I finally read everything up to this point, and I must say that your ride has inspired me in a number of ways. I have been longing for an adventure bike so I can turn the R6 into a track bike. However, due to recent circumstances, I can not afford it. This ride report has encouraged me to plan a trip on the R6 to Chicago and beyond. I hope I can pull it off before the weather gets shitty.
Did you buy the Panigale from Chad at NB? I stop in there frequently to say hi, drool over bikes, and hang out a bit. I used to ride with Chad occasionally, and I know some of those guys from when Spectrum was around.
It's very refreshing to know there are other people who share my feelings about HD riders, food and drink, general philosophy on life, etc... I too had a "near death" type illness that opened my eyes and helped me reduce my ego driven ways. When you make it back, it would be cool to meet you for a ride up at Angeles Crest or do a track day. I think us California peoples should throw you a big welcome home party and feast upon your safe return.
Keep up the excellent writing!