The Rootbeer Run, Chasing the Sun, and other misadventures

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Parepin, Feb 13, 2011.

  1. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    So, I thought I should get this all down in one form or another before my THC-polluted memory bank fizzles away into just a color-filled haze. This has been a journey years in the making, covering well over 30,000 miles. It includes adventure, mishaps, bloodshed, and an un-expected tale of love and loss. I don't know what I really expected to get from all of this. Hell, I barely even had a plan in mind. No final location, no goal at the end of the day or mile marker to aim for. Just get back on and ride. And after all, what's a story if it hasn't been told. It would be a shame to let these experiences and memories remain locked up in my jumble of misfiring neurons known as the mind.


    We'll start out with a simple introduction. Here we have our fearless (and a bit clueless) leader.
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    This handsome Italian fellow goes by many names. Alex at birth, I have been known to reply to anything from Al, to Al-Buns, Exalander, Upstate, Road-rash, and Burnout. Hell, if you can catch me in a brief moment of lucidity as I stumble about my natural environment, I'll answer to damn near anything, with an abundance of “Dude” and “Man” being thrown about. But don't let the bad-ass shades fool you, I'm far from intimidating. Quite the opposite, really.


    Now, I've always been an adventurous soul. I've had the term “free spirit” thrown my direction more than once. Growing up in upstate New York in a predominantly lower-middle class household, I really had to get creative to get my fix. There were no amusement parks, and the funding wasn't there for any vacation above an annual trip to one distant relative or another. So I amused myself with what I did have an abundance of, restricted access. If I wasn't supposed to be there, I wanted in. Even at a very young age, barely into my teens, I had a fort which was nothing more than an abandoned warehouse down by the railroad tracks. I'd spend entire summers there, and have the scar tissue to prove it. Re-inventing myself as what would become known as an “Urban Explorer”, I was able to occupy myself for years creating a rather impressive database of various abandonments, semi-abandonments, and various natural wonders. With a website to feed, and a crew of misfits, I have seen quite a bit. Been everywhere from defunct city armories

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    to a vast network of drainage tunnels beneath the city
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    to caves and caverns, both man made and natural

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    long forgotten subway tunnels and massive railroad terminals
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    and vacant power plants powerful enough to light a city of 220,000.

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    These adventures were often fairly well planned out, including recon and security scheduling, but were fairly poorly funded. This often times resulted in a lot of necessary equipment being jimmy-rigged by whatever I had on hand, including a repelling harness fashioned from a length of tow rope
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    just to figure out what the hell this hole was all about.
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    These tendencies and my often overpowering curiosity blended well with the art of adventure touring and would manifest themselves numerous times throughout the years.
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    57,314
    Location:
    Toronto
    Excellent intro :thumb

    :lurk
    #2
  3. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    [​IMG]

    Here I present you with my weapon of choice. I have here a 1998 KLR 650, picked up off of craigslist for 2,000 with just over 10K miles on the clock. My first real bike purchase, and the first bike I could really call my own, it wasn't long before I had it stuck in a cornfield or being thrown clear with the best of them. With progressive springs in the forks, and a stiffer re-sprung stock shock, I've tried to hit the middle of the range when it comes to suspension mods. The engine comes with a 685 Schnitz kit, another first for me as I'd never done any real engine work before. The luggage rack is welded gas line, yet another first for me, and includes the cheapest ammo can panniers I had available. Quite bad ass, I feel, and better yet the bags are narrower than the bars allowing me to slip easily through most doorways. This feature is much more useful than you'd imagine. Other mods include aluminum skid-plate, thermobob, bark busters, electric connections, and tool tubes in abundance. The rubber, a pair of 244 Shinkos. can't beat $70 a pair.


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    #3
  4. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    This journey was originally intended to just be a fuck off, honestly. After an associates was earned in an career I quickly lost interest in, and several years of fairly profitable employment with a local industrial roofing company, I quickly realized that I hadn't built up much of a life. With a history of antisocial behavior and crippling anxiety (for those that know me, this is where the ganja comes in handy), I hadn't experienced nearly as much as I probably should have. Sure I'd seen a lot, but I freely admit that I could count the friends I had on one hand with fingers left over. My history with the ladies has also been less than successful, and the upstate NY lifestyle on the whole left me fairly unsatisfied. And so that's where I've hatched this crazy plan. I figured, hell, I've got nothing to lose. With a fairly decent bankroll and no direction in life, I quickly threw together a “plan”. I could have either paid off my school loans early, or piss it all away in a road trip. I pretty much went with “buy bike, ride till money runs out.” I wish I could say I had more thought put into this, but this is the cavalier attitude I've been known for. Plans and schedules only succeed in making me tense. Always with a deadline, a place to be and a time to be there. Fuck it, I'm just gonna wander the earth.


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    And so the ride was thrown together and the gear was purchased. Having been a self-taught rider with no previous experience, I had the scars and battle wounds that would make the average rider cringe withing the first 5K miles of having my license. Having wrecked my dad's old CB-500, I decided on a KLR 650 that so many people seemed to be happy with. And with all the money I saved over a BMW purchase on something I would surely throw air-borne into the bushes on more than one occasion, it left me with plenty of gas and food money left over to slowly burn through.


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    Its now early July, 2009. Having just been offered a permanent position in the roofing company as a crane operator, I promptly gave in my two week notice and continued preparing for my departure. Unfortunately, the roof on my mother's house decided to go tits up a week before departure. Being the son that I am, I ordered up a dumpster, borrowed the equipment from my former employers and spent two weeks tearing into four layers of asphalt and cedar shakes. One of the worst, most labor intensive jobs I've ever performed, considering I was the tear off crew, the laborers, cleanup, and installers as well as initial financer for the entire project. I don't come from a well off family, so I did what I had to do to make sure the job got done. It hasn't leaked yet, so I've at least got that to show for it.
    #4
  5. muskeg

    muskeg Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 10, 2009
    Oddometer:
    307
    Location:
    Coconino N.F.
    :ear
    #5
  6. ulyist

    ulyist Black Gold Beemers

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    135
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Looks like a good start, now we wait for more.
    #6
  7. AZ_ADV_RIDER

    AZ_ADV_RIDER Demons In My Helmet

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    818
    Location:
    Land of Sun, Sand and Thorns
    I'm in - bring it on!
    #7
  8. ClearwaterBMW

    ClearwaterBMW The Examiner

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,972
    Location:
    Clearwater, FL USA
    another fascinating riding adventure is unfolding before us
    can't wait for me

    thanks for sharing
    #8
  9. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    You guys really know how to keep a guy motivated. I'm not even into the actual report yet and I'm all psyched about the feedback.
    #9
  10. SportsGuy

    SportsGuy icanhazdirt?

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    545
    Location:
    redmond wa
    Well, you've got style my man. Now make with the rest of the report before the inmate shere get unruly... ;)


    ....you had me at "rootbeer"... :D
    #10
  11. Flashmo

    Flashmo Whatever...

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,631
    Location:
    Vagabond Hippie
    Awesome, Alex. Your writing is exactly the same as the way you talk, I can hear you when I read it.

    Are we going to see you out west again this year? Sounds like T_T is going to settle down up around Darby (if he can stand the winters). :evil
    #11
  12. tiernan

    tiernan Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    85
    Where in upstate NY?
    #12
  13. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    Ahh, back to the road trip. Keep in mind that this is two years ago. I'm pouring over a crudely written journal and hundreds of photos in an attempt to spark some sort of recollection of the events. It won't be easy, so I'm gonna hafta really put some effort into this. Seeing as I'm goin through a rather intense case of the winter blues, I've decided to use this as a distraction and, in the process, actually get some work done.


    So last week of July, don't remember the day specifically. In the end, it doesn't really matter anyhow. I spend the morning doing some fine tuning to the old KLR. A quick luggage check, a valve adjustment, and a side-case removal to find a socket dropped during the valve check, and I was good to go by noon. With a wave to my brother and giving my nephew a shove I say my good-byes, bound off the porch, over the curb and out onto the highway. Leaving behind the town of 5,800, Lyons NY. I stopped by my mother's place of employment for one last hug. As I've mentioned, I never really had much of a game plan. West was the goal, with Alaska always kicking around in the back of my mind. I remember simply going south from there to the first westerly route and just following it to see where it ended. As it turns out, Route 20 apparently goes on for.... awhile.


    Now I'm gonna go ahead and point out that these first thousand miles don't include many pictures. I'm not as photo-minded as I should be, but I try. And to be honest, I had seen all of this before. Pennsylvania was a lot like New York, and Ohio was pretty similar to Pennsylvania. The goal was just to melt through some miles. I followed Rt. 20 into Buffalo, grabbing a pair of combat boots at a local surplus shop before stopping over at my buddy Bill's place. This is the guy that first got me into the KLR. I remember wandering through an abandoned office building in the outskirts of Buffalo and watching this fool drive down third floor hallways on a KLR.. fun times. A good-bye bake leaves me back on the bike heading south-west towards Erie, before pitching a tent off some old railroad grade. Awoke the next morning to...rain. There's only so long you can go back to sleep before just giving up and packing it up. It's well past noon by this point and I ride in the rain to Erie, PA where the weather picked up to a full on downpour. Taking shelter in a Tim Hortons, coffee was ordered and the GPS updated. With the rain dying off, I fled the scene leaving behind a generous tip and a large puddle of water that enveloped the neighboring two tables.


    I got as far as Cleveland that night before exhaustion kicked in and I headed for the nearest green blob on my GPS. Turns out to be some suburban park of decent size. Riding up and under a fairly large covered picnic area with conveniently placed power outlets, I lay out the bed roll on one of the tables. Got a BBQ rolling and lay out my socks and underwear to dry. At one point the local 5-0 come rolling up to inform me that the park closes after dark. I motion to camp and tell him that I just threw my panties on the grill and would leave as soon as they crisped. He was cool with this and rolled on. I stumble back to the concrete table that would be my bed for the night and pass out.


    I come to the next morning with a dog smelling around the bike. A long retractable cord leads to an older gentleman with a bewildered look on his face. I roll up my boxers and head out before the early joggers come cruisin through the morning mist. Managed to get a fairly decent amount of miles down today, surely a result of the early start. This won't be the norm. Cruised on along Rt. 20 through Cleveland and Chicago. Just west of Chicago, over the wide open fields, I noticed a deathly black front moving my way. Being the stubborn SOB that I am, I continued onward determined to beat the weather. Didn't work. It wasn't long before I find myself bouncing through a ditch at near-highway speed and aiming for a long semi trailer parked in the middle of the cornfield. No sooner had I hit the kill switch that I dropped the kickstand and in one fluid motion rolled off to the left and under the semi as the rain kicked it into high gear and dumped buckets of rain down for a solid half our. Not much I could do but lay flat on my back under this godforsaken semi-trailer and wait for it to end.


    As the rain tapered off, I checked my GPS for the nearest green blob and managed to find some covered picnic areas to once again seek shelter under. I swap out for some dry clothes and cook up a bag of dehydrated chili. With an hour or so of light left I realized this park was way too small to pull off any kind of stealthy camping, I headed out to the next green blob on the GPS. Found an abandoned road cutting through Silver Lake State park and pitched camp on the asphalt. Just before calling it a night, I notice something amiss about the KLR. The luggage, actually. Where the hell is the lid? And half my shit? A quick backtrack a few miles of dirt and asphalt and I find my can lid and my folding saw just off the side of the highway. My new camping stove is AWOL. Awesome. I vaguely remember whipping the remainder of my bag chili into the woods in a fit of anger. I'm pretty sure that's where my super-bad ass space age spork disappeared to as well. I'm off to an awesome start.
    #13
  14. traindriver

    traindriver Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2011
    Oddometer:
    41
    Location:
    Carl Junction M.O.
    I love road trips with no plans. They always seem to be lot moore fun.
    .
    #14
  15. Joe

    Joe Debaser

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
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    1,795
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    subscribed :norton
    #15
  16. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    [​IMG]

    I packed up the next morning and headed west, stopping in the next town I pass through for a mediocre meal, a stop at the post office, and a gas fill up. Here's where I have my first real encounter. You know, the people that really make the trip. The guy on the next pump over strolls on up and starts looking over the bike and gear, nodding to himself and asking me about the NY plates. “Yeah, I rode it the whole way.” He tells me of the '08 he just picked up, and offers me the use of his shower. It'd been a few days, and the dude seemed alright, so why not? Turned out to be a solid guy. Kevin was his name, out of Lena, Il. I grabbed a quick shower and had a beer as we looked over the new KLR. I even got to take it out on some back roads for comparison. I still prefer the old school design. A quick introduction to his wife and daughter as they arrived home from work and I packed up to head out. Couldn't find my phone, however. I checked my gear and even made a last minute pass of the house, but to no avail. Finally, I just assumed it'd gotten wrapped up in the luggage. Being the lazy SOB that I am, I moved on.


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    Kept heading west, keeping the sun in sight. I hit the Mississippi river just before nightfall and turned north along the Great River Road. Made camp behind some random cornfield after hitting my first cat of the season. Kinda bummed me out. I had planned on burning through the midnight oil, but after smacking that damn barn cat dead center and hearing it squawk, I just wanted to get off the road, smoke one, and pass out. I followed the road as it went from asphalt to gravel, gravel to dirt, and the dirt ended at a T intersection. I went straight, down into a field and along some double track. Before long I found myself pitching camp in the dark behind a tall row of corn. Good times, good times.



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    Got up the next morning and evaluated my situation. Brewed up a cup of coffee and some instant oatmeal and had breakfast while surfing the GPS. I had always heard that the badlands of South Dakota were worth a look, so I figured that this would be my very next target. It's always good to have goals, right? Route 14 seemed to be a straight shot west into Rapid City. That works for me. Wasn't long before I was Baja-ing down the access road back to the Great River Road where I continued north until hitting route 14. I remember finding it fairly interesting how big the holes in the concrete wall to my right were. Debris barriers, I assumed. I amused myself during a smoke break trying to figure just how much energy would have to be crashing down the cliff-face to take out Volkswagen sized chunks of concrete. Yeesh. Anyhow, made that left and crossed the Mississippi. On to Rapid City.

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    I never did find my cell phone. That's worth mentioning. Apparently, I left it at the post office just before meeting Kevin. It would later get shipped back home, leaving me to find a replacement. I hit half a dozen Wal-Marts along the way in an effort to snag a cheap Verizon throw-away phone, but they don't seem to exist in this part of the country. Where the hell am I? I suddenly find myself feeling a little uneasy. It's like some time warp where it's eternally 5 years ago. Stopped at a Cabelas along the way and scored a nice Brunton dual-fuel stove. Not a bad little MSR substitute. Runs on 87 octane, what more can you ask for? Out of Cabelas, I took the nearest dirt road. Route 14 from here on out turns out to be fairly high speed interstate, which I'm not yet a big fan of on such a tall bike. I stumbled into Lake Benson, MN a few minutes before dark and head for the nearest green blob I've now come to know as home. The road ends abruptly in someone's front yard where I find the owner standing beside his truck watching me roll up like a fool-on-wheels. He was pretty cool, though, and recommended the next lot up to pitch a tent for the night. There was a house there at one point, but no longer. It burned down. People died. I slept well.
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    Sooo... yeah. Windmills.
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    #16
  17. Jettn Jim

    Jettn Jim This is Liv'n!!!

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,837
    Location:
    NE PA Some... PNW Some... On HIGH ADVENTURE Most!
    :D I'm Liking it FUCKER! Your sett'n the Bar High areennnntchya, Very nice :thumb
    #17
  18. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    [​IMG]



    Got up early the next day and started off with a good meal of oatmeal and coffee, sans cream and sugar. It turned out to be a fairly nice day of riding, with blue sky and sunshine the entire day. I found myself both amused and amazed at how flat everything was. I could see for miles, and miles. The curvature of the earth took effect on your line of sight around here. That's weird. Every now and then I'd see a tree and all I could do was laugh. I easily burned through several tanks of fuel on these straight endless roads. At one point I pulled over for lunch. Seeking shade beneath an old railroad trestle crossing a dry creek bed, I began assembling my sandwich of peanut butter, banana, and honey on a whole honey wheat bun. These things make the world go round. It wasn't long before I started following the creek bed under the highway and into the plains on the other side. And here I saw my first cactus.... not much to write home about. I also stumbled on an old rattlesnake carcass, again a first for me. I did the only thing that comes natural in times such as these, I found a stick and poked at it a few times. Then it hit me, there are snakes here. Deadly ones. I turn around and look back across the dry and rocky plain I had just hiked through, that stood between me and my bike. Hah, awesome. Rattlesnakes...


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    Back on the highway I continue west, eventually finding myself entering the South Dakota circus sideshow known as Wall Drug. I had wondered what these signs were that I had been seeing for the past several hundred miles. I immediately noticed a fuck-ton of Harleys swarming the place. Leather vests and chaps a-plenty. Sturgis. Somehow I'd stumbled into Sturgis week without even really knowing it. I remember someone several days back asking me at a gas fill up “Hey, ya takin that thing to Sturgis?” to which I laughed and replied no, had no interest in the Harley culture. Whoops. I wandered about the “town”, marveling at the anamatronic dinosaurs and fountains shooting jets of water into the sky in the center of a fiberglass wagon circle. And then there were the cowboys. Behind the safety of glass, I observed as these ancestors of the Chucky Cheese animal band danced and tapped their boots to old timey cowboy music. Their mouths flapped about with the sloppyness of a well worn gate latch and their fake hair was falling out in patches. Fingers were very awkwardly twisted, giving a glimpse of the history these guys had seen. How many years had it taken for those finger to break and be glued back on again and again before the advanced-stage arthritic hands were just covered in cheap gas-station work gloves. A jack-rabbit mocked me in the background, donned in his cowboy hat and mini revolver.... I need to get outta here.


    I payed my exit charge, collected my free ice water and nickel coffee and snuck back out to my bike. It was kinda funny, there were four lines of bikes at least two blocks long on the main drag. Chrome as far as the eye can see, and in the middle was my KLR. And I'll be damned it it hadn't collected it's own fan group. I walk up on the guys looking over my trusted steed. Both from Baltimore, they had ridden up for Sturgis on a couple of V-Stroms. They couldn't speak highly enough of the Strom, and marveled that I had ridden the KLR all the way from NY. We talked for awhile and they recommended the Badlands. I had heard of this place before, but never really got an idea of what it was all about. Seeing as I was so close, I figured why not. Just before leaving town, however, I caught a glimpse of something that I just had to get a closer look. It was a Harley, at least 20 feet of it. Apparently this thing contained one of every model engine that Harley produced throughout the years, all contributing to the drive train. There had to be a dozen seats on this thing, and equally as many people awkwardly pushing it out of the hotel parking lot and onto the main drag. And then it was gone... wow...


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    So I doubled back and headed south, taking the road as far as I could go. At the main gate I discover a $10 charge just to get the bike in. Well, I'd been trying to make this run on a fairly tight budget. At $40-$50 a day, even a $10 charge would really take a whack out of my already strained budget. So I doubled back to Wall to gas up and see what I could do about acquiring a park pass. Stopping in at the local DQ for a quick grease fix, I see a large steel buffalo on a flatbed trailer coast to a stop just at the end of the parking lot. I grabbed my camera from the tank bag and dashed over to the side of the road just as the truck pulled out. With a wave I raised the camera and he was cool enough to slow down for me to snap a few shots. Made entirely of scrap, this thing was impressive. So I pondered over my small GPS screen while stuffing handfuls of fries into my mouth, and I see it. A dotted line. I got this....


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    Went back to the badlands, hanging the last right hand turn before the main gate and I followed this random dirt road west before veering south again. Several miles later, I pass through an open gate and a sign informing me I had just entered the park. How convenient. The name of the road is beyond me at the moment, but it's there. I swear. I followed it about the park, stopping here and there for a smoke break, to harass the wildlife and take photos from the vantage point of the canyon rim. With daylight fading fast, I continued south. At one point I ran over a rattlesnake soaking in the last few rays in the center of my lane. I ran him over. Not that I intended to, but by the time I had seen it, it was already under the front wheel and shooting out the underside of the bike like a slinky thrown into the air. I was fairly overwhelmed at this point, it was weird. At one final pull off, I climbed down onto the one of the bluffs and sat down, watching a small rattlesnake on the next bluff face slither away to make home for the night. It was weird, a moment of serenity just came over me. This is rare for me, I often have trouble shutting off. I think, I dwell, it keeps me up at night. But in this moment, all was right with the world. I grabbed my journal and quickly scrawled in a few pages, urgently taking advantage of this serenity to get some new perspective or insight recorded. A few pages in and a large minivan pulls into the lot casting my shadow into the darkened abyss before me. Kids run up, parents call after them. A camera flashes over my shoulder and all I could do was sigh. I slid my Bank of America BIC into the binding and climbed back onto the bike.



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    I had noticed a place on my GPS called “Sheep Mountain” just southwest of the park. I figured that was as good a place as any to make camp for the night. I had only ever heard awesome things about the Badlands at sunrise, and I wanted to stick close to the area for the experience. I had hoped that Sheep Mountain might offer some vantage points that would truly be epic, bus alas, I had run out of fuel. Doubling back through the park, I pulled over at a random car port I had noticed just off the road. It seemed to be covering just a large pile of road sand behind an orange snow fence. I yanked the fence aside, pulled the bike in and closed up shop behind me. I evened out a nice plot of sand, gave it a slight dish to it and layed my riding jacket down. I slept fairly well, but the cold snuck up on me throughout the night and I pulled my sleeping bag out of my pack, throwing it over my head. I also had the good fortune to experience a passing thunderstorm throughout the night. It was a fairly entertaining show in the wide open plains. Large gobs of rain bounced off the tin roof. What a racket.


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    #18
  19. Parepin

    Parepin The Filthy Nomad

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,140
    Location:
    That's... a tough one to answer
    You'll never be able to come even close to how awesome I am. Sorry to hafta break it to you like that. You probably shouldn't even bother trying.

    :lol3
    #19
  20. ShadyRascal

    ShadyRascal Master of None

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    6,959
    Location:
    the Root, Western Montana
    Totally in. Had no idea you started your trip that long ago. Looking forward to more of this. :super
    #20