I just defended my dissertation on Monday, finishing my PhD studies. My advisor has given me the go-ahead to take an extended leave, but I'll be returning as a postdoc to finish a few projects. I'm still in a state of disbelief that I'm done and that he is letting me check-out for a whole month. I plan on making the most of it. I really debated whether to try to write a ride report for the trip, but I've never been good at documenting my previous adventures. I hate social media (don't have Twitter, FaceBook, etc.) and closely guard my online anonymity, but I'm hoping that starting this will inspire me to keep a running log. Also, I need motivation for documenting and photographing the trip. As for background I've been riding for 16 years on and off, almost entirely road bikes. Four years ago my dad, a family friend and I rode from my home in Portland, OR out to Ithaca, NY. I did it on a 1978 Triumph Bonneville. The bike broke down constantly, but we made it and had a great time. I was nearly run over by a buffalo, had to do wheel bearings in Marquette, MI, and came home with more stories than anyone I know wants to hear. After making the trip the bike needed a ground-up rebuild, which I promptly started and am about 1/2 through (grad student hours don't leave time for wrenching). Two years ago I bought an Africa Twin and promptly started riding dirt roads and Jeep trails in the area. Since then I've been itching for another epic adventure. Two years ago I did a big loop around the coast through the Maritime Provinces to Quebec then back through Maine, NH, and VT. Last summer I went through MI to see family then up through the UP and TCH around to thousand islands and down through the Adirondacks. This trip will dwarf them. My plans are fluid, I hate reservations and schedules. I need to be in Portland for the holiday weekend then dad and I will take off for the Idaho BDR, crossing over to WA and doing the BDR back down to Portland. From there I'm heading back to Ithaca via some route TBD. I'll be taking the AT (keeping it light) from Ithaca through Canada above Lake Superior and down to Duluth. I may try an iron butt from there to Billings, but that's an "if I feel like it" goal. For the first leg it's about making miles to spend some time with my family. Right now I've got everything packed, taken care of all my lab business, cleaned my apartment, and am ready to leave. Only problem is I'm too excited to sleep.