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!

The Packer’s Roost (Day 15: Yellowstone to Glacier, Montana [Daily miles – 458; Total miles – 4955])

September 22, 2012 – View my route for the day: Day 15 Track

So cold.  Can’t move.  Don’t want to get out of the sleeping bag.  Can’t feel feet.

Unzip bag.  Pile on layers of clothes.  Brush teeth. Cold sink water hits hand.  Cringe.  See fire next door.  Want to jump in fire.

That was my early morning sequence of events.  The fire next door belonged to the burly Canadian man from last night.  He saw me coming back and walked over to introduce himself.

“Hey man, how’s it going?  I’m Marty and this is my wife, Courtney.  We’ve got lots of extra food.  Could we interest you in a portabella and egg sandwich for breakfast?”

“I was going to ask you guys if I could spend 5 minutes warming up by your fire, but I think a portabella sandwich trumps that.  I’d love to join you guys, thanks so much!”

I’ve found that when you’re traveling alone, people tend to be extra generous towards you.  This was certainly the case this morning.  Turns out Marty and Courtney were from Calgary and had never been to the US before.  They were taking a 3-week vacation to celebrate both Marty’s 30th birthday (which happened to be today) and their two-year wedding anniversary.

Marty works for the Alberta Healthcare System doing cancer research to attempt to find out the causes of certain types of cancer – be it genetic or from exposure to certain elements – and understand who might be more susceptible.  Courtney works for Earl’s Restaurant as a chef (that’s how they met – he had worked there previously but found they treated the employees very poorly).

We got to talking and I was surprised to hear their take on how cheap everything is in America.  To me, things seem expensive.  You can get today for $5 what was $1 when I was growing up (“back in my day…”).    But to them, it’s like an all you can eat buffet.  They went to the store to get provisions and thought they were just giving things away to people.

Courtney brewed up some hot coffee that I enjoyed more for its hand-warming abilities than anything else.  They then fried up the eggs and bacon, grilled the portabellas, heated some hamburger buns, cut up some avocado, and finally garnished the sandwich with sprouts.  The first bite was a smorgasbord of flavor: the hot egg yolk ran out into my mouth like a lava flow from St. Helens and immediately warmed me up inside.  The portabella was soft and smooth and the sprouts gave the whole thing a little extra crunch.  In the second bite, I bit into the chewy fat center of the Canadian Bacon, giving a strong kick to the pallet.  In the third bite, well… There wasn’t a third bite.  I was so hungry it was gone after the second.  But I was more than thankful.  Not only had it served to give me a much-needed boost of energy, but the conversation and warmth fired me up and got me ready to go for the day – off to Montana!

Or so I thought…

In my last two posts, I wrote about how there were some issues with starting the bike.  Possibly a dead battery (I’m an optimist, hopefully that’s all it is…).  Well, this morning proved to be a bit of a challenge.  It took me 15 minutes to get the bike started.  I guess this was to be expected, since it was a completely cold start, though I was naïve enough to think that maybe the long rest of the night would allow the battery to come back to life.  Stupidly, I had forgotten to pull out the choke during the first 10 minutes of trying.  It’s nearly impossible to get the bike started when it’s actually working without the choke after a cold night like last night, so trying to do so without a working starter was not such a smart idea.  When I figured this out, things went somewhat smoother.  After just about using up all of my portabella energy, she finally decided to cooperate and I got the engine to roar to life.

Until it stalled on me all of 20 seconds later.

After 4 or 5 more tries and some whispering of sweet nothings to her, we were in business.  I was now really headed for the North Entrance of the park and then to Montana and hopefully Glacier National Park, if I could manage to get that far.  I didn’t realize how far north it was when my friend, Yagr, told me I should go there the other day (he had called me during one of my pit stops).  It’s all the way up at the Canadian border.  But I’ll see how far I get and will try to find somewhere to camp once it starts getting dark.

One thing I am starting to feel more and more is that my bike has truly become my home.  I feel much more comfortable on the road when I’m free to go wherever I want than I do when I’m at any particular place.   When I’m stopped for the day, it’s good to be able to talk to people and sit down and relax, but I’m constantly thinking about where I’m going next and when I’m getting back on the road.  I think it’s just the mentality you get when you’re traveling so far for two weeks and you’ve seen all these amazing things, you want to keep going and see more and more and more.  I think that’s why I haven’t been taking any rest days.  I was going to take a second day in Yellowstone, but I just want to keep going.  I want to see what else is out there.

I don’t mean to sound negative because it is beautiful here in Yellowstone; it’s just as incredible as I would have thought, and I love the national parks in general.  With that said, it feels a little touristy.  It’s touristy for a national park, at least.  They have walkways around the geysers you have to stay on.  They have roads that take you everywhere.  Now, I didn’t get to go out and explore as much as I would have liked.  I was only in the park for 15 hours or so.  One day I would love to come back and spend a week backpacking through the park and see the remote areas not accessible to the RVs and buses and other mechanical beasts that litter the main areas.

By the time I made it to Montana, I needed a little bit of a break.  I stopped in Livingston for some roadside burgers and fries.  When trying to get the bike started again, I knew I was in trouble.  Not only would it not start, but there was absolutely no hill in sight to roll it down to get some speed.  This was starting to become a good workout.  Eventually, an ambulance coming the other way slowed down and asked if I needed any help.  When they said they didn’t have any jumper cables, I asked them if they would mind giving me a push.  “Not at all.  Let’s go, Buck,” the driver yelled to the passenger.  They hopped out of the truck and gave me a solid push down the road to get me going again.  At this point, I knew this was going to be a common theme.  I also knew I should stop and have it looked at, but I was so close to being in Seattle and just wanted to hold out until then to get everything looked at all at once.  So bump starting it was on the agenda for the next couple of days.

At the next gas stop, I finally got smart, or so I thought – though it might end up biting me in the butt down the line.  I checked my oil, and it was below the Low line.  Essentially, I had none.  I knew I needed oil but I didn’t know what I needed, so I called a nearby Harley Davidson dealership and they told me that I needed to use 20w-50.  The gas station had some, luckily, but there were two problems: (1) It wasn’t Harley brand, which I’m sure doesn’t matter; and (2) I think the guy I bought the bike from had used synthetic oil.  Therefore, I’m now mixing non-synthetic in with synthetic, which I’m pretty sure is not the best thing to do.  Regardless, I did it, I now had oil, and I figured that having the wrong oil is better than having no oil at all.

I then stopped at the next town, Townsend, MT to fill up just because stations are so few and far between out here that I didn’t know when the next town would be where I could fill up.  Well, what do you know, I couldn’t get the bike started.  I saw a high school football team getting on a bus and asked a few of them to help push me.  They were happy to.  But then something new happened.  I got going, but the bike didn’t quite get going.  The bike started turning on and off, on and off, on and off, repeatedly.  It was like there was a short in the battery or something and it was cutting the power every few seconds.  This resulted in my gauges flopping back and forth and lots and lots of jerking due to the constant start and stop of the flow of gas to the engine.  My thoughts turned to horror stories and I started thinking that it wasn’t the battery that was the problem.  Maybe it’s because of the oil?  Maybe a lose connection or something?  Maybe there are bigger electronic problems? I really didn’t know, but I certainly couldn’t get anywhere like this.  The dials were flashing, it wasn’t registering speed or RPM; it just wasn’t working.

I was going to just stay there the night and have someone look at it in the morning, but tomorrow is Sunday and Sunday nobody would be open, so I’d have to wait until Monday.  Even more, when they did open I didn’t know if they could help me at all.  Just like the last two places I broke down at, nobody seems to know how to fix bikes around these parts.  There was a NAPA Autoparts store nearby, but I had no confidence in them after the last encounter in Wyoming.

A gas station I pulled into told me there was a Ford dealership that might still be open down the road and that maybe they could still help me out tonight (it was already after 5 on a Saturday).  I thanked them and figured I’d try starting the bike once more to get it to the Ford dealership.  I got it going and it seemed to be acting all right, so I kept driving past the dealership and decided to ride on to Helena, which was 30 miles away.  At least in Helena I could stay somewhere if need be and I’d likely be able to find a body shop.  But of course, I didn’t want to stop.  Once I got to Helena, here’s what my actual thought process was at the time, as recorded by my helmet microphone:

“I just got through Helena and I stopped again and got it started, so I’m gonna just try to keep going to Glacier National Park in the middle of nowhere.  Literally, in the middle of nowhere.  There are no towns on the map that I can even see!  So I’m going with a bike that’s breaking down more and more every mile I ride into uncharted wilderness.  If I was smart, I’d stop in Helena for the night, I’d stay somewhere and tomorrow take a look at the bike.  But I have to get to Seattle.  I have an appointment to take the bike in.  Once I get to Seattle I’m good; I’m so close yet so far.  I’m just trying to eek this thing out to get me there.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have a name yet for my bike yet.  I don’t have any thoughts on a name, I really don’t know.  I have no idea what name she should be.  You know, it’s bad luck not to have a name on a boat; maybe it’s the same on a motorcycle?  Maybe that’s why this is starting to happen to me?  Or maybe it’s because I don’t know anything about bikes, I’ve already ridden 6000 miles, and I’m now just pushing my luck.  I’m in the deep water with no floatation device when I should have swimmies on and be in the shallow end.  Oops, I was supposed to turn right.  Fuck.  Bye.”

By 6:30 I started to get a little nervous.  I felt like Forest Gump when he was running through the desert.  I hadn’t passed a car in 20 minutes and I was going 90 miles and hour.  I hadn’t passed a house in 20 minutes and I was going 90 miles an hour.  All I could see were pastures, cows, mountains, and a red orange sun glistening on the horizon, threatening to go to sleep at any moment and take away the only thing that was continuing to keep me feeling safe and sane.

“When the sun goes down, I’m all on my own.  All bets are off,” I said to myself.  “Just hope my baby can get me to where I’m going safely and soundly.”  I’m OK with something going wrong and having to camp on the side of the road if it comes to it just as long as it’s not the end of the trip due to the bike giving out completely and just as long as nothing happens that ends up scarring me for the rest of my life.  I’m open to new experiences, I’m open to challenges with open arms, I just have no idea what kind of people I would come across if I ended up camping on the side of the road in Midwest Montana.

For about 30 minutes, I drove only 15-20 miles away from a wildfire burning up in the mountains to the east of me.  I stopped at a Sinclaire gas station and met someone else filling up their tank.  His name was Bill and I asked him how long the fire had been burning.  I was expecting him to either say, “What?! What fire?!  Let’s call 911,” or “Oh, that started yesterday from some stupid kids playing with matches.  You should be careful riding through here.”  But no, that’s not what he said at all.  “It’s been burning since July 28.  They brought in reinforcements to fight it yesterday – you may have seen those heavy-duty choppers down the road a bit.  They expect to have it out by mid-October, but we’ll see.”  I guess that’s just how the year has gone.  I don’t quite understand it.  It’s been burning for 2 months, but I guess it’s slow moving and difficult to put out.

Wildfires in Montana

By 9:30pm, I saw a local bar about 5 miles away from West Glacier Park and I figured why not slide on in, get something to eat, and then head to Glacier for the night to camp.  I entered Packers Roost to find two guys fighting at the bar, one throwing the other ones cell phone across the room.  An interesting start to the night…

I didn’t know what the fight was about, so I casually leaned towards a girl who was sitting near me, Sharron, and asked her if she knew what was going on.  She didn’t seem to have all her wits about her, and she never really answered the question, but apparently she took it as an invitation to come over and sit next to me.   The next thing I knew it was 11pm, she had eaten all of my french fries out of my chicken fingers meal, and she was still talking to me.  Around that time, more people started to show up and some kids from the area came in and challenged me to some pool.  I ended up winning $5 off one guy named Jason.  He was a real good player, so I’m not sure how I beat him.  I think he may have been trying to hustle me and I just didn’t take the bait.

When that was done, I went back to my seat at the bar and found Sharron still sitting there.  Thankfully, another somewhat older woman, Janelle, came over and started talking to Sharron.  They were surprised because they both lived in the area for many years and for such a small town had never run into each other before.  Secretly listening to their conversation, I heard Janelle mention that she was going to go out back to sit by the bonfire.  I didn’t realize there was a fire out there.  It seemed a little careless seeing as there were wildfires roaring through the countryside, but nonetheless I figured I would check it out later.

At around 12am Sharron said to me for the 5th time, “Well, I think I’m going to head home and get a good night sleep.”  This was after she went on for an hour telling me about all of her recent sexual conquests since breaking up with her previous boyfriend.  I really enjoyed hearing about that, let me tell you.  I guess she finally took the hint that I wasn’t interested and eventually sauntered out the door.

At this time, I was getting ready to pack up and asked the bar tender if she knew of a good place to camp at the park.

Bar Tender: “Sure I do, you can camp right here in the backyard.”

I was flabbergasted.

Me: “What do you mean?  Like right here behind the bar?”

BT: “Well sure, roll your bike around back, set up your tent.  We’ve got the bonfire going back there.  You’ll be nice and warm.”

Me: “Wait, wait, let me just see if I heard this right.  You want me to bring my bike around back and sleep there for the night?”

BT: “Yeah, sure, why not?”

Me: “Good point. OK, let’s do it!”

I figured that if I was staying there, I might as well get a few more drinks.  Around this time, Janelle came back in and I challenged her to a game of darts.  She wasn’t half bad, but of course I won.  It’s just my game.

The bar closed at 2am.  Last call for alcohol.  Coincidentally enough, George Thorogood’s One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer was playing on the jukebox in the background.  I considered ordering exactly that to commemorate the occasion, but I decided I’d take it somewhat easy and just order one beer before wheeling my bike around back.  The bar tender gave me a beer, I pulled my stuff around back, and the bar tender closed and locked the gate behind me and left me to my own devices.  Then I noticed Janelle standing by the fire.

Turned out she had just lost her stepmother and had gone to the funeral earlier in the day.  Although she claimed not to have liked her stepmother very much, it obviously wasn’t a very good day for her.  An interesting conversation came up where she said she was talking to a 24 year old about it earlier in the night and told him that she had gone to a funeral.  Supposedly, he didn’t know what that word meant.  I don’t know how true this is, but apparently at least around these parts they stopped using the word “funeral” and instead refer to it as a “celebration of life.”  When she told him she had gone to a celebration of life, he understood what she meant.

Anyway, as we continued talking, I thought she had some interesting perspectives on life, many of which I share myself.  We ended up staying up until about 4am running theories by each other and arguing over life, death, religion, global warming – you name it.  I think she’s a minority out here, as it sounds to me like they’re still living pretty far in the past.  Her father has ostracized her because she went to school and got an education.  I guess around here women aren’t meant for that.  They’re meant for staying at home and raising the kids.

The night was extremely cold, so a big thank you to Janelle for the beautiful afghan she had knitted that was in her car that she gave to me.  A little memento from Montana that helped to keep me nice and warm for the night.  Well, kind of.  At least it kept me warmer than it would have been without it, but the northern Montana air definitely had a strong chill to it.  And with that, the day ended as it had begun:

So cold.  Can’t move.  Don’t want to get out of the sleeping bag.  Can’t feel feet.

At least I had my afghan this time…

Random Riding Realizations (and Thoughts) of the Day:

  • 10:22am – Ouch!  I just got hit in the eye by a fly.  I guess this is why you’re supposed to wear your shield down.
  • 11:13am – I saw a buffalo.  Just a single buffalo.  Off the side of the road in the woods, it was standing there and rubbing its horns against a pine tree.  The buffalo was huge.  I can only imagine what the settlers would have felt like to have seen millions of those out roaming the plains.  Must have been a fantastic, spectacular sight.
  • 11:38am – There was a 10-minute rubber necking situation getting out of the park because there was supposedly a family of bears playing around on the rocks by a lake.  It turns out it was people playing a prank and wearing bear suits.  This goes back to my statement yesterday about the bears.  People can take advantage of the curiosity of others since things that used to be commonplace are now so rare.
  • 11:56am – Just passed by the real-life Agrocrag

    Yellowstone vs Nickelodeon Aggro Crag

  • 2:47pm – I just passed a car and heard what sounded like someone banging a metal spoon on a pot.  I turned my head to the right, and it was a Rottweiler barking at me and practically jumping out the window.  Scared me almost enough to fall off the bike.  Love you and miss you, Rocky!
  • 3:11pm – When I’m in 5th gear, between 50 and 65 is really smooth.  I can’t put it into 5th until I’m going at least 50 (when the RPMs get above 2000).  From 65 to 75 it shakes, vibrates, and buckles constantly as I accelerate through that range.  After 70mph (3000-3250 RPM) it’s smooth as silk.  So my theory is this: The H-D manufacturers either want you to go the speed limit or ride the hell out of it.  It doesn’t want you to be going just a couple miles an hour over the limit.
  • 5:41pm – Sorry Montana.  I didn’t give you quite the fair shot.  I haven’t been paying much attention to you.  I’ve been so worried about what’s going on with my bike all day long and I just want to get out of here to be honest.  Just get to Seattle.  It’s all I can think about.  I want to get out of here.  But I do need to blame some of the blame on you because my whole life I had been told there were no speed limits in you.  Yet, that’s not the case.  It’s 70mph everywhere it seems.  Now, I don’t know if the police care much, but still there are speed limits.  Anyway, I do need to apologize to you, Montana.  I’m not giving you your fair share of “oohs and ahhs” and enjoying your scenery as much as I should be.  I’ll try to put my bike woes in the back of my mind and see how it goes, though it’s kind of difficult to do.  You are a gorgeous part of the country, I’ll give you that.
  • 6:23pm – No matter where I am, I love passing another motorcycle.  If I’m on the freeway, it makes me feel like “Oh, OK, at least I’m not the only one that’s cheaping out and going on the interstate.”  If I’m on a road like I am right now, where there’s no cars for 20 minutes, I just passed a motorcycle and it makes me feel good because it means I’m not the only idiot out here on a bike in the middle of nowhere as it’s getting dark.
  • 6:31pm – So right now, I am doing everything I have done in the last 2 weeks all at once.  In the last two weeks, I have driven along coast lines, I’ve driven in the mountains, driven along lakes and rivers.  I’ve driven on extremely curvy, windy, serpentine roads, I’ve driven across the Great Plains and through immense farms. I’ve driven over a hundred miles an hour.  Well, put all of that together and at this very moment I’m doing it.  I’m currently going 94mph around twisty, turny roads through a river valley in the middle of the mountains with the giant plains stretching out as far as they can go to the mountains on the other sides, with lakes popping up here and there.  There is nothing in sight other than me and the open right and America and its finest.  I’m speechless. I’m utterly and completely speechless right now.  “Ugh. Ugh.”  That’s the only word I can produce.  I don’t know how to write that word out, but it’s a guttural sound of astonishment and awe.
  • 6:45pm – As I’m driving, I realize that every gas station, restaurant, motel, rest stop – everything – has a casino in it.

    “The interesting spots are the desperate pleas for any sort of attention in town. For example: Lucky Lil’s Casino, Tavern, Carwash and McDonald’s. But no right turn”
    Photo and caption courtesy of http://www.k7bwh.com/?paged=5

  • 7:37pm – It is amazing how social of a creature we are.  I’m currently riding on Montana Route 209 heading north towards Glacier National Park.  I’m riding through Flathead National Forest right now along Lake Alva and I’ve been following a Toyota Highlander for the last 30 miles.  It makes me feel warm inside because I’ve got a friend.  I feel like we’ve connected and formed a strong bond.  They’re going kind of slow, I could pass them, but I don’t want to.  I feel like we’ve formed this friendship and who knows, they might be going all the way to Glacier as well.  Wouldn’t that be nice to join them all the way there.  Ahh, friendships.  And family.  In the end, I guess that’s what it all comes down to, doesn’t it?  It’s like they say in the song The Story: “Cause this story won’t mean anything if you got no one to tell it to.  It’s true…”

    (Link to The Story on YouTube)

    Without friends and family to share it with, sure it stays with you, but that’s about the end of it.  You need to allow other people to experience it with you as well.  This is why I’m so thrilled with Join the Ride.  So thank you for joining me, on the ride, so I can share it with you, my friends and family.

Progress summary – October 16

I’ll continue with the 40 page “daily” write-ups shortly, but here’s a summary of the rest of the trip so far:

20121016-120028.jpg

- I hit over 11,000 miles yesterday (pic above is missing on day’s ride of 350 miles)
- I’ve officially made it to all 4 corner states of the US and am currently back on the Atlantic coast in Florida.
- I will be riding to key west tomorrow and then beginning the journey up the eastern coast starting on Friday
- I’ve crossed 31 states and have been on the road for 37 days

Feel free to ask any questions. I’ll hopefully cover most things once I get around to actually posting about each day, but I can comment on things here as we’ll if you’re interested

Hey, Boo-Boo! (Day 14: Saratoga, WY to Yellowstone [Daily miles – 348; Total miles – 4497])

September 21, 2012 – View my route for the day: Day 14 Track

I woke up this morning to frost on the ground and had to poop really badly. I took the bike back over to the cemetery and went to “my outhouse.” (I neglected to write yesterday that there was no running water at the Zinn cabin. While visiting my great uncle/aunt gravestones, I saw an outhouse in the distance and seemed to be a fitting place to do my business. I’m sure you’re glad I shared that…). I also had the chance to wash the bike again after riding on those dirt roads yesterday looking for the elusive peak.

Yesterday, I shared with some of the people that I met what my plans were for today, which was to head to Yellowstone. “Be careful! Watch out!” They warned me. I was confused. Were there serial killers lurking about in that area or something? “Oh, why, because of the wildfires?” I asked them. “No, no – there’s just lots of deer and wildlife on the road to Yellowstone. So be careful. It’s mostly open range out there. You don’t want to hit a buffalo, especially on a motorcycle.”

I’m from “upstate” new york and am used to deer, so I kind of shrugged this off. Well, I was going 100mph at one point, looked to my right, and saw a herd of antelope running beside me. I thought it was pretty cool and felt safe enough that they weren’t going to turn in my direction and stampede me. Just then, all of a sudden a family of 8 deer ran from behind some bush on the side of the road and directly in front of me. Lucky, I’m riding a Sportster 1200R. The “R” version came with duel front disk brakes, meaning I can stop almost twice as fast as other models. This probably saved my life. This also snapped me out of my hubris, especially since I knew the closer to Yellowstone I got, the more wildlife there would be.

I may have learned that lesson, but after 4500 miles, one true break down and countless other close calls, I still hadn’t learned how to keep from running out of gas. I saw a sign for Jeffersontown that told me it was 30 miles away. I had only clocked 50 miles since my last fill-up and figured Jeffersontown would be a good place to stop to make sure I was safe for a while. Unfortunately, when I got to Jeffersontown I quickly saw it for what it was — a ghost town. There was an old Texaco station that probably hadn’t been used in 20 years, a motel that was all boarded up, and a liquor store with neons in the window that hadn’t been visited by the resident drunk in at least 5 years. I had no choice but to keep going, and unfortunately the next town, Laredo, was 59 miles away, meaning I would be at least at 140 miles with no gas – and I knew that would be really pushing it. At 118, I ran out of gas and threw on the reserve. I had never gone more than 130 miles on a single fill up, so instead of traveling at 90 miles an hour I started going 50 to save on gas. I was worried Laredo would be another ghost town, which would have absolutely left me stranded, so one way or another Laredo would have to come through for me. When I finally saw the sign for Laredo, it said the population was over 7,000 and that was a signal that I would definitely find some gas. And sure enough I did, thankfully before I ran out yet again.

Well, that was all well and good, but I guess gas was the least of my problems. At the next gas stop, about 40 miles from Yellowstone, I found myself stranded. Not for lack of gas, but for lack of power. Yesterday I had some issues with the bike starting back up, but the battery miraculously kicked back on and I had no more issues for the rest of the day. Today I wasn’t so lucky. I again waited a good 30 minutes to see if I would hear the battery come back to life, and occasionally it would, but each time I would try to start the engine I would get a “clank, clank, claaaank, capoot” sound and would kill it again.

I rolled it over to a garage next door and the technician there was the complete opposite of the NAPA guys. He was more than happy to help, but didn’t know anything about bikes. He called a friend of his who built motorcycles, and the friend told him it was probably a dead battery. The manual says never to use jumper cables unless absolutely necessary. I felt in this instance it was absolutely necessary. We hooked the cables up and sure enough, “vroooom,” the H-D roared back to life. My only hope was that the ride to Yellowstone would charge it enough to get it to start again. If not, hopefully someone had some jumper cables where I broke down next.

I entered the Grand Tetons and found them to be absolutely incredible. It was also all open range, and I happened to pass a cow standing on the shoulder of the road. A little scary. But this place out there was, wow. There’s no other word for it. I began ascending into the mountains and the more I went, the nicer the roads got, the windier they got, and the cooler the ride became. This was something I had never seen before and am happy I got a chance to live and breath it.

Me riding through the Grand Teton Mountains, a few miles before entering the Grand Teton National Park

As I continued to ride, the beauty of the landscape put me into a trance of sorts. It got me thinking. I looked around at all the trees around me – the giant spruce trees (I think). I looked at these trees and realized that from the moment they were born and sprouted, they have stayed in that same spot and will remain there until the day they die. They are never going to move. Ever. Now us, we’re lucky. We can choose what we want to do. We can explore. We’re not just born into our place in life; we’re not stuck with whatever we were born into; we can change. We can move. Even when we do settle down and “sink our roots into the ground,” that’s not necessarily forever. You can have a family. You can have a house. To use another metaphor, you can build a foundation but you can always choose to go somewhere else. You don’t have to be in the same place your entire life. Now, does it make sense to? Would it be nice to? I don’t know. I guess if you enjoy where you are then why not? But maybe, because of our ability to wander, maybe we’re not meant to be in the same place our entire lives. Maybe we’re supposed to continue to explore, continue to search and find different places to keep us on our toes. To keep us from being too comfortable. To keep the soil new and fresh and raw.

I was snapped out of my trance when I finally crossed into Yellowstone National Park. There was a little town near the campground (Grant Village) with a gas station. I figured it would be easier to fill up then rather than waiting for the morning, so I stopped the bike, filled up, crossed my fingers, and… Nothing. It wouldn’t start. There was a pick-up truck of guys at the pump behind me, so I asked them if they had any jumper cables on them. They apologized because the truck was only a rental, so they had nothing on them.

The service station was open, but they wouldn’t help me without charging me $40, even just for a jump. Ridiculous. I went back out, not sure exactly what to do, when the guys in the truck pulled up along side me and asked me if I had ever “bump started” the bike before. I had heard of this, but wasn’t sure if it was really something people could do. I sure had no idea how it would be done, but was happy to learn. I took them up on their offer to help, and the three of them got beside me and explained the fundamentals.

“OK, when we start pushing, you drop it into neutral. We’ll give you a running start, then you need to jump onto it – hard — putting as much weight on the bike as you can to keep the rear tire from slipping. Kkick it up into second gear, then throw out the clutch as fast as you can while also slamming on the throttle.”

Sounded easy enough…

On the count of three we pushed and pushed and pushed, went faster and faster. I jumped onto the seat, put it in 2nd, let out the clutch, and bingo, we were in business! I turned around, gave them a thumbs up, and drove off into the wilderness (aka the campground).

After setting up the camp, I decided I would go in search of Old Faithful. I had no idea what to expect and thought that it erupted every 10 minutes or so. Turns out, that’s not the case at all. Apparently, it goes off every 90 minutes (give or take 10 minutes). I ended up showing up at quarter to 6 and saw that the next eruption was at 6. I didn’t think anything of it and casually strolled on down to the geyser figuring that if I missed it I would just catch the next one. Nope! But thankfully I have some good “Dan Luck” on my side (as Jason would say) and caught it right at the right time.

For the 10 minutes leading up to the top of the hour, people were noticeably antsy. There were small eruptions and everyone would hold their breath before letting out a big sigh when nothing more happened. At 6 on the dot a jet of water shot into the air and everyone thought that was it — the mythical Old Fathful eruption. People were noticeably disappointed, some saying how anti-climactic it was. I heard others in the distance making fun of it for having a “premature eruption.” As the minutes ticked away, some people even started to leave. Then, at 7 after 6, the steam grew thicker and the super-heated water exploded into the sky, 100 feet above the ground. It lasted for about a minute before settling down and slowly suffocating itself back down to a whimper. For someone who really knew nothing about what to expect, it definitely surpassed my expectations!

After buying some supplies for the night and rolling the bike down a hill to get it started, I began the 17-mile journey back to the campground. 10 miles in, I noticed about 50 cars pulled over on the side of the road and asked a nearby park ranger what was going on. Turns out, there was a black bear in the woods nearby. I would have been one of the ones to stop as well if I wasn’t afraid of looking like a fool to get the bike started back up. But the concept kind of hit me and made me pretty sad. If people get that excited over a little black bear (that was deep in the woods and hardly visible), what does that mean for what is left out there in our country these days? It’s kind of like being at the zoo. You’re excited to see the animals until you realize how terrible of an existence they have, cooped up in little cages their entire lives for your amusement. This is like a giant version of that. Sure, it’s an amazing park that is beautiful beyond belief, so don’t get me wrong, but it does seem a little sad that we need places like this to begin with. Without the protection of parks around the country, we likely couldn’t see most wildlife in their “natural” habitat at all.

The sun set quickly in the park and with the dark came the cold. To keep warm, I attempted to build a fire. In the camp next to me was a newly married couple from Canada out enjoying their anniversary (I briefly overheard their conversation). The girl was cooking up some soup over a propane stove while the guy was collecting wood to start a fire. Prior to checking out Old Faithful, I had gone to the general store and bought a bundle of wood and kindling. So picture this: A burly, Canadian man wielding an axe and smashing it down over 12-inch thick tree trunks right next to an American guy kneeling over a fire pit and breaking pre-made twigs with his hands. Quite the juxtaposition, huh? Now take it one step further: The Canadian burly man shattering the tree trunks he had gathered into manageable logs with no more than a few grunts, spits, and muscles flexing in the cold September air while the American guy snapping twigs next to him cries out in pain and anguish as one of the twigs splinters and cuts a deep gash in his right fore-finger. Made me feel quite manly, I gotta tell ya!

After cleaning and bandaging the wound, I rounded up a long branch and whittled it to a fine point. I stuck some of the hot dogs I had purchased at the general store earlier in the day onto the end and roasted them in the fire. For dessert, I thought it would be a good idea to roast some gummy worms as well. Turned out to be not so bad!

The next thing I knew, the guys across the way came by to talk. I’m pretty sure they just wanted to see if I had any pot (I didn’t. I don’t smoke), but it was nice to talk to them anyway. They were taking a vacation from their work in the gold industry. They came from Alaska, mined for gold for 3 months of the year and spent the remaining time traveling the world. After they went to bed, I stood by the fire for an hour to get warm until finally curling up in my sleeping bag in the tent, shivering uncontrollably from the cold.

Random Riding Realizations (and Thoughts) of the Day:

12:32am – It’s kind of a shame. You can’t see much of the beauty out here. I guess probably the reason why Denver was so cloudy too. The fires. You can see the smoke everywhere. And you can smell it. You can smell the burning. Unless that’s my bike. I do need an oil change very bad… But no, you can see, smell, and taste the fires and the smoke is ruining the air. It reminds me of China. Hopefully they are able to put them out soon and this will all clear up a bit.

2:36pm – My windshield is #$%^ing dirty! It is painted white, yellow, and red from bug goo.