Some of you might also remember a snippet from this ride, posted a while ago here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=250453 But now, as they say, here's the rest of the story... =============== One way or another, I knew it would be a helluva trip. Two years in planning, it was to be a long, looping route across the full width of North America and back again, spanning over 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) and taking as much as 6 weeks. I wanted to explore parts of the continent I'd never been able to spend much time in, especially in the Rockies: I planned two full weeks of the trip snaking back and forth across the continental divide just in Colorado alone. I had a well-plotted GPS route, but nothing else was planned. I'd sleep when I got tired, eat when I got hungry, and generally just make up the details as I went along. (I was bringing camp gear, and planned to vary between camping and staying in cheap motels) Here's the approximate planned route. (I'll post detailed and as-ridden maps later.) The trip was also to be a celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary. My wife had no desire to retire yet, and in fact was still working, but the plan was for her to join me for the two weeks' riding in Colorado. And the trip also was supposed to be a celebration of early retirement, as I'd sold my business the previous Fall and had just about completed the final tasks and details of the transfer. I was still wound pretty tight, and many of you self-employed types will know what I mean: I'd had a hardcore self-imposed work schedule for the last 10+ years, averaging 60-80 hours of work per week. But when I sold my business, it seemed that all the work was going to pay off, and I was looking forward to finally having open, unstructured time for the first time in a very long while. But things have a way of not quite going as planned, and as the departure date for the trip approached, my marriage--- already strained by the long-sustained insane workload--- fell apart. My wife and I separated, and she said she would not be joining me on the trip. That cast the trip in a very different light. I didn't know what the future held, and my lifemate and riding companion was gone. After many long discussions, we agreed to try counseling after the trip, and I headed out alone with decidedly mixed emotions. DAY ONE (Saturday, June 30, 2007) I live in New Hampshire, and have traveled extensively in the eastern third of the US, so I wanted to get to new territory as quickly as possible as the trip began. I planned a high-speed run most of the way out to South Dakota, where I'd then slow down and start exploring off the main highways. I'm no stranger to long-distance riding, having done a couple IBA Saddlesores and a number or other long uncertified rides. So I set Cleveland as an unofficial goal for the first day: about 700 miles. If I still felt good at Cleveland, maybe I'd try for Chicago, about 1000 miles from my home. The bike: a well-used 2005 Goldwing with about >30K miles on it. I'd prepped the bike as well as I knew how, including new rubber, new battery, fresh fluids, etc., and loaded 'er up with gear. My suddenly-changing marriage situation affected my finances: With the prospects of a divorce looming, my seemingly-secure retirement suddenly felt decidedly shaky. To help reduce the out-of-pocket expenses of the trip, I worked out a deal with the guy who'd bought my business: I'd make four business stops along the way (Colorado, Seattle, Toronto, and New Hampshire) to perform some work for him. The work would help pay for the trip, but it meant I had to carry office attire and supplies plus what amounted to an entire portable IT-department with me. That hugely increased the bulk of what I had to carry. This would not be "traveling lightly." Fortunately, the 'Wing has enormous cargo space. I headed out on a gorgeous New Hampshire summer mid-morning. The first 8 hours of the trip passed uneventfully as I made time on superslab. I ran the length of the Massachusetts Turnpike into New York at Albany and then headed west across upstate NY. By late afternoon, I was near Buffalo, and skirting an enormous thunderstorm. As the thunderstorm receded, the sun started to go down and the shadows grew longer. A while later, I left NY and crossed a corner of Pennsylvania near Lake Erie. I was just about through PA as the sun set. It was just a week after the solstice, so the days were still very long. It was the weekend just before July 4th, and when the sun did set, several towns along the road set off their fireworks. I could see them in the distance, incandescent chrysanthemums blossoming on the horizons. After full dark, there wasn't much to see, but this initial part of the trip was all about eating miles, so that's what I did: cruise control on, tunes up, and stopping only for fluid exchanges. (gas into the bike, ex-gatorade out of me...) After a while, I entered Ohio. (Darkness meant a slow shutter speed...) And then Indiana. With a crystal-clear night, it was starting to get cold, so at a pit stop I dug out warmer clothing and closed the vents on my 'Stitch. Through the dead of the night, I crossed a part of Michigan and entered Illinois. At a gas stop, I snapped this memento of the approaching Saddlesore-worthy 1000 mile mark. I was making excellent time, and felt my initial lower spirits start to lift, buoyed by adrenalin and the start of the adventure. Plus, focusing on riding made everything else go away: divorce, iffy finances, and everything except the ride seemed to fade in importance, at least for the moment. BTW: You can figure out what "tune" means in the above photo, but you may wonder why I have the intercom running if I was alone. It's for the GPS, which is wired into the helmet intercom so I could hear the voice prompts. On the superslab, also kept the CB on to hear the trucker chatter on road conditions, police activity, and the general state of the country and the world. Seems than many trucks think they're Rush Limbaugh when they have a CB mike in their hand.... It got cold in the hours before dawn, but it was clear and dry, with a full moon making the visibility excellent for nighttime riding. At one point, I rounded a turn in the passing lane and found a small herd of deer grazing right at roadside. Fortunately, they were busy munching and made no move towards the pavement. I snapped this shot of the full moon (white circle in the center) at a truck stop. the yellowish light on the left is a sodium vapor light in the parking lot. I didn't realize I'd snapped a UFO until I saw the photos later.... OK, you know it's not a UFO; it's just an internal camera reflection or refraction artifact caused by the overexposed sodium vapor light. One thing I really like about night rides is the way scents get stronger. Maybe because there's less visual stimuli, but for whatever the reason it seems that fresh-cut lawns, piney stands of trees, plowed fields, night-blooming flowers in humidly fragrant marshes and, yes, even the manure of dairy farms all seem more pronounced. Combine that with things like the pockets of cool air that gather between hills and in dips in the road; and the way full moonlight paints the countryside with a delicate yet sharp light; and a night ride can be a sensory delight. This one certainly was, despite it being superslab. The sky was just beginning to show the first traces of dawn as I rode into Chicago, and the commuter trains were still empty, ready for the coming rush hour. I was still feeling alert and good something like 20ish hours into the ride. Once again, the low light meant for slow shutter speeds for my camera, which caused blurring. But I actually kind of like the effect. If you look closely in the next photo, you can see the outline and lights atop the Sears tower: Sunrise was coming fast as I crossed into Wisconsin. Here (below) it's still dawn twilight, and that's the full moon setting in the west. The darker band just above the horizon is the last of the Earth's shadow, setting. When the shadow band reaches the horizon, it's officially sunrise on the opposite side of the sky. I'd been on the road for about 22 hours now, and was starting to feel tired. I'd had light snacks and plenty of hydration along the way, and had learned from previous long-distance rides that larger meals can exaggerate fatigue. Still, man can only live on breakfast bars, beef jerky and gatorade for so long, so I succumbed to the lure of a clean bathroom, fresh coffee, and a hot meal. It felt good to sit on something other than a saddle. I read the local paper at breakfast. Two bits of local color: 1) a local farmer had sculpted a replica of Mount Rushmore from 700 pounds of good Wisconsin cheese 2) a drought had caused the level of Lake Superior to drop by 13" in one year--- an astonishing amount of water lost when you think how big that sucker is. The lake was within 4" of its all-time low, and some ferries had to suspend service because of the shallow water. Some local wags were starting to call it "Lake Inferior." I didn't know it yet, but the western drought would be a fixture through much of my trip, with numerous grass- and forest fires visible along the way. Although it was drier than normal in that part of Wisconsin, the local vegetation wasn't yet hurting, and a gorgeous green morning was in full effect as I left the restaurant. I'd been on the road now for about 24 hours, and I was starting to feel quite drowsy as my blood left my brain to service my stomach. I pulled off the highway and found a little country road leading to some small business' parking lot. The business wasn't yet open, so I pulled to a far corner of the lot, put the bike on the centerstand, and lay back against my duffle and camp mats for a quick hour's snooze in the Ironbutt Motel: For me, the trick to catnaps is to time the nap to the length of various parts of my sleep cycle. (There are 5 stages of sleep, and the lengths of each sleep stage vary somewhat from person to person.) I find that if I wake up at one of the natural transition points in your sleep cycle, I feel better. But if I wake up midway though one of the sleep stages, I feel like total crap--- probably worse than if I hadn't napped at all. In long-distance riding, fatigue actually can work in your favor because the long "getting drowsy" and initial falling-asleep stages pass very quickly: When I'm beat, I close my eyes and I'm out like the proverbial light. That means you can get to the beneficial stages of sleep much faster than otherwise. I find that a quick 20 minute "power nap" will dust off the cobwebs and restore some physical energy, and a longer nap that includes one complete 40-60 minute sleep cycle (including one period of REM sleep) is deeply restorative; not as good as a full night's sleep, of course, but far more regenerative than you might think. My roadside snooze this morning lasted just about an hour, and I felt great afterwards. (Want more info on this kind of napping? See http://ririanproject.com/2007/09/05/10-benefits-of-power-napping-and-how-to-do-it/) Energy restored, I headed out onto the farmlands and prairies of Wisconsin. I knew I was getting close to the touristy Dells when I saw signs like this: ... and rock formations like these: As the sun climbed higher, a nearly cloudless, warm summer day unfolded: Crossing the Mississippi is as much a psychological landmark--- roughly halfway across the continent--- as it is a geophysical one. Here, I've just left Wisconsin and am entering Minnesota: Near this town (next photo), I saw signs for a State Park overlooking the Mississippi, and I thought it'd be worth a detour. I was instantly glad I'd gotten off the slab. And it just kept getting better. And better. And better. The Park is on high bluffs and did indeed offer a wonderful view of the river. Here, I'm looking back into Wisconsin. These would be the last hills I'd see for a while. The next several hundred miles of road would be very, very flat. The road out was soft dirt, always a challenge on a fully-loaded 'Wing with street tires, but I was still enjoying the change from slab. I started making my way back to the highway. After a day and a half on the Interstate, even a mild lean felt really good. Did I mention it was getting really flat? As the day wore on, I droned across Minnesota until fatigue again caught up with me. When I finally called Uncle, I was near the town of Worthington on the far western edge of the State. I pulled off to find a cheap room, a hot shower, and a comfortable bed. A cheesy Super 8 would do just fine, thank you. When I finally stopped, I'd been on the road around 35 hours and had covered over 1500 miles. It was definitely time for dinner and a good night's sleep. (The trip odometer only records to 999.9 and then resets; the above is actually showing 1517.1 miles. Not bad for a straight-through ride.) Tomorrow: The Badlands, Rapid City, a close encounter with a Buffalo, and other amusements. Good night!