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Old 07-11-2011, 07:19 PM   #1
Draechon OP
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Location: Charleston, SC
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The Under-achiever/Procastinator's Guide to Distance Travel

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.

Packing List
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.
I wish my motorcycles had real model names for when I get asked what I ride.

Draechon screwed with this post 07-11-2011 at 07:30 PM
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Old 07-11-2011, 07:42 PM   #2
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Great intro

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Old 07-12-2011, 06:07 PM   #3
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Day 2, Saturday, 25 June 2011
Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge to the Dragon to Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge
Woke up at 7 to the sound of Harleys roaring and going through the rev cycle to prove one of their creeds of necessary noise. Oh well, more pleasant than the regular alarm sound. Wandered over to the other guys' camp-sites, cabin, and trailer to see if they were ready for breakfast. Most of the lodge's vistor's parked their shiny, fancy bikes under the awning in chance of rain during the night.

Wes's KLR, David's SV, Marvin's V-star, David's Versys

Slowly, they got ready and we began talking about plans for the day. Apparently, Marvin and David weren't joining in the curvy pleasure ride routed by Wes, but would be going fishing. Oh well, before breakfast, Marvin gave Wes some last-minute input on his route.

After breakfast, Wes, David and I headed out around 9. Due to my inexperience with curves and elevation changes, I warned them of my pokiness, and told them that they could feel free to leave me behind, but to please wait at intersections that we would turn at. This is the Toxaway Dam. I apparently missed the waterfall right near the shot.

We were supposed to supposed to stop somewhere for lunch at a pre-determined spot, but we bypassed it. Stopped alongside the road to decide to circle back or continue on. None of us were particularly hungry, so onward ho! I noticed a new rider that had joined us along the route at some point.

He stuck around for another 40 miles until our next spot to try for lunch, a gas station that had a connected “deli.” We went inside, saw the prices started around $9 for a sub. I'm not usually a cheap-skate when it comes to food, but I'm not going to pay $9 for a gas station sandwich, so said we should go a bit further. Decided to take this pic as our first “group ride” shot.

Sadly, when Wes started his bike, Jimminy decided it was time to go his separate way. Sigh. We stumbled upon a terrific little barbecue joint just on the other side of Toxaway, and managed to beat the rush of 20 Harleys that showed up when we sat down. Not sure if it was directly next, but this next series of pictures if from Fontana Dam.

David ran into another rider that somehow started asking him about another guy's bike and his opinion of hard bags. Anyway, David picked up a drink and snack and I pulled out a Powerade I'd brought along and took a short break. We then headed off in the general direction of US-129. 45 minutes after leaving the Dam, I saw it again from another angle.

Our little crew then descended upon the Dragon. The obligatory opening shot:

I was able to pace Wes most of the way up and only had to pull over for two crazy-fast sport-bikers. I knew the KillBoy crowd would be there, so I kept an eye out for them. On the first curve I approached with them, there was a guy on a super-moto just finishing a wheelie I guessed, as he was wobbling on my side of the rode and only going 5 or so mph. Glad I had no shots taken of me that first time. The next time, I panicked for some reason when I saw the cameras pointed at me, and scrubbed any decent speed I had. Oh well, made up for it on the third corner and did a great line. I later learned none of those shots were being used and they were focusing on riders from the other direction. D'oh! At the top of the Dragon, we saw what little view was there and took another group ride shot. The guy on the far right in this photo was bragging to everyone how he was the second fastest through the Dragon that day (no idea how that would be measured). He decided to jump in on the shot and Wes obliged.

Proper shot

David being awesome!

Wes's clean lines

And here I am, dragging behind and showing I suck at curves, haha. At least I admit my faults.

I almost majorly wiped out making two mistakes in a row going back on the Dragon. There are two very tight banked switchbacks in quick succession. Trying to think “through the curve,” I almost short-cut the end of the first into the beginning of the second, which had a pretty steep drop down a 30' embankment, but was able to save it. When “saving it” though, I got on the rear brake a little hard and it locked up momentarily. After these two acts of stupidity, I took it very easy completing the route.

Sadly, those are the last of my photos from the group trip. After finishing with the Dragon, it was around 4:45. David gave us two options at this point, one being to head back to town and grab a few supplies before going back to the lodge or riding for another few hours on another loop. After 200 miles of mountain riding that day, I was ready to hit the town and meet up with the other guys for dinner, so we headed back into Robbinsville(? Don't remember if this was the town, but it is one nearby) and went to Ingles for a few minor things. I forgot a pillow on the trip, so I ran up to Family Dollar and bought a turtle Pillow Pet (pretty neat looking guy, but don't have any mug-shots) that I named Tavi who was my loyal friend for the rest of my journey.

After gassing up, we met up with Marvin and David for dinner at Lynn's Diner in Robbinsville. It wasn't anything special, but there was a hostess/cashier that caught my eye.* She had a gorgeous face, perfect smile and was tall and slender. That's not usually my type as

I like my women like I like my chicken
With a little bit of fat on the ends
Not too much and not too little
Just enough to make me grin
When I see a little woman walkin' down the street
She ain't my type, I need a little more meat
She's skinny, and not my cup of tea.

Thank you Rodney Carrington for putting it so perfectly. Anyway, throughout the night, she passed by our table every few minutes, and would usually glance my way, occasionally with a sexy, coy smile. As we all were taking our turns paying for dinner, Wes and I discussed a possible plan of attack, but he didn't want to make a move. I brought cash along to speed up the process (of paying for dinner, not making a move, gutter-brain). She ended up giving me the wrong change at first and forgot a $5. I jokingly told her, “If you're already planning to take my money, I'm going to expect a little more than a smile, hehe,” purely jokingly of course (unless … but I digress). She laughed and apologized. The last few guys took their turns paying and we all re-grouped outside.

We discussed the plans for the evening. Since it was Saturday night and we would all be diverging in the morning, I wanted to head back to the lodge and plan where I was going and how I would get there. Wes wanted to grab a case of beer but wanted assurance he wouldn't be the only one partaking. Being raised with manners, I did not want to offend him, of course, so I told him I would definitely go along in his quest and may have one or thirteen. During our little discussion, the hostess had hurriedly gotten off of work and was in a bit of a rush to get outside, but once outside, was just playing with her phone 10' from Wes, David, and I. Hmm. Being a local, and more likely to know the closest place from the center of this dry little county to acquire the necessary goods, I brought her in on the conversation and asked if she knew a close place to get our hands on the beverages.

She responded in turn with, “Well, how many of you are planning on drinking?” I said, “I think it's just my man Wes here and I.” She throws back, “I'm actually heading out to hang out with a few of my girlfriends at one of their houses. We'll probably be drinking a little if you two want to come along.” Well then, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more. I was game. Wes then breaks out of his little shell, “Actually, we've got to get up early and since we're on our bikes, probably shouldn't be riding after drinking.” I was HATING Wes at this point. I could not believe this sheer and utter violation of Man Code: never leave a man behind. I tried to change his mind with the basic shoulder shove and saying, “Come on man, live a little,” but he stuck to his guns. I thought for a second, and remembered I was in back-woods North Carolina/Tennessee, didn't know the area or the girl, would be traveling at night, and, at best, there would be alcohol involved. With the number of bad circumstances that were possible from here-on-out without my wingman, I sadly had to decline the invitation and then asked for any recommendation on retail beer purchasing.

She sighed and looked a tad disappointed, but gave us directions to a gas station 15 miles away. We headed that way, but got there after close. Marvin and David had decided to tag along with us for the night run and Marvin suggested a campsite near Iron Horse that he frequented that had a “Just chip in for your part” policy on fridge contents, so Wes and I obliged and followed him to Mo's, a much more laid-back and chill atmosphere than Iron Horse. Also, a bit more of the rough-and-tumble crowd than what he had been seeing. He introduced us to the lady of the house, who forced each of us to try a pickled pepper. Wes wimped out with a green one, and I went for the super-spicey red, which burned for a minute or two and reminded me again how much I hate pickled goods. She threw a beer to each of us. Wes and I played a game that I know as bocce out back. He had another name for it, but I don't recall. After, I chipped a buck in the donation jar, and we headed back to the lodge for the night. I was dismayed and a tad lonely climbing into bed that night. Oh well.

*Wes would probably tell a slightly different version of this story if asked, but this is my ride report and my memories. So there.
I wish my motorcycles had real model names for when I get asked what I ride.

Draechon screwed with this post 07-17-2011 at 04:37 PM
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Old 07-19-2011, 08:55 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Draechon View Post

She responded in turn with, “Well, how many of you are planning on drinking?” I said, “I think it's just my man Wes here and I.” She throws back, “I'm actually heading out to hang out with a few of my girlfriends at one of their houses. We'll probably be drinking a little if you two want to come along.” Well then, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more. I was game. Wes then breaks out of his little shell, “Actually, we've got to get up early and since we're on our bikes, probably shouldn't be riding after drinking.” I was HATING Wes at this point. I could not believe this sheer and utter violation of Man Code: never leave a man behind. I tried to change his mind with the basic shoulder shove and saying, “Come on man, live a little,” but he stuck to his guns. I thought for a second, and remembered I was in back-woods North Carolina/Tennessee, didn't know the area or the girl, would be traveling at night, and, at best, there would be alcohol involved. With the number of bad circumstances that were possible from here-on-out without my wingman, I sadly had to decline the invitation and then asked for any recommendation on retail beer purchasing.

*Wes would probably tell a slightly different version of this story if asked, but this is my ride report and my memories. So there.

Oh my... I just found this thread and I have to say..... Oh, myy....


I'll just let you leave this story as is- let it be known next time a girl responds that shes going to go hang out with some girl friends and drink that regardless of what you hear me say- my response is YES YES HELL YES

Originally Posted by Draechon View Post

From there, I walked over to Hooters to have a few beers and catch the end of Game
{insert picture of women's breast here} (as previously mentioned ^ )

Also, around here we call them May Flys not Fish Flys

Also, I have my doubts as to the validity of any and all stories about women after your first account lol

Also, good write up- keep up the good work

boybrushedplad screwed with this post 07-19-2011 at 09:12 PM
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Old 07-25-2011, 05:12 PM   #5
Draechon OP
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Day 5, Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Dearborn, Michigan to Topinabee, Michigan
Woke up just before 8, looked up information about the Motown Music Museum on my phone (yay Droid!), and saw they didn't open until 10. Good for me, although I will be a bit pushed for time as I am meeting an ADV'er for lunch at noon. Yesterday afternoon, I found the Detroit Greetings thread on ADV, and put up a post asking if anyone wanted to meet for dinner that night or lunch the next day. I didn't get any responses for dinner, but one hit for lunch from Dfrnt.

I headed out of the motel at 8:45, got a chocolate chip muffin and bottle of orange juice from a gas station for a quick breakfast, and headed into downtown Detroit, trying to get to city center to get pictures of GM and Chrysler's offices (was not able to find this one unfortunately. Saw this depressing building 3 or 4 blocks from than the monstrous skyscrapers that were daunting and an over-powering presence.

Saw lots of these signs everywhere in Michigan, a little scary to think of such harsh consequences for a mistake, but hope they make an impression

Can't remember why I took this picture, maybe one of you know?

Cool looking hotel

In the center of downtown, there is a little park with pretty scenic views of man's construction in every direction

I've seen this sculpture before in a recent Chrysler ad. I couldn't get close enough to read the sign below it, but I think it was built to demonstrate the spirit of American motor companies, the iron fist of American struggling through adversity (correct me if you know the real thing).

This picture was an interesting-to-me impromptu grab as I'm always hearing of union strikes, but am unfamiliar with unions, as they aren't big in South Carolina. Riding down the road on the way to the museum, I stumbled across 50-75 carpentry employees picketing.

Bad framing shot of GM's offices. These were hard to get a shot of due to their scale


Just before stumbling across this “diamond in the rough,” I had been lamenting over not having grabbed a shot of a liquor store in Michigan. Seemingly, Michigan-ites love their spirits, as they're really common, but not enough to fully support the owners with only one product line. Instead, if you ever see a “sub shop” that isn't a big name chain, it's probably a liquor store in disguise that you'll notice when you park. In South Carolina, we don't have “liquor” stores, we have “package” stores with three giant red dots outside (for the illiterate or too drunk to read) to find them easily. South Carolina cares not for being discreet. This store sold a variety of items, haha

At 5 'til 10, I arrived at the Museum. There was a school bus with 20 or so teenagers waiting in line (guess the North is on a year-round school system, since this was the second time I mention a school group). 4 young British guys also join our tour group as we file in and pay our $10 each. Due to its small business nature, photographs were not allowed inside, but I did learn a ton about the history of Motown Records and soul and R&B music. This museum is the original building and start of the company, having been started in Berry Gordy's garage. In it are the original piano, drum set, organ, and many other pieces that were essential throughout music's modern history. From Wikipedia of just one example of the 1960s, “Top artists on the Motown label during that period included Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Jackson 5, while Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and The Miracles released hits on the Tamla label.” Wow! You definitely need to check it out if you're ever in the area.

After the 1 ˝ hour tour, I headed toward Cherry Blossom in Novi for lunch with Steve. Along the way, I saw signs for 8 Mile Road and pulled off the interstate for a picture.

Frustratingly, no signs warned me there would be no re-entering the highway from here, and my GPS refused to believe me that the on-ramp was torn up and dirt, so kept trying to re-direct me to do U-turns and get on there. I backed out of the navigation, pulled up the map, and found an alternate route that added 15 minutes to my journey, making me 5 minutes late. I HATE being late as my parents instilled punctuality in me at an early age, so felt very guilty when I pulled into the parking lot for the restaurant and Steve and his co-worker Hoyo (sp?) were already waiting on me.

We went inside to a semi-traditional Japanese restaurant with pretty tasty food. I was surprised that unlike most places I have been, here the default is to serve you hot green tea and chopsticks instead of silverware. I had to ask for a glass of water, but was fine with chopsticks as my dad taught us to use them. In the Air Force, he was a linguist and had been stationed in Taiwan, and loves to practice his Mandarin whenever we go out to Chinese restaurants. The employees/owners LOVE this as they rarely get to use their native tongue outside of their family and friends, so he quickly wins them over. My parents go on yearly mission trips to Taiwan/China and my dad translates for the group.

Steve and Hoyo worked at NGK, the maker of spark plugs, which I thought was pretty neat, so we talk about their work, the Aprilias, KTMs, and VFR Steve have, Hoyo's love for old-school Japanese bikes (he was on a great-looking early 80s Katana that day and has 2 other bikes). At Steve's suggestion, I tried the yummy lunch sushi special, we discussed motorcycle trips, and my route for the day. Steve said I should take I-75 until Highway 23 veered off, and to ride that up the coast of Lake Huron to Cheboygan. He also convinced me I had to visit Mackinac Island, due to its magical allure and natural beauty. We soon went our separate ways (and much to my telepathic wishes, neither offered to help out the poor fat kid and pay for lunch, :-p).

The weather soon turned cold, cloudy, and with an overall dreary mood soon overtake me. From here to Canada, life was quiet, back to a less modern sense of society. The temperature continued to drop and when gassing up 50 miles from Detroit, I had to put on my rain gear to retain heat. I kept hoping for the much-discussed Tim Horton's cafes I have heard of to have a couple donuts and a cup of hot chocolate, but I wanted to wait until I was at least 100 miles. Throughout all my bigger tasks in life (trips, work-days, dating, etc.), I try to break things down into chunks, so I wanted to get a good portion of my 250 miles for the day out of the way before any rest.

My melancholy mood was not helped when I saw this sign, due to the river sharing the nickname of an ex I broke up with years ago for a 20 year old's stupidity

The afternoon became even more bleak, and started to drizzle off and on. I stopped in a rest stop to take care of business, and saw something that lifted my spirits for a short bit, two black squirrels playing. They looked much bigger than the gray I was used to, and had tufts of hair pointing up from their ears. They were very coy and managed to shy away whenever a picture was taken, but I have one of their blurriness, and another of their having vanished up the side of a tree.

With my mood slightly uplifted, I pressed on through the cold and wished I had brought some form of cold weather protection. Due to the heat back home, all my shirts were air-wicking ones to keep you cool in the heat. They work great at this function, but not so well at keeping one warm in the cold. I didn't know I would be passing this way-point, but it was a huge surprise and had me stoked!

About 90 miles from Cheboygan, I stopped in a McDonald's to grab a snack and warm up around 5. Inside, the news was on and I learned that it was only 56 degrees outside! So I wasn't crazy and imagining the cold or coming down with a fever. That was a relief, but now what do I do about the cold? There was a Wal-Mart nearby, but on general principle, I don't shop there (yes they were mentioned in my supply list for my tent; I'm a white, politically centrist, Christian living in America, does my being a hypocrite surprise you?!). I didn't think there would be much use for a sweater beyond today, so I opted not to buy one. After 45 minutes in McDonald's and filling up on gas again (for the motorcycle, I have an iron stomach, thank you very much), I left for the final leg of the day.

This picture may give you some idea of the windiness

Pulling off I-75 toward Cheboygan, it was around 6:30, so I started looking for a place to stay. My bike was running a bit sluggish at this point and the mileage had been dropping, so I knew the air filters were needing a good cleaning/replacement. Much to my delight, half a mile from the interstate was a powersports store I could visit in the morning to attempt buying filters or a cleaning kit.

I saw a sign for a motel across the road that had rooms for $31.50. This seemed a tad suspect, so I continued on. A couple miles up the road, I saw a sign for Indian River Campgrounds, who had cabins for rent. I was much too cold already to want to set up camp and sleep outside, so I stopped in to inquire of room prices. The place seemed very well-maintained and luxurious for its surroundings. With a smile on my face, I walked into the office and asked the attendee for a rate for a cabin. He quote me $58. Politely, I said, “Okay, thanks. I'm trying to keep it under 50,” and started walking toward the door. The guy rudely responded, “Well, coming the night of, without a reservation during tourist season, you're lucky to find anything under $100, and it'll be more than that the closer you get to Cheboygan (which was only an arbitrary destination for me anyway, since it was close to Mackinaw). I said, “Thanks, but I want to at least try,” and opened the door. He, with a sneering smirk, responded, “Yea, I'll see you in half an hour when you can't find anything better.” Well, pardon my French here, “Fuck you too dude” and got back on the bike and left. I CANNOT STAND when sales/service people treat me with disdain or rudeness when I have been nothing but polite to them. Even if I couldn't find anything cheaper, no way would I be staying here after that attitude.

I rode up less than half a mile later, found a similar scene for $55 with a much more polite owner, but turned this down also. I rode another 4 miles up the road, but didn't see much with hope, so headed back to the $31.50 hotel to try my luck.

I pull up outside the Topinabee Motel, and see only one truck in the parking lot for the 12 room motel, not a great sign, but okay. I try walking up to the office, but the door is locked. Hmm, see what looks like a maintenance guy doing grouting work on the sidewalk at the far end, so walk down to him and ask if they're open. He says, “Of course! We're always open! Did she not answer the door?” and then calls her up to hook me up in the office. While we're waiting on what I assume to be his wife, Al and I get to talking about anything and everything. He bought this motel a couple years back after retiring. He loved the Great Lakes area (can't remember where he originated from), snowmobiling, hunting, and fishing, so he decided instead of just sitting on his bum as a retired bloke, he'd buy this formerly semi-run-down place and fix it up while living in it.

He loved the sound of the trip and rattled off factoid after destination after restaurant of places to visit in the Upper Peninsula. I asked about Canada, and he said he'd never been and never had any desire to after his service (I guess military, but didn't ask). When the lady comes up to the office, he tells her to give me a 10% discount since I'm their only customer, which knocks the price from $31.50 to $28 before tax, and $30 with tax. Awesome deal, but doesn't seem that great of a business plan. From talking to him though, I don't think he owned the motel to earn money, but to talk to people traveling through. That's a nice life to live.

After getting a room and dropping some of my stuff on inside, I walked out to ask him about food places to eat in the area. I had camping food with me, but I am always up for local cuisine. He directs me up the road to the Topinee Market/gas station/liquor store/deli/pizza place/convenience store. I headed out and saw Mullet Lake along the way. This picture reminds me much of somewhere else I've visited, I think in Montana, but I can't recall.

While there and with my bike parked out front, I am the talk of the town and have person after person come up to chit-chat while I wait on the two slices of sausage and feta cheese I order from the cook. It was a very friendly town and I love visiting places like this. I get my pizza to go, and head back to the hotel to sit out at the picnic table and eat. When I get back, Al comes over to talk some more. When he saw my pizza he exclaimed, “Damn that looks tasty! If you'd have told me you were getting pizza, I would've driven you up there and it would've been my treat. After some great conversation with a guy that seemed like an old friend, I retired to my room for the night. If you decide to visit Mackinac Island and want a decently priced place nearby with 70s style rooms, mini-fridges, coffee pots, and microwaves in every room, head out to the Topinabee Motel and see Al.

Today was a day with a great beginning, horribly lonely middle, and lovely end.
I wish my motorcycles had real model names for when I get asked what I ride.
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Old 07-26-2011, 04:34 AM   #6
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Did you stop in at the packard plant? not sure there is much to see, but nice history.......
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Old 08-23-2011, 03:36 PM   #7
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Ok, Draechon it is time to take a trip to your local public library. Otherwise how will we ever know if you made it back home to South Kackalacky.
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Old 01-26-2012, 10:00 PM   #8
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Translation Please

Originally Posted by Draechon View Post
Well, pardon my French here, “Fuck you too dude” and got back on the bike and left.
Could you repeat that in English please, my French is a little rusty...
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Old 08-23-2011, 04:09 PM   #9
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Nice write up. Look forward to the rest
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Old 08-24-2011, 09:39 PM   #10
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This was excellent writing, I'm really enjoying reading this and looking forward to the rest.
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Old 01-26-2012, 08:01 PM   #11
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This message is just one for accountability's sake to ScooterGDawg, Caycek, and Kalonji. I've promised each of you I would finish this report. At least two of you have traveled cross-country since I quit writing this, but won't write any tales until I "get home," so here shall it be. This trip will be finished by February 1st.
I wish my motorcycles had real model names for when I get asked what I ride.
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Old 01-26-2012, 10:37 PM   #12
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With nearly five months since my last writing, I suppose it's time for me to finally finish this ride report. With a recent “minor down-sizing” at the company I've worked for for nearly five years, I find myself with a surplus of time on my hands. So far, this has netted me: boring myself of television, finally trying to work on my XT and narrowing out the problem I hoped was causing the non-operational state it finds itself in, re-working my resume, re-thinking a few things of my future, re-working my finances, and with a regret I had not finished writing this story.

I reached a point of complacency in this storyline. After this point in the story, there were new experiences I had, but none that were super-fantabulous-awe-inspiring-I-need-to-take-another-long-journey worthy. But, they are what they are. I hope for thoroughly written stories when I read, so though it may be anti-climactic, this story does NEED AN ENDING.

To get myself into the spirit of this, I'm drinking some Blue Moon and listening to a little Kid Rock (“Born Free” was taped in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the scenery is beautiful therein).

Day 6, Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Topinabee, Michigan to Bruce Mines, Ontario

After feeling like crap the night before, I slept in at the Topinabee Motel until 9, aiming to get the Mackinac Ferry at 10. I rode that way, and stopped for gas and to pick up a little breakfast of Sprite and a cup of chocolate glazed donut holes, yum! There, I received, for the first time ever, a half dollar coin in my change, slightly interesting. At the gas station, I bought a ticket for the ferry. Somewhat noteworthy to a Southerner: all the drinks were in coolers stored outside the gas station, as it usually was not warm enough to warrant storing them in constantly-running refrigerators.

At the ferry, I decided to sit on top. I love a breeze in my hair, and what would be the point of being on a boat if I were trapped in an enclosed space? It was rather windy. A high school group was also on the ferry, and a group of the teens sat behind me and spoke of things like prank calling the Grand Hotel on the island to make fake reservations, and of “seeing dolphins” in the water, haha.

I can't remember how much the ferry was, think $20, but I do remember to ride the jet-boats was $10 more. They didn't go all that much faster than the propeller boats, but did make a nice rooster tail for us cheaper folk.

View of the bridge

A cute little blonde boy of 3 or 4 sat in front of me with his sister and mother. He tried tasting the boat, but was was unhappy with the result of the railing in his mouth. He continued tasting the seat, his jacket, and other things within reach, much to the annoyance of his ten year old sister. He also hated the wind was “messing up his hair,” but whenever his mom suggested going down to an inside level, he would quiet down for a few minutes as he loved being on top of the boat on the way to the island. Haha

Grand Hotel, to the tune of $150/night

Once on the island, I walked around for two hours and summed it up as a stereotypical tourist colonial island town. I walked along the waterfront and thought of renting a bicycle for $5/hour, but didn't want to spend extra time there just to say I had been around the island.

It was cool to see a big barge on a lake

I stopped in the Butterfly House for $9 to see the “Two Dozen” varieties they had on tap.

They also had a quartet of finch and a pair Asian quail to keep the pill bugs and aphids in check. The butterflies were beautiful, but the highlight of this visit was talking to one of the employees, a cute young girl from the suburbs of Chicago. She attends Illinois State, but works on the island in summer-time. She's a biology and Spanish dual major, with hopes being an interpreter. After a fifteen minute conversation, another girl came in to trade posts. Emily apologized and said she wished we could talk more. I told her I understood and was sorry for monopolizing her time. I stayed in the greenhouse for a bit longer, and went to leave. In the “Check Yourself for Butterflies” room, I found this little guy in love with my hat.

I returned to put him down on a plant, but he refused to go for another flower or leaves. I didn't want to scare him off or touch him, as they have warning signs this will rub off the scales of the insects' wings and prevent them from flying. I walked around for five minutes before he eventually left.

Before leaving, I went by the gift shop in hopes of again seeing my fellow conversationalist. She told me she had been scolding for focusing her attention on one customer for too long. She asked if I were staying on the island that night and if so, would I be interested in hanging out with her and a group of of her friends/island co-workers that evening. I was disappointed to say I was moving on, so she hugged me and said good-bye. *sigh*

Sadly, this is the only picture I have of her

I walked back “into town” and checked out the requisite fudge shops the island was famed for. I sampled a few kinds in Ryba's and decided to buy half a pound for my mom.

I had a burger and fries while in town, and headed back toward the ferry dock. There, I was roped into a conversation with an older lady and middle-aged guy, both from a tour bus group out of Ohio, and both alone. We discussed the demerits of traveling single to places aimed toward families or couples. The man ranted how he should have stayed in the hotel bar or whatever and enjoyed himself more thoroughly. The lady remarked I was traveling the optimal way: with no pre-ordained plan and completely of my own volition and will. She told me of a yesteryear in the 60s wherein she and her then boyfriend rode on his motorcycle from Ohio to California and then to Key West. She got pregnant on that trip, unsurprisingly. They wed, he sold the bike, to her dismay, and never rode again. They had two more kids, but never pursued the life they led before wed-lock.

I got back to riding and headed over the Mackinaw Bridge. It had two lanes on each side, and all the cars and trucks got into the right lane before the ascent began. Cool, free left lane! Carp! I soon learned why all the vehicles were sitting in the right lane as the left lane soon turned to steel grating for the next 3 miles, and a 2-3” split to the right asphalt lane. I stuck it out, though a bit scary at times as big gusts of winds came by. On the other side, I stopped at a rest area and learned my destination was pronounced “Sue Saint Marie” and not “Salt Saint Marie” as I previously thought.

In the bathroom, I had my “You learn something new every day” moment concerning methamphetamines

I rode on through the beautiful countryside of the Upper Peninsula toward Sault Saint Marie. As the daylight wore on, the temperatures were not rising as I headed North and I soon remembered about my air filter as I passed into the desolation that is the Northern Michigan. I pressed on as the Bandit became more and more sluggish. My goal today was to get as far into Canada as I could.

Upon entering the town, I rapidly pulled to the side of the road and whipped out my phone. I searched for motorcycle shops and found a few listings.

I headed to the local Honda shop, who blew me off and would not even check in the computer to see if a universal air filter would fit my bike. As soon as the name “Suzuki” had been uttered, the lady had nothing to say to me. I don't know if all Honda shops are like this, but the one in Charleston also has a scarily similar attitude to Customer Service. I asked about a filter cleaning kit as I have K&N pods, but she was too busy doing other things to bother responding.

I headed over to the Yamaha shop and was told they could have new filters in in two days. I was hoping to just swap my filters out, but decided just servicing them would do me fine, just would mean I could not stay at a camp-site and would have the bike out of commission for at least half a day while the cleaned filters dried out. So, I bought cleaning spray and a filter oil with little hassle.

Around 5, I headed toward the Canadian border. The line was amazingly short, only 5 cars in front of me, and each only took a couple minutes to get through. The American border guard just checked that I had a current Driver's License and passport and waved me through.

Surprisingly, the Canadian border guard decided to hassle me a little. Since I don't have a windshield, I was informed that in Canada, I will be required to constantly wear a helmet. He questioned the usual, what was I doing in his country, how long would I be there, did I own any firearms, did I bring any firearms with me, did I bring any alcohol or fireworks or drugs, and then an odd question. On my passport, he saw that my birthplace was in North Carolina, but I currently live in South Carolina. Apparently, this is a matter worth questioning.

He asked why I had decided to move from one state to another. “Well Officer, I was two and was tired of putting up with my parents, so I decided it was about time for me to be on my own,” and smirked a little. He gave me a frown and went inside his little hut to speak with his supervisor for a couple minutes. I was joking, but don't understand why that was a question worth asking. He came back a few minutes later and asked me about my job and a couple more standard-fare and then allowed me to proceed.

Disappointingly, I didn't see any “Welcome to Canada” signs, so this is the closest I could get:

I got a nearby local to take this of me, to which he scowled at my asking

Having only ever been on the roads of the States, this was a cool change of pace

I intended to head as far as Elliot Lake, but was worried about the daylight, and wanted to get the air filter remedied ASAP, so ended up only as far as Bruce Mills. I went to the first lodging I saw, which had a beautiful location with quaint, but rustic, cabins on the water for 70 CAD (Canadian Dollars), to which I said “No, thank you” and went to Bobber's, the local hot spot of town. It was a motel and cafe and had rooms right near the water for 50 CAD.

This was a cool idea

I took off the air filters, washed them out, cleaned them, and hung them in front of a fan to dry overnight, and had dinner at the cafe

and walked around the town of “600” people. I saw a gas station that served Indian food for lunch

and stopped in at The Bavarian, the bar of the town (excluding the veterans' bar) and German restaurant. I had my first beer of Canada

and then a Labatt's Blue, and few others. Had a drink in another country, Check off my bucket list.

I was shocked at the price of gas and beer in Canada, and get to talking with the white lady bartender. Within an hour, I got bored with the news station on TV and start reading their newspaper, which was a sign to the Indian owner that now was the time to chat me up. Sam was a great host.

Shortly thereafter, A Japanese couple came in

Talk about a multi-cultural experience!

Hilariously enough to me, the husband spoke only Japanese. The wife spoke English, but with a very strong accent. Sam was waiting tables and was trying to help them out, but with his strong Hindi accent, there was a gap in communication. Happily, I stepped in to translate Japanese-English to Indian-English. For the first time in my life, I was an American, in Canada, in a German bar, with an Indian owner/cohort/friend, and fellow Japanese customers. While we were involved in this, a heavily-tattooed trucker from Ottawa came in. He had a very strong Canadian Bacon-esque “eh” way of talking. He had been trucking for nearly twenty years of his life and knew no other way. He had lived in the States for a while, but had a love for the open road, logging, and all that “trucker” lifestyle entails. I wish I could have this night recorded for the rest of my life.

I don't know if it was the heavy drinking, the speaking to an Indian man in drunken German, translating English to English, or what, but this will forever be in my top 10 list of all nights.

Sam closed out my tab after a couple hours (whew, glad I stopped there once I saw the bill), and had the bartender pour us a couple drinks. I had been texting a friend back home, and told her to ignore anything more from me that night, as I was at my limit (and yes, I was only walking back a block to my hotel). From this point on, Sam had my bill on the house. This was a free triple of Johnny Walker Black Label. I'm not usually one to drink straight whiskey, but I'm also too polite to turn down a free drink.

Once the Japanese couple left, Sam sent the bartender home and shut off the Open light so he could hang out with the trucker, me, and later a man and his daughter that were staying in his hotel. Sam had moved to Toronto at the age of 13. He started off in car wash at 16, bought it at 20, and had an amazing entrepreneur story every since, including owning gas stations, car lots, and now a hotel. Here's Sam

Later on, a one-armed expatriate Gulf War veteran from Wisconsin came in and we started talking cars and motorcycles. He was a cool gent that owned two of my dream cars: a Corvette Z06 and a Pontiac G8 GXP (although both of these were automatic for obvious reasons). I don't remember going to sleep that night, but think it's best that way.
I wish my motorcycles had real model names for when I get asked what I ride.

Draechon screwed with this post 01-26-2012 at 11:23 PM
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Old 01-30-2012, 07:49 PM   #13
Where did I put that
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There is a reason I subscribed to this thread, so long ago.
And now new reasons yet, nostalgia for home.

Doing great, kid. Keep up the good work!
"Even though my trip turned out badly, I don't regret the kind of life I chose to live. Adventure!" RIP-Clay Schwartz 9/14/07
The bike never has been, never is, and never will be the limiting factor in my, your, or anyone else's ability to have an adventure. -jake28-
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:31 AM   #14
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dude! I thought you went to detroit and back.. now i see your in Canada...
hate to hear about the job, I know it must be tough.

later this year i'm going over that bridge, but will be turning left before i hit canada......

glad to see your finishing your report......can't wait for the rest.......

hope you been well my friend....

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Old 02-01-2012, 10:25 PM   #15
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Day 7, Thursday, 30 June 2011

From here to home, the days became rather uneventful. I was excited to be in Canada, but shocked at the cost of living increase, so was in a bit of a hurry to get home. I was just starting to get into the hang of “being away from home,” but simultaneously being worried of what that all entailed.

I got up at 9, saw a loaded, ADV-style KLR at the cafe, but never saw the owner in the nearly hour it took to re-oil and install the air filter.

I had never done this procedure before, and ended up over-oiling the filters to make them appear the “normal” K&N style. Luckily, I figured this out before leaving town when the bike kept dying. I stopped in the parking lot of a grocery store for a few hours to re-clean the filters and dry them out.

I ended up trying to leave town about 12:30, but decided to ride a few back roads beforehand in case trouble arose and saw the following sights

Cool looking dune-buggy

In case things didn't work out with the Bandit, this Goldwing was available for $1800

I got back on my way around one and started seeing the beauty that was Southern Canada. There were numerous cool road-signs I tried to take pictures of, but missed quite a few.

Trucks and buses don't stop for intersections:

Humongous dandelion (I wear XXXL gloves for reference)

Gas back home was around $4.15 per gallon at the time

From a quarter mile away, I could smell the weed a few hot chicks were smoking in a park near these bridges. I stopped to investigate, but remembered as soon as I did so, that it was legal here.

In case drivers forgot all their educational training, Canada offers helpful reminders of common rules of the road. I tried to get a picture of each of these as I went along, but know I must have missed at least 20%.

I appreciate the welcome, thank you Muskoka!

I ended up stopping ~100 km from Toronto as campgrounds were becoming scarce and I was getting tired of the day. I stopped at a few campgrounds between 6 and 7 pm, but was turned away at their being. Apparently, July 1 is Canada Day, so everyone from the big cities are out camping and living the “rustic life,” which jacked the normal rate of $25 for a camp-site up to $55. Carp! Oh well, I took what I could get. That night, as I was cooking dinner, I had a trio of 16-17 year old high-school gals come around and sit at my picnic table and chat. I kept things cordial, but was worried of any misperceptions of parental units, so kept things less than my typical friendly and inviting.

Day 8, Friday, 1 July 2011

From this point on, I have no journal entries to go off of, as the days were long and boring. About 15 miles from the campground the next morning, traffic from Toronto started backing up to a pretty ridiculous degree

Outside Toronto, inbound lanes starting backing up too, so I diverted to some local highways and came upon the first Tim Horton's I visited. Oddly, the drive-through and walk-in areas were separated

I was unimpressed by their selection so delayed eating 'til around 11 at a Wendy's. The look of traffic cones in Canada:

Chain of friendly stores

Awesome sculpture in the town of Saint Catharine's

After a long diversion, I got back to the American border. I was again surprised at how quickly this transfer was. From around 10 miles out, the border seemed to back up, but just before Niagara Falls, 95% of the Canadians on the road diverted to the Falls. I only had to wait behind 5 cars to re-enter the States. The Border Guard here also was a bit uptight and didn't appreciate my Carolinas relocation joke (why is the question even asked?). After allowing me passage, I started to ride off to the parking lot to gear up, but was immediately reprimanded when starting my bike before putting my helmet and gloves on. I told him I was just moving 50 feet from the spot to clear his lane, but was told, “If you're going to go to the trouble of wearing all that, I want you to be protected at all times. If I see a guy with a helmet, I want him wearing that helmet in my sight.” Umm, okay, extra 30-45 seconds to zip up my jacket, put on gloves, and helmet, and I'm off. I ride a half mile or so to the parking lot for the Falls, pay XX (a ridiculous amount for how short a period of time I was here), and park. I see the Falls and am a tad depressed to be alone when I see all the happy families. Alone, it's pretty much a BTDT (Been There, Done That) affair that takes 5 minutes before I'm off.

From the Canadian side

From the border bridge

Yay, I'm a fat American!

I paid $10 for this?

Thought about riding down the elevator to take the ferry to the Falls

Whoo, I'm in New York! Where are all the gangsters?

I don't remember this from the movies

Outside Buffalo, it got pretty

Especially as I got into the Pennsylvania area

I have not written down the mileages for each day, but ended up stopping in a nice campground near Eerie, Pennsylvania.

Day 9, Saturday, 2 July 2011

I got up about 8, with a long day ahead of me, ~700 miles. So far, I my bike had stayed up the entire trip. Upon leaving the campground, I stopped off at the dumpster to throw away a soda bottle from the night before. After 2500 idiot-free miles, I forgot to put the kickstand down, and felt the Bandit falling onto my leg as I stepped away and heard a crunch as she reached the pavement. Luckily for both of us, only the mirror mount was bent, which I tightened up and we were on our way.

West Virginia was similarly gorgeous. I didn't know I would be going over the huge bridge that I can't quite recall the name of right now.

I was greatly satisfied by this scene at a gas station in West Virginia

After this, nothing major happened. I tried calling a few friends in Columbia to meet up for dinner, but they had already eaten. While stopped at a gas station outside Charlotte at about 6:30 pm, I noticed my headlight bulbs had worn out on me, so ended up having to ride the last 100 miles from Charlotte to home in the dark tailgating semis or other large vehicles to use their lights as my way home, haha. I don't remember if I ever told that to anyone, as I knew I would get scolded. It was around 8:30 when I got to Columbia. I was not going to stop for the night 100 miles from home.

This is the last picture of my trip. I don't know how the GPS recorded all mileage after it started as it was turned off for significant portions, but I guess it measured from the last known location. As for my total mileage of 3200 miles, 250 miles need to be added to the figure shown here as the GPS was not turned on until I was already in North Carolina.

Obligation to Gerald filled! Whoo! Notice that top speed? Yea, let's see you beat that!
I wish my motorcycles had real model names for when I get asked what I ride.
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