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Old 09-16-2014, 12:36 PM   #1
crazyshannon OP
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Joined: Jun 2012
Oddometer: 8
Across USA via VStrom

Hey all! I am currently on a cross-country solo trip on my newly acquired 2005 DL1000 Vstrom. I left three weeks and four thousand miles ago. I have been camping and staying with friends the entire journey. I don't have a set route planned and I don't know when I'll be back, however my tentative stops are: Tail of the Dragon; the aquarium in Atlanta - largest in the world; New Orleans; all four national parks in Utah; Salt Lake City; the Breaking Bad set tour in Albuquerque; Mexico.

I have the Inreach tracking device on the bike, it updates my location every ten minutes. You can see me on the map here (along with the rest of my route).

route_to_sept_16

Here's what my trip looks like so far. I started in Vancouver BC (where I live), but didn't purchase the tracking device until Spokane WA. The disappearance in South Dakota happened when I accidentally stopped transmitting (not before clumsily sending a false SOS signal!).

IDAHO
Aug 30, 2014

P1170458

I never intended to buy a V-Strom. It just kind of happened. I picked her up pretty much sight unseen, rolling the dice on the good name Suzuki has built for the bike. It's the first Suzuki I've ever owned, and also my first twin. I put about 2000 kilometers of city riding onto it in the first three weeks of ownership, testing it out to see what I could break. Answer: not much. Satisfied with the bike's surprising agility, I set off Thursday August 28 on a coast-to-coast trip, from Vancouver BC to Raleigh NC.

One of the first things I noticed is that there's a marked difference between a V-Strom and a loaded V-Strom. I generally travel light, but my decision to camp on the road added a lot more bulk, as now I needed to carry tent, sleeping bag, stove, and food. I would have been okay in light gravel in an empty V-Strom, but loaded I think it's best for me to stick to pavement.

P1170511
My route will be decided as I go. Wednesday I did backroads in Washington, and I saw a lot of bikes, mostly sport-touring, cruisers and big adventure bikes. There were also a lot of RVs and touristy types in general. I camped overnight halfway between Mt Vernon and Spokane, and woke to a light rain. It would continue to rain off-and-on for the rest of the day, and so I decided to skip the winding roads I'd had planned, in favour of some highway to hopefully put some distance between myself and the wet.

Tonight I've stopped over in Idaho. Under the light of the V-Strom, I set up my tent and my gasoline MSR stove, and cooked a freeze-dried meal. Tomorrow I'll make Montana, where I've been only once before, and then it will all be states I've never seen.

P1170541

HOT DOG THING
Aug 31

I'm at a truck stop 90 miles north of Yellowstone, and 10 miles north of my next campground - hopefully it's open when I get there. I just ate this weird hot dog.

hot_dog_thing

When I was in line to get it, an older chap sang me a song about a motorcycle rider. He gave me his business card and told me to check out his website where I'd find a song about a pretty girl. I said I'd pass on the info if I saw one.

Montana is big and full of mountains and cows and farmland. There's no traffic and no tourists. It's also freezing cold at night. I'm grateful for my heated vest and my thick waterproof gloves. I hope to get an earlier start tomorrow and hit up Yellowstone.

AHEAD OF THE STORM
Aug 31

I reached the campground last night. Thankfully there was a night check-in. If you haven't camped much - I certainly haven't as an adult, tho my mother was a Girl Guide leader and taught me a thing or two - this is where you enter your credit card information on a little slip, leave it in a drop box and move into the nearest empty site you can see. I had my tent and things set up in a little under ten minutes. It's getting faster every time. I woke up to a steady rain, but my tent held up and my gear stayed dry.

P1170901 - 1

The skies threatened fury all day, but never quite delivered.

P1170836 - 1

The mountains never stop in Montana.

bridge

This bridge was located off Hwy 287.

P1170747 - 1

What baby paramedic would feel complete without an adequate first aid kit?

P1170727 - edit

Even a V-Strom needs a backup plan.

BREAKFAST
AUG 31

This morning I head out to Yellowstone, where I intend to stay the night. Since I won't be doing much riding today, I made myself a hot breakfast.

eggs_1


eggs_2

In freeze-dried form.

eggs_3

Rehydrated eggs. They turned out okay.

WYOMING
Sept 2

Hey all, stopped for gas in a reception area. Octane levels here are oddly specific.
gas_specific

If you were looking for reasons not to go on a cross country motorcycle trip, yesterday would be a good example. There was a steady downpour all day, with a brief eye-of-the-storm moment that occurred just in time for me to catch the Old Faithful geyser erupting at Yellowstone National Park. I set up my tent in the rain, not before considering going to sleep in the Bear Box, a large locking food storage container designed to kept keep campers safe. As I drifted off to the sound of yet more rain, I remembered that I'd left out a packet of freeze-dried chicken and rice on the bike. I was too tired and cold and wet to venture the ten steps outside to get it, and I fell asleep hoping that if a bear came to steal my breakfast, it would at least have the decency to not knock my bike over.

YELLOWSTONE & BADLANDS
Sept 3

branches

Yellowstone National Park is full of wandering souls. The parking lot in front of Old Faithful is a who's-who of far-flung license plates from Florida to Alaska. It's not hard to see why -- you could fall into the mud and find something beautiful on your way back up.

geyser

Well, that's if you didn't fall into one of the active boiling geysers.

sunset

The rain let up briefly during the sunset.

trees

For just a moment, I could forget that my feet hadn't been dry for three days.

I camped at Lewis Lake, setting up my tent in the rain in less than five minutes.

teton

Grand Teton National Park is located in the southern shadow of Yellowstone, and in case that wasn't enough to make you feel sorry enough to visit, the entrance fee is included with Yellowstone's.

nebraska

After breezing through Teton on Sunday, I made serious time, riding late into the night, cruising through the top half of Nebraska under total darkness. My goal was to make the entrance of Badlands National Park, camp there and catch the sunrise.

welcome_badlands

I had thought that Badlands would be much like Yellowstone... overrun with tourists and lodging. Instead I found that the nearest camping facility on the other end of the national park. 550 miles into my day, I wasn't able to continue. Under my own motorcycle's highbeam I set up my tent, crawled into my damp sleeping bag, and fell asleep a little ways off the road. I set my alarm for dawn, unsure what the landscape surrounding me would look like come daylight.

straight_badlands

I woke up to this. There was nothing, anywhere. No tourists. No trees. Beautiful in a stark, who-needs-food-water-or-shelter kind of way.

windy_badlands

I rode north into Badlands' interior section, and found both beauty and a a technical winding route with perfect pavement and scanty traffic. I've seen racetracks in far worse condition. I ran it twice; once for the scenery and once for the road itself.

shannon_badlands

CORN
Sept 10

I don't usually think of myself as an outdoors person. I can't whistle four different bird calls, tie six kinds of knots, or make fire with two pieces of sticks. My camping experiences ended with my childhood, mostly involving cabins, ice coolers and marshmallows.

So I brought my camping gear mainly as an afterthought; sort of, keeping my options open. It just so happens that I've found reason to camp the entire trip. Habit is a very powerful thing. I don't crave the dubious comfort of a cheap motel bed, or watered-down orange juice in a free continental breakfast. Rather I have learned to look forward to the spartan and comfortable existence in my small tent and plush sleeping bag. Even the tent set-up isn't much of a hassle; it's near automatic now, and traveling on a motorcycle involves a certain amount of steps no matter where you rest your head at night.

pond

Tuesday Sept 2, I left Badlands by noon and rode well past sunset. At a truck stop I spoke with a couple moving across the country, from Iowa to Seattle. The husband was driving a U-Haul which contained two motorcycles and their furniture; it was also trailering an SUV. The wife was driving a second SUV. "Get ready for the most boring stretch of land you’ll ever encounter," the wife said to me.

"Why? What’s in Iowa?"

"There’s nothing in Iowa. Nothing 'cept corn and politicians. More politicians than any other state outside of Washington DC."

"Why should Iowa have so many politicians?" I wondered.

"Because Iowa grows 98% of the world’s corn . . . and corn is important to America."

This statement would turn out to be incorrect. In reality, the US produces 32% of the world’s corn; and Iowa only has an 18% share of that. But there’s no denying that Iowa has a lot of corn. And grasshoppers; they climbed into my saddlebag and danced inside my helmet just in range of my peripheral vision. There were no windy or scenic roads, and I was trying to make time, so I rode on the interstate; and on both sides of the road, from state’s entrance to state’s end, there was a constant stream of corn.

I can recall as a youth being brought to farmhouses during harvest and going on hay-wagon rides and pumpkin-picking expeditions. My favourite was the corn maizes. One of my first kisses would occur here, breathless amidst the cornstalks. But there would be no such childishly romantic interludes in these fields: the corn is packed so tight as to not even allow a slim teenager to slip through. It’s endless, and ruthless, and formidable; the landscape is entirely man-made, an angry call of defiance to nature itself. The sterile corn grows, the hard stoic kernels destined to be later transformed into syrups and flours and ethanol.

The campsite I’d intended to stay had closed for the night by the time I was ready to stop riding at around 11pm; I continued on east, and at the next gas station stop I found an old abandoned trailer, the windows smashed in and the door left unlocked. I thought it might be a cozy place to shack up, but it smelled rather stale, so I set up my tent behind the gas station, which was closed, its window displaying a sign indicating that prepay gasoline was still available. I wore my earplugs to block out the sound of the nearby interstate and slept wonderfully.

The next morning as I was packing up my bike, I was joined by a Harley rider whose little Sportster was near as loaded down as my own steed. He wore black leather chaps and his long grey hair was tousled by the wind. "Did you spend the night here?"

"Yeah," I said.

"Good girl."

CRAB-HOLES
Sept 13

I rode the interstate and watched corn grow; thus sums my overall impression of Iowa. It seemed a state undecided as to whether it should try to hinder or help the travelers who so often pass through on their way to more impressive lands. The road quality was noticeably poorer than South Dakota’s. But it also had the best rest stops of my trip, equipped with modern washrooms and free high speed wifi.

I was also amused by the signage displayed in gas stations … "Support your state! Choose ethanol!"

wagon

At the Indiana border, the contrast was sharp. The cornfields disappeared instantly, trees appeared along the roadside and horizon, and the pavement became smooth. I knew there were good side roads available, but I was trying to make time, and I stuck to the interstate. Illinois too passed in a blur of toll booths and ads for personal injury attorneys. I finally rolled into my parents’ driveway outside of Toledo OH around midnight. Aided by the tracking device, they knew my approximate arrival time and were waiting outside in the driveway for me. I was so tired that I dropped the bike in the garage - onto my stepfather’s truck. And that’s how my motorcycle earned its own private garage for the seven days that I stayed with my parents.

A couple of days later I rode as a passenger in my mother’s car up to Ontario, where the majority of my family lives, keeping my tracker on since it’s technically part of my overall trip. I spent time visiting my grandparents, whom I don’t see nearly enough of, and other extended friends and family.

leon

Here’s a picture of my grandfather, Leon. He’s been following my trip most avidly.

I stayed in Ohio for a couple days longer, and then I packed up the bike and headed south.

virginia_grass

West Virginia was beautiful everywhere I could see.

virginia sunset

I took back roads and wound my way to Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, where I camped at 4000 feet above sea level. I enjoyed being back in my tent, even as the warm wind raced in circles around the rainfly.

I reached Outer Banks NC on Thurs Sept 11. It's a narrow island, its widest point still less than a mile, linked by a bridge to northern NC. I stayed with new friends at a beach house. They were chilled by the steady wind, but for me it was a welcome embrace.

crab

The beach was absolutely swarming with crabs, as small as a fingernail and a couple larger than my hand. Did you know that crabs like to hang out in crab-holes? Me neither. Everywhere I walked, crabs were freaking out, scurrying into little holes in the sand. This one had wandered a bit too far from his hiding place, and so I watched him cleverly dust himself with sand and then become completely still.

After two days rest, it's already time to resume my journey. I head now for Raleigh.
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Old 09-16-2014, 05:04 PM   #2
Wal2
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nice one......

we would call the weird hotdog a sausage roll here in UK.....
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Old 09-16-2014, 07:53 PM   #3
Ks-Rydr
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Hey Shannon, You're doing great so far.... I think I'll tag along with you on this journey.... I had an '07 V-Strom, put 24,000 miles on it before I sold it, I thought it was a very good bike.
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Old 09-16-2014, 10:28 PM   #4
Blader54
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Nice report! You have a great attitude. Was there a particular impetus for your journey?
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Old 09-16-2014, 11:19 PM   #5
TALLGUY
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Good report. Good bike.

Good attitude and very adventurous.

Iowa... most of the trackers on ride reports actually show riders going around us!! Now you know why. It is a bummer. Roads are long, flat, straight and rough.

Why two helmets?

Wishing you safe riding, dryer weather and smoother roads.

TG
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Old Yesterday, 08:44 AM   #6
crazyshannon OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blader54 View Post
Nice report! You have a great attitude. Was there a particular impetus for your journey?
Heartbreak. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and all that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TALLGUY
Why two helmets?
I thought, visiting various friends, I was likely to be taking a passenger at some point. I'm going to be mailing it home in the next few days, along with a bunch of other stuff that I needed for the first part of my trip but not anymore.

Thanks for the well wishes everyone. :)
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Old Yesterday, 09:07 AM   #7
ADKFLYR
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Nice RR so far!

Great writing style and pics! I'm in. Congrats on your adventure!
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Old Yesterday, 09:34 AM   #8
advmoto66
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Old Yesterday, 09:51 AM   #9
boatpuller
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Sounds like an awesome trip, and thanks for sharing it with us.

Having taken a long cross country trip myself, I know that it can change a person, usually in ways not expected, and usually for the better. Hopefully this trip helps heal your heartbreak.
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Old Yesterday, 10:21 AM   #10
achesley
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Fantastic trip and pictures. Hope you get more time to spend on the back roads of more states. All states have a certain beauty , but, it's not on the Interstates ( Cept Utah ) . The East and it crowds and toll roads did turn me West way more than East in my travels.
Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Loved the stealth camping mode in my 50's but stopped that in my 60's sigh.
Be waiting to your next post. Again, Thanks for taking us along.
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Old Yesterday, 02:23 PM   #11
mrbreeze
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good prose

good pictures

please keep sharing

thanks

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Old Yesterday, 03:18 PM   #12
TALLGUY
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[QUOTE=crazyshannon;25093174]Heartbreak. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and all that.


In my opinion you have chosen a very good form of therapy! Riding is essential to my personal sanity and has helped me think through, or cope with many things.

One time I yelled at, chewed out, cussed out and generally berated an employee inside my helmet for 600 miles. Obviously no one else was around or could hear me.
Upon my return home and with that out of my system I was able to appropriately address the situation with that individual and resolve the problem in an appropriate and professional manner.

I hope you benefit as much or more than I!!

TG
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Old Yesterday, 03:46 PM   #13
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Hey Shannon you should meet BikerAl riding from Roberts Creek BC to Newfoundland and back. She's in the Gaspe right now still heading east but intends to swing south through the States on the home loop. Her attitude to camping seems to be the same as yours and I'll bet the two of you would hit it off.

Love your report and your trip. I did Ottawa to L.A. and back via the PCH and Vancouver in two legs in 2012 and 2013 on my V-Strom 650 and loved every minute of it.

A more modest trip down to New York this year but more miles next year for sure.

Eric
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Old Yesterday, 04:24 PM   #14
rodr
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Enjoying your writing style - and a V-Strom to boot! Definitely in for this one.
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Old Yesterday, 05:50 PM   #15
TouringDave
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Another Strom Story! yeeha!
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