(Part IV of a 4 part report)
As I was packing up, I realized that I had left my camera in my buddy’s car. So I had to go back in to get his keys (hopefully they were sitting on the table and easy to spot!) so I could get my camera. I found his keys and apparently he was awake: “You can’t take my car!” he grumbled from the couch. I explained and he laughed. I noticed that my wallet was also in the car – jeez, good thing I almost forgot the camera! There’s always a danger of forgetting something when I get out of my groove. I dropped off the keys and we said good bye.
I got on the road. I wanted so much to visit our little breakfast spot one last time, but it was a little out of the way and I wanted to get moving. I figured I’d spot something within the hour. Sure enough, I saw some signs for a Cracker Barrel about an hour out and got off for breakfast. As I got off the freeway, it wasn’t in sight. I went up the street a bit and turned around annoyed that they hid it. As I was getting back on the freeway, I saw it, tucked away almost under the freeway on the other side. There’ll be another. I fuel miles up the road, I found another sign and again exited. I never found that one; a few miles later the same thing. I was getting downright angry with the signage. A half hour later there was another sign and then there was a sign to turn right. I did and once again, nothing. There was a McDonalds right there, so I gave up on Cracker Barrel for the day.
I did manage to get off the interstate for a little bit in the Shandendoah area and made my way south through the Blueridge Parkway for about an hour. It paralleled the highway for that time, so I didn’t lose much time and had a nice pleasant cruise for a bit. I even managed to grab a few pictures. Once I had got to this area, the terrain became hilly which made for some nice variation. It didn’t help my fuel usage any, but it was nice on the eyes.
Even the freeway going through WV was more interesting because of the terrain. It was till the very green beltway as I had been accustomed to for the last couple weeks, but the mountains broke it up a little. There was nothing so amazing that it compelled me to stop for pictures or anything, but it was a welcome change.
On the way through WV, I ran into bits of rain off and on. Most of it was nuisance rain – just enough to get the road nice and wet and my windshield and glasses hard to see through. I didn’t mind too much as it felt good to get the cooling effect of the rain and clouds. I stopped for gas and a bite to eat at one point and also needed to regroup and refold my maps. I was hoping for a leisurely munch while hanging out by the bike. As I came out of the store, the rain just came pouring down. I had to stand up in a little piece of sidewalk under a little overhang and wolf down my sandwich to wait it out- this isn’t map weather.
With all the rain I hit and more clouds in front of me, I knew I wasn’t going to be dealing with my tent. (Dealing with my tent and rain adds at least an hour of setup/breakdown to my routine and I had several long days ahead of me.) After crossing the border into KY, I found the KOA and asked about a cabin. “Yeah, we got one, but it’s a double. That’ll be $90.” Right. I can get a few more miles in and grab a hotel room for probably less than that. Even if it’s $90, at least I don’t have to lug my bedding around or get dressed to go use the bathroom. I’ll probably even have air conditioning, TV and free ice. Not much of a choice there. “No thanks!” and I left. I found a room for $55 eight miles down the road. Sometimes I really wonder what people think about when creating rates. The KOA could have offered me the single cabin rate and I probably would have stayed. Instead of getting something for the cabin, they probably got nothing for it.
I wasn’t on the road a half hour in the morning when I got a pretty solid rain storm. It was too early to want to be wet, so I pulled over under an overpass and put my rain gear on. Even with the rain gear, it was pretty brutal on the road. Very wet, can’t see a thing and the rest of the clowns just can’t figure out to slow down a bit. “Oh look, there’s a motorcycle with a trailer, with his flashers on doing about 40 MPH. I think I’ll tailgate him!” I just don’t get people sometimes. Of course the trucks create their own weather patterns in that stuff and overall it was about 15 minutes of misery.
Once out of the storm, I picked up speed again. Seeing all the clouds in front of me, had me stay in my rain suit for several more hours. A couple hours later, I found a Cracker Barrel (that I could see from the freeway!) and I stopped for an early lunch/late breakfast. I got some Country Fried Steak (Chicken Fired in my part of the world) and honestly, it just wasn’t special. Their gravy was pretty bland. It was still a good solid meal, but it didn’t live up to the hype I had created. I’ll try to give them another chance if it works out later in the trip.
For some stupid reason, I opted to put my rain suit back on. It was 11:00 and even if I hit rain it would have felt good to get wet, but I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly. For the next hour or so, my Frog Toggs acted like a sauna suit and I was baking like a cake in that thing. Just before Nashville, I found a spot to get off the road and take it off. I bypassed Nashville and jumped on I40 towards Memphis. I had planned to stop at Buffalo (midway between Nashville and Memphis), but I was making good time and decided to take advantage of my 25 hour day and head for west Memphis, AR- about one more tank of gas.
It seemed like a really good idea at the time. I’d get there by 5:00 and still have a fairly early evening with time to relax. I’d had a fairly decent day on the roads, not too any people were giving me heartache, but at one point I had pulled over to the left to let merging traffic on to the freeway. There was nobody immediately behind me at that time. As soon as I got over, I looked in the mirror and there was this old lady right on my tail. I raised my arms up like “What do you expect me to do?” but she was in a hurry and had a thousand yard stare and a death grip on the steering wheel. Unfortunately the guy I let on didn’t help by either backing off or moving on quickly – he basically took his sweet time giving me room to pull back over to the right. By the time he cleared me, the old lady, apparently late for Bingo, had moved over to pass me on the right. I hope you get good use out of that extra three seconds of your life lady.
Other than that, all was fine and dandy until I hit Memphis. I had briefly considered getting a room in Memphis and maybe go find a blues club or something, but opted to get past the city so the morning would be less hectic. I’m not sure what time it was there (4:00ish or 5:00ish), but I knew there would be some traffic. I stayed on I-40 north of town to avoid going through the city. Right as I hit the city, it started raining like crazy. I mean it was really bad. I only had like 8 miles to go and didn’t want to stop (there wasn’t much reasonable chance to anyway), so again I slowed way down, put on my flashers and kept plugging away. Very miserable conditions to be in. Just as I was getting around the city, I thought it was letting up, but I hit another quick burst as I was crossing the Mississippi River. I found the first exit in AR that had motels and got off the road. As it turns out, I found the exact same place that I used when I came through here four years ago on my way to pick up the trailer. I recognized it because it was next to an Iron Skillet Restaurant, prominent in the east at truck stops.
I got a room and dried off. Went next door and had some buffet dinner (fried chicken, rice, mashed taters, gravy – I did have some salad first!) and then back to the room. I dealt with my internet stuff, took a shower and chilled watching some Family Guy shows for an hour and then conked out. I had trouble getting the room cold and left the A/C running all night. It got plenty cold sometime in the middle of the night and I had to get up and turn it off. Other than that, I had a fairly restful evening.
I already had a nice easy day planned, but by adding the extra tank to yesterday’s leg, I had a real short day ahead of me. I did leisurely morning including a leisurely breakfast at the Skillet (yes buffet again) and then got packed up and tried to head NW towards Springfield. I somehow forgot my AR map so I memorized the seemingly easy exit to go north on 63 and the rest would be cake. I headed west on 40 looking for my exit, but I felt like I went too far. I found a rest stop with a welcome station and asked for help. I had passed my exit - I needed to take the 55 north for a few miles before I found 63). I had to go 3 miles up to turn around. Great is this how I’m going to use my easy day? I got headed north and then I spotted an exit for 64. For some reason I had the idea that 64 and 63 ran together for a while, so before I went passed it, I pulled over and looked at a map to make sure. OK, 63 is still a few miles up the road. I finally found it and was able to relax for a while.
As I headed north, the terrain started changing from the greenbelt to more of a mid-west feel, with corn, rice and other crops dotting the landscape in between groves of trees. The weather wasn’t too bad this day, but it got hot pretty quick. I picked out a location for my next fuel stop – Hardy, AR. I try to avoid stopping at the very first gas pump I see, figuring that’ll be the gouge one. I passed the first one and the second one figuring there would be a few more. I saw one on a side street on the other side of the road, but I figured to round the bend and fuel there. Well, “round the bend” was leaving town, so I flipped around and headed for the station on the side street. It was a mom and pops place and I had to go in and leave my credit card. As I was, the lady was telling another customer that the pumps were running slow. These pumps were an insult to slow. I started it up and pulled the trigger and it trickled. Seriously, it was moving at about $1 per minute. I locked the lever and went in to get water and soak down my shirt and other wet gear. I came out and I had 1 gallon dispensed. Wow. I could have killed it and moved to another place, but that’s such a hassle I just waited it out. I noticed that when the other person stopped pumping, it picked up quite a bit to maybe a gallon a minute. It took me 15 minutes to put 4.5 gallons in my tank. Glad I wasn’t in any particular hurry.
I stayed on 63 into MO until I had to move over on to 60 to Springfield. I decided to go ahead and lunch and gas before I reached Springfield, because I wasn’t sure if the KOA was before or after the town (They’re rarely actually in the town they represent.) I was in the mood for something different and I saw lots of potential places along the way, but still a bit early. By the time I was ready to eat, my choices dried up to fast food joints, mostly McDonalds. I found a FKC, had lunch, regrouped, re-fueled and got back on the road, Ten minutes later I hit the Springfield city limits; fifteen minutes after that, I found the KOA.
It was a nice quiet place – as far as the guests were concerned. I later discovered that we were right under an airport path and we were about 200 yards away from a train crossing and the engineers were not shy about using their horn. It didn’t matter what time of day or night. Ughh - can’t seem to win. I took a dip in the pool after setting things up and there was only one kid in the pool but the mother and grandmother were making more noise than the kid. Cell phones – how did we ever live without them? I went back to camp and scoped out the Springfield Cardinals AA game that was scheduled for that night and I had planned to attend. I double checked my route and all that.
Somewhere in this timeframe, I had pulled the mud flap off the back since it was basically falling off. I noticed that my rear tire had worn to the point of having some of the steel belt showing. Yikes! I looked my watch and of course it was just after 6:00 when all the bike shops close down. Crap. I decided to head to the game anyway as I couldn’t do anything that night. I really wished I had transportation options, but I took the bike riding very gingerly.
I got to the park and noticed a lot of folks walking back out to their cars with boxes. Some sort of giveaway night – I hope it wasn’t something that would sell the park out! They wanted $7 to park (ouch) but it was close to the park so I handed over the ransom and went to the box office. The guy in front of me was buying an extra ticket, just so he could get another Steve Carlton bobble-head doll. Really? I never would have associated Carlton with STL (the Springfield parent club) – he was a Philly as far as I remember. I said, “Hey dude, if you want an extra bobble-head, you can have mine.” “Cool, I’ll take it.” He handed me $2 “Will this work?” “Sure, it was more than I was asking!” So when we got inside, I handed it over. I’ll probably find out that it’s worth a bunch of money in 10 years, but I’ll take my chances.
The park was really nice – it reminded me a great deal of our AAA park back in Sacramento. Not quite as big, but fairly new and very pretty. My seat was all the way around the park, which was fine. I grabbed a beer and a brat and wandered around the concourse. I noticed several sections right at the edge of the concourse that were roped off but had 6 recliners and a bunch of bar stools and a table to place the drinks. How cool was that? I wanted to sit in the recliners, but it was part of a group package or something, so I’d have to slum it down with the rest of the fans. I ended up with a great seat – over the visitor’s dugout, and 15 rows up. They gave me an aisle seat, which didn’t matter as I had the whole 22 seat row to myself. I sipped m beer (the brat was long gone) and took in the park. They had a short upper deck (maybe 20 rows deep) and a couple levels of glassed in luxury boxes which I’m sure were very popular in that weather. It was warm, but nothing like the game in Hagerstown.
The game was good. The home team fell behind early but clawed their way back to lead the game as I was leaving after the 8th inning. They had fan activities in between each half inning (standard minor league fare) and as usual in a ball park, it was just a good time. Since I needed to deal with my tires in the morning, I was able to stay later into the game, which was good, because they were barely into the 5th inning when 9:00 rolled around, which is when I planned to leave if I was going to be heading out. The only reason I left when I did was to dodge what I’m sure would have been a minor traffic skirmish.
I rode home gingerly again and made it back to camp. I got on the internet to explore my local options and at first I thought I was going to be in serious trouble. Google didn’t show a local Yamaha shop and the only generic bike shop I could find had some really scathing reviews (from more than one person). My bike is just a little different than most and I’m real concerned about not having stuff done right. I usually do my own tire work, but didn’t have the tools with me. I put out some feelers on a couple of forums and went to bed.
When I woke up, I had several responses some of them showing me that there is a Yamaha dealer in town. When I Googled that specifically, it came right up. Cool, maybe this won’t be so bad. The worst part was I had to kill three hours waiting for them to open. I had some oatmeal, took a shower and did some catching up on my journal. When 9:00 rolled around I started making calls. I got hold of the dealer and he didn’t have my tire sizes in stock. I asked if there was anyway he could get some that day and he said he’d call me back after making a few calls. He did and said there was no way he could get the tires I needed today. I asked if there were any other places he would recommend and he gave me a few names – one of which was the generic dealer I was trying to avoid.
I called the first place and he didn’t even have to check stock – “We don’t tend to carry tires that big.” I took a deep breath and called the other place. After a few minutes, they had some tires that fit – they weren’t the same brand and one of them was a brand that I would normally stay far away from, but I was in no position to be too picky. He quoted me the price for the tires and the mounting and I immediately wondered if this was going to affect my credit record. I know tires have gone up in the last couple years, but they might as well have asked for a first born. Seriously it was pretty rude. But I really had little choice unless I wanted this issue to cost me two days, which I did not. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Of course, they were all the way across town. Normally 10-12 miles is no big deal, but riding on an interstate with a tire you know is bad is very nerve racking – and it took me about three hours to get off the freeway. It felt that way anyway. I got there around 10:30 and they got me right in. I sat down in their lobby for a while, catching up on my mileage and trip logs. When 11:00 rolled around, I headed over to the Red Robin a couple doors down and had some lunch. I used to frequent a Red Robin in town about 25 years ago, so I was a bit familiar with them. They’re known for big beers and big burgers. So what did I get? A big salad! I don’t dislike salad and such so much as I hate the idea of replacing other real food (ie meat!) with them. But, I know I need to get my greens in and it can be a challenge on the road to eat decently, so I do make sure to get a big dose of greens once in a while. Don’t worry, there was some chicken and bacon on the salad! Actually it was pretty tasty and along with the gallon of water and two gallons of ice tea I consumed, it was quite the chore to get it all down. Never fear, I managed! The waitress even offered to give me an ice tea cup to go. That got her a bit more on the tip! Aside from the screaming brats on the other side of the restaurant and the guy who decided I was eating in his phone booth, it was a very nice meal.
I wandered back over to the bike place and hoped to see he was close. I peeked in the shop and saw him removing the front tire. Almost an hour and a half to do the rear tire? At first I thought he was moving a bit slow, but after thinking about it, he didn’t know the drill on this bike as well as I did and at least I figured he was being methodical. So I sat down and went back to work on catching up on my journal. Before today, I was over a week behind, so at least I was getting something done. About a half hour later, the guy up front said he was almost done – just finishing up the front tire and had to put the bags back on. Bags? Oh crap, those bags were full of stuff – it didn’t even occur to me that I could have emptied them out. I asked if I could help put stuff back on and to my surprise, they let me go in the shop. If I had known that, I would have helped the whole way. Oh well. I was chatting with the guy and we shared road stories. Turns out this place was all right and had gotten some bad reviews When he was all done I chatted with him outside the shop and he said that everybody in the service department was there less than a month – I guess they did something about their bad rep – too bad that’s hard to reflect on the internet.
While I was having lunch, I had decided against moving on for the day. I couldn’t see where a half day of afternoon travel was going to help all that much and I felt I could still use the rest. I thought about finding something really close to camp to go check out, but wound up jumping in the pool (had it all to myself for 15 glorious minutes!) and then went back to camp and vegged, including catching all the way up on my journal. I spotted a Texas Roadhouse place while on the way back to camp and plan to go there for dinner – the trip budget was way out of the water by this point, so I might as well have a nice solid early dinner and hit the road as early as possible tomorrow.
As I was leaving camp, my voltmeter was screaming at me, showing a low charge. Just what I need at this point and why is it acting up now after a trouble free 8,000 miles? I’m already a day behind and the last thing that I needed to deal with was an electrical issue. I headed up the road a little to see if a little revving would jump the charge up and it did. I moved on. I headed south on 44 towards OK planning to get heading west on 40 when I hit OK City. After paying a toll north of Tulsa, I had to pay another one between Tulsa and OK City. I got off the freeway to get gas and I guess I’d already used .25 worth of the toll and would have to pay the rest later. I fueled up and got back on the road, having to stop again to grab a ticket so the next place would know how far to bill me for. As I got on the freeway, I noticed that my voltage was dropping. As I was cruising along I was watching the meter drop by .1 volt every so often. When it got down to 11.2 the bike cut out and I had to pull over. Here we go, my Murphy intervention of the day.
Because of my experiences last year, I’ve been dragging around an extra battery which gets charged by my solar panel while traveling. I swapped out batteries on the side of the road. The “new” battery showed a charge of 12.4 when I plugged it in, so it was fresh but not getting a charge. I poked around at the available wiring that I had issues with before. I searched the areas where the guy who mounted my tires might have accidentally pinched something, but I found nothing. This was not the place to try to do any major investigation, so I had little choice but to carry on at this point.
At first, everything was going fine. The battery was holding at 12.4 for quite a while. After about 50 miles, it dropped to 12.3 and then slowly at first, it gradually kept dropping. When it got below 12, it was dropping at the same fast rate as the first battery. I was in trouble. I managed to go about 100 miles to my next fuel point before it got dangerously low. I needed to do something. I hesitated gassing up, because if I was going to have to load it on a truck to get it home, there wasn’t any sense in having a full tank. In the shade of the fueling bay, I poked around a little more thoroughly, but I really needed to start taking stuff apart to do any real investigation. I looked around for some shade (it was nearing 100 degrees already and I just wasn’t going to tear my bike apart in the sun in that much heat – especially in the mood I was in). There was just nothing besides the fuel bays and I don’t think they would have appreciated me tearing my bike down there.
I asked a local if there was a U-Haul type place nearby and he told me there was one about 25 miles up the road. I fueled up, went inside to have a quick bite and hoped I would be able to get to the next “real” town and possibly find some shade near the U-Haul place or at least find the U-Haul place. The short break was enough to let the battery regenerate a little, so I fired it up and got on the road. Hoping that going faster would give me more miles before the battery failed, I gunned it and went as fast as traffic would let me for about 15 miles – then it cut out and I had to pull over. I checked the voltage on the other battery and it might have got me started and gave me a few more miles, but I was fighting a losing battle.
I was beat. I didn’t have any more energy left to deal with trying to fix one more thing. Electrical issues are a huge pain to track down even in a good environment, on the side of the freeway with trucks racing by is not a good environment. The road won this year. I called my insurance and got a tow to the U-Haul place up the road. I happened to die right on an overpass in Hydro, OK, so I was able to climb down the hill a little to get some shade and basically sat right under my bike so I could hear when the tow truck arrived. As I was sitting there a Hydro police officer came by, light flashing and waved me to come down to the road under the freeway down.
“Yeah, my bike just died up there and I’m waiting for a tow.”
“You got ID?”
“Yeah. Did I do something wrong?”
“I just need to make sure you’re not wanted somewhere.”
Welcome to America. I didn’t say anything, but found it pretty rude that I was getting hassled like this. He checked me out and left me to wait.
The tow guy showed up and got me to the U-Haul joint. They had a rig that would work to get the bike and trailer inside. It took some finagling, but I got them in side by side and strapped down in a 14 foot box truck. It was fairly easy getting them in the truck off the flatbed tow truck, but I had no idea how I’d get them out. One thing at a time.
The cost for a one way to Sacramento from Weatherford, OK was pretty rude. I wasn’t expecting this to be cheap, but the price they offered was about double what I would have expected. And that didn’t even include the gas costs. I really had little choice but to pay the ransom. I ended up being there for nearly two hours getting things tied down and dealing with the paperwork. I must have lost at least 4 hours overall dealing with this and I had hoped to make up a little ground over the next couple days.
I got back on the road a little before 5:00 and was basically going to go until I couldn’t take anymore. I started looking for something to eat at about 7:00, an hour east of Amarillo. Nothing was popping up and I wound up eating in Amarillo. It was already 8:00, and I had hoped to get a little further down the road, but as soon as I plopped my butt down in the restaurant, I knew I was done for the night. I just completely ran out of juice. I ate and looked around for a cheap place to crash. I found one on the other side of the highway and managed to get there. Downtown Amarillo is set up kind of funky with the frontage road on the north side of the highway running one way west and the frontage road on the south ran one way east. I got why they did it, but it wasn’t very functional for visitors. It was nearly 9:00 and there was a line of 5 or 6 people at the hotel, which I really didn’t need – I was dragging badly. I eventually got a room, took a shower and just crashed.
I got off to a later start than I had planned, but after fueling and a gas station breakfast, was on the road by 7:00. I had been unable to make up any time yesterday, so I was still a day behind schedule. If I didn’t make it home on Saturday as planned, I’d either have to take another day off or not have a day to get my Sacramento legs back as desired. Turning four days travel into three wasn’t a huge deal, but turning two into three would be tougher. Heading west helps as I would pick up two extra clock hours along the way, but my body would still tire at the same pace.
Traffic was not much of an issue along I-40 for most of the way. It was mostly me and the big boys, with an occasional pack of cars here and there. My biggest issue was trying to get the best economy I could out of the truck. The guy said I’d top out at 9 MPG if I managed to keep the “economy gauge” “in the green”. The truck has this gauge that indicates how efficiently I was driving. It seemed like I had been going uphill all the way from Weatherford and I was having a real time keeping the gauge in the green. I eventually found that if I shifted the auto transmission into 3rd gear rather than keeping it in D, I stayed in the green zone much easier and was able to keep my speed up a little better. I managed to do 60-65 for most of the way through TX and NM. Even with all that patience and effort to keep the MPGs optimal, I was still keeping the fuel companies in business.
As I was moving, I was watching mileages and trying to figure how far I could make it. I could be in Flagstaff by 5:00 (NM time) and hoped to get a few hours further. I managed to get all the way to Kingman, AZ by 7:30. It turned out that it was actually 6:30 AZ and CA time and had I known that before making lodging arrangements, I probably would have just taken a dinner break and tried to get another hour or so in (this was definitely the first time I had been in three time zones in one day). But, I was already set up, and figured I could sack out early and get an early start on my remaining 10+ hours.
I looked around for some dinner. Gee what a surprise, McDonalds, Dennys and Subway are all in easy reach and clear sight. I didn’t eat at either much, but was just tired of seeing the arches and the Subway logo at every stop on the road for the past month. I’m not a fan of Dennys either and I found a Jack in the Box as a reasonable option. I know - same stuff, but it was within walking distance and I just wasn’t going to burn off a gallon of gas running up the road somewhere for some other cheesy meal.
After dinner, I checked in on email, took a shower and hit the bed.
I woke up at 3:45. I was still a bit groggy and could have gone back to sleep, but I didn’t want to have another 7:00 departure, so I got all the way up, got dressed, packed my stuff and went up to the Dennys for some breakfast. Extremely mediocre food and service, but it filled the belly. I fueled up and headed out. I had been encountering bits of rain here and there all along the route on I-40 and as I went through the north end of the Mojave, it was no different. The sky and small mountains combined for some really cool visions and I would have liked to have been able to take a few pictures. A couple of the free standing peaks appeared to be just floating in space with a couple of rainbow “stems” in the background - really cool. But there wasn’t any safe or reasonable way to get off the road and by the time there was the lighting had changed. I guess there’s no reason for my trip conditions to change now.
The traffic was fine until I got through Bakersfield at around 10:00. Traffic picked up a great deal and was very congested the rest of the way to Sacramento. It’s a two lane highway most of the way and the mid-day traffic dictates that it should be three or more lanes most of the way. Two lanes is very difficult to navigate because there are just so many people who don’t understand how to use multiple lanes. People would get in the “fast” lane and drive at or below the speed limit. They would refuse to speed up a little when going by a truck or other slow moving vehicle. The result is columns of 20 or more vehicles in both lanes with most of the people in backs of the columns wanting to move faster. It was just a nightmare most of the way. And it pretty much didn’t end until I got home.
Once home, I now had to deal with getting the bike and trailer out of the truck. I had developed a plan on the way home (had plenty of time to think!) and now just had to execute it. I should be able to take the bike down the loading ramp, assuming I could square it up with the trailer in there. My driveway has a pretty solid upslope to it which made it impossible for me to push the bike. Luckily the battery had enough for a start or two. The real issue with the bike was that I didn’t have a lot of space to work with.
I got it unstrapped and tried to get it up off the kickstand, but didn’t have room because of the trailer. I couldn’t get the bike in neutral, so I couldn’t even get it started to try to let the engine help me walk it around, so I was fighting a lot of issues. I finally took a couple of the ratchet straps and winched the front end of the bike over to the side so that I could get the bike on the wheels. This took some doing and a few new words, but eventually, I managed to get the bike off the truck without any major damage. The trip in the truck on the rough roads did manage to scuff and crack some of the fiberglass body (it took me a few tries to get the bike strapped in really securely!), but at least I didn’t do any back-flips with the bike off the truck. Now, on to the trailer which would be more of a challenge.
To reduce the angle and have a level truck, I moved it down on to the street. I have a frame built with a full sheet of plywood screwed to it that I use as a scaffold on my Jacuzzi to deal with the patio cover as needed. I had decided to use that as the base of a ramp to get the trailer off. I set it up on the bumper, used some tie-down straps to secure it to the truck and then took a couple lengths of 2x6 to rail it down the other foot from the deck of the truck. I had of course unloaded everything out of the trailer before trying to move it around. I got the trailer in position and got it down. As it came off the bed and onto the 2x6 rails, the box that holds my solar controller stuff (on the back of my trailer) hit the back of the truck and snapped off the frame. Cool, another thing to deal with later. Once the trailer was on the rails, it came screaming down and I just guided it to a stop once on the asphalt of the street. Trailer off loaded, I drug it up the driveway and put it away. Mission accomplished.
Naturally, having been on the road for a month, I still have tons of stuff to do before my life is back to “normal”, but all my stuff was back at my house and I was home – and exhausted. Most stuff I just left in the piles they became as I unloaded the trailer. I dealt with what needed dealing, took a shower and went to grab some dinner. I went to start my car – and it was dead. Why was I surprised?
Well, at least I managed to complete my goal of riding my bike and towing my trailer in all of the lower 48 States. I can’t say I pulled the trailer out of all 48 States, but I got it in (OK). I was really in need of a fun trip. My regular life had been really grinding me down and I was really looking forward to some fun adventures. But I got dealt a four week grind and I was extremely bummed at the whole deal especially having to spend over $1700 to truck the bike home from OK.
So many things failed on this trip that it will be hard to mention them all:
GPS: dead on day one (the replacement was not suitable for motorcycle travel).
Two pairs of jeans: both started the trip OK, but developed rips and tears within the first week and are no longer suitable for much of anything besides doing chores.
Two tent poles: not a major cost, but a pretty major issue to deal with (time eater).
C-Pap Machine: Major hassle trying to locate a unit on the internet and get it in my hands while on the road. Wound up with two nights of even worse sleep and a used machine.
Battery Rack: Not much of a trip cost, (a few straps) but will be an issue when I get home.
Cell phone: Not a complete casualty, but it did start running out of battery faster than normal and it failed to work when I was needing to call for a tow. (Luckily a rider happened by and let me borrow his).
Two tires: Both tires should have made the whole trip based on my normal wear patterns. Neither did last and were replaced at high cost for mismatching brands that I really don’t want. I ended up putting less than 200 miles on them before loading the bike in a truck. (The worst part is that I was planning on trying out a car tire on the rear when I got home and changed the tires.)
Solar Charging Box: Again, not a huge cost, but will have to deal with it.
My body: Dealing with the numbness an pain in my left arm/hand left me without any solid sleep for the better part of three weeks and was constantly irritable (quicker than usual) for most of the trip.
Perhaps worst casualty of all, my spirit: The trip just drug me all the way down and almost under. I’m not an “up” person anyway. All of my friends and coworkers will tell you that I’m usually pretty negative. I don’t mean to be, it’s just how I see things – things can always been worse. I fought all trip long to not let the last “shit happens” thing to get me down or wreck the trip. Right about when I’d be over dealing with the last thing, finding the silver lining in another situation, something else would pop up and bring me down again. Over and over, nearly every day of the trip, something of significance would just keep poking at me. It pretty much never let up. Loading the bike on the truck was the sign that I had just given up trying. I could have called in a few days late. I probably could have found the electrical problem within a few hours if I’d just found somewhere to deal with it before it finally died. But I was so exhausted from everything, that I just couldn’t fight one more battle. It took all of my wits to come up with the u-haul plan and even that wasn’t a very good one – at least from a financial perspective.
I’m not really sure what my future holds for this type of touring. I’ve spent the last five years planning, figuring, acquiring and building things to accommodate this style of vacationing, so it seems like a huge waste to completely abandon the setup. But the last two years have had little resemblance to vacations, having easily been my two worst trips out of the six I’ve done. I had planned to try to tackle AK again, but now I’m not sure I even want to try. It may very well be a cruise vacation rather than riding and if I do try the ride, it will be sans trailer.
I’ve seen a lot of the country – I’ve been within 250 miles of every place in the lower 48. I’ve crossed all the major mountain ranges and most of the minor ones as well. I’ve crossed or paralleled all of the major rivers. I’ve been to many National Parks from Mojave Desert in CA to Acadia in ME, Olympic NP in WA to the Gulf Islands in FL. I’ve seen all five of the major Great Lakes. I know there’s a lot I haven’t seen (some of which was supposed been accomplished on this trip), but I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of seeing what is in reach of me.
Three of my trips were mostly - if not all- wonderful. One (my shot at Alaska was a bummer, but I managed to get some lemonade out of it). Two (this year and last) were pretty miserable. Between rain, record setting heat, electrical issues, and Murphy doing his part as co-pilot, they were three or four week long grinds. Sure they had some good moments, but the lasting memory will be of miserable failure.
The one thing I try to do on these trips is take pictures and lots of them. I had several days where the plan was to just keep moving, so lack of pictures on those days was expected and understandable. But many more of the days were scheduled short just so I’d have time to dawdle a little and see some new things. I found that the New England area was pretty much a one-trick pony: trees. Lots of trees. I’m sure that it’s amazing in the fall when the colors turn, but this time of year it was just a lot of pretty - but not impressive –greenbelts of trees, on or off the interstates. I had hoped to take some pictures in Virginia Beach, but it was just so hot, we never ventured anywhere that was very photogenic. I tried to turn the afternoon after the tire fix into a sightseeing day, but again, it was so hot and I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy to even try to find anywhere to go looking for photo ops. There were a few times, that I found interesting scenery, but couldn’t get off the road to take pictures. That’s just the way things worked out this year. I did take quite a few pictures, but it was a lot of pictures at a couple places, rather than a couple pictures at a lot of places as hoped.
I’m definitely done with that style of touring. I’ll likely do more of a destination style trips in the future, where I’ll take my trailer two or three days out and park it for a week or so. Someplace like the Grand Canyon or Sedona or back up to Olympic NP or Jasper or even Rocky Mountain NP in MT. That I could probably handle. But touring around, staying here or there for a night and then moving on, always under a fairly tight schedule is done. Done that, been there, bought the ticket, took the ride, spent the money, used the time, and dealt with the frustrations.