This past weekend I finally went on the ride that I'd been planning for 2 or 3 years. It isn't even a long ride, I just always put it off for one reason or another. A big part of it was that this year I have my '74/'77 XS650 scrambler while in years past all I had for street bikes was my '72 Honda CB350 twin. It's a very capable bike and I have no doubts that it would take me to the far corners of the earth with minimal trouble, but it was sort of a stripped down Mad Max bike with a folded up pair of denim jeans for a seat and no luggage capabilities. My 650 is much more well-suited for a trip than the old CB. It has a luggage rack, and the vibrations the big(ger) twin produces are more of a throb and less of a put-your-entire-body-to-sleep, high frequency buzz of the 350. Anyway, the mission was to travel to Trenton, Ohio from Champaign, Illinois and back (about 250 miles each way by interstate, though I made it an 800 mile trip). Trenton is a small town a bit north of Cincinnati. I was born in Trenton and grew up there until I was 15 and moved to Champaign when my dad changed jobs. That was 15 years ago and I hadn't been back since. I have the greatest memories of Trenton, having spent the formative years of my youth running wild there. I wanted to see it again. I loaded up my bike with camping gear. My plan was to just camp out anywhere I could find my the roadside. Paying money for a spot of woods to pitch a tent makes no sense to me when there's lots of free, though not quite legal, spots to pitch a tent. I left straight after work on Friday and started a long, meandering route through Indiana on whichever secondary roads I guessed would provide the best riding while not taking me too far off course. I chose well and rode a lot of winding, hilly roads until it was dark and I was hungry. I had planned on using my camp stove to cook up some grub at my field expedient campsite, but I found myself really craving a nice meal and a glass of wine. I figured my chances might be slim traveling through Indiana backroads, but I eventually found myself at The Pepperoni Grill in Bloomfield, IN. I highly recommend this restaurant. The waitstaff were all very lovely and charming ladies, and for reasons unknown to me my meal of a calzone (exceedingly good) and a few glasses of cabernet was on the house. I probably seemed a bit more refined to them than I really am. I happened to have shaved that morning (this happens very infrequently), I was wearing a black turtleneck shirt (keeps the wind off my neck and also serves to cover up all the Marine Corps/tough guy tattoos on my arms), and I was reading a novel while waiting for my calzone (not really a novel. "Leanings" by Peter Egan). I don't really have an excuse for the wine. I just like the stuff. They must not get many mysterious, lone travelers in their establishment. I left a generous tip, chatted with the ladies, and was on my way with a belly full of good food and wine. At this point I was only about halfway to my destination, but I had had a day of top notch riding and I was ready to get some sleep. I made my camp behind an under-construction church in some woods a bit off from the road. It was as dark as could be and I was trying to use good light discipline to avoid drawing attention to myself. My campsite wasn't directly visible from the road, and I figured that there wouldn't be construction going on at the church on Saturday morning. I set up my tent and using skills learned in Marine Corps basic warrior training I cut down tree limbs and other bits of foliage to camouflage my tent and motorcycle. I put socks over my mirrors and tail light (they teach you that, too. Good thing.) I awoke in the morning at sunup to a cow mooing loudly. I unzipped my tent fly to see this 15 feet from me. Unbeknownst to me, in the dark of the previous night I had made my camp just a few feet from the fence of a cow pasture. One cow must have awoke and saw me, figured me an intruder (which I was) and decided to make a fuss. I got up and started to break down the camp. I noticed that there was indeed some construction going on at the church, but apparently no one had noticed my well-camouflaged campsite. I quietly loaded up the bike and roared out of the woods, waving at the startled construction workers as if I was doing something normal. I got some breakfast at a greasy spoon place and had some more great riding. I rode through Brown County State Forest and Hoosier National Forest and into the college town of Bloomington, IN which seemed to be every bit as freedom-hating as I had heard. This marked the low point of my trip. Idling at countless stoplights looking at the "progressive" bumper stickers of the cars in front of me, celebrating and welcoming with open arms the destruction of everything that is Just and Good. But I digress... I got to my destination of Trenton midday Saturday. Getting into town, I stopped at an extremely creepy old abandoned paper mill near Engles Corner. I was snapping pictures when a cop pulled in. Great. He turned out to be quite cool, though. He was a former Marine as well, and after figuring out that I was okay started showing me around the outside of the place and telling me all sorts of stories about ghost sightings and other spooky stuff the officers would see when investigating reports of noises in the night. The picture I got doesn't do this place justice at all. It's huge and SPOOKY, even in broad daylight. The cop sent me on my way, and I made it into Trenton. I rode around seeing all the sights I remembered as a kid, as was awash with nostalgia. It was really great. Now one of the biggest goals of this trip was to make it back out to the train trestle outside of town where I spent a lot of time exploring and hanging out at when I was young. When I lived in Trenton, you weren't allowed to go back to the trestle. We'd get run off by the cops occasionally, and I figured that like everything else in American law enforcement had just gotten worse over the years. However, when I got into town and went out to the area where you could see the trestle from a distance I saw pickup trucks, tents up, and a bunch of guys tearing around on ATVs back there. I found a few locals and got the scoop. The cops have pretty much started looking the other way about people going back there. They'll shut it down and chase people off occasionally when things get too stupid and people set stolen cars on fire back there and such, but they were leaving people alone lately. However, no one that I talked to really knew what the best way to get back there was. The way that I used to go as a kid was now surrounded by subdivisions with people hanging around in their front yards. Even if the cops were looking the other way, I thought that it would be ill advised to boldly ride my bike around the big metal gate with ominous "No Trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted." signs while a dozen townsfolk watched. I had printed out some maps of the area before leaving, so I went off in search of a more discrete route. I rode until I came to a secluded area that I though might lead to the train tracks that would take me to the trestle, but I found another "Stay Out" gate blocking the dirt rode. It would be easy to ride around, but there were a few old farmers watching me suspiciously from across the street. I decided to go over and talk to them. Once I told them my story, they were very friendly and told me I was welcome to use the old dirt road. This was typical of all the encounters I had with people on the trip. They were suspicious and guarded at first, but quickly opened up and were very helpful and friendly. I thanked the gentlemen farmers, jumped on the bike and headed off the pavement. The dirt road took me to a bean field that showed signs of other off road riding (literally). The field led to a series of dirt trails that ended at the railroad tracks. I was trying to avoid the railroad tracks because they were damn hard to ride along. Big railroad rock is one of the terrain types where the less-than-optimal gearing of my 650 really creates difficulties. I was either going too fast, lugging the motor badly or excessively slipping the clutch. I rode down the tracks for an exhausting mile or so before finding a turn-off onto some more dirt trails. I rode down a steep hill, back up another one and found myself at "Hobo Hill" of Trenton lore. I had always heard of Hobo Hill when I was young, but I was never able to find it. My dad, being the law-abiding type, would never let me take my dirt bikes to the trestle. Anyway, Hobo Hill a very steep, long, curving, nasty trail up a hill. When I was young, if you could ride your machine up Hobo Hill, you ruled. Note my bike at the bottom of the hill in the photo. I didn't try to ride up it this time. At the bottom of the hill, there's Hobo Shack. Being close to the railroad tracks, I imagine that it's an old railroad utility building. These days it's just used for bonfires and beer parties. I continued on the trails in the direction that I though the trestle laid. The trails were really good trails for road-oriented dual sport bike riding...UNTIL...I got to a spot in the trail where you had to choose between a few different hills to ride down. The hills were long, very steep, rocky, sandy, gravelly, strewn with large rocks and deep, narrow ruts. They also exited the trail at sharp angles, making getting set up for them challenging. I chose the one that I though looked the least likely to send me flying from the bike and motored down it. At the base of the hill was a sharp left turn. I was going at a pretty quick clip, and the moment my synapses fired "I made it!", the front wheel washed out hard and over the bars I went. The bike and I both hit the ground pretty hard, and I came to rest about 8 feet away from my prone motorcycle. It doesn't look very dramatic in the picture, but that's because you can't see the hill and everything has stopped moving. I was wearing my traditional riding gear of combat boots, military fatigue trousers, a T-shirt, and sunglasses, and I was remarkably unhurt. Dusty, bruised, and a bit bloody, but okay. The bike was in decent shape, too. I was betting that the clutch lever was toast, but it had survived. The bars were pretty bent, but that's it. The bent bars made the bike hard to ride, but luckily I found the trestle around the next turn. It was getting dark and I talked to some local guys who were having a big party (complete with exhibitionist lesbians and off-duty cops drinking beer, they informed me), but as alluring as the invitation was, I made my camp about 1/2 mile down the creekbed and got out my book. The next morning I got up early and started exploring. The trestle hadn't changed much since I was running around there as a kid. I sat on the top of the old bridge, drank coffee and smoked a pipe of a good English blend while the sun was rising. I reflected on how my friends and I used to have foot races above certain death (or at least serious injury) from one end of the bridge to the other. One of us on each side of the narrow bridge sides, we'd sprint across as fast as we could go. I always won. I determined that my enjoyment at risking my own life has been with me from birth. A friend of mine told me a quote recently; "The closer you are to the edge, the more you can see". I believe this to be one of life's absolute truths. I broke camp, loaded up the bike, and realized that I had to ride back up the hill that I crashed down the previous evening. I took the old Yamaha on a few warm-up laps around the creek bed and charged up the hill like a champion. The old 650 vertical twin at full song makes quite a sound. I was feeling pretty invincible at this point so I decided to try and find a different way back to town than the one I had taken to get back there. Another quote that I live my life by is "Fortune favors the bold". Usually this philosophy serves me very well, but every once in a while it really bites you in the ass. This was the case that morning. The trail fork I took got really ugly really fast, but by the time I realized just how badly I was stuck in it, it was too late. My Shinko 705 rear tire left a lot to be desired, but I guess it did pretty good for a 75/25 tire. A crash on the opposite side of the bike than the first big crash straightened the bars back out but costs me my front brake lever and perch. This made riding the very challenging terrain that much harder. Many semi-spectacular crashes and even more low-drama tip-overs later I find myself even deeper in the woods and so physically exhausted that I can't pick the bike up off the ground. The bike lays on its side for a while and I do the same. This was the one point in my trip that I was having No Fun. I was starting to have doubts and worry that I had made a series of very bad decisions. Sooner or later I was going to crash and hurt myself or my bike badly enough that I couldn't keep on riding and I'd be stuck out there. I rested a bit and gathered my composure. Even though it was what got my into the mess I found myself in, I settled back into fortune-favors-the-bold-mode. I wasn't going to get out of there riding like a weenie, I'd just keep falling over and having to try the same obstacles over and over. Time to ride like a MAN! I started attacking the terrain like a lunatic and eventually clawed my way back up onto the train tracks. I rode the tracks back out onto the farmers' dirt road and out onto the pavement. God, was I happy to ride on an "improved surface". I parked in the shade, ate some ibuprofen, and examined the bike for damage. The poor Yamaha and I were both in bad shape. I was bruised and bloodied, with lots of pulled muscles and sprained extremities. The bike had no use of its front brake and was missing both mirrors. The bars were still somewhat bent, and there were lots of new scratches, dents, and bent things all over the place. There was nothing that would keep me from making it home, however. It was getting to be time for me to start heading home. I rode back into town and visited a few childhood friends of mine that were still in the area. It was good to see the guys, and good to sit on a chair and recuperate a bit. I had planned to ride home on the twisty back roads that I rode there, but I was exhausted and didn't feel like riding twisty, hilly roads with no front brake or mirrors. I jumped on the interstate and had a boring but relatively quick and easy ride home. I've since fixed the motorcycle, and my wounds are mostly healed. It was a grand adventure and I'm jonesing like an addict to get back out there and do it again. I think next time I head to Trenton I'll take a more purposeful off road bike and have some real fun on those trails. They were great riding, but parts of them are not at all appropriate for a heavily loaded, modified street bike. Still, the XS650 performed admirably. I beat the hell out of it and asked way too much of it, and it ran beautifully the whole trip. During the trip I read a story by Peter Egan in which he rode a Honda CB400F from his home in the midwest to New Orleans and back to buy some coffee. The bike ran perfectly the whole trip, and when he parked it in his garage upon arriving home he patted the tank and said "This is a very, very good motorcycle". I did the same to my old Yamaha when I got home. It is a very, very good motorcycle.