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Old 09-30-2012, 01:44 PM   #1
Patrick M OP
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"Well, you're a long way from home..." 21 Days Across the United States

After months and months of anticipation, I finally headed out on my solo trip out west. 21 Days, 10 National Parks and 7,248 miles later, I returned home last Friday. Incredible, amazing, and unreal are all fitting adjectives to describe this trek. Seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet is a humbling experience and it gave me a new perception of what really matters.

Below are some photos from my phone. However, I will be posting mostly "real" photos from my Olympus EM5 in the report. I rode my 2007 Honda VFR800, a truly amazing bike that never quit. Maybe my next trip will be on a Commando?

Camping at Muley Point.


Clearing skies in the Grand Tetons


A long but surreally beautiful day across the Hi-Line in Montana


Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, Swiftcurrent Lake.


Monument Valley. So cool.


I couldn't get enough of Montana. It's a dream.


More Teton awesomeness.


Chicks keeping me up all night.


Glad I got a chance to see these guys close up.


Sometimes you need to put your bike in the hotel room


This report will be photo heavy!

Patrick M screwed with this post 09-30-2012 at 01:57 PM
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Old 09-30-2012, 03:12 PM   #2
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Bookmarked

That's great, another one that has to go into my bookmarks for sure. I'll be checking back often so don't forget.......

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Old 09-30-2012, 03:28 PM   #3
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Day One, September 1st 2012.: 680 miles

I got the idea to do this trip a little over a year ago. Once I sorted out everything with work and it was cool, I could not stop daydreaming about this day. Mostly all of the places/states I visited on this journey were new to me, so my impression of them was a blank canvas. One of the most anticipated places for me was Montana. So this would be my first major destination.

I knew my time, for the route I wanted to take, was limited and I wasn't sure if I would be able to squeeze it all in. So, like many first days on long trips, it was mostly a haul and a lesson in endurance. This would be the start of my longest trip as well as my longest day ever on a bike.

I tried to get a early start because I knew I'd be on the bike for at least 12 hours today. I had my gear sorted pretty well in the days leading up to the trip.

Here I am, well-groomed to be shortly ungroomed.



Made my way up through the State College area of PA, and unknowingly got caught up in some football(?) event traffic. Lots of red cups, blue shirts, but no Sandusky. Whew.... I eventually broke out of the delays and made my way towards Ohio. I had my Ipod on shuffle all day and it was doing a good job of bringing the hits.

North Central Pennsylvania is a beautiful place. I hope to do more riding and camping in this area soon. Unfortunately, today, I saw it at 80 mph on the Interstate.


I made it to northern Ohio and was mostly dazed by the day's need for a lot of concentration and PMA. The industrial farming of northern Ohio was ever present and the heat was wearing me down, but I eventually made it to Saginaw MI. My push West was off to a good start, I just didnt know where I would be staying.

To be straight up, every hotel in Saginaw looked shady as hell. Not feeling like setting up, let alone finding a camp, I chose this hotel to end my day. The sun was putting on a nice show and it got me excited for the skies I'd see in the weeks to come.


I asked at the front desk if my bike would be safe outside for the night. The girl replied "Its the Hood, so probably not..." Alright then.

I convinced her that allowing me to wheel the bike inside my room would be keen. She also gave me 30 bucks off the room for the broken A/C in the room. Thanks lady.


This ended a fairly uneventful day. I had a tough time getting to sleep from all the mind-racing but I was ready for the next day.
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Old 09-30-2012, 05:58 PM   #4
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Nice

Those first set of pics are fantastic. You said you took them with your phone, what phone? They are impressive. Hope you enjoyed the trip.
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:00 PM   #5
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Those first photos are enough to reel me in. But Saginaw? Really? hahahaha. Even just a few miles north to Bay City would have been far better. Hell, you could have crashed at my house a bit south if I knew you were coming through. Then again, being able to wheel the bike in would be worth it! hahahaha
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:41 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ardbeglily View Post
Those first set of pics are fantastic. You said you took them with your phone, what phone? They are impressive. Hope you enjoyed the trip.
The first batch of photos were taken with an iPhone 4S. Some have filters on them. It was the best way to share photos with family and friends along the way since I did not bring a laptop to upload from an SD card.

"Ardbeglily", as in the single malt? ...Just opened my first Uigeadail the other night.
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:56 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oz97tj View Post
Those first photos are enough to reel me in. But Saginaw? Really? hahahaha. Even just a few miles north to Bay City would have been far better. Hell, you could have crashed at my house a bit south if I knew you were coming through. Then again, being able to wheel the bike in would be worth it! hahahaha
Haha, yeah. A bit of an oversight on my part. I sort of just picked a place on the map that semmed like a reasonable place to end the day. I was mistaken.

I appreciate the retro-offer as well!
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Old 10-01-2012, 01:45 PM   #8
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Day Two: September 2nd, 2012



Day Two: Saginaw MI to Wakefield MI, 499 miles

I woke at 5 am because I was amped and ready to get further west. It was much easier getting the bike through the halls on the way into the hotel then it was on the way out.

Beautiful Michigan morning, feeling great...




I finally made it to the Mackinac Bridge that connects the lower peninsula to the upper peninsula. It felt as though I was about to cross over into a new phase of the trip. The weather was perfect once I reached Mackinaw City. This was only after riding through some of the heaviest fog I have ever seen.

The Mackinac Bridge is the 3rd longest suspension bridge in the US and 12th in the world at 26,372 feet. I can only imagine what it was like to build this beast and the winds those dudes must have put up with. This area has a lot of historical significance and was a major fishing area for the Cree people.




And so my trip took on a new vibe once I made it the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I started to feel like it was beginning once I left the interstate highways.


My bike had been acting a bit strange all morning. It seemed as though the fuel pump was priming quite slowly when I keyed up. Throughout the day it became slower and slower. Having recently gone on a trip where a friends regulator/rectifier quit towards the end of the ride, I started to think of all the negative scenarios. Was mine going now? On the second day of this long-awaited trip??

I stopped to rest in Munising, MI to rest and check out Lake Superior. What a superior lake. A real nice place to have a vacation it seems.


I stopped at a grocery store to pick up something to cook that night at a campground I had yet to find. When I came out and went to start the bike I only got a tiny little click, then nothing. Shit... I tried to chill out and attempt to find the source of the problem.


Well. I got the bike unloaded and started to check the connections when I noticed something extremely relieving. There was my positive battery cable, gingerly resting on top of the batteries terminal. Just a touch of metal to metal contact. It seems as though I didn't torque the fastener down tight enough while doing some checks and it had vibrated loose. Or it was not tightened at all prior to me leaving. What mattered now was that, as soon as I sorted it out, the bike fired right up. A pretty good scare to set me straight for the rest of the trip. As an engineer, I should know better...

The rest of the day was a haul west along Route 2, pacing towards Montana... I began to go through a little battle in my head. "Stop? or keep going?" "Camp here? or find the next campground?.... This went on for a few hours until I eventually called it near Wakefield, MI.

I found a family-friendly campground at Sunday Lake. Not too much to say about the campground, but it was nice to have some sunlight left and a place to end my day.



Dinner. Uncle Bens and Green Beans. This kind of frugality would soon lead to a steady diet of Mexican and Clif Bars.
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Old 10-01-2012, 01:57 PM   #9
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Glad you liked your tour through MI. Saginaw (also known as "Sag-nasty") wouldn't have been my choice of a stopping place, but then, I live around here. Looking forward to the rest of this report! The pictures look great by the way, and I love the VFR. If I ever get out from under my student loans, I'm going to get one for myself.
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Old 10-01-2012, 01:58 PM   #10
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I'm in
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Old 10-01-2012, 02:02 PM   #11
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Great photos, Patrick - looking forward to the rest of this report.
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Old 10-01-2012, 02:57 PM   #12
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Day Three: September 3rd, 2012



Day 3: Wakefield MI to Jamestown ND, 458 miles

Cold Uncle Ben's rice with green beans is definitely not as good 8 hours later than when it's hot. Also not my first choice for breakfast normally, but whatever... Lets hit it.



These long, solo, first few days were all about making myself think about the big picture. I kept reminding myself of the awesome things I'd see once I got through it. Not that they were not great days, but they were just constant hauls and I didn't have much time to take it all in.

The plan was to head through to Wisconsin and try and stop in Duluth for a break and coffee. This was Labor Day, however, and every good coffee place was closed. Sorry Dunkin Donuts lovers, that shit isnt coffee.

I eventually found an awesome place in West Duluth called Beaner's and had an enormous cup of delicious coffee and a breakfast burrito. Its amazing what a proper meal can do for your mind.



I made my way towards the northern woods of Minnesota, across Route 200. It's really beautiful around here and it reminds me of Quebec. There's nothing for miles but trees and more trees.



I began to get closer to North Dakota by the end of the day and I felt another sense of reaching a milestone. There was a little rain in Fargo once I arrived but nothing to hold me back. I had already decided that I needed a shower, so a room was on the list for tonight. I called ahead to some Jamestown, North Dakota hotels to check availability. It would be around 1 and a half more hours until I'd get there. Not bad.

As I left Fargo, I saw a storm moving towards the northeast while I heading west. It didn't really make me to concerned, so I pushed on.

The sky on the right, not cool. The sky to left, better, and where I am heading.


Unfortunately, the road started to veer to the north and the sky began to grow angrier.


I kept going, and planned to put on my rain gear just down the road. As soon as I made that decision, the sky just opened up and dumped the largest rain drops it could on me. Within 30 seconds I was soaked. Winds like I never rode in before whipped me all over the road. I found an overpass to hide under and haphazardly throw my rain gear on. The rain calmed a bit and I went off again... Not a mile down the road the hail began to pelt me like crazy and that was about all I could handle at this point. To be honest, it was pretty unnerving and scary. I found another overpass to hide under for a while. Finally, it all chilled out and I continued on for the last 30 miles to Jamestown.

I get to Jamestown with a few miles worth of gas left and find the hotel. It was right next to the Northern Pacific Railway. This town was pretty bad ass and I liked its style.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:04 PM   #13
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:13 PM   #14
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Day Four, September 4th 2012



Day Four - September 4th, 2012 - 330 miles
Jamestown ND to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Watford City, ND


Having been wiped out from the end of the previous day, I woke up feeling quite refreshed. I was excited to check out the backroads (I think all ND roads may be that) of the state. It was a bit cold this morning, and hovered in the upper 40s for a few hours.



Folks in North Dakota are real friendly and it was a great change of attitude from what I am used to on the East Coast. This was especially true once I reached Carrington, ND, about 45 mins northwest of Jamestown. In the 2 hours since I started my day, 3 strangers struck up genuine conversation with me about my travels. This happens never in my "real life."

Today was to be a more relaxed pace and I'd finally get a chance to take in some scenery, photographs and enjoy just being on this ride. I inched my way west along Route 200 towards Lake Sakakawea and enjoyed the peace of the plains.

Whoever says the Great Plains are boring has no imagination.













I love this part of the country.

As I got closer to the western region of North Dakota, signs of the oil boom, that has been going on for quite some time, became visible. Extra long tankers, jack pumps, oil rigs, diesel fumes, and dust juxtaposed against the rolling plains. It was strange to see all of the construction and man-camps against the backdrop of the hills and buttes. Signs that read "Constant Construction" were common near major intersections.

Nearing Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the landscape flipped a switch. Rolling hills and tall grasses to Badlands and stratified hills.





I was not sure if I was going to camp somewhere in the park, or check out the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) camp that was across the Little Missouri River from it. The CCC camp was free, but also full of oil workers and there was not much space. There is a shortage of housing in this part of the state due to all of the drilling projects and a lot of the workers camp in the surrounding campgrounds. A 1 bedroom in the area is over $1000/month.

Before I checked out the CCC camp and headed down its road, an old, cowboy-like fellow coming the opposite direction slowed down to talk to me from his truck. I thought he was going to tell me the place was closed, but he just stopped to talk. "I take it yer lookin fer work" said the man. "No, actually just looking for a place to camp"... "Well there aint much but a well and some open field, but it's free and you can stay as long as you want. You'll have a stove and a bathroom in the park." Turns out the guy was a caretaker of some sort for the CCC camp. I decided to camp at Juniper Campground inside the park, and take a little hike.



Before I set up camp, I took a 30 mile ride into town, Watford City, for something to cook. This place was the busiest, probably dirtiest, small town I have ever seen. So many trucks, so much dust, and a lot of workers. I heard that most stores just put the palates of to-be-shelved items in the aisle instead of the shelves. They dont bother since they have to restock them right away.

Back at the park, I took in the beautiful sights before heading back to my camp for the night.






I went for a hike to try and find some prairie dogs, maybe more buffalo too. I hiked for about a mile but the weather started to turn and I also didnt want to startle a buffalo while hiking alone. This park is amazing, and you should visit it if you ever get the chance.







Back at camp I made some grilled meats on bread and watched the sun do it's thing before I ended my day. All of these following photos were taken adjacent to my campsite.



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Old 10-03-2012, 07:01 PM   #15
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Day Five, September 5th 2012



Day 5: September 5th, 2012 - 568 miles
Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Saint Mary, Montana


Today began a little later than I had hoped for. I wanted to get an early start because it was going to be a long day but I had trouble getting away from Watford City and its gold-rush staus traffic.



I eventually made it to Montana in good time and felt a new sense of accomplishment. I had been dreaming of Montana for months.



Heading towards Montana Route 2, or the Hi-Line as it is also called, I stopped for a break to pep myself up for the 500 miles I would be riding across it today. I met a cool guy from the 'rez' who questioned whether or not I was from the area. He proceeded to tell me about all the motorcycle deaths in Montana. This, coupled with the crosses pinned to the shoulder of the roads every few miles, was not pepping me up!

The Hi-Line is beautiful, but I also can't imagine life being easy for those living in this part of state. I had a real nice time with my thoughts for hundreds of miles, and I tried to remain objective about the long day. I was going to Glacier National Park!





A seed house like this epitomizes the Hi-Line. Towns are seemingly built around these. This, I believe, is in Malta.



Miles, bugs, miles, beautiful land and more bugs...

Near the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, I was hit by a bug on the neck. A common event for us that ride motorcycles. Normally the sting goes away in a few seconds. This did not. It just kept burning. Wtf?

I stopped at the rest stop in the Reservation to see what the problem was. Look in the mirror and see the largest bee hanging off my neck. It had been hanging there stinging me for the past five miles or so. Nice.



The day called for a break in Havre, MT. Some hydration and calories were needed as well a good chat with my wife. Unfortunately Im still about 200 miles from Glacier National Park and St. Mary. I was going to need an extra positive attitude to make it before dark.

I left Havre on a mission and the sky turned dark. I hoped to not have another repeat of what happened in North Dakota two days before. The weather in St Mary called for rain around the time I planned to arrive. It was a race.

I approached a surreal view once near the Rockies. This is what Im talking about!



I inched ever closer to St. Mary, rounded a corner on Route 89 north, and there it was. Glacier National Park.



When I arrived in Saint Mary around 7pm it was in the low 40s and raining. I needed to crash. So I got a heated cabin and it ruled. Much needed warmth after a long long long day...


Patrick M screwed with this post 10-03-2012 at 07:24 PM
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