15 minutes of leaving SF she was fast asleep in the passenger seat.

So there I was. A gorgeous girl to my right, an even more gorgeous backdrop behind her. But I was, essentially, all alone.

Something about that road made it easy to dream about the future. I found my mind wandering from thinking about the “now” to thinking about the “what’s to come next.” And it was during that blissful fog of thought that I was snapped back to consciousness by the roar of an engine. And then another whizzed by. And then another.

A group of 15 sport bikes, all with riders donning full racing garb, carved through the switchbacks like Olympic skiers on their gold medal run. I had no words. I was in complete awe and amazement. In that moment, there was only one thought in my brain:

“I need to get a motorcycle, and I need to ride this road on it”.

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Fast-forward 5 years. Dalia and I have long been broken up. I had just returned from a year working in China and was in desperate need of American culture.

I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, when the thought struck suddenly like a lightening bolt.

I somehow convinced my employer to give me 4 months off. I sold my 2005 Suzuki GSXR-600, and upgraded to an all American, speckled blue 2004 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200.

On September 8, 2012, I began a 14,000 mile, 58 day motorcycle journey around the United States that brought me through 38 states and the District of Columbia.

The highlight of the trip?  You guessed it. The Pacific Coast Highway.

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Guinness World Record Application and Summary of Journey

It has been over 8 months since the trip came to an end.  How time flies!  I wanted to provide an update as well as summarize the trip as a whole all in one place.

Although I have not been blogging, rest assured that work is being done to share the adventure with you.  It turned out that my trip qualified for the “Longest motorcycle journey in a single country” record (Click here to see the record), so I have been putting together a package for the Guinness World Records. Unfortunately, I just found out today that between January 26 and April 10, 2013, someone else broke the record and rode more than me (nearly 17.5k miles).  So I guess I won’t be making the record books, but for a time I had ridden the longest anyone in the world had ever ridden in a single journey in a single country, even if it wasn’t captured in the record books in time.  I’m still pretty proud of that…

As part of the application, I wanted to capture all of my Twitter posts that related to the trip in one location.  Even though the application is no more, I still figure this will allow anyone who is interested to easily follow the journey and see all of the adventures in one place.

So, here goes… (Click here to see the full twitter account)

The end of the line

I’ll post another post with the same title when I get to this point in the blog updates, but I felt it necessary to post in real time.

Today marks the end of the trip, but certainly not the end of the adventure. Life is the real adventure. And I intend to make the most of it!

I’m leaving DC a few days earlier than my original goal in order to try to give back and help out at home as part of the relief effort for Hurricane Sandy. Today I will ride through the battered shoreline of New Jersey, pass the flooded streets of lower manhattan, and return to Cortlandt Manor where there is still no power.

It’s a surreal feeling for it to be coming to a close, but I’m ready for it. I’m ready to keep the adventure going in this amazing thing called Life.

Thank you all for following and for the support you’ve given me throughout. I could not have done it without out you, and I’m glad you were able to be there with me in some way.

I woke up this morning in the house I was staying in to find two guys sleeping on the couch. Both were friends of one of the roommates. Tomorrow, one of them will be sailing from Annapolis to St. Marteen in the Caribbean. As my journey comes to a close today, his will begin tomorrow. It’s as if the circle of life is continuing. It’s my time to step aside and let others open their eyes to the beauty of this world.

After stopping to chat with him for a few minutes, I knew I had to get going but realized we had not yet introduced ourselves properly. So I extended my hand and said:

“Hi, my name is Dan. Enjoy the ride.”

The second leg of the journey begins (Day 18: Seattle to Portland, OR [Daily miles – 181; Total miles – 5719])

September 25, 2012 – View my route for the day: Day 18 Track

Mike and Annie left early in the morning for work and my plan for the day was to bring my bike into a Harley shop just outside of Seattle and then continue down to Portland to stay with Joe, a friend of my brother.

On my way to the shop, I admittedly got a little careless and carried away.  The HOV lane mentioned that it was for 2+ people and “motorcycles OK.”  This made me happy since there was quite a bit of traffic and I ended up going a little faster than I guess I should have been.  I rode over a blind ridge and then came eye to eye with a motorcycle cop standing beside his bike on the left shoulder of the road.  As I passed him, he reached over his bike, turned the siren on, pointed straight at me and clearly mouthed the words “You… Pull over… NOW.”  It happened in slow motion.  I had no time to react and think things through, but I immediately knew I had two options: comply and pull over or keep going and pretend I didn’t see him, forcing the officer to chase me down.  Thankfully, I made the smart decision of not running from the cops and instead got pulled over on I-5 going 73 in a 60.

The officer turned out to be a fairly nice guy and fell right into the trap I had devised when I left on the trip.  A few years ago, my brother Jason had given me a mini Sunrise Police badge that says “Brother of a Sunrise Police Officer” on it.  I strategically placed my license under the badge and sure enough, the officer pointed to it and asked me:

Officer: “Are you a fireman or something?”

Me: “No, no, my brother’s on the job, he’s a police officer and gave me this badge a few years ago.”

Officer: “OK, well I’m just giving you a warning.  The speed limit is 60 here.  Going 65 is alright, but be careful.”

Me: “Sure, OK, thank you sir.”

Feeling more comfortable and confident, I then leaned in closer to him and said:

Me: “But now you get to laugh at me because I’m actually on my way to the shop to get my bike fixed.  You see, I can’t start it without running with it to get it moving.”

Officer: “Do you need any help, or are you OK?”

Me: “Luckily, you pulled me over on a downhill, so I should be able to get it rolling.  But thank you all the same.”

I should have asked for his help just for the sight of it, but I was aching to get on the road and didn’t really want to push my luck too much.

Shortly after this happened, as I was getting ready to exit the highway to turn into the dealership, an 18-wheel tractor-trailer stealthily pulled up along my right-hand side and blew it’s air horn twice.  This made me jump nearly out of my seat.   When I peeked over my shoulder I saw the driver giving me the finger.  I had absolutely no idea why.  In my bewilderment, it took me a few seconds to realize what came next.  “Is that… could he… seriously??” I thought to myself.  The driver was giving me the finger with one hand and simultaneously masturbating through the window at me with the other.  I am not joking.  I still have no clue what brought this on or why he was provoked to show me his genitals, but I didn’t care to stay around to ask questions.  Instead, I exited the highway and brought my bike into the shop, making sure that no truck drivers had followed me off the exit.

No, I didn’t actually take a picture of it. I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could.

I had spoken with Chris at Downtown Harley-Davidson on Saturday while I was filling up with gas outside of Yellowstone.  He told me to get there by 9:30am so he could squeeze me in even though they were fully booked.  Due to the police incident, I was about 15 minutes late, but Chris was very helpful and got me right in.  He was going to give me both an oil change and take a look at the battery issue.

At 11:20am I got a call from Chris.  Like I wrote in There’s No Place Like Home, it felt as if I was getting a call from the doctor about my sick daughter.

Me: “Hi Chris, how’s she doing?  Is she going to be alright?”

Chris: “Haha, yes, good news actually.  We checked the battery and it’s fine.  Looks like it was just a loose connection on the positive terminal and that was causing an arc that was welding the terminal together and causing it to short out.  And that explains the issues you were having.”

Me: “Oh, awesome, that’s great, I think…  Thank you so much!”

Not only did they fix the battery issue and change the oil, but they also washed the bike for me.  As I was putting my helmet on and getting ready to leave, Chris said to me, “See, I knew there was a bike under there somewhere.  We just had to wipe away some of the dirt to find it!”

And it was true.  The dirt roads, insects, and countless other obstacles I had come across really had done a number on the cosmetics of the bike.  I also had started to notice a couple days ago that the throttle had been sticking and wasn’t springing back when I would let go.  The wash took care of all of this and, as Chris pointed out, I had a bike again.

I sat down on the bike, crossed my fingers and pressed the “start” button only to find a feeling I had not felt in nearly a week: relaxation.  The bike started up.  I didn’t have to worry about each stop anymore; the bike would start up on its own now!

So that was that.  I was back on the road and truly beginning the second major leg of the journey, where I plan to eventually end up in San Diego.  But right now I was headed for Portland where I would meet up with Joe.

It turned out that Joe was working at a golf course this afternoon and he would be getting off at around 3 – right about the time I would be pulling in.  So we made arrangements for me to come meet him at the course and get in a quick 9 holes before heading back to his apartment.

The course was beautiful and it was a ton of fun playing, but I found it very difficult to hold a club after my accident a few days ago at Yellowstone (“Hey Boo-Boo!”)  Needless to say, I didn’t shoot very well, but it was all in good fun (and thanks Joe for putting up with my terrible shots!).

After golf we went back to the apartment where his wife Bess had just returned from work.  We were all pretty hungry, so we decided to grab dinner at a local BBQ restaurant called the Screen Door.  Although I’m now on my way to the south where I am sure I will get “real southern BBQ,” I can never pass up a chance to have a good pulled pork sandwich.

While at dinner, the three of us had a heated discussion over the intricacies of the political landscape. Bess works in a hospital, so we spoke at length about the shortcomings of the healthcare system and our own priorities for the welfare of our nation.  Bess came up with a good point that the country needs to develop a mission statement going forward – some way of bringing everyone together under a common goal.  Now, what that goal should be is the real question.

My own perspective is that our number one priority should be to maintain/regain our competitive advantage in the world market.  We’ve lost much of that and there are things in the country – certain policies and practices – that are holding us back.  If we can recapture the competitive advantage we’ve had for so long (or find new ones) and get that back on track, it could fix many of our current issues.

Joe had a slightly different take.  His biggest priority was education and student loans.  He and Bess are paying 7% interest on hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans.  This kind of debt is crippling our ability to educate our youth because people can’t afford to be in that kind of debt.  In order for America to thrive, we have to have smart people paving the way.  And in order to have smart people, we need to be able to educate them.

Bess’s thinking is that the number one goal should really be to focus on the job and housing markets.  We need to get people to feel comfortable spending again, and once we do that we can then focus on things like healthcare.

Not to open up a can of worms, but to all of you readers out there, what’s your take?

After dinner, we headed back to the apartment and chilled out for the rest of the night.  Bess had to be up at 4:30am for an MBA course she was taking, so Joe and I decided we would get up with her and then head out bright and early to a local river (Lewis River) at the golf course Joe works at and try our luck at some salmon fishing.  They supposedly have 30+lb salmon swimming up river at this time of year, so tomorrow is sure to be a fun morning.

The Emerald City (Day 17: Seattle, WA [Daily miles – 0; Total miles – 5538])

September 24, 2012:

You know when you come up with what seems like a great idea during a night out on the town only to wake up and wonder how in the world you could ever have done such things?  And what about those times when you make a bet that seems all well and good after you’ve had a few drinks but the next morning doesn’t seem so fun anymore?

Take, for example, Tony Hawks.  Tony got drunk one night and bet a friend of his that he could hitchhike around Ireland with a Refrigerator in tow (‘Round Ireland With a Fridge).

Or how about William Bonner, a 36-year old who bet his friends that he could light his head on fire using Bacardi 151 as the fuel (watch on YouTube)?

My bet may not have been quite as extreme as either of those, but it was starting to wear on me.  And after seeing the face of my good friend Mr. Michael Ehlers upon walking through his door last night, I could tell that it was time I lost my bet.

You see, a few days before starting out on this adventure of mine I had gone to dinner and had a few drinks with another good friend of mine, Kyrill.  Seeing as though I would be becoming a vagabond for the next few months, Kyrill thought it only fitting to have me not shave until I returned to “normal society.”  With alcohol seeping through my veins, I figured this was a great idea and promptly shook on the $20 bet.

Fast-forward to the present day and my motorcycle helmet has become increasingly tighter and itchier than I would have imaged.  Couple that with the look of disgust on Mike and Annie’s faces (Annie is his girlfriend) last night and I knew my bet had to come to an end.  It was time I shaved the monstrosity off.  In doing so, I came up with a new rule of my own.  I would still lose the bet, that was a given, but I decided that I would only allow myself a shave at each of the four corners of the country.  Good thing for me I had made it to the first, so off with the beard it was!

Just kidding, that look is reserved for the one and only Paul Sr. (I think I could pull it off though, don’t you?!)

After a grueling 30-minute shave (it’s not easy getting all that hair off), I proceeded to spend the next 5 hours procrastinating and trying to update the blog.  Mike got home at around 4 and we quickly went up to the roof to take in a view of the city while washing it down with some cold ones.

We then went to meet up with Annie.  As soon as we stepped onto the street, I noticed a homeless guy at an intersection holding a cardboard sing.  As we crossed the street, a homeless woman also carrying a sign walked into the same intersection. The guy who was there first was not happy, and the two of them proceeded to enter into a primal territorial clash.  We didn’t stay to watch the result and instead hurried along to go find Anne in the hopes of seeing the flying fish at Pikes Place Market before they closed.  When we got there, sure enough it had closed.  But not to worry, we kept on walking and stumbled upon a shop that was selling bags of miniature donuts:

Me: “Ooo, what do we have here?”

Shop Keep: “These are ‘name your price donuts.”

Mike: “Why are they name your price?”

Shop Keep: “Because I’ve stopped caring and my cash register just went upstairs.”

Me: “Well, guess we might as well get one then.”

Mike: “What kind do you have?”

Shop Keep: “I’ve got maple with bacon, regular maple, plain, and some powdered sugar”

Annie: “Maple with bacon sounds good!”

Mike (to shop keep): “How much?”

Shop Keep: “Umm, they’re name your price donuts”

Me: “I don’t know what a fair price should be”

Shop Keep: “Whatever they’re worth to you”

Me: “$3…?”

Shop Keep: “Sounds good”

Mike: “Out of curiosity, how much were they actually?”

Shop Keep: “That’s actually a pretty super deal.  They would be like 10 dollars normally.”

Mike (to me): “I would have said like $1300, so I’m glad I let you do the negotiating.”

Me (to Shop Keep): “Hmmm, you don’t have a cash register, do you? All I have is 2 singles or a 20.”

Shop Keep: “haha, ok $2 it is!”

With a bag of donuts in hand, we thought it was time we started the evening agenda.  A bar near the market seemed the perfect place to pick up a drink or two prior to our reservation at Tavalota.  The view of the Puget Sound was incredible, but the drinks weren’t the best.  Annie ordered a cocktail that was a bit too sweet for her (or my or Mike’s) liking.  Mike enjoyed his drink and it turned out that the waitress gave me mine on the house.  It was the first time anyone had ordered it and the bartender used me as her guinea pig.  It was way too strong, but it was free — I couldn’t complain!

I think this is super manly, don’t you?

During this time, we had all been enjoying the bag of donuts we had purchased, but you can only have so much before you begin to feel the need to purge it from your system, if you catch my drift.  Mike and Annie didn’t understand the need, but with over half a bag left I couldn’t bring myself to throw them all away.  I was determined to find a homeless person to give them to and make their day.  The two from earlier in the evening stuck out in my mind, and I hoped we would pass them on the way to dinner.

Surprisingly, in the 20 minutes it took us to walk to the neighborhood of the restaurant, we failed to find a single homeless person to give the donuts to.  I was not ready to give up on my mission quite yet, so when we found a bar called Rob Roy across the street from the restaurant and decided to go in, I figured I would bring the donuts in with us for safe keeping until later.   While in the bar, Mike introduced me to my very first Manhattan.  I liked it, even though it basically just tasted like scotch to me.  But the best part about this place wasn’t the drinks.  It was the free goldfish crackers they had on the table.

Soon it was time to leave and head on over to Tavalota for dinner.  While walking across the street I heard a sharp yell calling out from behind us: “Did you forget your bag of donuts here or did you leave them on the table on purpose?”  “Oops,” I responded.  “They were for the homeless, but you can just throw them out.”

So, turns out our name your price donuts served three purposes on the night: (1) Filled us up to the point of throwing up; (2) Allowed us to fail at feeding the homeless; (3) Made a waitress hate us.  But they sure were good, and a great deal!

When we sat down at Tavalota, the waitress handed us some menus and Mike proceeded to grab them out of our hands and placed them face down on the table.  A rule with dining with Mike is you’re not allowed to look at the menu until you’ve had at least one cocktail.  It’s called “taking a lap.”  I had never heard of this before, and although we had already warmed up a bit before getting to the restaurant, Mike said it didn’t count and we still needed at least one lap before ordering.  Of course, I was happy to oblige, and I liked the idea since it gave us all time to talk without interruption.

The food was incredibly delicious, but when the bill came we were a little surprised.  We had ordered 9 Manhattans between the three of us by the end of the night and when we did the math we came to the realization that they charged us $14 per drink.  Even in Manhattan a Manhattan shouldn’t cost that much!  But who were we to put a price on good food and good company, so we paid the bill before walking Annie back to her apartment.

During the evening we discovered that it had been two years since Mike and I had seen one another, so although anyone else looking at us would have known we had had enough to drink already, we figured it was wise to head out to yet another bar.

And that’s where my night ends.  Or at least where my memory of the night ends.  All I know is that we eventually made it back to the apartment where I passed out fully clothed on the couch and didn’t awake until the next morning when Mike got up to leave for work (It was a Monday night, after all).

Three things that I have to say before ending this post:

1. Today was only the second day that I have not been on the road since I left home 17 days ago.  It felt good to be able to rest, do some laundry, and catch up with old friends.

2. Mike and Annie – Thanks very much for your hospitality.  Annie, it was great getting the chance to meet you.  Mike, no way we can let another 2 years go by without seeing each other.   Had a ton of fun with you guys!  Glad it worked out that I was able to see you on this adventure of mine!

3. One thing that I didn’t know how to fit in but feel the need to say since Mike so kindly reminded me of it is that my idea of needing to have a destination in each state was actually not my idea.  The concept came from him during one of our heated road trip debates from summers past.  I do have to give credit where credit is due and thank Mike for his contributions and wisdom.

From Sea to Shining Sea (Day 16: Montana to Seattle, WA [Daily miles – 583; Total miles – 5538])

September 23, 2012 – View my route for the day: Day 16 Track

Although I couldn’t feel my hands or feet all night due to the cold, I somehow I ended up sleeping until 9.  As soon as I was able to thaw out a little, I packed up my things, got on the bike, and tried to hit the road.  But as I learned yesterday, getting this thing started on a cold start is not the easiest thing in the world to do.  I walked it up to the paved road where there was at least somewhat of a slope to try pushing the bike down.  It was something, but it wasn’t much.  The main problem, though, lied about 150 yards down the road where an uphill began.  If I didn’t get it going in that 150 yards, I would be in the middle of a gulch with two hills to climb on either side and then I would have no way of getting the bike out of there or starting it.  So every step I took I had to make count.

Pushing the bike onto the road to try to jump start it

I managed to get it started once, but I dropped it into neutral by accident instead of back into first and stupidly let off the throttle at the same time.  This allowed the machine to die on me.  That was disappointing, but it did provide me with a little bit of hope that I could get it started eventually.  The more I tried, however, the less and less runway I had to work with.  Finally, I reached the point of no return.  I had one shot left before I would be stuck with no room left to move.  I gave it all I had but unfortunately failed to make it count and ended up spending the next 5 minutes sitting on the side of the road attempting to flag someone down for help.  The first few people to pass pretended to look the other way, but eventually two guys riding in a pickup were more than happy to help.  They hopped out of their truck and one grabbed the left side of the bike, the other the right.  I straddled the seat, and after some heaves and some hoes we pushed off, got up to speed, I jumped down in the seat, kicked up into second, threw down the throttle, and “vroooom,” she started right up.  I didn’t want to chance the bike stalling again so I turned around and waved a heartfelt “thank you” to my two new friends while I drove on down the road.

With that problem solved I of course couldn’t resist allowing another problem to surface.  That just wouldn’t be any fun.  So for about the hundredth time on the trip already, I started to fear that I would yet again run out of gas.   I looked down at my trip odometer and noticed that it read I had traveled 93 miles since my last fill up.  This normally wouldn’t be any cause for alarm.  Normally, I can trust that I can go about 120 miles (give or take 10 miles) before switching over to the reserve tank.  Just how many miles I can get on reserve I really don’t know, but I figure I should be able to get at least to 140 miles between fill ups.  So normally this wouldn’t be an issue as I had plenty of time to find a gas station.  But this wasn’t a normal situation.  There aren’t gas stations every 5 miles out in this part of the country.  You have to plan out your route to ensure you can make it to the next town to fill up.  The last sign I passed said the closest town was 57 miles away.  Which means I had to go about 150 miles without a fill up.  I’ve never gone even close to that before.  I don’t even think I’ve gone over 130, so I was in the dark about what to do.  I honestly had no idea.  The only thing I could think of was to drive about 55 miles an hour trying to get the best gas mileage I could and making sure to kick it into neutral at every downhill I got.

Thankfully, about 20 miles later I found a local breakfast shop that happened to sell gas as well.  They only sold 87 octane, and although my bike takes 91 I figured it would have to survive for the time being on only 87.  Either that or it would end up surviving on good old fashioned manpower for the rest of the trip into the nearest town.  I obviously chose the former and filled up with the 87.

Once that issue was resolved, I realized I needed a destination for Idaho.  I hadn’t done a very good job planning for this part of the trip and had no ideas in mind.  In hindsight, I probably should have found a potato manufacturer or something, but I ended up choosing something far more “organic.”

I didn’t plan it this way, but I pulled over for a picture with the “welcome to Idaho sign” and stupidly shut off the engine.  I had meant to find a place to stop that was at the top of a hill because I desperately needed to “laduzi.”   Laduzi (pronounced “La-Dude-Za”) is a Chinese word (拉肚子), but I’m not going to say what it means.  I’ll let you figure that out from the rest of the story.  Since I had turned off the engine anyway, I figured it was a good place to complete my laduzi mission.

Getting ready to complete my “mission” for Idaho

There was an opening/clearing in the woods that I could go to and keep an eye on the bike while simultaneously putting my Chinese squattin’ skills to work.  I went into the woods just on the Idaho side of the border and immediately after stepping onto its soil I became quite intimate with its land.  It also ended up being in a poison ivy patch that I didn’t recognize until I was done, so if I have a big rash tomorrow, we’ll all know why.

I missed the sign welcoming me into Washington, but I knew I was there when I met up with 4 members of the Lady Riders of Spokane and began riding along with them as their 5th member for about 50 miles.  I began to wonder: “Do gangs kill you if you do this?  Are you allowed to just join up with one randomly and ride with them in formation?  Hopefully not.  Hopefully they don’t beat me with chains or something when we get into Spokane.”

When we got into Spokane, I stopped at the same gas station as Lady ROSE and talked to them for a little while.  Turns out there were originally about 14 of them who traveled out to a hot springs in Montana for the weekend.  They were on their way back and were more than happy to have me along.  When I told them they were the first real biker gang I had the pleasure of riding along with, they got a good kick out of it to be considered a biker gang.  But they do have a facebook page and I am now officially a fan of the Lady Riders of Spokane.

Further on down the road, in the middle of the high plains in northeastern Washington, I saw a guy walking a bicycle and looking down at his tires.  After I passed him, I decided to turn around and make sure he was OK.  I pulled my bike up to the side of the road, making sure to keep the engine idling.  When I asked him if he needed any help, he nonchalantly waved me on saying he was fine.  I wish I had stayed longer to talk and understand what he was doing, but he had sat down right in a valley.  I didn’t want to turn my bike off for 2 reasons: (1) I might not have been able to get it going since there were two uphills on either side of me; and (2) In case he was desperate and had a gun or something, I wanted to be able to get out of there if I needed to.  Though now that I think about it, I guess it’s not like he could have gotten anywhere with my bike either!  It’s a shame I have to think this way, that there are people in this world that would take advantage of someone stopping to check on another person, but it’s the way of the world these days and you just never know.  You do have to be careful.

By 7:30 I had nearly reached Wanache, WA.  I still had 150 miles to go until Seattle, but I was having the time of my life. At one point, I came upon a 6 mile long, 6-degree downhill slope through the mountains.  During the entire 6 miles, I popped the bike into neutral and rode with my hands off the handle bars somehow managing to balance the bike with my body weight through the turns.  It honestly felt like I was flying.  Just complete freedom – one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life.  Completely worry and carefree.  The road was all mine (both lanes) and there was no sound of the engine — just the wind, the smell, and the sights.  It was perfect.  Just perfect.  I felt at peace deep inside and never wanted it to end.

When it did finally end and I got to the bottom, things changed quite dramatically.  The air quality became terrible and I found myself literally gasping for air.  I’m pretty sure it was from the wildfires, but regardless of what it was from it started bringing up awful memories of the soot and chemicals that I breathed in constantly while living in Beijing.  Nevertheless, I continued riding and eventually made it to the last obstacle of the trip: crossing the Cascade Mountains.

I entered Steven’s Pass through the Cascade mountains at 8:30pm.  At this point at night, riding through dusk in the deep chasms, it felt dangerous but was absolutely gorgeous.  To use once again a word I have said countless times in this blog, one might even say that it was breathtaking.  The following is my account of the moment, as spoken into my iPhone:

Throughout the entire trip, each day it seems I think to myself, “wow, this is the nicest ride I’ve been on so far.”  But I think it’s finally time that I stop saying that.  Every day there are new surprises and new incredible things to witness around this country.  It’s almost indescribable.  The only way to truly appreciate it is to see it for yourself.  It makes me want to do this again and again.  I’m hooked on it.  The adventure, the freedom, all of it.  I don’t know how I’m ever going to go back to working in an office day after day.  Having all of this beauty and magnificence coming at me each and every day.  I can spend all day riding this road, it’s just pure beauty.

Riding through the Cascades brought back memories of another China experience of mine, this time a much more pleasant one.  It reminded me of Yangshuo – One of the most incredible places I have ever been to and the sight for the picture on the back of the Chinese 20 Yuan bill.  The fog, the cold, the river, the steep mountains jutting out of the ground for as far as the eye can see.  I loved it.

Yangshuo, China

By 10:15pm I had reached the backside of the mountains and had completed a descent of 3500 feet over the course of the previous 30 minutes curling around the edge of the mountainside.  During this time, I once again popped the bike into neutral and found myself sailing silently through the blackness of night with arms stretched wide as if I was soaring down the mountain like an eagle in search of its prey.  It felt similar to the sensation of riding down an empty, pitch black powder run on a ski mountain.  Just gliding down effortlessly through the night.

Then finally, shortly after 11pm, I found myself entering the city limits of Seattle.  I had made it to Seattle and the west coast!

It’s crazy to think, but today marks the last day of my adventure out west.  My frontiersman-ship, if you will.  I made it to the west coast and (almost) the Pacific Ocean in Seattle.  This brings up a lot of emotions for me since this is the first major step and arguably the longest step of the trip.  I got west.  I accomplished what our forefathers did many years ago when they took off in search of opportunity and ended up spreading our nation from coast to coast.  I feel like in a way I’ve followed in their footsteps – though obviously much easier without the worry of disease, horses, wagons, or blazing my own trail – but I still have had my challenges.  I didn’t take the easy route, that’s for sure.  It really does make you feel like you’ve gone back to the simple roots of wanting to explore, wanting to have an adventure, looking for something new, something exciting, a fresh opportunity and a fresh start.  In the end, I’m going to end up back where I started in NY so it’s not like I’m really going anywhere – I’m not staying out here – but I accomplished the first major milestone of the trip which was west to Seattle and the Pacific coast.  Feels great!

Spoiler Alert — Made it to Washington, D.C!

Well, according to the blog, I have been on the road for 15 days, am currently in Montana, and have traveled just shy of 5000 miles.  In real life, however, I’ve now been on the road for 50 days, have hit nearly 40 states, have traveled over 13,500 miles, and am currently braving out Hurricane Sandy in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.

I still have a week to go before the election, so you can be sure I’ll have some time to tour the sights of DC as well as catch up on the blog.  In the meantime, before I write the actual stories, I figured it was about time I gave you a quick summary and teaser for what’s to come in the next month of blog posts:

  • Made it to Seattle and the west coast on September 23, where I finally got the bike fixed.  I also managed to get pulled over for speeding (for the first time on the trip, but certainly not the last…)

    Pulled over by a motorcycle cop in Seattle for doing 73 in a 60

  • Fished for salmon in Portland
  • Drove through the Redwoods of northern CA
  • Lost my hard drive in Eureka, CA and had to wait in LA for 4 days until it would arrive in the mail
  • Bike broke down again in Malibu
  • Fell in love with The City of Angels
  • Made it to San Diego on October 3.  Tried to surf.  Didn’t work out so well
  • Got the bike fixed again.  The people at San Diego Harley Davidson were extremely nice and fixed it for free
  • Went to the Grand Canyon, camped at an abandoned mine shaft with some awesome people in New Mexico, and ran from the border patrol in Texas
  • Completed the Iron Butt Challenge (www.ironbutt.com) by riding 1073 miles in just over 20 hours (Laredo, TX –> Brownsville, TX –> San Antonio, TX –> Austin, TX –> New Orleans, LA)
  • Woke up next to a Tiger
  • Got in a scuffle on Bourbon Street
  • Toured some cotton and peanut fields in Georgia
  • Met up with my brother and rode down with him to the southernmost point of the continental US in Key West through torrential rain
  • Met up with some of my best friends in the world in Jacksonville
  • Met up with some old friends in Charleston, Atlanta, and Raleigh before making it to my cousins/aunt/uncle’s place in Williamsburg, VA

    Jesse figured out how to escape it appears

  • Took pictures of ghosts in Colonial Williamsburg

    Supposedly that white dot thing is an energy orb trying to materialize

  • Drove through Hurricane Sandy and made it to Washington, DC on October 28!