I left Joplor, NC mid morning. I remember immediately realizing the bike felt entirely different than I was used to. I hadn't ridden it a single mile fully loaded before that day. My navigation app spoke directions to me while a Pandora radio station pumped tunes into my ears. It was hot and humid, but I felt cool enough as long as I was munching miles on the interstate.
I immediately realized fuel stops would be opportunities for interactions with others after my first fill up not very far from home in Kannapolis, NC. I got plenty of strange looks and stares from the local good ole boys.
I chugged away toward DC. I remember stopping for lunch at Cracker Barrel somewhere near Burlington, NC. I texted my family members to let them know where I was and that I'd gotten off to a good start. I was still a bit giddy and had butterflies about beginning such a journey.
I remember making my way through Virginia and hitting a stretch of pine forest that struck me as beautiful and serene. It was that perfect time of day where the trees shaded the roadway just right, all spaced evenly like they'd been planted in their places intentionally. The road was straight and I remember feeling an almost out of body experience, picturing myself riding along from the point of view of a chase cam on a video game. I pulled off under an overpass and took a few pictures of my bike. I was really proud of myself for doing this and always beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment already. I was really doing it.
I remember a Subaru station wagon approaching and then passing me on the right hand side that day and noticing as it passed the teenagers in the back seat took pictures. I chuckled, feeling a bit honored, although looking back they were likely laughing uncontrollably about how silly my thermarest pad looked with my extra helmet strapped on top of it in the pillion position. Almost like I had an imaginary friend. Or maybe they just hadn't seen a bike with that much crap loaded on it before.
I texted my friend in DC, Jason, at a rest stop in Northern VA to let him know my ETA. He said he'd be ready for me.
I made it into DC around rush hour. I had a tendency of doing that throughout the trip because I would leave mid-morning most days and most places were 7-10 hours of riding apart. I should've learned to leave earlier but I wasn't a morning person and took my sweet time leaving most days.
I recall being astounded that DC had lanes that switched direction depending on the time of day. They led into the city in the morning and out of it in the evening. I saw a few motocyclists on the other side of the road leaving the city on their commute home. They waved, and I waved back. Always loved that about motorcycle riders - there's a spirit of community between us when we pass each other on the road.
I remember as I crossed the Potomac and made it into the city how amazing it felt. Surrounded by these huge historic buildings, monuments, and statues, it felt like I was being greeted by them and welcomed into the city. I was relieved to have made it. By the time I made it to my first fill up my butt was already sore. I had a feeling I might should have upgraded the seat on the Bandit but couldn't swing the $400+ for the Holeshot Corbin I had my eye on.
My navigation app led me to Jason's apartment complex and I parked my bike not too far away on the street. The country boy in me was unfamiliar with city parking and I was afraid I would be towed for parking somewhere at the wrong time. I checked and couldn't find any signs, so I reluctantly left it there.
After a quick phone call Jason came out to meet me on the street and help carry my stuff. He recommended I not leave anything on the bike for fear someone would steal it, so we unloaded everything. It was all we could do to carry all of it in one trip. Man I had too much crap.
He took me to a restraunt called Thaiphoon for dinner. Nifty name, huh. I also heard they had a Thaitanic.
I'd never eaten Thai food, but hey, I was on an adventure and what's more adventurous than trying new things. Well, I picked a great first time, because Jason knew how to order some Thai. Before I knew it we had 3 or 4 appetizers, sake, and entrees. I had crispy duck, my first venture into eating anything that quacks. All of it was great, and he picked up the tab to boot.
We walked around town a bit and ended up settling in at a decent time. We had a big day the next day - little did I know. I slept like a log on his couch. Funny thing about living expenses in DC - I remember my shock when Jason told me how much he was paying for a single bedroom apartment. I want to say somewhere near $1500/month. And that wasn't even in that great of a neighborhood.
Jason had a job interview the next morning inside union station, and I was going to tag along and wait outside and then we'd do the touristy stuff. The mode of travel for the day was bicycle. In case you haven't noticed, i'm not a trim little fellow like some of you squirts - i'm quite a big 'un. And bicycling wasn't something i'd done very recently. Like 7 or 8 years by my estimation. But, like they say, you never forget how.
We took off down the road and I must say I had a difficult time keeping up with Jason. This was his daily routine, but being from the suburbs of Charlotte, bicycle commuting was certainly not something I was familiar with. I stood guard with the bikes for about an hour while he went in for his interview. I listened to the buskers play for pocket change and watched the people and cars go by, which was quite interesting.
When he got out we took off to do the tourist loop. White House, Washington Monument, the Mall, etc. Subway for lunch on the way home. By the time we got back to the apartment I felt like i'd done the bicycle portion of a triathlon. Nothing like a little cardio to start off the trip.
I'd ripped my shins and behind my legs up a bit running into them with the sharpened pedals of the bike. Did my best to hide my exhaustion from Jason, though I'm sure he could tell I was struggling a bit to keep up all day, especially on uphill climbs. When we got back I remember saying, "Man, what a day. Wonder how many miles we rode?" Immediately he tapped the logger on the bike to reveal it'd been 18 miles. Not too shabby! I felt accomplished.
Later that night Jason had a gig. He was a DJ, playing only "house music". His gig was at a hookah bar downtown. I only had jeans and t-shirts with me, so I was sorely underdressed for the club scene, but I was with the DJ so I got in with no issue. Several of the Washington Wizards were at the club with plenty of women surrounding them. I just sat next to the DJ table for most of the night watching Jason and the patrons. We got a hookah, which was another first for me. Grape flavor, I want to say. It was pleasant.
We caught dinner around 2am at Jumbo Slice, a pizza joint that served slices bigger than a car floor mat. My kind of way to end a night.
The next day I'd load up and head toward NYC.