Thursday, June 23, 2011

C'est la vie...

After traveling almost 7,000 miles on motorcycle, 7,000 miles by car, and 4,000 miles by plane over the past 2 months, I've decided that my major travels are through for the summer (wait...didn't summer just start?)

I still plan on posting ride updates as I take short day trips and weekend rides, but the lion's share of "big riding" is done a week early.  I had originally planned on being on the road this week, traveling down to the Blue Ridge Parkway...until I researched the Blue Ridge Parkway and realized I wanted to spend more than 2 or 3 days riding it.  The guides say that an explorative trip down the Parkway can take up to 10 days, it just didn't seem right trying to cram that into 2 or 3.  It's nice to know I have another adventure out on the horizon.

There are some valuable things I learned in my travels:

  1. Always wear long pants and long sleeves when scrambling through mountain forests, with no trails...I'm so itchy.
  2. Riding a motorcycle in the hot sun for 6 to 8 hours really takes a physical toll on your body.  Ending a day with a shower and a good meal is more pleasant than can really be described.
  3. Riding a motorcycle in the cold wet rain for 6 to 8 hours really takes a physical toll on your body.  Ending a day with a hot shower and a good meal is more pleasant than can really be described.
  4. Old friends are a great treasure. So glad I got to see a few people from long ago.
  5. When riding all day...never underestimate the value of being comfortable.
  6. Even the most comfortable hotel bed can't beat sleeping at home.
  7. Trying to sort through 34 days of mail sucks.
Is that all I learned...not really...but it's all I could squeeze out of my travel weary brain for now. :)

It's been a pleasure sharing my journey's with you. I've still got a few good rides left in me for this summer, and I'll post about them when they happen.

Tomorrow is another day, and another road.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let it snow...

Shiver me sure was a cold one today, eh? So much fer gettin' dem sandals out...

My first stop on the ride today was buy some more clothes. Of course, it's June, so the racks are full of shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, etc. I finally found a stack of fleece pullovers molding in the back of the menswear section and picked out two of them. I was going to buy one, but then I thought to myself, "Self, it's really cold out two." Turns out I give myself good advice and I take good advice pretty well. I stopped for gas after leaving Wally World and immediately put that second pullover on. This is the most layered I have ever been for riding: t-shirt, sweatshirt, fleece pullover, polyester jacket, fleece pullover, plus mittens...and I was still cold.

Lucky for me it's going to warm up a whole 2 degrees tomorrow.

Once I had stuffed myself securely into my Eskimo layers, I headed to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The sunshine was deceiving, trying to trick the mind into thinking it was nice and warm, while a bitter cold wind blew in steadily off Lake Superior all day long. I had originally planned on riding the full length of the park on County Road H-58. The cold left me thinking otherwise.

I managed to stop at Miner’s Falls and trek through the woods to see a nice waterfall, cutting it’s way through the limestone. Then I headed up to Miner’s Castle and the Pictured Rocks overhang. After those, I was ready to head back to the hotel and try to warm up…something I still haven’t really managed to do even several hours after returning.

I’m going to be taking a little sabbatical from my riding adventure next week. I’ll be flying out west to visit my aunt and uncle in Portland. Adventures will resume the week of the 20th.

Here are some pictures and videos from the day.

All dressed up, and glad that they caught the uni-bomber years ago...

He sees you when you're sleeping...and when you ride through Christmas.

Happy as a ice cold clam.

Miner's Castle

Me, sitting in the woods...

This little fella was pretty brave...

Tomorrow is another day, and another road.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Black magic...

I realized, as I was pulling into the hotel tonight, that I've ridden about 5,000 miles since I left home on May 18. I've enjoyed a great many of those...and some I have not. Today was a mix of both. The ride up to Copper Harbor brought back good memories of my visit here 5 years ago. It's also the type of ride that I think every motorcyclist looks for. The last 10 miles into Copper Harbor are like a tree lined roller coaster with rolling hills and lots of curves. The last mile or so is all down hill, so I put the bike in neutral and coasted all the way into Copper was one of the best experiences I've had on a motorcycle this year. Here is a video clip of what part of that last 10 miles looks like.

Yeah...remember that U.P. magic I was telling you about great it is to feel the cool northern breeze chase the heat right out of the air...that magic came back to bite me in the butt today. It's evil magic, voodoo magic, the kind of magic that I'm pretty sure I can find some way to blame on Voldemort. That magical weather/temperature change made this one of the most extreme days of riding, and one that I was the most unprepared for, on this trip.

It was about 80 when I woke up this morning. I took my time getting ready for today's journey. I went to Walmart and got some snacks for the hotel room. I went to Pete's Barber Shop and had what little hair was on my head shaved off. I went over to Jeffrey's for lunch...and it started to cool down. By the time I left the hotel, my motorcycle was telling me that it was only 72 outside. Ah, but there's that U.P. magic. As I rolled north on M-41, it started to get warm again...back up to 80...then 84...and it stayed that warm for quite a while. M-41 between Marquette and Houghton isn't all that spectacular. There are some scenic views as you pass by some of the lakes along the way, but nothing I felt like stopping to get a picture or two at on the way, especially since it was warm and stopping when it's warm just means sweat.

As I started to approach Houghton, the temperature started dipping. Nothing dramatic like what I described yesterday, just a slow wander down into the upper 60's and lower 70's. I had expected it to cool off as I headed north, the weather forecast for Copper Harbor said the high there would only be 58 for the day. As such, I'd packed my hoodie so as to be ready for said "coolness."

The hoodie came out and went on when I got to the Snow Pole on M-41. The snow pole is that special stop along the highway where you can see the average annual snowfall, the historic high and lows, and the snowfall measurement for last year all in one place. By the time I got there, it was down around 60 and it appeared that I'd be getting down into the 50's in relatively little time.

I rolled into Copper Harbor less than 30 minutes later. It was starting to get really cool. Before I headed up the mountain it was about 59 degrees and you could see that heavy clouds were blowing in off Lake Superior and surrounding the top of the mountain. When I got to the top, the clouds were moving in fast and furious. There was no rain, just a cool mist, but what was coming with it was unexpected...cold. I was only at the top of the mountain for about 15 minutes or so. During that time the temperature dropped about 8 degrees. It was 49 when I left...presuming it would warm up as I rode down the mountain. I was wrong, it actually got colder, down to about 46...and it stayed that cold all the way to Houghton.

I knew there had to be warmth somewhere to the south of me, so I pressed on (and maybe sped a little bit in the process.) I finally reached the southern edge of the cold front about 15 miles south of Houghton. The temperature warmed up into the mid-60's and I kept the pedal to the metal wanting to put as much distance between that cold wall and myself as possible. I managed to forget that Marquette is right on the water. About 10 miles outside of town, there was that wall...waiting for me like a frozen ninja. It attacked without the slightest warning and the next thing I knew it was down to 52 degrees.

The ride up to Copper Harbor was one of the best I've had in weeks. The ride back...meh, I've had lots better. :)

Tomorrow is another day, and another road.


No, not in the Upper Peninsula. For many residents of the state of Michigan it's just the part of the state that doesn't exist when someone asks you where you live and you point to a place on your's no wonder the Yoopers call us trolls.

The U.P. is a great destination for troll motorcyclists for many reasons. First, there's the bridge. Many consider crossing Big Mac (The Mackinac Bridge) a motorcycle bucket list item...and lore has it that only real men ride the grate. Heading west on US-2, after crossing the bridge, brings miles of beautiful state highway, marked by pine forests, sandy beaches, and sweeping views of Lake Michigan. US-2 slowly transitions from a lakeside highway to one that take a rider into the rolling hills of the western U.P. And, if hills are what you came for, the U.P. does not disappoint. Once you're on the western edge of the state, you can head back east through the Porcupine Mountains. If hills aren't your thing, maybe chasing waterfalls is, or scenic views of Lake Superior, or the craggy cliffs of Pictured Rocks, or the steep climb up Brockway Mountain Drive in Copper Harbor.

You could spend a full week touring the upper peninsula and not see half of what it has to offer...but that's not what I love most about riding up here. A day like yesterday is why I love riding into and around the U.P. A day when the ride through the lower peninsula feels like you're sitting at the gates of Hell. When it's so hot that you start wondering why you're riding at all...and then it happens. It's unpredictable. There's no official starting point or ending point. It might happen before the bridge, it might happen after. It's when the fires of Hell, that have been breathing on you all the way up I-75, are suddenly doused by a cold, stiff breeze. It's minute you're sweltering, and the next minute, literally the next minute, you're thinking you might need to pull over and put some long underwear on.

I rode up to Marquette today and experienced that magical temperature shift several times. The first was about 20 miles south of the bridge. I had been tooling along, watching my thermometer hold steady at about 98 degrees for well over 3 hours. Then, faster than you can say "Mackinac Bridge," the air temperature plummeted. It took 3 or 4 minutes for my dashboard to catch up, but when it did I was coasting along in about 80 degrees. The second dip happened about 5 miles from the bridge. Within just a few seconds it went from 80 degrees down to 70. Like I said before, you never know when this is going to happen. I've had rides where it happened about half way across the bridge. I've had rides where I was 10 or 15 minutes into the U.P. before it happened...but it almost always happens. The most chilling one today came as I approached Marquette. The temperature had climbed back up to 80 after I left Munising...then I drove around a curve in the road and the bottom dropped out...all the way down to 64, which is where it stayed until I got to the hotel.

The downside of traveling up here is time. Not counting the beauty of US-2 after crossing the bridge, it can take 8 to 10 hours of riding just to get to the "good stuff." From southern Michigan, it's just as fast, or faster, to ride to western Pennsylvania, or down to West Virginia, for mountain roads and sweeping vistas. But, the U.P. has a siren call, and it got me this year. :)

This picture, or a troll on the north side of the bridge, is from the spring of 2007.

Tomorrow is another day, and another road.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

God created...

Although I spent the entire day on the highway (440 miles, 7 hours 30 minutes of seat time on the bike), it was a magnificent ride through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. There was a scenic viewpoint of the first mountain I came to, so I pulled off to get some pictures. As luck would have it, the only cars in the lot were down at the entrance end, leaving me all the space in the world to park my motorcycle at the other end and get some great mountain shots with the bike...until the Bickersons pulled in and parked almost right next to me. A whole parking lot full of spaces to pick from, and they drive all the way to the end and park right where I need to stand to be able to get my best photos. To top it off, as soon as their doors opened it was "F-bomb" this and "F-bomb" that. Such a pleasant family, so glad they inflicted themselves on me, especially since it didn't appear that they had any interest at all in the scenic overview. So I backed up as far as I could and got a couple of crappy shots to share with you:

The view without the bike in the way.

I believe this was actually still in North Carolina (Pilot Mountain?) and was surprised that there weren't any scenic pullouts, at least none that I saw, on the whole trip up I-77.

As I traveled through the mountains, marveling at God's creation, I got to thinking about Christians, the creation story, and wondering if we don't often focus on the wrong part. It seems that so often I hear well meaning Christians passionately arguing, both amongst themselves and with non-believers, about the various aspects of creation.

First, let us address the non-believers. Why do some Christians get so red-in-the-face trying to convince non-believers that God created all this? They're non-believers. Wouldn't it be enough to take the Apostle Paul's cue and "shake the dust from our sandals" in this regard? If they were believers, trying to discredit the creation, that's a whole different issue, but they're why do I see people wasting their breath trying to "prove" something using a book and ideas that the non-believer just believes to be garbage. Seems like a waste of time and energy to me, both of which could be spent doing good for the poor, orphaned, and widows...just my two cents.

Next we have the different factions among the believers. There are those who believe God created the world in 7 literal days. There are those who believe that God created the world and let each step "cook" before moving onto the next step. There are those who believe God created the world about 10,000 years ago, and just made it look like it was 4.5 billion years old. There are those who believe God created the world 4.5 billion years ago, and "let it cook" before creating man. There are even some who believe God created the earth "a long time ago" and then scrapped the whole project and started over at some point, hence the 4.5 billion years. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Isn't the important part "GOD CREATED..."? Does the timeline really matter? Can't we just be happy with "GOD CREATED..."? Seriously, all the stuff between "God created..." and "For God so loved the world..." is great history, but it doesn't really impact anyone's salvation, does it? I'm not saying we should just forget about everything between Genesis chapter 1 and the New Testament, but when we spend time arguing amongst ourselves about the "when" instead of telling the world about the "why" aren't we wasting our time and God's?

Well, there you go, that's what happens when you put a man on a motorcycle for almost 8 hours and let him drive through the mountains.

Tomorrow is another day, and another road.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The hills

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On the road again...

It was back in the saddle today, a little earlier in the week than originally planned but life happens. For one thing, I need to get the Vision back to Michigan and get it registered with "the man" (which also means paying the piper my share of sales tax.)

One thing I can say about this trip is that it's been extreme. It's either been cold, wet, cold and wet, or hot. I've been on the road for 2 weeks and had 1 day where the weather was "typical" for the region I was in for this time of year. Today was hot, hot, hot. My in-dash thermometer told me that the over the road air temperature hit 100 at 2:09PM this afternoon, and it never dropped below that for the rest of my riding day. By the time I got to Greensboro, it was showing the ambient air temperature around the bike at 105. I took a picture, just to have proof :)

Tomorrow is another day of traveling just to get from point A to point B. I need to get about 500 miles behind me in order to be able to get home on Friday around lunch time.

Oh, yeah, one last's excitement...I almost hit a black bear. YEAH, A FREAKING BEAR! I was about 12 miles east of Plymouth, North Carolina, traveling along US-64. The speed limit is 70 MPH in that area, and, with the thermometer reading nearly 100, I was not going to go any slower. As I was tooling along the highway, I noticed what looked like a very large man standing next to the highway, dressed all in black, about a half mile in front of me. As I got closer, it began to become more clear that this was not a "who" but a "what." With just a few hundred yards between us, the black bear dropped down and started to move into the roadway. I hit my brakes as hard as I could, hoping for the best. The best is what I got. The Victory Vision Tour comes standard with anti-lock brakes. They kicked in almost immediately and I slowed down far faster than I have with any bike I've ever owned. Mr. Bear was able to cross safely about 15 or 20 yards in front of me, and thanks to the ABS my brakes never locked up. Talk about exciting! That's the closest I've ever been to a bear in the wild. Had I been riding my former motorcycle, it's very likely I'd have been sliding down the highway on my butt getting ready to be bear snacks (and I'm sure I would have been nice and juicy having been baked out in the sun all day long.) A huge thank you to Victory Motorcycles for getting it right when they built this bike!

Tomorrow is another day, and another road.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Greensboro,United States