Day 3, Sunday, 26 June 2011
Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge to Bowling Green, Ohio
Today was an uneventful, high-mileage, somewhat lonely day. Starting off, I woke up at 7 to the cacophony of rumbling, un-baffled exhausts, which is surprisingly not too unpleasant. I did my morning getting-ready-for-the-day and breaking down camp, walked over to the other guys' camp areas to find Wes getting his bike ready for a dual-sport ride being led by a few locals that had seen his camping thread. I learned David had decided to leave early to spent time with his wife, Marvin was just stretching out on the lawn, and David
was still slumbering away. Wes left shortly after I began talking to Marvin, who showed me his cool camping set-up, which included a gigantic rear enclosure that he had fabricated specifically for the rack he'd built for this V-Star. I had breakfast in the lodge, then waited to say good-bye to David
before I headed off around 9, aiming for as close to Detroit as I could get. They wished me well on my journeys and gave me a few last-minute reminders.
The weather was a bit dreary when leaving camp, but I was hoping it was just due to the morning dew and being at such an altitude. As I was being led by my GPS, I was unfamiliar with the route I was headed on, but thought it looked a bit familiar when I saw the signs for the Dragon again, not knowing I would be traveling it again with a fully loaded bike. I was glad I got there before the rush as I would be taking it pretty slow, even for me. The Bandit feels very top-heavy when touring, so low-speed tight curves were not something I hoped for, especially as I was already weak in that riding department. As I got close to mile 3 of the Dragon, the temperature had a sudden drop, a bad omen. I pulled over into a semi-covered turn-off to put on my Joe Rocket rain suit (thanks Mom and Dad at Christmas).
Just as I finished, a huge Ka-kow of thunder broke the still air. I got back on and continued riding as the bottom fell out of the sky. I was surprised with how the already-low numbers of traffic dropped at 10 o'clock, to my promptly having an audience of 100-200 riders all sitting on the sidelines to my glorious journey. I felt like a conquering hero as I rumbled by, glad to be wearing a helmet so all of my adoring fans couldn't see the feeling of terror and trepidation on my furled brow. I knew if I stopped here to wait out the storm, I probably would not be soon back in the mood to press on, so struggled through my worries.
As I got down into a nearby valley, the rain stopped and I pulled over to take a leak in front of a spot of pure beauty, that felt like God had painted just for me.
At a dam a few miles later on Highway 28
I ventured on through Tennessee, a bit cold, and with a drizzling rain off an on. Just before I got into Kentucky, I stopped in a gas station to pull off the rain suit and fill my tank. A middle-aged white guy walked over to me, and in typical gas station fare, started up a little chat on motorcycles. “So what kind of mileage do you get on that thing,” “Where're you coming from and going to,” and so on. It turns out, he had just spent the weekend on the parkway too, and camping. He, however, was trailering his bike due to a bad bike. We talked for a little while later, and I told him I was aiming for as close to Detroit as I could get that day, probably somewhere near Toledo. Ecstatically, he asked if I had any places lined up to stay and invited me to sleep in his guest bedroom. And, although a very generous offer, I turned this down and felt a little uncomfortable about the whole experience, but he did seem like a genuine and friendly character.
Just before entering Kentucky, the beauty of rolling hills started up. Riding through Tennessee and Kentucky, the two things that stood out the most to me were the polite drivers and calm-inducing scenery. They're nice for a “lack of diversity.” This is not to mean anything racist, but the rolling hills and mountains that are continuous throughout what I experienced going through these states is much more typical than the varying landscapes I saw in the Carolinas. As I rolled along on the interstate, I saw a number of signs for the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, starting from 50 miles out, and then one every 5 miles. I don't know much about Kentucky's music history, but to me, much more of a tourist attraction would be the Colonel Sanders Cafe, the “original KFC” that I only saw one sign for half a mile before its exit. Sadly, due to a line of truckers, I didn't have the chance to get over to have a taste of its lunch experience. I planned to turn around at the next exit, but that didn't happen for another 7-10 miles, when I had lost the elation and childhood joy feeling, so I ventured onward.
Fear-mongering billboard I saw for a Christian hotline: “When you die, you'll never have to wonder IF
there is a God.”
Which reminds me of another billboard story I have from a camping trip earlier this year near Beaufort, South Carolina. When driving/riding into Beaufort from Charleston, you take Highway 17 to Highway 21, which leads right into the city. In recent years, I have noticed advertising companies placing sometimes controversial/hilarious billboards in succession. Most often, I have seen this happening with McDonald's signs including a sign for a program at the Medical University of South Carolina: “Have you been struggling with your weight? If so, there a study being conducted at MUSC you may be interested in participating in ...” The next sign on the road that had McDonald's logo, and the text “Why wait? Try new items on our Dollar Menu” with enticing pictures of said items.
Anyway, back to Beaufort. I don't know if you've heard of the newest advertising campaign by McDonald's, which is to promote their new and healthier breakfast items. They usually are simply a picture, a catchy, short description of the item, and the McDonald's logo. My second sign is one of these for their fruit and walnut oatmeal, “It's like a warm, delicious hug.” I wish I had taken a picture of this, as I can't find any online. Oh well. I don't know if you have seen any of the billboards for a rape hotline that says in huge letters, “Have you been raped?” Then, in smaller letters, “If so, and you haven't called the police, call us at blah blah blah.” This is the first sign. Now, I am not trying to be insensitive or to trivialize the atrocity that is sexual molestation and violence, but if you were driving down the road and didn't read the small letters, you would see “Have you been raped?” and ¼ mile later, “It's like a warm, delicious hug.” Haha, McDonald's. That's funny, but pretty messed up. Touché
advertising man, touché
Back to the future.
Cincinnati sucks. First off, Ohio never said Hi to me, never saw a “Welcome to Ohio” sign as I entered. Kentucky had a sign “Good-bye and thanks for visiting!” or some-such thing 8-20 miles before the border (can't read in my journal), which was odd, but was pretty much where Kentucky's Department of Transportation sees the border as the road immediately degrees thereafter, and becomes more pot-hole and graven-strewn as you get closer to Ohio's entrance town. The simplest way I can explain Cincinnati was that it felt like my front tire was going flat until I was 15 miles inside of Ohio.
The city looked rich with culture and history, but the roads were ill-maintained, the roads had horrid directions for navigation if they had any at all, the interstate split and different lanes in one direction would split around the median with little to no warning, and merge suddenly. I pulled off into Cincinnati to try to take pictures of the cool bridges I saw,
This picture captures how desolate the city felt
and the Bengals stadium (I think, didn't see a sign for it). I actually had to circumnavigate using this point of reference, as there were no signs to it, but it seemed pretty centralized. I felt nervous walking more than 20' fromt the bike, not for my safety, but that of my belongings. In the 30 seconds I was there, 3 “joggers” ran past wearing baggy jean shorts and “wife-beater” under-shirts to set the scene for you.
I did see this cool wall behind a police museum though
Funny enough, the Visitor's Center for Ohio (not a “Welcome Center” as the signs clearly stated “Visitor's Center”) is 25 miles from the border. As I stood outside it talking to my mom, a school bus of teenagers came up. As they passed by me, I heard a guy asking his friend, “Are we in Ohio? I never saw a sign for it, but thought we just passed through Cincinnati.” Haha. After there, I aimed for Lima, Ohio (where the Fox show Glee is supposed to be set), but wanted to go a bit further and so made it to Bowling Green. I stopped for the night at a cheap motel, unpacked, walked next door to a sports bar called Fricker's and gladly made short work of some chicken wings and their $2.22 pints.