How to Convert Miles to Imaginary, Arbitrary Measurements (AKA Kilometers)
Or The Under-achiever/Procastinator's Guide to Distance Travel
WARNING: this is not some epic journey of awesomeness like much of what I see in ride reports listed here. This was not a journey about self-discovery to find myself after something tragic happened, or with a cool goal of visiting some far-away dreamt of place, or anything like that. This story is that of a procrastinator and ill-prepared rider that has been on bikes for 9 years, but still not sure what he wants to ride, still not fond of night-riding, and that of a flatlander from an area without curves or elevation changes, so very inexperienced with mountain riding. With that out of the way, on with the story.
This is the story of a native Carolina boy traveling to Detroit, seeing 3 of the 5 Great Lakes, looping Lake Huron, bypassing Toronto, and then returning home. A little over 3200 miles in 9 days, which is a lot for me, considering I had never done more than a 3 day, weekend jaunt of ~1000 miles. Skip down to “Day 1” if you don't want to read any more introduction.
PLEASE COMMENT after you're done. I don't mind if you just skimmed through the pics, or have criticism, or, on the off-chance, some praise or accolade. I want to have ideas on what I should/shouldn't do as for ever writing another ride report. I know what to pare down as far as supplies and am subscribed to the Bike Camping Pictures thread, so don't need the “You have too big of a bike” or “Your bike is over-loaded” comments as I know these, and got enough of that along the way.
As of two weeks and two days before this trip, I was sitting at the monthly Charleston ADV dinner with a veritable crew of more mature riders with vastly more experience, both with life and motorcycling. The trip was originally a weekend spent along the Blue Ridge Parkway, camping at Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge, and then returning home for work on Monday. As we sat having pizza at a new Mellow Mushroom in town (delicious pizza), the expeditions others were planning were being discussed. Being a young guy, with no particular responsibilities, I decided I would turn this weekend riding into a 10 day trip, taking a week off from work and linking it with the Fourth of July weekend. I planned to return the day before and leave that Monday to recuperate. Initial thoughts and recommendations had me scrapping the lofty idea of riding the length of the BRP, linking it with the Cherohala Skyway, and Skyline Drive. Tom gave me a mini-atlas he had on hand, and essentially said, “Pick a city you want to go to, avoid the slab when you can, and just go.” So, I did.
Introduction to me: the 24 year-old poster-child of modern America – fat, reliable, intelligent, lazy, adaptable, jack-of-no-trades that somehow manages to always scrape through the rare chance of adversity I face. I work full-time for an engineering company in their drafting department. Most of my friends are still working part-time gigs, so don't have the money to travel, so I don't take much off for vacation time. For the past six months, I have actually been taking off an hour here and an hour there just to burn the requisite day and a half of leave that I accrue, as I have been maxed out. I thought taking a week off would save me this trouble from a little while.
Introduction to El Bandita Grande: the 11 year-old poster-child of old-tech Japanese standard motorcycle – fat, reliable, well-designed (if it were stock), jack-of-all-trades that somehow manages to always start and will go wherever I ask her
I'm not sure how I should start things off, giving a brief summary of highlights or starting right off into the story. Okay, teases for stories I will later expound upon: getting drunk in a German bar in Canada with an Indian bartender and translating for a Japanese couple, the girl from the Weinerama, the pickpocket in Detroit, a summer day with a high of 56 degrees and raining, and being captioned for the first-time in my life as having said, “What the f* is up all with all these G*damn niggas tearin' up this piece?”
As I went along on this trip, I kept a journal that I updated nightly, and was glad I did, as all the days began to run together in my memory, but my journal was partially ruined by a leaking bottle of filter oil, so I've lost 4” x 1” of EVERY sheet I had written, argh!
The week of the trip was spent scrambling to get the bike in travel condition, with little forethought to where I would be heading after leaving Iron Horse on Sunday morning. This type of planning may not work well for most people, but I have been overly ambitious with a number of plans for projects and hobbies in my life (proven the moment you walk into my house, if you're ever so inclined). I adjusted the chain, changed the oil, had some cheap-o fog lights installed (that failed before my first night's destination), re-located my rear turn signals, replaced and Loc-tited (sp?) the bolts holding my under-seat tray (mine have a desire to be free to mingle with my bike papers), and finally finished installing my Givi topcase rack.
So, since you have made it this far, I feel obligated to say now that this trip was partially sponsored by ADV'er Steviebear
, who let me borrow the cool and reliable Ortlieb saddlebags after I mentioned mine were a tad on the small side, and the huge Givi case (that I have since bought a duplicate of). When I went to install the Givi knockoff Emgo bag that had worked great on my XT using the supplied Emgo rack, but I had never measured to see if it would fit on the Givi rack. I naively assumed it would fit, but in a moment of panic, learned it would not. I hastily posted on our local thread asking if anyone had a spare I could buy/borrow. Luckily, Steve stepped in and saved the day and let me use his spare FJR topcase.
Tank bag: front pocket – pens, kickstand puck, tripod, cheap multitool; rear pocket – good multitool; main area – tool kit, WD-40, chain lube, duct tape, sunglasses, safety glasses, spare clutch and brake lever, hydration bladder; top pocket – power adapter, mini-atlas
Yellow dry bag (stripped to passenger seat using Rok straps): tent, air mattress, sheets, propane tank and stove, 40' electrical extension cord, surge protector power strip, spare bungie cords
Trunk: passport, air compressor and Slime (never used it on a motorized vehicle, but works decently for my bicycle), tire patch kit, medicine/toiletries bag, a few books to pass the time, full-size atlas, and CPAP (embarrassingly, I have sleep apnea and need this to sleep; this is a bit intrusive to camping, as I am tethered to campsites with electrical outlets; someday, I may invest in a battery-powered unit, but they are a tad pricey and currently not justifiable to me)
Left: food, drink, utensils, and shop towels
Right: clothes, bath towel, flip-flops
This is my stalker kitty that watches me work on my motorcycle and examine my nuts and bolts
Now, to get to Riding!
Day 1, Friday, 24 June 2011
Charleston, South Carolina to Robbinsville, North Carolina
I hoped to start the trip at exactly 22000 miles, but due to my procrastination, started at 21950. I gassed up, got a hair cut, visited my mechanic's shop (Lowcountry Cycleworks), and dropped by the bar one of my best friends works at to say good-bye to her. I left her place on schedule at noon to aim to miss most of the Friday afternoon commuter traffic in the cities I was passing through, super-slabbed up I-26 from Charleston, through Columbia and Greenville, and stopped at a Bojangle's in North Carolina to grab lunch around 3:30 or 4. This point is where my GPS measured from, so it's around 250 miles off from my final odometer reading.
I had been to Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge nearly two years prior, for a Horizons Unlimited meeting in 2009. I knew we had taken 26 into Asheville, and hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway from there. Knowing I had lots of mountain curves ahead of me the next day, I skipped this 50 or 60 mile trek on the BRP, and my GPS led me along I-40, and through Waynesville, North Carolina. ADVRider Boybrushedplad (henceforth to be known as Wes), called me at some point, so I tried calling him back when I stopped for gas a littler after 5. I told him my GPS said it would be another 45 minutes to an hour, so to expect me between 6 and 6:15. 5 minutes after leaving the gas station, the bottom fell out of the sky, so I pulled behind a local post office to do a little rain dance (taking off the boots, putting on rain suit, and dreading the plastic-lined sauna that was in my immediate future). This added 5-10 unnecessary minutes, as the rain let up within 2 minutes of my getting back on the bike.
My rain dance, plus the slick roads, plus getting stuck in a line of cars behind an RV on a two lane road for 8 miles, delayed my arrival to 6:30 at Iron Horse. Wes had apparently been very worried for this Slowpoke's safety, as in the 15 minutes over I had been, I had gotten 3 calls and 2 text messages from him inquiring for my location. All was well at Iron Horse (minus the 30 minute line I had to wait in to check-in, even though I had reserved my spot ahead of time). I met ADV'er SCMax (David), due to my addiction to the 120V sinusoidal waves of modern life, set up my camp-site among the RV crowd (which equals nice and quiet when they tuck in for the night, no biker riff-raff up in this part of the 'hood), and then the three of us headed to dinner. I learned of the fellow riders we expected as semi-part of our group, V-Marv (Marvin), unaffiliated Mr. I hate the internet cool kid ADV Club but still a nice guy
(other David), and Mhaas (Marc never showed up, didn't answer phone calls, and I didn't think about contacting him since the trip until just now, whoops! Hope he's okay). Marvin and other David
showed up a bit after 10 and were immediately ready to zonk out.
David and Wes
Camping setup on the bike
More to Come!
Due to the length of my rambling, and the tons more pictures that will be added after this point, I will be typing this and uploading this throughout this week. Hope it will be of some entertainment value to ya.