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Old 08-09-2009, 09:36 PM   #46
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Cherohala Skyway & The Smokies

A good night's rest can make a big difference in your travels, as can a comfortable place to 'explode' when you get in for the night. This is some of my 'exploding' that I do when I land.

We quickly packed up and bolted out of Anderson, headed north. First part of the trip thru the mountains was the 28, which was a lot more technical than I thought it'd be.

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Pretty tight curves, and the loaded up bike wasn't the best machine for that bit of tarmac. But it was amazingly fun and totally beautiful. I had a close call when a loaded up dump truck crossed into my lane in a downhill chicane with both sets of rear tires locked up smoking. That gets the blood moving.

We stopped at a visitors center to grab a map or two. Jason noticed that he had a warning light on, indicating his brake light was out. He quickly located a local auto store, headed over there and got a new bulb. Despite the dummy behind the desk telling us it wasn't in stock (while we stared at it on the shelf). Jason quickly replaced it in the parking lot.

We headed out from there and did the rest of the 28 to get to Robbinsville, SC. That town is connected to Telico Plains, TN by the Cherohala Skyway, our destination for the day and an absolutely amazing bit of road.

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That road was completed in 1996, it took 35 years and cost 100 million to complete. I checked it out at the opening, it's more grown up and the road isn't a perfect blacktop anymore, but it's still a really awesome road. This was near the first portions of the road.


We stopped at the highest point off the Cherohala Skyway, at 5300 feet. There was a path into the woods up to the top so we parked the bikes for a bit to take a walk up.

This area is so alive, creatures everywhere.

I think this picture sums up the ride on the Cherohala Skyway pretty well.

I had donned the helmet cam, here are a few neat action shots from the road. Make sure to click on them and zoom in.



Check the other bikers waving. Florida motorcyclists, take note how you're *supposed* to act. ;-)

Look at the view off the road to the right.

And look at this off to the left.



After we made it off the skyway and down into Telico Plains, Jason had to split for Nashville to travel home to his family. My path was heading to Knoxville to see my brother. Jason spent his entire 2 week vacation this year on this trip and 10 days of it with me. I was sad to see him go, it was nice to have someone to ride with.


It was getting dark on the way into Knoxivllle. I took all the backroads I could, through Lenore City and a few other small towns. The sunset was so awesome, I had to stop and take a pic.

I made it to my little brother's house about 9:30PM or so.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:38 PM   #47
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Visiting East TN

After Jason and I split up in the smokies, I traveled on to Knoxville, to visit my little bro. Parked the bike in the garage and took a day or two off the seat. Had some local food & beer, drove thru a lot of rain and visited with friends.




L->R: Joseph, Me, Matt and his wife Hannah, her sister and her bf. I'm wearing one of Joseph's shirts, because I packed nothing resembling a button up.


My buddy Tall Paul playing at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. I dropped in on him just before one of his shows, he was quite surprised. He even worked me into one of the songs he sang, pretty damn cool.


After staying in K-Town a few days, I headed down to see my Dad in Crossville. I tried to stay off the I-40, so I headed down Kingston Pike, which is TN 70. It's a really nice, twisty road that takes the same basic path of I-40 and was the original route used to get across TN before the interstate system.


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This is a typical shot of the roads in the area.


I packed up the bike and headed out.

The drive was great, lonely roads with lots of trees, curves and beautiful countryside. On the way west, I passed Roosevelt Mountain in Rockwood, and decided to go up. The view was stunning.

The Rockwood Firetower was located up there, build in 1932. Pretty neat, I wanted to climb it since a hole had been cut in the fence, but it seemed kinda dangerous with all the rotting wood.

Made it to Dad's house late that night. The next day, my friend Matt took me on a tour of Oak Ridge National Laboratories supercomputing facilities. Some pretty amazing stuff. In this pic, Matt is showing all the politicians that had put their signatures on that particular Cray.

This is the #2 fastest supercomputer in the world, Jaguar. It's a Cray, hella loud, and yes you may notice the liquid cooling. It's 8 rows deep like what you see here.


Here, I am standing next to the #6 supercomputer in the world, Kraken. (Also a Cray)

You can see the rest of the album here.

Dad and I checked out some more of the history in Crossville, including the Palace Theater and the really neat looking county Courthouse, build in 1921. We also checked out the first/oldest steam engine to arrive in the county.




Cumberland County is a really beautiful area. They filmed the Jungle Book near here, in Fall Creek Falls State park. This shot was taken behind an old barn on my dad's property.

Tomorrow is my b-day, I leave for Nashville area and meet up with Tracy, who is flying out from San Diego to see me.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:39 PM   #48
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Breaktime in Nashville

Some of you have noticed I have been mostly stationary for a bit. I planned into my trip a 2 week break in the Nashville area, to accommodate a few events. My b-day, Tracy's visit, 4th of July and hanging with old friends are all on the agenda. Anyway...

After leaving the Cumberland Plateau, I headed towards Nashville. I did the rest of the TN 70 and then met up with TN 25 after Cookeville.


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This route took me thru some beautiful country, including a stop at the Hartsville Nuclear Complex. I had to stop and get a pic.


I also passed a road named "BMW Lane". I figured my bike buddies would appreciate this pic.

I arrived in Hendersonville (at my mom's house) just in time to unpack, grab a quick shower and head down to the airport to pick up Tracy. She had flown out from San Diego for a few days for her wedding shower, to take in the sights of the Music City, and spend some time with me. Here we are, happily re-united.

We did a few cool things while in town together, including touring the Parthenon, Hermitage and checking out the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Blue Suede Shoes. These were not actually Elvis's, but still worth a pic.


Andrew Jackson's grave (+family) at the Hermitage. That place is neat. *Very* old, if you like antiques, make sure to see it.



My pictures of the Parthenon are on Tracy's camera, I'll have to come back and add them to this post later.

I visited Jason again down in Spring Hill, hooked up with my friends Geoff and Karen in Brentwood, and saw a few historic sights with Don. Check out this cannon.


And this is a confederate graveyard.


Tennessee is so beautiful, I really love that state. Check out this road-side hay field.


Met up with Tim and Freddie, co-workers from the Telalink days.


And hung out with David at Vanderbilt for a few hours. We worked together at Vol State back in the day. I was going to help him unbox a few new computers, for old time's sake, but he beat me to it while I was talking.


I met a guy named Mike at the BMW dealer in Nashville...he asked me to speak about my trip at the Nashville BMW Owners Club the next Tuesday. I talked to a group of about 45 or so, for a few moments about where I've been and my experiences. They are a bunch of nice people, I look forward to meeting them again one day.


I also visited my friend Andrew's distillery, Corsair Artisan. I have a gallery of great pics, but will have to post them later, having issues getting them up to flickr. Dang RAW format. ;-)

The 4th of July was awesome. I sat in my old bedroom and looked out the window at the fireworks over Moss Wright Park, Rivergate and Downtown Nashville. They were supposed to go off at 9PM but went up at around 7:30 instead, due to looming thunderclouds. It was pretty great because I saw fireworks, fireflies and lightning all in the same view. No pics, sorry, don't have the gear for capturing that with me on the bike. You'll have to use your imagination. :)

This weekend I head to FL to try to catch another launch attempt. Then up to Ohio to see the superbike race. Then West. I expect to be home around the 1st week of August.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:40 PM   #49
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We Have Liftoff!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We have liftoff!



After 4500 miles on the bike, 11 days of waiting, 6 launch attempts, 3 trips out to the pad and two 13 hour truck drives, I finally got to see the shuttle go up. Man it was awesome. Jason shot video, I hope to post it soon.

The story is, NASA claimed to solve the hydrogen leak issue, and ran a test to prove it. The launch was re-scheduled for July 11th, so after extending my break in TN a few days longer, Jason and I decided to make the trip back down to see it. But I didn't take the bike, time was of the essence for both of us and I really didn't want to slab the 13 hour drive from Nashville to Titusville on a motorcycle, in the rain. So we left at 7AM Friday and arrived that night in FL about 9PM. Saturday, the launch was scrubbed because of lightning strike issues from a storm on Friday. Sunday, we went down to the VIP section at Banana Creek (3.3 miles) to see the launch, but it was scrubbed just before T-9:00 due to a weather violation at the RTLS (Return to Launch Site).

Monday, due to awesome things I can't reveal (A.T.I.C.R.), we went to view the launch from OSB, which is a bit closer and the REAL VIP spot. All the head honcho's were there from NASA, JAXA (Japanese NASA), CSA (Canadian Space Agency), congressmen, senators, etc. We had lobster tail, tiger prawn, fruits, drinks and even a special STS-127 edition Jones Cola. It was truly special and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Unfortunately, as on Sunday, the RTLS had a weather violation and it was scrubbed again.

They did a 48 hour scrub this time. Jason and I had already sworn up and down we'd leave after the last launch, but we both pushed our schedules to the max and decided to stay for the Wednesday attempt. Good thing we did because after a few email exchanges, I managed to get promoted to "Escort". I had a badge and was able to help out a bit during the mission. How badass is that? And the more you ask how all this happened, the less I'll tell you so don't ask. :)

Tuesday, while we waited, we hit up the store and took Jason's cousin Corey to the gun range. Highlight of the day was when I got a "nice tracheotomy" from the gristly instructor when he saw my target. We also went out to a causeway near the pad to get a night shot or two with the big Xenon lights turned on.



Wednesday, we were back again at Banana Creek (along with everyone, even the real VIP's) and it was hot out. Lots of people walking around in suits in the hot weather, yuck. I was actually pretty nervous, knowing this was my last try to see the shuttle. We had been getting rain on the way to the pad, but once we got there, it was nice and clear. Hearing all the "OK" statements during the 40 minute hold prior to T-9:00, (including weather!!) made my pulse race. The moment the clock started moving again (at T-8:59), the crowd went nuts and so did I. Basically, if you imagine that the Shuttle is a car, it takes 9 minutes to start before it can move. So unless there is a technical issue, resuming the countdown after T-9:00 means it's going up.

That 9 minutes went by like seconds. At 3 minutes, they have an announcement about safety and where to go in case flaming rocket fuel is raining from the sky or a cloud of hydrochloric acid is floating your way. Really brings the danger close to home when you hear that stuff. At T-0:06 you start to see the puffy clouds and flames and at T-0 it slowly lifts off the pad. I say slowly because from 3 miles, it looks slow. It's actually going hundreds of miles an hour within a few seconds. It actually takes about 10 seconds for the sound to arrive too...it's clear of the pad before you start to hear it. And it is LOUD. Shakes your chest from the sound. It's not a roar like a jet, but more of a crackling rumble. It arc'd thru the sky for about 2 minutes before the SRB's dropped off and it sped out of sight.

Man it was so worth it. Now the major destination for this trip was validated and one of my life goals can be crossed off the list. See a Space Shuttle Launch.

Here are a few more shots from the launch:





After the launch, we left immediately for Nashville, drove the 13 hours through the night and got in at 7:30am. After crashing for a few hours, I headed up to Hendersonville to pack up the bike and then blasted up to Crossville to stay the night with my dad.

Tomorrow, I drive thru Jamestown, TN (where I lived until I was 5) and then up into Kentucky, on my way to Ohio for the superbike race and to meet up with Tracy again.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:41 PM   #50
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Crossville and on North to Kentucky

After a restful night at my Dad's place in Crossville, we woke up and had some breakfast at a local restaurant. Had some good food and planned my route for the day, including a stop in Jamestown, TN, where I lived until 5 yrs old. My destination is the Honda AMA Superbike Race at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. It just so happens, that is where Tracy grew up, so it's also a chance to meet her there and visit with family.


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As Dad and I wrapped up breakfast, he came back from a phone call to tell me I had an interview at the local paper, the Chrossville Chronicle. So I packed up the bike and headed over. I spent a little more than an hour telling my story about traveling across the US to see the space shuttle launch and all the neat things I've seen. Not sure if it'll make the paper, but I hope it does. The pic below is me in front of the paper, with Missy, who interviewed me.



And me all packed up, ready to head out.



The sky was stormy as I left East TN headed north. On the south side of Jamestown, the sky turned black and the wind started blowing. I pulled over to put on my rain gear. About 30 seconds after I got back on the bike, the clouds opened up and it poured. Wasn't so bad, my gear protected me. But my shield was fogging up in the humidity and it was hard to see thru the rain. Then things got worse....the bike started acting funny, misfiring and stumbling. After a mile or so of confusion, it stalled out...right in the center of town. I struggled to push the heavy bike up an incline to get it off the road and onto the sidewalk, under an awning. Cars honked at me as the rain came down. I could tell at the end it was only running on one cylinder. The bike is dead, the trip is over. I pulled out the cell, to start calling friends and family...no signal. Got out the backup cell...no signal on that network either. Dammit. The business I pulled over in front of...closed. No available phone within sight. I was thinking about how I wouldn't get to see Tracy or make it to the race. I couldn't imagine what was wrong. My heart sank.

But then I collected my thoughts and put my brain to work. After some process of elimination, I deduced it was an ECU issue. The F800 has a feedback loop on the ECU that constantly re-evaluates the fuel map to get better fuel economy. I figured that it may have gotten confused with the rapid change in the environment. So I completely shut off the bike, let it cool. Then fired it up and slowly revved it across the entire RPM range. It seemed to clear up. I am still not sure if it was a slightly fouled plug or just a confused ECU...last time the bike stalled on me was in the high humidity of a rainy night in Baja. So, I jumped back on and continued.

I drove past the old house where I lived as a child. With all the rain, I didn't stop to make pictures, I felt it was best to leave all the electronics sealed up. It was the same as I remembered it. Continuing on, the rain eventually let up and the sun came out to dry me up. After crossing the KY line, I came across a cool steel truss bridge over the dam that creates Lake Cumberland. Looked fun down there.




I continued up SR68 the rest of the day. It's a beautiful road with horse farms and hay fields all around.




Stopping for gas, I ran into a fellow biker named James. He was on a Ducati monster, similar to my old one. he exchanged info, he took a few pics of my getup and then we rode together for a few miles thru Kentucky. A cool guy. I tried a few over-the-shoulder shots but they didn't really turn out...the dang camera bag blew *right* in front of him. D-oh. But I did catch a fuzzy shot of him in my mirror.



I passed thru a little town with some really cool structures that had been 'preserved'. At least they looked kinda preserved.





The moss growing on the side of that building was really neat.


Took a few shots of the road...I seem to have a different definition of level while on the bike.




I ended the day on the Kentucky/Ohio border. It's Maysville, KY to the south and then you cross a beautiful suspension bridge and it's Aberdeen, OH.



I actually went a few miles north on 41 into Ohio but saw deer everywhere and decided to turn around. Stayed in Aberdeen at a motel on the side of the road. Part of it had burned down so I was staying in the part next door. Got a weird vibe from a Harley dude about the safety issue so I parked the bike sideways right up in front of my window. "Hell I'd pull it in my room if it was me." Hehe. Had a 10" pizza at a local joint down the street, it was good.

Tomorrow, into Ohio!
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:43 PM   #51
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ohio & AMA Superbikes!

Woke up the next morning and hit the road. This is the hotel I stayed the night at, with the bike out front all ready to go (not next to the window like it was at night). I think the Harley dude's safety issues were unfounded, that town was small and safe.



From Aberdeen, I headed north on SR41 into Ohio. A beautiful stretch of road.

Two words: "What Barn?"



There were 2 things I wanted to see in Ohio: The Serpent Mounds and a covered bridge. After an hour or two, I took a 5 mile detour to the Serpent Mounds. The hilly area where it lies is the rim of a meteor crater, formed millions of years ago. It's supposedly a very cosmic spot, having all kinds of meaning in astrological circles. I broke the rules and stood in the middle of the serpent's head. No ill affects or special powers granted that I am aware of. I didn't stand in the cosmic vortex a.k.a. the serpent's tail, for fear of getting my karma sucked out of my head :)






I have to admit, I was a little bit fascinated with the simplicity of the men's toilet. Yes, that's a wall to piss on with a drain hole.



As I continued north, it started to rain again. Beautiful countryside tho. I decided to skip the covered bridge tour, since it was raining and I was really looking forward to seeing Tracy again.



As I got into Lexington, I finally started seeing familiar roads again. I rounded the corner to my destination, there was Tracy and her brother Andy waiting for me in the front yard. They took this shot.



Reunited!


Look at those smiles!



Later that night, we went to a bonfire at Grant's house. He lives way out in the country so we were able to have a huge bonfire and drive around on motorcycles and act rowdy...the way it should be. The fire was about 40' high at one point. That's Grant doing a wheelie on the 3 wheeler. :)



Next day was Superbikes! We went with a bunch of Grant's buddies, Andy & Karen and their neighbors Jeremy & Jess. Tracy and I rode over, which gets you some pretty rad parking with the rest of the bikes. Jeremy & Jess rented a golf cart and they picked up Andy and Karen from their car.






Stopped by the Ducati owners tent to rest and grab some schwag and snacks.


One of Grant's buddies playin around on a Honda 50. I need to get one of those.


Monday, Grant, Tracy and I went for a scenic bike ride around Richland county, thru the Amish country and Mohican State Park. Beautiful place, it reminds me of Fall Creek Falls State Park in East TN.




I got to see a covered bridge anyway, and take a cool shot. Ohio is a beautiful state.








Also traded up rides...Grant's 1998 SuperHawk is FAST! It has the big 48mm carbs and you can feel it!



Visited with family the next 2 days and put Tracy on a plane back home to San Diego. I stayed over the night, to leave the next morn. Woke up the next morn to a bunch of rain waited around for a while for it to clear...and had lunch with Andy and Grant before heading out. I made it to Plymouth, Indiana that night, and got rained on a bit on the way as well. Rain seems to like me lately.


View Larger Map




Tomorrow, finish up Indiana, then head past Chicago and on thru Illinois.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:44 PM   #52
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Indiana & Illinois

After a restful night in Plymouth, Indiana, I hit the road to get into Illinois. First on the list was Indiana Dunes State Beach. I had to see what a mid-west beach looks like. Yep, it's a beach on lake Michigan. It was really sandy, sunny and warm. Lots of people out, made me want to go swim.



I continued towards Chicago, passing some of the steel mills.



Had I realized Chicago would be nothing but traffic all day (instead of clear from 10am-2pm like some locals advised me), I would have gone around it.



I stopped to assist some overheating Harleys and one of them offered to take a pic for me with the City. This is about as close as I got, because the traffic was so bad I tried to split out of town ASAP.



I sat in traffic for hours attempting to leave Chicago. It was pretty lame...I-90 is a toll road and the only free routes are state routes. If you get off the highway it's hard to get back on. Construction everywhere. I'd like to go back to Chicago someday when I've got time to explore the city instead of trying to battle the traffic.

I finally got out of the city and back on the lonely state routes. It's beautiful countryside, lots of crops.



After a while I noticed a weather system developing off to the north west. I stopped to take a pic and met 2 bikers headed west too.



As we talked, we noticed that storm was coming our way, quick. I quickly headed west, trying to out-run the storm. No luck. Huge gusts of wind came from nowhere, it got cold quick and started to sprinkle. I stopped in Galena, Illinois just as the Civil Defense sirens went off. Tornado time. I quickly unpacked the bike and parked it under a tree to keep the hail from damaging it. The hotel management asked us to go to the basement while the winds were at their worst. They said it registered 85mph. I watched it blow around trash cans like leaves, I can't believe my bike didn't get blown over. Check out these shots...especially the green sky (hail).




After the storm passed and we returned to our rooms, the weather channel said that a tractor trailer was blown over onto a car just a few miles east of town on the same road I was on (SR20). Yikes!

Tomorrow, Iowa and beyond.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:44 PM   #53
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Iowa

After sleeping thru the stormy weather in Galena, I got up early to head west. Passed thru Dubuque, Iowa...a pretty little town. I really liked the bridge that crosses the river as you come into town.




Stopped to take a picture of a neato gothic looking church as well...the sunlight made for an interesting pic.



Iowa is flat and the roads are straight. The redeeming factor is that it's pretty and the people are really nice. Everywhere I stopped people wanted to talk and were real friendly.


View Larger Map




I ate lunch at an A&W, they give you a cold mug and the root-beer comes from a tap. Passed a town with my last name, had to stop and get a pic of the sign. I was tempted to go visit but I was short on time, trying to make up time from the storm delay from yesterday.



The wind had been blowing pretty hard all day. I hate riding in the wind...it reminded me of Texas, bleck. And just like Texas, about the time I noticed a really strong crosswind, I found more wind farms. But this time, I was out in the middle of no-where, alone. So I took the bike on the dirt road across a farm to get up close to one.



They really are massive. The sound of the blades spinning was crazy, it made me nervous that I'd some how get chopped up. It's very evident that there are very large forces at play listening to that thing. The substation is humming and gives the air a very electric quality. I even made video, will have to figure out how to post it.

Shortly afterwards, I crossed the state line into South Dakota. At one point, I realized I had passed a lot of Lewis & Clark signs trying to tell me something. So I pulled over at the next one, in Elk Point. Apparently they had camped here back in the day, on the side of the Missouri River.



My destination was Yankton..but upon arrival all lodging was booked up. And camping. Apparently there was a high school reunion and a local state park that did it. So after looking at my options, I traveled back east to Vermillion, home of the University of South Dakota. I stopped at a motel with a mini-golf, a pool and a bar. Drank beer with the owner that night, Dave.

Here are some more pics of the midwest that I liked.






Tomorrow, further into South Dakota and heading for the Badlands.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:45 PM   #54
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

South Dakota and the Badlands!

Headed out of my motel in Vermillion, I made tracks into South Dakota. First neat thing I came across was Fort Randall Dam. It's 2 miles long and one of the biggest in the world. Cost $200M for the Army Core of Engineers to build and generates $30M in electrical power revenue. They had a cool museum that I stopped at for a few moments for a bathroom/stretch break. They had some cool fossils in there...apparently the largest Sea Turtle fossil in the world was found here (but located in Souix City).




Eastern South Dakota is pretty..lots of rolling small hills interspersed between open flat areas. Lots of cows and crops.




My bike rolled over 10K too. Cool!



I stopped for lunch in Winner, SD and ate at the Holiday House. Everyone was real friendly, including the owner, Tony, who let me park my bike up next to the restaurant, out of the sun.



I continued West on SR44, towards the Badlands. This took me thru some large Indian Reservations. The road was lonely, flat and straight. And HOT. I was seeing mid 90's the whole way. I also had a hard time getting high octane fuel, so I did the boost and mid-grade mix.




As I started getting near the Badlands, the scenery changed. Lots of weather-worn ruts created some neat looking landscape.




Finally made it into Badlands National Park. Since I had purchased a national parks pass, I didn't have to pay again to get in. I did the Badlands loop 240, which was stunning. I'll let the pics speak for themselves.









I stopped at a turn-out at one point and ended up using the timer to take a pretty rad shot. Makes it look like I'm an astronaut exploring another planet.



The colors in the dirt here trump the Painted Desert handily.





Saw some road-side wildlife. I believe this was a ram. Some newbie in a RV slowly crept up on them and moved directly in my shot, so all I got was the rear-end. And of course, he scared them off as well.



I ended up staying in a neat cabin in Wall, SD. I had been itching to camp but the weather forecast shows more severe thunderstorms, so I chose a cheap cabin just south of the I-90 in Wall, SD. It was really nice and comfy. Had some great local food in town too. Lots of bikers are around now...the closer I get to Sturgis and bike week, the higher the Harley rider concentration. Here is my route from today:



View Larger Map

Tomorrow, the Black Hills and Western South Dakota.
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Old 08-09-2009, 09:46 PM   #55
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Minuteman Missiles, Rushmore and Crazy Horse

Woke up in Wall, SD with plans to see some rockets. There were lots of storms in the area so I decided to go see the Minuteman Missile Site just east of Wall. I drove 30 minutes east (the wrong way) to get there at 9AM, but the tour was full. Doh. So I went out to the sites myself to see what I could see. Pretty cool, even without a guide.




The hardened security vehicle they drove around in.



And a bomb-proof UHF antenna. Made by Collins, for Boeing. Neat! There was a ranger at the site, answering questions and giving history lessons. He let me know that if I couldn't get on the tour today, that the Air Force base an hour or so west had a silo you could actually go down inside. Cool!



I went to the launch control facility too, to get a cool pic.



Continuing west, I stopped by Ellsworth Air Force Base and took a tour of the base and the South Dakota Air and Space museum. The base tour included a trip down inside a Minuteman Missile silo built for training. So I got more missile shots and a few cool planes.

t



At one point, while heading towards some cool roads, I passed this factory with a logo I had to grab a pic of. Hehe.



I headed towards Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. A big storm had been brewing all day and I had the fortune of avoiding it thus far, but that luck ran out. I got hit hard by the storm. I had put in my waterproof liner so I was good. But the bike didn't like the rain. Same problem as Jamestown. It stalled out in the hard rain. It happened right after a deer had run out in front of me and I had slammed on the brakes...then it stalled out. So I sat on the side of the road getting rained on while huge trucks blasted me with water. After a while, it started fine and I continued on my way. Annoying.



I stopped by the Crazy Horse Memorial first. I didn't realize how big it really is...they have been carving this since 1948 and it's not even near completion. When done, it will be the worlds largest statue. Amazing.

Here it is today.



And this is the goal.



Next, I hit up Mt. Rushmore. And got more rain on the way. The drive up there is really nice, you start to see large rock formations poking out of the terrain. Despite the rain, there were a lot of people there.




Mt. Rushmore is something Tracy and I always talked about doing, so I just snapped a few pics and left, didn't really stay for the hike, tour or any of the other stuff. Wasn't really wearing the right clothing anyway, and it was sprinkling rain still. Time to head out. I'll be back one day with Tracy and can do it right.

My route for the day.

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Tomorrow, Devils tower and on towards Yellowstone!
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Old 08-19-2009, 05:36 PM   #56
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just noticed this thread...I met Nate in New mexico when he was on this trip and my buddy and me were on our 25 state tour...

good guy!

Didnt know he was on this forum...

James
formerly Capo Nord...now Dakar
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Old 11-08-2009, 04:13 PM   #57
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(continuing my updates)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Wild West

I left Buffalo, WY with some major wind and stormy weather on top of me. But I figured I had to get across the mountains somehow and there was no time like the present. It was 50 degrees at the base of the mountain, so I knew it'd be cold at the top. I put on all my winter gear and headed out. The ride up was beautiful. At one point I passed a sign that said something down the next road was 3 billion years old, so I took the road. Turns out I made a wrong turn and ended up on a muddy trail, but it was beautiful anyway. I kinda felt like a bear might get me.



I think these might have been the super old rock outcroppings, not sure.



Continuing up and into the clouds it got colder and colder. I crossed Powder River Pass at 9666 feet at 38 degrees F. Woo-whee it was cold.



On the way down the west side of the pass, I was in the clouds for a while...just like riding in fog.



Apparently a whole flock of sheep live up at that altitude. They must have some nice warm outfits to live up there all year.



After hitting the 'basin' area on the west side on U.S. Highway 16, I came to Ten Sleep (population 317), named for its location 10 nights, or "sleeps," between major Indian camps. I stopped at Dirty Sally's Soda Shop. Ended up with a root-beer float, yum.



I had intended to hit up Yellowstone today but the storm had delayed my departure that morning, so I decided to call it a night in Cody, WY (Named after Buffalo Bill Cody) and set up camp at the KOA outside of town. I like KOA's because I get a hot shower and usually meet some really cool people. I ran into Larry, a fellow biker and generally all round good guy.



He was waiting for a buddy who's bike had broken down so we decided to go into town to see the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. They have the largest collection of American guns in the world, which Larry was really into, as a gun collector.




We found out from the staff at the museum that Cody has nightly gunfights in the summer, so we had to stay for that. Basically, some actors in cowboy dress wielding real guns with blanks perform a skit in which they end up shooting at each other. Pretty entertaining.



After it was over, we got some food at Irmas Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill for his daughter.

On the way home, I noticed my headlight was burnt out, dang. And it was getting dark. Larry had to split so I was on my own and not really sure what to do. The BMW bike uses regular H7-12W bulbs so I should be able to get those from any auto-parts store. I went to the fire station nearby and asked them if they knew of any local stores, they said that across from the Super Walmart was an Oreilly's. So I quickly rode over there to find that it was 8:02 and they closed at 8:00. Dammit. On a hunch, I tried the Walmart for parts. Low and behold, Walmart stocked the H7 bulbs, rad. And I was also able to pick up some toothpaste, which I'd run out of that morning. In the checkout line, I ran into a familiar cowpoke from the gunfights earlier.



His name is Marc and he owns a motorcycle rental business in Wyoming, CC Rider Cycle Tours. We talked for a while about travel, why the layers of clothing the old cowboys used to wear kept you cool and life in general. What a cool guy.

Bedded down that night to the sound of horses behind me, about 10 feet away from my tent. After seeing all the Buffalo Bill and cowboy stuff, a gunfight, eating at Irma's and sleeping next to horses, I felt like I got a pretty good dose of the wild west.



My route for the day.

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Old 11-08-2009, 04:14 PM   #58
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yellowstone

I woke up after a restful night in the tent to the sound of horses being wrangled next to me. Some of the cowboys I'd seen the day before were rounding them up to be put in a trailer.



Another motorcycle Adventurer named Mike stopped by to say hi as I was packing up. He is a photography student, traveling across the country taking pictures. Nice guy.



After a breakfast of pancakes and bacon served up by the campsite staff, I headed out from Cody into the mountains and on my way to Yellowstone. The roads were beautiful and even included a few tunnels. Not sure what it is about tunnels that make them so fascinating.




The entrance to the park was blocked by dozens of RV's...but the single lane road splits into 10 entrance slots to pay your fee, and I found my way to the front of the line on the motorcycle. Hehe. Glad I bought the National Park Pass...that has more than paid for it's self.

After you get into the park, the roads get even better. The concentration of people is a lot higher, and the RV and mini-van quotient goes thru the roof. It makes for some slow motorcycling but if you can relax and let them get ahead of you, the views are worth it.




These two shots were taken from the spot furthest from any other road in the lower 48 (30 miles). It's also further from civilization as well, Jackson being the closest at 100 miles. Pretty amazing.




Continuing into the park, traffic got backed up...apparently a buffalo was standing in the road.



I was kind of just passing thru the park...no real plans to stop and see anything other than what might catch my eye and a stop at Old Faithful. But boiling water coming out of the earth made me park and take a look. The colors were amazing...as was the smell. Peww, sulfur!






Continuing thru the park, the drive is just amazing. Crossed the Continental Divide a few times...for those that forget their 3rd grade science lessons, this is the dividing point at which water flows towards different major bodies of water. In the case of the Great Divide (pictured below), the Atlantic and Pacific. There are 4 major continental divides in North America, apparently I crossed 3 of them on this trip. Cool!



As I got closer to Old Faithful, the traffic picked up. Lots of people...huge parking lots. Signs everywhere. Instead of following the flow of cars, I just jumped out of line and went right up to the closest rock-star parking possible. Which of course is all full...but all the motorcycles just park wherever so I parked mine in a sandy island within a stones throw of the main attraction.

Apparently Old Faithful was going off every 93 minutes...and I got there with 45 min to go. So I lined up on the benches like everybody else to watch.



Ate a snack, chatted up a few people. Finally the moment came...it takes a while to get going. In the pic below, Old Faithful is in the center and other geysers are on the right and left. As it's preparing the big show, all the other Geysers go off around it. Kinda neat.



Finally, right on time (take note NASA), thar she blows! I wish it wasn't so cloudy, it's hard to see the steam and water.



After seeing Old Faithful, I exited the park on the West Entrance. Stopped for some food in West Yellowstone and realized I was in Montana. Too far away to see my buddy Scott but cool to be in the very bottom of the state anyway. I had many miles to go this day to make it to Utah where I had planned to stay with a friend...so I split for the highway. I didn't really want to take the highway but not much choice if I wanted to make up the time. I did SR20 from West Yellowstone out of Montana into Idaho Falls, the I-15 (yes the same I-15 I live a mile from down in SoCal) down to SLC. Here was my route for the day.


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The sun set on me as I drove thru south eastern Idaho. Very pretty. I thought of my friend Russ who lived a few hundred miles away in Boise. Sorry man, I'll have to visit you and Scott next trip.




I arrived in SLC later than I wanted, around 9PM. My buddy Josh and his wife Natalie put me up in their house in Bountiful, UT in my own room, very nice.

Tomorrow, Nevada!
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Old 11-08-2009, 04:14 PM   #59
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Friday, July 31, 2009

Utah and the Bonneville Salt Flats

I had a restful stay in Salt Lake City at my buddy Josh's house. He took me out for burritos and ice-cream the night before, and his wife Natalie made me chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, yummy. I slept in later than usual and then Josh and I went out for lunch. We stopped by his mom's house to see her awesome van, pictures describe it better than my words.



Jerry Garcia's handprint.



Josh and I just as I was about to head out.



I hit the road on I-80 west. It was warm out, in the high 90's. After driving an hour or so, a rest stop provides a cool view of the famous Salt Lake. I had planned on going out for a swim, but I was told it stinks like hell, it's salty like brine and is HOT. I'm already hot, don't need more of that. So I got a nice pic. The reflection makes it look like the distant mountains are floating.



The roads in North Western Utah are long and straight and provide for some beautiful scenery. Looks like some train cars just sitting there with no locomotive.



As you come to the border of Utah and Nevada, just before Wendover, you encounter the Bonneville Salt Flats. Home to the Bonneville Speedway and holy ground to land-speed racers, speed freaks and gear heads. And something I've been dreaming of seeing ever since I got into things that go fast.



It's 5-6 miles just to drive out to the salt.



But when you get there, it's very worth seeing.



There were signs posted all around that said "DO NOT DRIVE ON THE SALT, YOU MAY SINK"..or something like that. And cones that defined an area allowing you to get close-ish to the salt to take a pic. See when it rains, that place becomes a lake of muddy salt..in some spots up to 6 feet deep. So you can surely sink.

There were 3-4 cars and about a half dozen cruiser motorcycles all parked taking shots from the end of the access road where the signs were posted. Not good enough. I got off the bike and walked out onto the salt...as everybody looked at me like I was going to sink up to my waist at any moment. It seemed to be OK, and partly dry...only sunk in about 3/4 of an inch or so. So, I got back on my bike, fired it up, yelled "You only live once!" out loud into my helmet and sped off the concrete onto the salt. I'm sure the cars and cruisers were telling stories about how I wouldn't make it back. But it was fine, decently dry I thought. Slippery tho...I tried to get up some speed but didn't really feel comfy over about 50 mph or so...too squirrely, it felt like I was driving in mud. Guess it wasn't that dry. After driving out far enough not to be able to see the access road anymore (1-2 miles, I would guess), I got off the bike for a picture. And boy, it was worth it.







Think I'll have to get that first one framed. It's so flat you can actually see the curvature of the earth in the salt. Amazing. I tasted the salt...yep, super salty! Spent a few moments in awe, taking pictures and then headed out.

Stopped for gas in Wendover...that's when I noticed the salt. Everywhere. I walked from the pump over to the side of the station to kick it off my boots and noticed I left big salt foot prints. Oops. It was all over the bike too...I'd have to wash that off real soon.



I headed back to the highway and on towards Nevada. The roads just go on forever, straight as an arrow. This is Hwy 93-A towards Hwy 93 towards Ely, NV.



I drove thru 3 rain showers, but only one of them was enough to totally wet me. It was too hot to wear my rain gear but the cool rain felt good and it evaporated back to 100% dry in about 15 minutes in the dry Nevada air. I saw a couple dust-devils. They are sure cool to watch, just spin beautifully. I kinda wished one was on the road so I could drive thru it but I figured it'd knock me off the bike.



I stayed at the KOA in Ely, NV that night. Very nice, they even let me wash the salt off my bike at the maintenance shed out back. I had to wash it twice!

They put me in an area next to a bunch of other motorcyclists. A group of guys on cruisers headed to Sturgis, and a few other adventure riders headed to various areas of the country. Paul, on a Buell, was headed to Florida via a similar route that I'd taken, just in reverse. One guy had a BMW with a dead battery...we philosophized about how to get him started in the morning and then headed off to sleep. The cruiser guys gave Paul and I the last of their pizza and fried chicken, which was super cool of them.

I slept pretty good that night, going to bed about 9PM. I woke up at 4AM to take this shot of Venus out the front of my tent.



My route for the day, 247 miles.


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My destination for the day is Ely, NV...which you may know as the eastern starting point for HWY 50, the "Loneliest Highway in America".
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Old 11-08-2009, 04:15 PM   #60
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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Nevada and The Loneliest Highway

I always seem to get up early when I'm in a tent. Not sure if it's the restful sleep or the sunlight that does it...maybe both. Paul (on the Yellow Buell) and I were both up to help our fellow biker with his dead battery.




A jump didn't do it so we push started it, which also didn't work. And I tripped and fell on some huge rocks in the process...had I not been wearing my motorcycle gear, I would have been seriously hurt. Ouch. So I volunteered to go pick up a battery at the nearest auto parts store, Paul came with. Back a few min later, a new fully charged battery in hand, and we were on the road to get breakfast. I can't seem to recall his name at the moment, but he was really nice and bought us both breakfast for helping him out.



Highway 50 is similar to Hwy 93 that I had taken yesterday...straight and lonely. Except I think 50 has a better marketing department. It wasn't as lonely as 93, but the distance between towns (small ones!) and gas stations makes it a more lonely drive.






At the KOA the night before, one of the ladies at the desk had given me a Highway 50 survivors book...you go thru each town on the list and get a stamp and the Nevada Tourism Commission mails you a certificate. The first stop was Eureka, NV. I took a tour of the Eureka History Museum and got a shot of an old newspaper printing press. Even the modern versions of these are soon to be gone.



I didn't get much rain today, in fact, it was quite dry and hot. And boring. And when the antelope darted out in front of me as I passed a small hill, things got a lot more exciting. If I hadn't hit the brakes, I would have had antelope soup for lunch...or someone else would have had white boy soup with antelope on the side, or both. Catching my breath and needing a moment to calm down, I drove a little further and stopped for some pics.




As I got closer to Fallon, NV and closer to the end of the lonely highway, I passed the Shoe Tree. Legend has it that quarreling lovers stopped by the road and one threw the other's shoes up in the tree. After they made up, the other reciprocated by tossing the first one's shoes up in the tree. And people have been doing it ever since. I grabbed a pair that had fallen and tossed them up. :)




It was HOT at the end of the ride in the hills east of Fallon. I tried to snap a shot of the temp at 105 but by the time I got out my cam and focused it on the bike's temp gauge, I hit a pocket of cooler air that was 100.3. And of course as soon as I put it away, the temps go back up. Oh well.



I stopped for some lunch at a 50's diner. I had been noticing a vibration in the bike so I looked up bike shops I could take it to for a look. Actually, I had noticed the un-even tire back in Ohio, but it looked small enough to get back to SD for a repair. But I felt it was getting significantly worse after the trip thru the hot desert. It was a Saturday, and few shops were open. I called up Tu-Bruthers Motorsports and even though they'd closed 5 min before I rang, they told me to come over anyway. The brothers looked at my bike and immediately found that my rear rim was bent. Over the thousands of miles on the trip, the bent rim wore the tire unevenly and it started to show after 8K miles. I hadn't hit any large potholes or anything that would have caused this on my trip so the brother's theory was that Cycle Gear bent it when they put on my current set of rubber. They deemed it not dangerous to my health to continue the rest of the way to San Diego, so after talking with them for a while about my trip and their shop, I got back to eating my lunch. The waitress at the diner had let me leave and come back an hour later, I tipped her well.

These guys were awesome, I can't recommend them enough.



Their 360 HP race bike.



I stayed the night in Fallon, NV at a hotel recommended by the Tu-Bruthers guys. A baseball tournament was in town so the hotel was packed full of obnoxious boys and even more annoying and obnoxious parents. I would have tried to camp but the nearest campsite I could find was an hour away, it was too hot and I was tired.

My route for the day, Highway 50.


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Tomorrow, into California and West to the coast!
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