A Hell of a Ride - A military retiree meets the country he defended.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Setanta ADV, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Akita Man

    Akita Man Optional

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    Safe and interesting travels. I am most curious to learn your findings of state of the nation. Beautiful ride. BTW
    #41
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  2. severely

    severely almost a noob

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    Looking forward to your report. I'm listening to your comments on " thanks for your service " particularly as my nephew and his comrades voiced similar thoughts. Please don't lose sight of the fact that at an earlier time in our nations history veterans weren't so highly regarded and these comments are a reaction to these times, hope they never repeat themselves. Please ride safely and enjoy the beauty and diversity of our great nation. Thanks.
    #42
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  3. CoastieBiker

    CoastieBiker ATGATT makes me look like a giant Minion

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    Welcome to the "Check of the Month CLub". Retired after 30 years six years ago and still haven't figured out this "Civilian" thing correctly yet. AM/PM? What happend to 24 hour clock? Then there is trying to get the hang of matching colors in clothing after so many years wearing one color for everything. :dirtdog

    Best therapy for my confusion is riding my motorcycle. :muutt

    Lots of country to see, nice that you're now able to enjoy that which you stood watch over. :super
    #43
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  4. bumpedmyhead

    bumpedmyhead Been here awhile

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    Where's your PT belt?? Welcome home, and safe journeys.

    2015 TEX, and a ham sandwich.
    #44
  5. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    I know of a guy named Dennis Matson who wrote about his Ducati tour on here a few years back. I'm not interested in being 1st at anything. Or second even. Just doing something that was interesting to me. I imagine the number of people who have lapped the USA on a Ducati Superbike is still a fairly short list, so I'll count myself part of that company, and be happy about it.

    A couple of former troops of mine are working for CMPD now. Have been since 2008 or so. You may know them. Small world. Thanks for your years of service to the community as well.
    #45
  6. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Trust me, the appreciation of strangers hasn't escaped me, and I do not take the fact that people have taken a moment out of their day to thank me, lightly. Civilians have been great. Veterans today have a tendency to eat their own, at times. I just wanted to share my own gratitude with the "working stiffs" around the country, and avoid the "My job was harder than your job, etc." attitude that some military veterans feel compelled to share. This forum may be a bit safer though. The people here seem fairly mature in that regard. Seems like I'm in good company here.
    #46
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  7. ShimrMoon

    ShimrMoon Been here awhile

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    Yes Dennis was the guy I was referring to. Great read, I bought a few stickers...
    #47
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  8. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 3

    The morning began fairly early, as my hosts were being kind enough to drop me at the train station, I wanted to be able to get there while the day was young, and not interrupt their daily schedule. The train departed Mannassas, VA and transported me directly to Union Station in Washington D.C. Having grown up in a small town in Alaska, everything seemed far removed and exotic. There were certain iconic place names that captured the imagination. Now that I am older, and having traveled to 30+ countries around the world, as well as working or visiting in their associated famous locations, you might expect that the “oooh” and “ahhh” factor in me would have been used up by now. Not at all. I am a sucker for history. Washington D.C is a special place for me. Forget all the political and business maneuvering that occurs there. So many unique and important moments that have affected the rest of America have occurred in this one, relatively small, area. Pulling in to the platform at Union Station brought all those childhood feelings rushing back to me. I had about an hour until I needed to navigate the subway system to get to my first on camera interview appointment, so I decided to wander a bit.

    Exiting the train, I began taking everything in. I had been to Grand Central Station in NY previously, and Union Station did not seem as big. It had the chain restaurants and shops that are typical of urban transit hubs now. Getting past that area and into the entrance foyer opened up and entirely different world. This building had some real beauty to it. I could imagine coming through those doors and seeing this entrance area would make you feel as if you were heading on a grand voyage in a bygone age, though you may only be heading home on your daily commute. Do anything enough times, and it will seem boring to you. It’s at those times that you need to remind yourself to seek the details, and the routine can seem fresh again. I know many people will be asking “What’s the big deal? It’s just a train station.” Well, at that moment, standing in the middle of it all, Union Station seemed like a special place to me. It was a moment and a place that I hadn’t really sought out, yet there I suddenly was.

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    I wandered around the common areas for a while. There was a fairly heavy TSA and police presence there. Knowing I would be catching one of the subways soon, I figured I would ask one of the TSA agents there if he could direct me to the subway terminal I would most likely need. Seeing their colleagues talking to a “civilian”, and most likely looking for ways to break the monotony of the day, a few police officers made their way over and joined the conversation. We spoke about the film project I was working on, and the related tour of the country I was attempting, as well as their own observations of life in the area. Despite what some perceptions are about police officers today, I find it easy to approach them and talk. I suppose that could be due to the level of empathy I hold, due to my previous profession. I am aware of what they are seeing as I approach them, and I keep in mind that there is always a human being behind that badge. I enjoyed the conversation, but moved on shortly.

    Columbia Heights, a neighborhood of Washington D.C. due North of the city center, was the location where I was to conduct my first interview for the film. Columbia Heights has an interesting history. In the early 20th century, the neighborhood was a fixture in the American Jazz scene. Post World War 2, the neighborhood faced force segregation in schools and other buildings. During that same time, there was an influx of minorities who became home owners in the area. A defining moment in the neighborhood’s history came as Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 and a wave of riots washed over the area. Many people who were able to, subsequently moved from the area, leaving buildings abandoned and an impoverished population in their wake. Columbia Heights’ minority population increased, the local economy and prosperity decreased, and criminal activity increased. The neighborhood developed a reputation as one of the “rougher” parts of D.C. This was not the kind of location I would normally be visiting or sight seeing in. That was exactly the reason I was heading there.

    Arriving at the “Metro” subway stop for Columbia Heights, I made my way back to the surface. This Metro stop had begun a process that continues to this day. I was aware of the term “Gentrification”, but never really gave it much thought as I never lived or visited any areas where the process had occurred. Near the Metro station, within 2-3 blocks, everything was bright, shiny, and new, and chain stores such as Target and Starbucks appeared to be flourishing. Walking beyond those stores, I happened to take a wrong turn en route to my appointment, and I was immediately faced with houses whose best years were obviously decades in the past. This was the reality residents faced, living in Columbia Heights.

    I made my way through the neighborhood streets and eventually came upon the address I had been provided. It was a church, which was housing many various local charities under its roof. The person I was interviewing here is the director of a charity which focuses on supporting elderly, low income residents of the Columbia Heights neighborhood. While gentrification is bringing new life to the area, there are also unintended consequences that the community’s residents now face. One of these consequences, which makes this charity even more relied upon now than in the past, is the rapid increase in living expenses that low income residents in the area now face. The new businesses in the area, which also bring new visitors and money, have also caused the property values of an area once avoided to increase exponentially. People who have owned their houses for decades now find themselves unable to pay their property taxes due to the tax value of their homes increasing, right along with the increase of new business. Simply put, the long-standing residents of Columbia Heights can no longer afford to live in the homes they already own. I make no judgement here on whether this is right or wrong, good or bad. I only present it here as an observation of a place and people which I would normally not visit, were it not for this trip.

    Interviews completed, people visited, I started making my way back to Union Station to catch a train back to Manassas which would arrive at a reasonable hour. The Metro delivered me to the train station, and I realized I had some time to burn before the train I needed to catch departed. I wandered around the area a bit, to get some background footage. Despite having traveled to D.C. several times, I had never actually gone up close to the U.S. Capital building or the Supreme Court. I had only ever been to a few of the various Federal agencies in the area, and the reflecting pool area of the mall. Walking up to the capital building and seeing both the scale of it, as well as how restricted it is, was very eye opening to me. I did a lap of the area and made my way past several landmarks which touch all aspects of life in America, as I made my way back to Union Station. As far as major cities go, Washington D.C. is nothing, if not picturesque.

    The train deposited me back where my journey had begun, after about a 1-hour ride. Reunited with my hosts, dinner was had, and we returned to their home where I finished the day off by doing what would become my habit for the next 2 months – downloading all the footage I had collected during the day. I would be on the road again the next morning, and needed my cameras fully charged and memory cleared each and every day.

    The U.S. Capital Building
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    The U.S. Supreme Court
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    Union Station - exterior
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    #48
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  9. SRFade

    SRFade FeHorse Rider

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    Thanks for your service AND perspective. Count me in. I find the notion of long distance touring on a motorcycle that has real soul and which engenders passion in the rider, in spite of its "posture" shortcomings, compelling.
    On a "reentry" note, (not that you sound like you need any assistance in that area) one of my friends is the founder and Executive Director of Motorcycle Relief Project
    https://www.motorelief.org/
    Some pretty profound impacts being made, at least on the veterans I have spoken with that have been involved. Certainly proof that motorcycling can be a very effective form of therapy, even for a retired civilian like I am. Enjoy the ride and safe journey.
    #49
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  10. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Thanks! I may have to look that up. One of the objectives I'm hoping to accomplish with this film project is getting people to see each other as human beings again (and in our case, fellow Americans, again), and just learn to talk to each other again, hopefully to learn to live with each other again. I chose to ride a motorcycle on this trip, vs the much easier travel by car or SUV, because for whatever reason, people connect much more readily with motorcyclists than people in cars. I guess from a psychological perspective, the exposure that a motorcyclist faces, makes approaching us and starting a conversation that much easier. The rider also gets a feeling of accomplishment too. Everything is a little bit more of a challenge on a motorcycle!
    #50
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  11. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 4

    Back to riding! Preparing Rexy for the day’s activities, I quickly learned that re-packing the bike for each leg of the trip would be one of my least favorite, and time consuming, activities. I considered that my packing skills were possibly TOO good, as I was able to get so much kit mounted on the bike solely because I was able to get each piece in place just so. My packing had become a jigsaw puzzle which I would need to put together again, and again, and again… And again.

    I said my goodbyes and headed out into the D.C. area traffic. Never something to be looked forward to! My destination this day would be a bit counter intuitive. I was headed South, which was the opposite direction I needed to travel for the route I had set. I had some unfinished business I needed to conduct while I was still in the area. Starting out on this journey, my first stop was intended to be Colonial Williamsburg, but the weather decided otherwise. The weather on this day was simply gorgeous. The sky was cloudless, and the temperature was in the high 70’s, perfect weather for riding! I adjusted my destination slightly. I was headed to Yorktown, VA. The route I was taking was simply back down I-95 and East on I-64 to Yorktown. Though the mileage was a short 149 miles, fatigue hit me on the way down so I stopped off along the way to fuel up and get some lunch. For some reason, I had never noticed how many gas stations had their own restaurants inside, but now, being on the motorcycle and looking for excuses to stop, the appeal of a gas station restaurant was quickly making an impression on me!

    I had planned on camping as much as possible on this trip, to save money. The problem with that notion, which was quickly becoming apparent to me, was that there were seldom any decent campsites near where I was trying to meet people for the film. Sure, I could travel from campsite to campsite, but since I was going to be heading to a new area almost every day, that didn’t allow me much time at all to see where, or how, people were living around the country. Yorktown was the first time in which that became and obvious consideration for me. As it was, I wasn’t sure if any of the campgrounds near the Yorktown battlefield park were motorcycle friendly (specifically, overloaded Ducati friendly). When I found time, I pulled over and called up a motel located near the battlefield to see if they had any vacancy. Thankfully, they did.

    Making my way into Yorktown involved more adventure than I was expecting. The area is home to several Coast Guard and Navy bases, and anyone who’s ever lived near a military installation knows that there is a special kind of rush hour that happens when troops are trying to avoid any “hey you!” jobs that may pop up at the end of the day. I’m assuming this is what was occurring when I arrived in Yorktown, because, for such a small place, the traffic was just insane! The motel I pulled into was just off a highway that went through the town. Just in the span of time that passed while I was checking in, two automobile accidents occurred. Unfamiliar with the traffic patterns, seeing that the battlefield park was near closing, and not wanting to die, I decided that I could wait until things died down and trip to get some photos of the area at last light.

    Having unloaded the majority of the bike, I noticed sundown was fast approaching. If I was to be productive today at all, I needed to get over to the battlefield area and get some photos ASAP! Grabbing backpack and camera, I jumped on the bike and rolled out. Pulling out of the parking lot, all I needed to do was take an immediate left turn at the traffic light and head straight. The sun was going down quickly, but getting there shouldn’t take any time at all. I pulled up to the light and waited for the left arrow. And waited. And waited. And repositioned. And WAITED! The bane of every motorcyclist happened; the sensor was not calibrated to register a motorcycle. No cars came behind me to loan me their weight either. I needed to head straight and find an area to do a U-turn on and turn my left into a right. Obstacle overcome, I pulled into the historic area of Yorktown well after the sun had dipped below the horizon. I parked in a gravel lot in a nearby historic church and jogged down the road to capture a few images in the last light. This was certainly not an ideal outcome for the day, but I was happy with the few images I captured.


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    And one of the little lady, with a twinkle in her eye…
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    I had hoped to eat at some historic restaurant, but everything was closed. I settled on just going back to the room and getting some rest. A Cliff Bar and some beef jerky would be my dinner tonight. It was apparent that I had not selected a 5 star accommodation for my overnight stay. Visions of thieves rummaging through anything I had left on the bike, or worse, stealing my girl, wound through my mind. I locked her down as best I could and settled in for the night.
    #51
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  12. jwaller

    jwaller Been here awhile

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    If not "Thanks for your service", then congratulations on your well-earned retirement. My step-dad retired in 2000 after something like 25 years in the Army. I tried to follow suit, sort of, but wore the uniform of a Marine instead. But 8 years of constant deployments was more than enough for my family and I so I got out and went to college. After college, I did go into the reserves, but was soon activated and deployed again. Believe it or not, that was even more of a burden, having to leave my civilian life behind. Any way, after four years of that, I hung it up for good. What helped me adjust was finding a civilian job which gave me the same sense of purpose, which gave me a mission, which gave me an opportunity to make an impact again for something more than the almighty dollar. I found that same sense of purpose as a high school teacher at a school for troubled youth. I hope you can find something equally fulfilling. Seems like you already have with this project of yours.

    I think the best part of your adventure, besides the great people you are meeting, is the fact that you're doing it on a bike not designed for that purpose. There'd be nothing special about riding all over the country on a Gold-Wing or some BMW touring bike or anything of the sort. You're making more of an adventure of it by taking the road less traveled. First thing I thought seeing your bike of choice was, "Shit, this dude must have been a grunt! Still embracing the suck." I don't know if that's the case or not, but I wouldn't mean that as an insult if it's true. I took my daughter for a multi state tour over the summer in a freaking Ural! And tent camped (at least for a part of the ride before I said to myself "WTF dude? You used to get paid to suffer like this. Find a hotel, you cheapskate!"). We certainly had our share of challenges, but I think we created memories which will last a lifetime.

    Looking forward to reading more of your findings and adventures.
    #52
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  13. drumdog

    drumdog Adventurer

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    Thank you and safe travels ! It would seem you began your trip in August. Are you still on the road ?
    #53
  14. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Ha ha. Not quite a grunt, but I've lived that life. I went over to the "Dark Side" of the Army, and lived a much more charmed life. I still did dangerous things, but the living accommodations overseas were often much more luxurious than a tent in the desert, or a "CHU". I hear you on needing the sense of "mission". Hopefully I can make this one work for me.

    I'll just leave this here for the sense of my former life. It's a "before" and "after" of what was supposed to be my second to last jump in the Army. It became my last jump (broken collar bone). Two months left until my retirement ceremony, and was still sharing equal risks, with Privates and Colonels alike. I was good at falling, just not landing. ;-)

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    #54
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  15. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Thank you. No, I'm home now. I returned home a few weeks ago. I won't spoil the story with the "Hows" or "Whens". :-)
    #55
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  16. bumpedmyhead

    bumpedmyhead Been here awhile

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    All the Way!! HHC 1/504 here. Great write up, thanks.

    2015 TEX, and a ham sandwich.
    #56
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  17. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Sweet! The Red Devils were who I was assigned to support, back when we did the Brigade Task Force thing. 1999 - 2004. Best BN in the Deuce!
    #57
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  18. bumpedmyhead

    bumpedmyhead Been here awhile

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    Yah Buddy. Btw, well done Youtube vid. Hope to see more.

    2015 TEX, and a ham sandwich.
    #58
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  19. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Thanks! There will be more up soon. Working on short travel videos for the channel and a longer documentary film with a deeper message. There's stuff on all the regular social media too. This is the first place I'm talking about the overall trip though. Seemed like people here would understand the motorcycle thing the best!
    #59
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  20. jwaller

    jwaller Been here awhile

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    Wow! Well, that's a jump you'll never forget! I'm trying to figure out what you meant by going over to the "Dark Side" of the Army. I thought I figured that out but in the pics you still have the chevrons and rockers of an enlisted man, so you didn't trade in your chevrons for butter bars. When enlisted men became officers we said they went over to the "Dark Side". I guess it has a different meaning in the Army.
    #60