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Old 05-08-2013, 08:21 PM   #1
LandLeftBehind OP
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Epic US Ride - "Western Expansion" - Summer 2012

So it has been nearly a year since I left on my epic US ride, and I need to get this on paper before I start forgetting the minor details and whatnot. Also, I feel that it’s important I share my experience on here because many fellow “inmates” played a role. Whether that role involved becoming a friendly acquaintance, offering hospitality, or saving my @$$ in troubled times, I have to start this off by extending my deep appreciation for this website and the folks on it.



I bought the R100RT about a year ago this April (of 2013). It was the reward of a year’s worth of savings. The airhead was on the market for a decent price, and it was all that I could really afford anyway. The mileage (and perhaps a few other issues) put it right in my price range.

It turned out to be a serendipitous purchase, as the motorcycle proved to be not only a faithful horse (considering I didn’t do anything to it before leaving – read on) but a stout symbol of self-sufficiency, durability, and ultimately freedom. A complete match in spirit to my ideals of 'being on the road'.
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:36 PM   #2
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And the fun starts...

Upon getting the bike, I spent a few weeks riding around, enjoying the warm days that pepper early spring in Maryland. However, I knew that it was high time to start looking over the machine. I still had no idea whether it was ready for a cross-country trip. I figured a month would be enough time to evaluate the bike before my tentative departure in mid-May.

Of course, fate has a funny way of disrupting plans.




One rainy low-side later and my dream is crushed. A local motorcycle shop charges me $200 to basically tell me they wont work on the bike. Worst yet, I did not have the space nor tools nor knowledge to do the necessary work - install a new front end - myself. In a moment, a year's worth of effort and dreams were in ashes.

In my despair I put up a thread on this website asking for advice. Low and behold, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A helpful inmate gives me the critical information: a nearby independent mechanic willing to work with used parts. In the course of a day my shattered dream turned into a vision again.
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:00 PM   #3
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A Hasty Departure



Here I am leaving from my Maryland headquarters (my parent’s house at the time). Despite my smile and confident appearance, I’m quite nervous. The bike had just returned from the shop with a new front end. The mechanic took it for a ride and described it as "a solid bike". Despite that, the bike is lacking the thorough inspection I wanted to give it, and Im about three weeks late of my original departure plans.

The plan was to get as much of America as I could fit into a summer. I had always been interested in visiting the Northwest, so getting that far was a major goal, but of course I wanted to see more than that. I planned a convoluted route into the deep south, which would then cut across Texas to Southern California, then directly up the coast to Oregon. From there my plans grew fuzzy. I would return along the Northern route, perhaps hitting Canada, but I also entertained the idea of finding somewhere to settle in the northwest. I really knew nothing about the place other than "it was pretty". I was at a stage in life where I needed a change though, even if that meant risking actions of ignorance.

I had no idea how long the trip was going to take, but the last thing I wanted to do was rush through it. I had grand plans to spend as much time as possible camping, hiking, and meeting new people. Im also very interested in sustainable farming, so I made plans to work on a family farm in Oregon. In addition to learning new skills, being settled for a few weeks would give me a chance to perhaps figure out a more permanent job and settle somewhere.

Now, three weeks after my planned departure, I stared at my bike and turned the critical decision over in my head. Staying at home and looking over the bike would obviously be the safer choice, but I had no idea what its machine guts would reveal when exposed. Based on my prior experience with repairing craigslist bikes, I could easily take the bike apart in a day and not have it put back together for several months. Just imagining a summer spent in the parent's garage was profoundly depressing. The summer to come was The Perfect Opportunity to Escape. I didn’t have a serious career, plans for school, or even a lease (all the result of careful planning, and of course some coordination with the parents). Most of all, I just needed to leave, more than anything else.

I could give in to my inner desires and split town for the road. It would be a gamble, no doubt. I had suffered breakdowns in remote
areas before, and I understood how much they can hurt.

As an older friend who heard my story put it - I was “young, dumb, and full of cum.” True – but something inside of me was shouting for the road. So I decided to leave, and let fate carry me to where I was to go.



I find it interesting how the universe operates in such a way that when we need time the most, it accelerates. After hastily slapping my gear together, having a nebulous idea of what I was going to need (not a very experienced camper I was), I managed to get out just in time to meet rush hour on the DC beltway en route to the mountains. To make things worse, my odometer ominously quit on me about a half mile from my house.

Being the meticulous student-type I was, I had taken the time to plan out a route that would coincide with free/cheap campsites across the country. Thanks to a late departure and sluggish traffic, I was nowhere near my planned destination when the sun was setting. Visions of myself searching for a primitive campground in the mountains at night begin to occupy my thoughts. It took my bike hitting its reserve fuel to break that negative concentration and replace it with a more frantic "Oh Shit" demeanor. Being pretty far out by now, it took yet even more time to locate a gas station.

I stood there filling my tank, watching the sun dip into the horizon. The "Oh Shit" attitude has now dialed back to a more calm acceptance of a night spent on the side of the road, hoping drunks didnt crash into the bike. Not knowing what I was going to do, I decided to ask a local how far he thought my target campground would be:

"About an hour, but why are you heading all the way out there? Elizabeth's Furnace has a free, primitive campground, and its right around the corner!"

It was a lucky break; a first of many on this trip.

Of course, the universe must always strike a balance. On my way to the campground, I made the mistake of turning down a dirt road for the Group section of the campground complex. These large group facilities usually are rented out, and of course it was closed that weekend. So I found this out by the closed gate that blocked the road. Now, imagine for a second, your travelling down a slope on a gravel road; the road isnt wide enough to turn a bike around, and there are shallow ditches on either side, with large boulders just on the outside of them. Shifting the bike into "reverse" is not an option. If you get off the bike to push it up the hill or park it, the bike continues to skid down the hill thanks to a lack of friction. Also due to the lack of friction, the brakes are useless; the wheels slide where ever they want.

Ill sum it up by saying in the 30 minutes it took me to turn that bike around I brought my body to the brink of its physical capacity. Even now, I can barely remember how I did it.

10 minutes later the sun has completely set, and Im at the campground. Now at least I can sleep...
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Old 05-09-2013, 07:22 PM   #4
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Into VA



That night, I discovered how cold hammock camping can be, and how critical a sleeping bag is while camping in the mountains. Maybe a more experienced, or just more reasonable person would have retreated the 2.5 hours back home to make room for the item that just didn’t fit, but I had a schedule to keep. I had arranged to work at a farm over the summer in exchange for room and board, and was already going to be late getting there. So on I rode, into the deep blue mountains.



This is really where the trip begins for me.




Rt. 42 is beautiful, leisurely road cutting through Virginia.



Why do we so often associate adventure with different continents, when it’s so easily found in the backyard?









Of course routes 42 and 18 had better shots to offer along the sections you cant stop.

It didnt matter though. I was out there. I was on my own. My vision was now a reality, and it startled me.

If I broke down, I couldnt call a friend for help. I didnt even have cell phone reception. Being a city/suburbs person, these realizations invoked a surreal feeling unlike any I had ever experienced.



I think this is overlooking New Castle, VA?



I think I was the most exciting thing these cows in Bland, VA had seen for a while.





I decided to divert from the google maps directions when I noticed the map offered what seemed like a more simple, direct highway.



What I didnt realize is 2d maps dont always hint topographical information (i.e. mountains). Getting here (sign reads: Grayson Highlands State Park) wasnt so much fun on wet roads on a weighed down bike with touring tires. Im pretty sure the bike started to fish tail a bit on some of the more intense twisties.
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Old 05-11-2013, 04:36 PM   #5
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:24 PM   #6
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Mountain fun

*Disclaimer* Many of the pictures from this part of the trip were lost/destroyed. Sorry in advance.

After the Grayson Highlands ordeal, I managed to take the wrong rt. 133 into North Carolina (a mistake on my part, not noticing the directions specified TN-133, not NC-133). It proved to be a not-so-fun detour, with only rain, fog, trucks, and mountains covered in uniform, homogenous tree farms. Not the most appealing place to get lost.

Getting back on track, I found myself climbing and descending yet another mountain. After the nauseatingly repetitive sucession of twisties (and a close encounter with some slippery gravel) I was dumped into a quaint little trail town, and proceeded into Tennessee.

For a moment the ride is great. The skies clear up and I cruise through a beautiful valley. I then turn on 421, ignorant yet again of the fun ahead of me.

After braving what was probably the most extensive set of mountain twisties that day, I finally neared the campground I had planned for. At this point, ditching the map and improvising might have been a smart choice, but, yet again, the meticulous student in me is stubborn to change.

A wrong turn down some gravel roads leads me an hour off course (gotta love those ambiguous park road signs ), but eventually I find my way here:



I pull into the campground knowing I had little time to enjoy the scenery. For the past few hours, whilst I was tumbling down mountains and exploring Tennessee's remote dirt roads, the clouds had taken on an angry grey appearance. Of course, as soon as I park, the rain begins to pour. Stupefied from the exhausting day, I could only stare at my unpacked bike beginning to soak in the downpour. I couldnt decide whether it was "luck" that the rain had the courtesy to wait for the minute I arrived.

Thankfully, a neighbor waved me over to his tent gazebo, tossed me a beer, and fired up the grill. My first taste of camper hospitality.

I woke up the following day a bit moist, but rested and rejuvenated nonetheless. By the time I got to Bristol, the sun was shining and I ventured on into beautiful Tennessee.



The country roads are leisurely and, at times, twisty and fun. Everyone waves as I pass.



The view of Frozen Head from the Highway. Local prison in the foreground.



Again, a cold night in the hammock makes sleep difficult. The night was blacker than any I had ever experienced (I couldnt see my hand in front of my own face). A pack of coyotes on the other side of the hill started to yelp around 5a.m. They were unsettling to hear while hanging from a hammock in the pitch black.
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Old 05-15-2013, 02:55 PM   #7
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:20 PM   #8
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Into the steamy south

Just outside of Nashville I encounter my first technical issue - a squawking starter motor (a sign its about to bite the dust). I had made plans to couchsurf in Nashville, so I decide there would be an excellent place to sort this problem out.

Arriving into town, I found my host's place and hit the BMW anonymous book immediately. I was lucky enough to find a fellow inmate, BmwBlake, who has spare starter in the garage.

Blake and I had a great time trying to change the starter out. We spent nearly 45 minutes attempting to remove a single bolt which just wasnt that accessible. I HAD a great photo of Blake grinding a wrench down in his drive way. Im sorry to say that pic was lost with the phone that was later stolen.

I rode away from Blake's house in the cool Tennessee air feeling like a million bucks. I spent the rest of the night cruising around Nashville, and getting beers with my host - a very pleasant fellow who was more than happy to share his collection of fine tequila.



The booze, warm bed, and lack of howling animals led to a great night of sleep. I hopped on the Natchez Trace the following morning ready to ride.



I really enjoyed this road. It wasnt the most fun road to ride, but the pleasant agrarian landscape, and public rest stops made it an ideal route to cover some ground.



An old southern gent, upon hearing I was from Maryland, told me he heard you couldnt "get grits up there". Gotta love the South.



Mississippi redefined my concept of what 'high' humidity is. Not complaining though - Id rather steam up than freeze any day.





Gotta love the local flora.



I love dialects. Lousiana was great. Alot of colorful folks to meet.



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Old 05-18-2013, 10:32 PM   #9
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The big TX



HA! HA! Must be why I was almost run off the road twice by SUVs not shortly after I passed this sign.



East Texas sure is pretty though.
















I encountered quite a few of these ghost towns on my way out West. A sobering depiction of life out in a tough environment.



I really liked Austin. I had to spend an extra day there to get a new rear tire. The BMW dealership was quite accommodating and friendly, despite having to squeeze me in the schedule. One can meet alot of interesting folks in the waiting area of a motorcycle dealership...

I saw more ladies on bikes in Austin than anywhere Ive ever been



To The WEST!



Into the Hills!



Errr a long day ahead of me.



And the road goes on!



and on!



and on...



I think for a strench of maybe 200 miles I only saw trucks. Trucks that nearly blew my bike off the road everytime they drove by on the otherside of the highway. I became accustomed to tucking in to minimize my surface area.



And eventually I get to a rather cool part of Texas. Now Im really out there!



The oil wells extend as far as the eye can see.



I shudder to think of how I would handle a break down in this part of the country.

I think about how it would be to live in a town with only 50 people for 50 miles around.

And I think about how tired I am after 8 hours of riding and getting blown around by trucks.

The sun lowers and a grey haze develops over the barren landscape. Far off into the horizon a oil well flames aways and heat lightning strikes down from the sky.

It is a wasteland, but it is beautiful in its own way.



And I arrive at this captivating gem not a moment too soon.



Monahans Sandhills is truly a 'diamond in the rough'.

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Old 05-19-2013, 02:44 AM   #10
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Loving your report and thoughts about the lands you crossed. Keep it coming.
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Old 05-19-2013, 05:45 AM   #11
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I'm in!
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Old 05-19-2013, 06:28 AM   #12
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In............Keep it coming.................

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Old 05-24-2013, 04:38 PM   #13
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New Mexico - the beginnings

Despite being sore and wind-blown from the previous day's trek, a quiet night spent in the wind-swept dunes recharges my spirit for the day ahead. The desert is surely a place to clear one's mind.



At this point the only logical route out of Texas involved the interstate. I had thus far avoided the interstate, due to the reports of riders being blown around by trucks and bored silly by the monotony. While the interstate did lack interesting scenery, I found it to be much less windy than the Farm-to-Market, two-lane country highways. A highway median is a beautiful thing.

Not saying I would have taken a different route. The purpose of this trip was to experience feelings unachievable on an interstate. To "trod the less-beaten path", is much more than a choice of route.



Pecos would be my last stop in Texas. I had traveled so far over such a vast array of unique landscapes that it was hard to believe I was about to move on.

On my way out of town, I realized I had yet to have any authentic Texas BBQ. Within "sight" of the New Mexico border, I turn around and head to a smokey shack I noticed back in town.

Prior to this trip I was a pescetarian (vegetarian with fish). I decided to forgo the diet on the trip for many reasons. Not having had barbeque in quite a few years, I have to say - it was pretty dang good!

Hello New Mexico!



If the natural landscape of Texas was a little boring in general, New Mexico surely made up for it, right from the get-go!



The desert is vast, barren, and scarred with deep ravines. Its a landscape unlike any I have ever seen.



Hold the phone...



Huh?



In a matter of mere hours the world changes.



The view from Cloudcroft overlooking Alamogordo and White Sands (sorry for the poor exposure, Im working with out dated technology here).

Cloudcroft is a neat little town. I know the name of my destination campsite, but Im not sure how to get there. I decide to stop for a beer.

A $5 beer is a bargain when you consider the value of directions from a local



And off I go, into the "bush" once again.



Ive become friendly with dirt/gravel roads by this point. Being rather inexperienced with off-road riding, I found them to be rather unsettling at first(recall my incident in the first post). However, after a few drops, I learned to work with the dirt as opposed to fighting it.



The rewards of chasing a dirt road are good enough incentive themselves. They can lead to magical places.



Bluff Springs was on of the most gorgeous campsites on my trip. Go to it.



My own little slice of paradise. A cool mountain stream runs next to my tent.



What 9000 ft does to your peanut butter (ps. If you camp here bring a sleeping bag For crying out loud, dont be a n00b like me and be completely spoiled from humid Maryland summers and ignorant of mountain camping. I slept that night with as much clothing as I could fit on my body including all of my rain gear. )



After a night slamming brews with a hospitable neighbor and conversing under the stars, I was ready to go. To my relief, I found my bike fired right up. I was a little concerned how it would operate so high up (she wasnt always the best starter in cold conditions)



The mountains support a lush pine forest. I cruise down a steep pass, surveying the forest in its vast, saturated greeness. A scent, unlike any I have ever experienced fills my nose. In my mind, it resembles a "smokey gin" - if such a thing were to exist. Ahead, the view is blocked by a stout mountain. A momentary plunge into a dark tunnel leads me to other side. The bare, rocky canyon on the otherside displays the swath of barren desert with a majesty only possible in nature.



New Mexico was one of my favorite states on this trip. The dramatic changes in the landscape mirrored the beginnings of a transformation within my own soul.
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Old 05-31-2013, 09:54 AM   #14
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NM - continued



The road through Alamogordo and White Sands is hot, but the winds keep me relatively cool. The going may be straight and flat, but the mountainous panaroma has me in a state of religious awe. The mountain guardians part to reveal Las Cruces.

Time for gas. A friendly fellow on a bike strikes up conversation, and imparts some useful knowledge about the town/region. He was even nice enough to ride alongside me through the pecan and chile fields out of town.

Now things start to get a little more remote.



With the start of rocky terrain, the roads adhere to the convoluted route provided by the cliffs and ravines.

One turn reveals a border patrol check point down the road. Totally unfamiliar with these, I prepare for the worst:

*slows down bike, stops at designated point*

BP officer: "Hello sir!"
Me: "Hello..."
BP officer: "Are you a citizen of the United States sir?"
Me: "Uhhh yea? Yes, I am."
BP officer: "Have a nice day"

The guy was maybe a few years older than me, seemed like he was bored silly. I had a chuckle about it.



I was happy to find this lonely gas station when I did. I knew I was heading into remote territory from this point, and I was only 99% sure I would be fine with gas (I had called a park ranger who mentioned a gas station along the way).

Realizing the upcoming route would be the last major stretch of "nothing" on my trip, I braced myself. The bike had performed great since I had left home without looking it over. "Just wait till we get to the coast and I promise I will change your fluids, tune you up, and sing to you. You can even break down if you want to, just not here, in the middle of nowhere"

152 begins long and flat; mountains loom in the distance. The road begins to climb and climb until, suddenly, I find myself riding at the edge of a cliff. Some of the best scenery on this trip yet. No place to stop for pictures unfortunately.



The rocky cliffs and valleys give way to a more gentle terrain suitable for open ranching.

Im concerned about gas by this point so I pull off to the side of the road to check the map and estimate mileage. The shoulder is a bit more tilted than had been apparent, and the bike takes a spill. I regain my footing and look in horror at the gas dripping from the carbs. The thought of losing more gas provided all the adrenaline I needed in that moment.



I had been told by a park ranger that a small town on the way would have gas. It was disappointing to find that station had been closed for several years, judging by the look of it. All the businesses in town seemed to be closed down. The feelings of desolation are hard to shake.

Grey clouds start to form above. Recalling my conversation with the Las Cruces man - "The warm moist air moves over the desert, rises in the mountains, cools, and precipitates." Well I suppose it makes sense. Another rainy ride in the mountains.



Almost slipped on one of these things. Shook me up a good bit. Lesson learned.



All challenges are bound to pass. The rain clears and now its just me and beautiful countryside.

Again, the smokey gin scent of the pine forest, now accentuated by evaporated moisture from the road.

In this world, it was hard to feel as concerned about gas. I was iffy on whether I could make it to Silver City (my odometer had decided to stop working a few miles from my house, so estimating mileage required some calculation and guesswork). It didnt matter though; this land was magical, and I was going to enjoy it.



The terrain becomes mountainous yet again, providing some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen.







Being an east coaster, I had never experienced the benefits of geothermal activity. These hot springs were the perfect end to a day's ride.
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Old 05-31-2013, 04:18 PM   #15
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